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The Best Time to Visit Zion National Park: the Pros and Cons of Visiting Zion in the Spring


Zion National Park is one of the most popular parks in the country. It draws visitors from all over the world. But that doesn’t mean you can’t visit Zion and feel like you have the place to yourself.


a solo traveler on an empty shuttle in Zion National Park

Ok, Zion is never empty. But if you visit Zion in one of the shoulder seasons, you can still have an amazing vacation without feeling like you’re waiting in line for the attractions Disneyland-style.


I visited Zion in mid-March, and found the experience to be excellent. There were people on the trails but not so many that it felt overcrowded. I even had a shuttle all to myself once!


Considering a shoulder-season visit to Zion? Here’s the pros and cons.


Pros


  • It’s shoulder season! Which means solid amenities without high season prices. Visiting Zion in March or April means cheaper stays, but still with full amenities. The Zion Park Shuttle (and its partner in Springdale) usually start operating in early to mid march. Check the park website for official dates and schedules. (click HERE for my how-to guide on riding the Zion shuttles.) The ranger stations also keep decent hours starting in the spring.


  • Shoulder season also means fewer crowds. Zion is a National Park, so it’s never empty, but I found visiting in March to be comfortable and not terribly crowded. I was never alone on the trails, but I also never had to wait out an over-filled shuttle. I’ve never visited Zion in the summer, so I can’t personally attest to the crowds, but I’ve seen the photos and I’ve seen the infrastructure that’s in place to manage those crowds. Think amusement park style back-and-forth lines just to board the shuttle. Think those lines being packed and having to wait in that line before even getting to the trailhead. Visit in the shoulder season and thank me later. By visiting in late March, I always walked straight onto the first available shuttle. The shoulder season is truly the best and easiest way to visit Zion National Park without the massive crowds.


  • Weather. Honestly, this is the biggest reason that spring is best time to visit Zion National Park. Hiking in Zion is strenuous, and I cannot even begin to imagine doing some of these hikes in the heat of summer. I got tired even in a wet, 40 degree spring. Save yourself the trouble and don’t visit Zion when the temps are projected to rise into the 90s and above. Yes, you have the pack for the weather. Pack and wear layers, and make one of those layers waterproof, and you will be totally ok. And TBH, the canyon is extra stunning in the fog or when the tops of the rocks are dotted with snow.


  • Waterfalls! Visiting in the spring means the water features of the park will be in peak form. I visited in an unusually rainy year, but even in a typical spring, the rain and snowmelt means higher water levels, and higher water levels means stronger waterfalls. When I visited, the waterfalls on the Riverside Walk, Weeping Rock, and the Emerald Pools were all incredibly beautiful. They’re a real perk of visiting Zion in the Spring.


Cons


  • Weather. Yes, I know this was on the pros list too, but it really is both. If you’re visiting Zion in the spring, you have to be prepared for the weather to be a little unpredictable. Bring your rain gear, invest in some waterproof boots (red sandstone trails get MUDDY in wet weather), and dress in layers anytime you hit the trails. On my four-day trip to Zion in March, I had two beautiful days of warmth and partial sun, followed by a full day of rain and a full day of snow. On the rain day, I geared up and went hiking anyway and had a great time. On the snow day, I mostly stayed inside and ate good meals in Springdale and worked with my sketchbook. With good gear and a flexible attitude the springtime weather won’t hinder you, but you really do need to have both of those things for your trip to be successful.


  • Potential trail closures. Visiting Zion in the shoulder seasons, and especially in the spring, gives mother nature more reasons to potentially close the trails on you. I wasn’t able to hike the Narrows on my springtime visit, because the water levels in the river were too high to be safe. The farther away from the wet season you are, the less likely this is to happen. There were also trails that I skipped (like the Canyon Overlook Trail) because they were covered in too much snow and ice. For my next trip to Zion, I plan to visit in the fall (the OTHER shoulder season) in hopes that the trails I missed this time around will be open in different weather conditions.


Spring is truly the best time to visit Zion National Park!


Overall, I loved visiting Zion in the spring. For me, the pros outweighed the cons. And with proper preparation, some of those cons aren’t even cons at all. Shoulder seasons are definitely when to visit this paradise of a canyon. Stay tuned for a full report of Zion in the fall in the coming years!


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