Best time to visit Utah

Zion National Park Hiking in Utah

If you are a serious hiker, this park can offer thousands of unforgettable trails, views, and backpacking opportunities

Best time: April–November

Zion National Park Hiking
Zion National Park Hiking
Zion National Park Hiking
Zion National Park Hiking
Zion National Park Hiking
Zion National Park Hiking
Zion National Park Hiking

Over 229 square miles (503 square kilometres) of gorgeous wilderness is waiting for you at Zion National Park. Here you can find endless opportunities for hiking and backpacking. This park offers more than 144 km of trails for any hiker and around 37 large backpacking sites. To stay for a night, you will need a special permit, which can be issued in the visitor center.

One of the most famous hikes in Zion National Park is Zion Subway, a slot canyon. To explore it, hikers should wade, climb or swim down the Left Fork of North Creek. The stream serves as the trail, and in some parts, there is no other way than to dip into cold water. The Subway is a technically demanding and challenging 9.5-mi (15.2 km) hike. It also requires a permit from Zion National Park.

Zion's Subway can be explored top-down or bottom-up. Both ways are not easy, but top- down is a bit better, so it's more popular. Hikers start at the Wildcat Trailhead on Kolob Reservoir Road and hike along the ridges until they get into a slot. Once inside, you can just go downstream and overcome whatever obstacles get in your way. Subway Lower End is the most complicated area of the Subway, but it's also beautiful due to a waterfall and arches.

The best season to explore Zion National Park is from April through November. From April to October, you can enjoy shuttle buses, which are operating in Zion Canyon. Despite the heat, most people choose the summer for hiking in Zion. During this season the best time of the day is early morning or evening when it is a little cooler. July and August experience frequent thunderstorms in the afternoon. If you want to avoid crowds, you should opt for late spring or autumn months. Generally, fall is claimed to be the best season for hiking in Zion National Park. Most of the visitors mainly walk around major viewpoints but if you are looking for something more, prepare for the trip and plan your route in advance.

It's also possible to visit the park between December and April. Being the least busy season, winter gives you the privilege of having the park for yourselves, but you'll have to give up on certain trails such as the famous Narrows, and Angels Landing, as it's likely to be too cold for crossing the river. Special suits may help to beat the cold, but there's another draw-back—spring runoffs that occur during the period of March–April.

Practical info

When is the best time to hike in Zion National Park?

The optimal time to hike in Zion National Park runs between April and November, with the parks shuttle buses being available in the scenic Zion Canyon during this time of year. Keep in mind the summer is known for scorching temperatures and frequent thunderstorms; autumn is the most favorable season for hikers due to milder temperatures and reduced crowds. Show more

What are the most challenging trails in Zion National Park?

Zion National Park has an array of formidable trails, including the infamous Zion Subway, Angel's Landing, and the Narrows. These hikes require specialized permits and significant advanced experience with challenging, technical hikes. Trekking the Zion Subway includes traversing a 9.5-mile slot canyon involving climbing, wading, and swimming. Show more

How can I get a special permit for backpacking in Zion National Park?

To obtain a special permit for backpacking in Zion National Park, it's possible to submit an application at the park's visitor center or online up to two weeks in advance. Unfortunately, these permits are randomized, so availability isn't guaranteed. The National Park Service suggests arriving at the center in the mornings or late afternoons due to the coveted nature of these licenses. Show more

What obstacles can I face while exploring Zion Subway?

While exploring Zion Subway, beseiged by a slippery rock surface and cold water, you'll require special gear such as wetsuits and sturdy shoes to wade and swim the canyon. The Subway Lower End is the trickiest and most breathtaking, showcasing arches and waterfalls along the way. Show more

Can I visit Zion National Park during winter? What trails are closed during this season?

Although Zion National Park operates year-round, wintertime's snow and ice force authorities to close off certain trails, such as the Narrows and Angels Landing, usually between December and April. Visitors can snowshoe, cross-country ski and trek lower elevations but should prepare for conventional winter conditions with cold weather clothing. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin