path to the upper Emerald Pool cuts through stunning
is a great time to come." One hears that a lot from
the locals when visiting Zion National Park in winter.
Fewer people, easy parking, available hotel rooms, much
less crowded trails, beautiful snow-covered vistas, no
oppressive heat. Whatís not to like?
are these slight negatives: the relative cold, some
shuttered-for-the-winter restaurants or ones that close by
8 p.m. in nearby Springdale, the closure of some trails
due to falling ice and rocks, and the possibility of
plunging to your death off ice-covered roads and hiking
is a balance, right?
to the National Park Service, more than 200,000 people
visited Zion during January and February of 2016. Compare
that with the more than 1.1 million visitors in June and
July last year. In winter, itís a lot easier to get
big part of getting around is driving your own car on the
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Turn up the heater, open up the
windows and sunroof and enjoy the majestic views. But this
is a wintertime experience only. From mid-March to
mid-November, that part of Zion is closed to private
vehicles, except those of guests at the Zion Lodge. During
spring, summer and fall there is a shuttle service to
alleviate "traffic and parking problems, protect
vegetation and restore tranquility to Zion Canyon,"
according to the Park Service.
you park the car, the trails beckon. A word of caution:
Some trails might be closed because of hazardous
conditions. Itís a good idea to check in at the ranger
station on your way in to see which trails are restricted.
During my visit, the lower Emerald Pools Trail and the
upper part of The Narrows were closed because of falling
rocks, snow and ice.
of snow and ice, there was a fair amount of it Ö
especially at higher elevations such as the Kolob Canyons.
Crampons are a must in winter if you want to hike the
Taylor Creek and La Verkin Creek trails. The snow and ice
can make an "easy" hike (ranger speak for
"thereís only a 25 percent chance of falling to
your death") seem more like an X-Games competition.
are warning signs at the trailheads for the more
challenging routes. They encourage or warn or recommend
that hikers take precautions. For example, the trailhead
signs at Angels Landing (a harrowing hike known to turn
grown men into terrified puddles of pudding) reads:
"The route is not recommended during high winds,
storms, or if snow or ice is present." That is
ranger-speak for "DONíT DO IT!"
signs report there have been deaths on those trails. Iím
guessing more than a few. Actual number: 30 since the parkís
inception, according to the Park Service. And donít
assume that just because a trail is marked
"easy/moderate," itís time to turn your brain
off. Fun fact: More people have died on the Emerald Pools
trails than Angels Landing.
thing to remember: wear layers. At the upper reaches of
some trails, itís cold. Thermals, sweatshirts and light
jackets will keep you warm up there with the condors, but
you will be stripping outerwear faster than Magic Mike on
the way down as the day warms.
if you donít feel the need to up your life insurance
policy, there are wonderful strolls to the lower Emerald
Pool, Weeping Rock and along the Virgin River at the end
of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive at The Temple of Sinawava. Or
drive up the switchback and through the tunnel on the
Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to the eastern gate of the park.
must-drive is to exit the park at Springdale and take a
40-minute trip on Highway 9 and Interstate 15 to the Kolob
Canyons at the northern part of Zion. In the park, the
roads are freshly plowed and easily passable. Itís quiet
and peaceful and a little lonely. During my visit, I was
the only person there besides the rangers in the station
if you like winter, but not the crowds at some resorts,
try Zion for its amazing vistas, drives and hikes. Just
plan on eating dinner early.
Canyon Visitor Center open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
daily except Christmas Day
Canyons Visitor Center open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
daily except Christmas Day
$30 per vehicle, $25 for motorcycle, $15 per individual
for pedestrians, bicycle or organized group. Entrance fees
valid for seven days.
To stay in the park, there is the Zion Lodge. See
zionlodge.com. In Springdale, there many hotels and inns.
reservations or first-come, first-served information, see
During winter months, some restaurants are closed or end
service by 8 or 9 p.m. Check with the front desk of your
hotel for a list of the open restaurants and their hours.
equipment: Dry suits are recommended for The Narrows.
There are a few places in Springdale: Zion Adventure
Company, Zion Guru, Zion Outfitters and Zion Rock and
Mountain Guides. Be sure to check ahead to see if
reservations for hiking equipment is required