Zion National Park is pretty much perfect in the wintertime, the views are spectacular, you can drive yourself without the shuttle and there is 10% of the normal amount of people. I got an opportunity to spend three days in the park last winter and here are my recommendations for what you should do and where you should go for photography.
- $20 for park entrance but I recommend just buying a year pass for all National Parks for $80
The Stops / Parking Areas
This area is where the visitors center is and where the short loop to see the Watchmen mountains are. It is a good winter hike and if you are feeling hungry or thirsty there is a brew pub/restaurant here as well.
From this stop, you can visit the museum and see the famous Altar of Sacrifice Mountain. This mountain really is crazy to see as it does look like there is blood that has stained the rocks.
The parking here can be difficult as this is a really popular area for photographing the sunset in the park. The main view is on the bridge looking back at the Watchman but you can see a lot of the other mountains around too. I would recommend coming here for sunset if you are a photographer.
Court of the Patriarchs
This quick stop has a few hikes, but during the winter it is just a great place to get out and take some pictures. The mountains that ascend on both sides of you and the river that flows through the middle provide a perfect backdrop for beautiful photos.
This is a great place to stay as it is the only place you can stay in the park. It is also the stop for the incredibly popular Emerald Pools Trail. The Lower Emerald Pools can be closed in the winter though so if it is then go up one more stop to the Grotto where you can hike the Kayenta Trail and reach the pools where they are not closed.
This is the most popular parking area in Zion during the winter and because of that, it can be hard to find a spot. This is the trailhead you will leave from if you choose to hike Angels Landing. I would honestly recommend that you don’t do this in the winter if you are not prepared though as it is really sketchy, I did it in the summer and it was sketchy enough without snow and ice on the ground. The Kayenta Trail though is a fantastic trail that I highly recommend in the winter, it has beautiful views and takes you to the Emerald Pools. Read more about it here.
This short hike is a nice, easy winter hike. It will take you up to the famous rock that drips water like it is crying. This is also the trailhead for the Observation Point hike which is popular but can be hard in the winter.
This stop is mostly for photographs as there are only a few places to park, but it really does make you feel like you are in a canyon and the views are stunning.
Temple of Sinawava
As the last stop in the park this is a good place to take the easy river walk trail. It will take you all the way to end of the Narrows Trail which is a fantastic spot in hike in the summer and provides a lot of beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
If you want a nice easy way to see a spectacular view then the Overlook Trail, which is above the park, is a good choice. From here you can see the Zion Canyon itself and get a taste of the snow since it is higher in elevation.
Where to See the Sunrise
Overlook Canyon Trail that I wrote about above is the best place in the park for sunrise, mostly due to the incredible payoff and view for the ease of access. The view with the sun rising behind you and warming up the canyon in front of you is something you will not soon forget and an amazing place for photography.
Where to See the Sunset
There are so many good spots for sunset, but for me I prefer the bridge near Canyon Junction as it has a great composition with the river running below you and Watchman in the distance. There are also a bunch of other mountains that you can see around you as well.
Where to Stay
There is a lodge in the park, but I like the Driftwood Lodge in town. The rooms here are massive with a living area and a large patio. Plus, the views are great and the price is as well during the winter.
Where to Eat
You won’t find all of the traditional chain companies here which is a plus, so here are my recommendations for food and coffee.
For coffee, the main spot in the area is Deep Creek Coffee Company. It’s in a small little building but the coffee is great.
For breakfast, I really like Oscar’s. They have a unique menu with fun things like M&M pancakes and Corn Flake Crusted French Toast. Oscars is one of the most popular spots for all meals in the area though so it could be a wait.
For lunch, it is hard to beat Brew Pub, one because it is the closest meal to the park, which you will surely be in the middle of exploring and two because they make their own beer on the property. Also, the location/view is hard to beat. You can always grab food at the market and take it into the park with you if you prefer though.
For dinner, I like to keep it simple so I usually grab a pizza at Flying Monkey. The pizza has a Neapolitan style with light cheese and a lot of sauce. I like the crust a lot as well since the pizza is cooked in a wood fire oven. Also, you can go to Oscar’s which I wrote about above and which has really good Mexican / American food for dinner.
So there you have it, my recommendation for how to spend some time in the park. Let me know what I left off in the comments.