UTAH (ABC4) – Utah’s famed five National Parks draw tourists from far and wide. Especially in the spring months, when the weather in Southern Utah is fair and mild, lines of cars at the park entrances can stretch for miles. The crowds associated with visiting the parks during peak season can detract from the natural beauty of the areas, which is why locals and tourists alike might want to consider visiting our National Parks during the winter instead.
“I think winter is the perfect time for visitors and residents to enjoy our spectacular outdoor places because they are less traveled,” says Anna Loughridge, public relations manager for the Utah Office of Tourism.
And not only are there fewer crowds, Loughridge says the weather doesn’t typically drop to frigid temperatures in these regions, either. And the snow in some areas even opens up possibilities for winter-specific activities that visitors can only experience during colder months. For example, Loughridge says there are opportunities to cross-country ski or snowshoe through Bryce Canyon’s famous hoodoo rock formations.
Some definitive Utah National Park experiences are also options in the winter, too. For instance, travelers to Zion National Park can hike the famous Narrows route, which travels through the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, year-round.
Camping — another favorite National Park pastime for travelers — is also a wintertime option. And according to Loughridge, enjoying the stars during the colder months is even more spectacular than it is during the summer.
“The night sky arrives earlier in the day and winter skies tend to have less moisture, making it more transparent to the human eye and really more accessible for amateur photographers to capture that beauty,” she says.
But in order to experience said beauty, travelers will have to make some extra safety and logistical considerations prior to their trip.
Although the parks are open year-round and accessible by car, areas like Bryce Canyon – which rests at over 9,000 ft. in elevation and is prone to snow – may still be home to road closures due to inclement weather. And, during the winter, some hikes – like Zion’s famed Angel’s Landing – may be closed due to ice and unsafe winter conditions.
Additionally, although camping options are available, spending the night outdoors is a little more difficult during the winter.
“[Camping in the winter] definitely requires additional skills, preparation, and equipment,” Loughridge says. She also notes that some facilities, like campground bathrooms, might be closed for the season, so guests should account for that.
And speaking of closures, business hours in the remote areas surrounding the National Parks might also be affected by the seasonal nature of tourism in the area.
“Be prepared for limited amenities and potentially reduced hours,” Loughridge says. “Larger towns will typically have everything you may need, but if you do have your heart set on a particular activity, experience, or meal, make sure to call ahead because hours are often impacted by the season.”
It is also advised to prepare your car for snow – just as you would if you were headed up one of the Cottonwood Canyons – because weather in southern Utah can be unpredictable, especially during the winter.
But all in all, traveling down south to the National Parks is an opportunity that, especially for Utahns, might be too good to pass up.
As Loughridge puts it, “Everything is really more beautiful with the potential dusting of snow. The red rock/snow contrast is really unlike anything else.”