Summer is finally winding down and fall is almost officially here. While temperatures might still be high right now and crowds are lingering on the weekends, change is in the air. Within just a few weeks, crowds will thin, temperatures will drop, and the leaves of the deciduous trees in the park will begin to change.
If you’ve never visited the park during the fall, you’re missing out. Keep reading to learn 4 reasons why fall is the absolute best time to visit Zion National Park.
1. The Leaves are Changing
When fall officially begins, millions of people flock to state and national parks in New England and throughout the Midwest to take in the colorful scenery as the leaves change. But did you know that you can take in equally stunning views right here in Utah?
While it may be considered a desert state, Utah is home to a variety of deciduous trees that shed their leaves each fall. And before they do, they erupt in shades of red, orange, and yellow. Framed against the backdrop of red sandstone cliffs and mixing with deep green evergreen trees, your favorite Utah destinations look completely different this time of year.
Zion is no exception. From mid-September to early-October, give or take a week or two depending on the year’s weather, the park’s deciduous trees begin to change. This is a great time to hike high up on Angels Landing to look down on the beautiful colors. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can take a drive through the park and along surrounding roads to see the colors as well.
2. The Weather is Cooling
During the summer months, it’s not unusual for temperatures to top 100 degrees. For those visiting Zion National Park for the world-renowned hiking, this can be a real drag, not to mention dangerous if you aren’t prepared.
But as September and October wear on, the temperatures begin to fall. In September, the average daily high is 78 degrees Fahrenheit. But October, the average has dropped to a comfortable 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
These cooler temperatures are perfect for hiking, especially if you want to take on more strenuous trails like Angels Landing or The Narrows. If you do plan to do some hiking, be sure to dress in layers. Those comfortable daytime temps can get a bit too cool early in the morning or in the early evening.
3. The Crowds are Thinning
Labor Day Weekend marks the last of the busy holiday weekends in Zion. While Thanksgiving and any warm fall holidays will draw more people than usual back into the park, for the most part, this time of year sees far fewer crowds than during the summer months.
If you really want to have the trails to yourself, plan your visit for late fall. On average, about half the number of visitors enter the park during the month of November than during September. And September sees about 200,000 fewer guests than July. If you are visiting during the early fall, head to one of the park’s less-visited trails and areas, like Kolob Canyon, to avoid those still-thinning crowds.
4. Everything is Still Open
If you think that the park closes up when the summer vacation crowds fade away, think again. Zion National Park is open all year long. While some facilities, like campgrounds and high-elevation roadways, close during the winter, in the fall, nearly everything remains open, barring bad weather.
Even the Zion Canyon Shuttle remains open through the end of November. This means that if you stay in Springdale, you can still take advantage of the Springdale Shuttle, leave your car at your vacation rental, and explore the park without worrying about traffic or a lack of parking.
Planning Your Fall Adventure in Zion National Park
Planning a visit to Zion National Park in the fall is a good idea for so many reasons. The leaves are changing, making for beautiful views throughout the park. Temps are finally starting to cool off, which makes hiking and other outdoor activities far more comfortable than they are during the summer months. Crowds are finally starting to die down from the summer rush. For those hoping to hike popular trails or take pictures at overlooks, this is a good chance to enjoy the park without worrying about other tourists getting in the way. Plus, all of the park’s facilities remain open. Even the shuttle system will continue to run through the end of November!
Planning a fall visit doesn’t require a ton of specialized gear as a winter visit does. You’ll want to dress in layers to adjust for chilly mornings and warmer afternoons. You’ll still need plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated on long hikes, even if you don’t feel as thirsty as you did when it was hotter outside. And don’t forget to pack your camera to capture these stunning views!