The Fall and Winter months are a wonderful time to visit Zion National Park. The crowds have begun to thin, the heat of the summer is finally over, and the park comes alive with color first, followed by a layers of bright white snow in the higher elevations.
But while a cold weather visit to the park can still mean plenty of hiking and exploring, it does require some different gear than you might use during the summer. Keep reading to learn 5 things to pack for your cold weather adventure in Zion National Park.
1. Wicking Clothing and Warm Layers
With the heat of the summer long over, you might be tempted to turn to soft cotton t-shirts or sweatpants for your Fall or Winter Zion trip. But because the day-time temperatures can still rise into the 70s, and hiking will help you work up a sweat even when the air is half that temperature, cotton is still a big mistake.
Because it traps moisture against your body, cotton can actually leave you feeling much colder than other fabrics. It’s best to still stick to wicking underlayers. During very cold days or when hiking to higher elevations, warm synthetic thermals will help insulate your body.
The best thing you can do during a Fall or Winter visit to Zion is to dress in plenty of layers. This allows you to stay warm in higher elevations, as well as early and late in the day. Then, as it warms up in the middle of the day, you can shed these layers to stay cool and comfortable.
2. Hiking Boots
Whether you plan to take on a rugged trek like the hike to Angels Landing or want to stick to easier, paved options like Pa’rus Trail, you’re going to need a good pair of hiking boots. Even if you’re comfortable in your favorite running shoes or Chacos, it’s best to save these for strolling the Visitor Center or shopping in Springdale. When you’re going to be hitting the trails, boots are a must.
Hiking boots, as opposed to tennis shoes or hiking sandals, provide ankle support to prevent sprains on uneven surfaces. They offer protection from sharp rocks, as well as extra padding to help reduce blisters you might get from your regular gym shoes. Hiking boots also have gripping soles that make it easier to navigate slick surfaces and climb over boulders.
If you don’t already have a good pair of hiking boots at home, make sure that you start shopping for a pair well in advance of your trip. Buying at the last minute means less time to find the perfect pair and you won’t have time to break them in, which will likely lead to blisters
3. Neoprene Socks, Water Shoes, or a Back-Up Pair of Boots
If you plan to take on The Narrows, you’re going to get wet. That’s because this unique trail takes hikers down the shallow Virgin River. During the hot summer months, wearing your regular hiking boots might be fine; once you’re off the trail, your shoes will dry quickly and you can just swap out for a fresh pair of socks.
But during cooler months, the temperature of the water drops. With air temperatures in the 50s and 60s (Farenheit), your boots won’t dry, leaving you with wet feet and a risk of hypothermia.
Rugged neoprene socks can help keep your feet warm, but only if they come high enough up your leg to prevent water leaking in. Water shoes are another good option. Just make sure that if you opt for either of these, you have additional pairs of socks and a pair of boots to change into after your hike.
Another great option is to rent a dry suit or waders from one of the outdoor supply companies in town. These will keep you dry and warm, no matter when you choose to hike this popular trail.
4. Plenty of Water
If you think that dehydration is only a risk during hot summer hikes, think again. When we are exposed to cold temperatures, our blood vessels constrict to slow the blood flowing to our extremities, pulling warmth inward. But a side effect of this is that our body’s thirst response is lessened by as much as 40 percent. This means that you may not realize how thirsty you actually are, leading to faster dehydration.
Even during the winter months, it’s important to pack plenty of water for any hike. Similar to warm weather hikes, you should still be drinking around 1 liter of water for every 2 hours of moderate hiking.
Another common misconception about winter visits to Zion is that sunscreen is no longer necessary. But once the cloudy days of monsoon season pass, the sun comes out again in the park. When you’re hiking in areas with little shade and plenty of sunlight, you can still get burnt, regardless of the temperature. Make sure that your packing list includes a bottle of the same SPF sunscreen that you would use during the summer months.