How Not to Get Stranded in Zion National Park

Feb 14, 2023 | Article, Blog | 0 comments


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Every year, millions of people take on some of the incredible hiking trails that Zion National Park is known for. From challenging Angel’s Landing to the popular Pa’rus Trail or Riverside Walk, there’s truly a trail for every visitor—and a visit to Zion and Watchman Villas wouldn’t be complete without enjoying at least one.

Hundreds of people enjoy safe, fun hikes in Zion each day. But every once in a long while, a visitor runs into trouble on the trail. Sometimes, the trouble is minor, like rolling an ankle. Other times, it’s much more serious. 

Two Hikers Rescued in Zion 

Earlier this year, two hikers made headlines after they found themselves in need of rescue while hiking in Zion.

On January 21, 2023, two hikers were rescued from a remote trail in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. The hikers were attempting to hike the Subway, also known as Left Fork. They were hiking the Top-Down Route, which is a hiking and canyoneering route. The trail is rated very strenuous, and includes 9.5 miles of rappelling, hiking, and scrambling. 

For part of the trail, hikers swim through pools of deep water. These are often filled with debris and are cold during the summer months. On January 20, when the hikers set out, temperatures on the trail were already below freezing, and a blanket of snow and ice covered the trail.

The two hikers reportedly had gear for the winter weather. However, they didn’t return as planned. The following day, someone alerted the National Park Service to let them know that the hikers were overdue, and a rescue operation was launched. 

A helicopter was dispatched to rescue the hikers. After 24 hours of being stranded on the trail in freezing temperatures, the pair was lifted into the helicopter. One hiker was treated for hypothermia. They were transported to a hospital but were reported later as being in stable condition. Neither hiker suffered any injuries.

How Not to Get Stranded in Zion National Park

The rescue of these two stranded hikers is certainly a success story. But the Zion Chief Park Ranger Daniel Fagergren warned that not all guests are that lucky. He said that winter conditions often make it more challenging or even impossible for helicopters to fly. 

Whether you plan to take on a challenging trail like the Subway or even a shorter, family-friendly hike, it’s important to make sure that you’re prepared. Keep reading to learn a few tips you need to know to help you not wind up stranded during your stay in lodging near Zion National Park.

Check the Weather

Before you even start packing for your getaway at lodging near Zion National Park, it’s important to check the weather. The weather in Zion can often be unpredictable. While much of Southern Utah enjoys mild winters, Zion experiences snow and ice, especially in the park’s higher elevations. 

It’s not unusual for the daytime temperatures to reach into the 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit). This can make for a warm and comfortable hike during the day. But if you stay on the trail late or a winter storm rolls in, those temperatures can quickly plunge.

Checking the weather frequently before and during your visit can allow you to make smart decisions about the trails you’ll hike, what you’ll wear, and the gear that you’ll pack. That way you can stay warm, dry, and safe on the trail.

Pack the Right Gear

Once you’ve checked the weather, it’s time to get packing. Besides the regular vacation items you’ll need while staying in lodging near Zion National Park, you’ll also want to make sure to pack for the weather. In freezing temperatures, this means warm, moisture-wicking layers, a waterproof shell, and insulating boots. During the summer, lightweight, moisture-wicking clothes and extra water is a must.

In addition to the right clothing, other items you’ll want to have on hand include water, a first aid kit, a map of the trails, and some trail snacks, just in case your hike takes longer than you expect.

Know Your Limits

Having the right gear is important. But it’s also important to make sure that you’re considering your own hiking abilities and limits before choosing a trail. If you don’t have experience hiking in winter weather or taking on strenuous trails, it might be best to stick to an easier hike during your visit. 

If you do want to take on a trail like Angels Landing or the Subway during your stay in lodging near Zion National Park, make sure that you’re preparing for the hike at least a few months ahead of time so that you’ll be ready.

Let Someone Know Where You’re Going

There is one big thing that the two rescued hikers did correctly; they let someone know where they were going. Because of this, rescue operations were launched right away as soon as they were reported missing.

Whether you’re taking on what you think is an easy trail or a more challenging trek, make sure that you let someone who isn’t hiking with you know where you’re going. 

Planning Your Winter Visit to Zion National Park

Even when winter weather strikes, it’s still possible to enjoy a safe, fun hike in Zion National Park this time of year. There’s also plenty more to do in the park during the Secret Season.

Planning a visit this time of year offers another big benefit; the chance to save on your stay! Right now, when you book a stay of two or more nights before March 15, 2023, you’ll save 40 percent on your entire booking. Book today to take advantage of this amazing deal!

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