When you think of winter in Utah, what comes to mind? Is it racing down the snow-covered slopes of Park City or Salt Lake City on skis or snowboards? Or maybe a backcountry snowmobile tour through a sparkling pine forest?
While many people associate winters in Utah with ski slopes, in reality, the state is home to some very diverse landscapes and elevations. Much of Southern Utah experiences more mild winters. It’s not unusual for Zion National Park to see up to around nine inches of snow each winter. But it’s also not unusual for a winter day to see temperatures in the mid to high 50s (degrees Fahrenheit). This means that hiking in Utah is something that you can enjoy all year long.
Although you can hike throughout the winter in Southern Utah, temperatures can still get chilly on the trails. Days are also shorter, which can add an extra challenge to your hike.
If you’re planning a winter stay at Watchman Villas, keep reading. We’re breaking down the tips you need for hiking in Utah in the winter months.
Choose Your Layers With Care
The best way to prepare for hiking in Utah is to plan to dress in layers. Wearing layers that you can easily add or remove will allow you to adapt to changing temperatures throughout the day. Start your hike with a warm thermal base layer, an insulating middle layer, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Then, as temperatures rise and you get your heart pumping on the trail, you can shed a layer or two to stay comfortable.
When you’re choosing what layers to wear, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, skip the cotton. While it might be comfortable for lounging around the best vacation rentals Zion has to offer, it can leave you cold on the trail. That’s because cotton traps moisture and dries slowly, leaving moisture from your sweat, rain, or snow trapped against your skin.
Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid wearing anything too tight.
Thermal base layers, gloves, boots, and even your wristwatch band that are too tight can cut off circulation to your extremities. Without proper circulation, your hands, feet, legs, and arms may lose heat quickly. Besides being uncomfortable, this can also increase your likelihood of developing frostbite.
Always Carry a Flashlight
Zion National Park hours stay the same all year long. But the days will look very different if you plan a visit during the winter months instead of the summer.
Winter means fewer hours of daily sunlight, which means less time to spend on the trails. Even if you plan to get off the trails before nightfall, those quick sunsets can catch you by surprise. Always packing a flashlight and/or headlamp will ensure that you can get safely off the trail if you’re still hiking at nightfall.
Don’t Skip the Sunscreen
Night may fall faster during the winter months than it does in the summer, but that doesn’t mean that mid-day sunshine can’t leave you with a sunburn.
If you think that you don’t need sunscreen on a cloudy winter day, think again. UV rays can still penetrate through overcast skies. And for every thousand feet of elevation above sea level you climb, the amount of UV radiation your skin is exposed to increases by 5 percent.
Keep up your sunscreen habit even after the sunny summer months are over. In fact, you’ll need to reapply sunscreen more often in the winter, as snow and strong winds may cause sunscreen to wear away faster and lose its effectiveness, leaving you exposed to harmful radiation.
Keep Your Plans Flexible
When hiking in Utah in the winter months, one of the best things that you can do is keep your plans flexible. While it’s great to have some ideas of trails you’d like to hike during your stay in the best vacation rentals Zion has to offer, staying flexible will allow you to choose trails that are safe to hike based on the current conditions.
One great idea is to stop by the visitor center when you enter the park each day. Here, you can chat with a park ranger to learn about the trail conditions that day. While it might be dry and warmer at the base of the canyon, higher elevation trails can still have ice.
While Zion National Park hours at the visitor center are a little shorter this time of year, it is still open daily.
Preparing for Hiking in Utah in the Winter Months
Winter can be a great season for hiking in Utah. Lower temperatures and fewer crowds make for a great time to enjoy some of Zion and the rest of Southern Utah’s popular or challenging trails.
If you’re planning a winter stay at Wachman Villas, put these tips to work to stay safe and comfortable on the trails all season long.
Ready to plan your own winter adventure at the best vacation rentals Zion has to offer? Now is a great time to book a stay. From now until February 29, you can enjoy a 40 percent discount on your stay of two or more nights. Book today to take advantage of these savings!