Why Fall is the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park

Crowds are thinning, temperatures are cooling, and the leaves are beginning to change; Fall has arrived in Zion National Park. Summer may be the most popular time to visit the park, or any national park for that matter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best.

While we may still be a few weeks away from the full effects of the season, it’s not too early to start planning a fall visit to the park. Keep reading to learn why it’s the very best season to visit.

The Canyon Comes Alive in Color

With its red rock cliffs, lush green valleys, and a brilliant blue sky above, Zion is already a colorful place. But few visitors to the region realize that it becomes even more so during the fall.

When most people think of visiting a national park to see the leaves change color, they think of parks on the East Coast or in the Midwest, like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or Acadia National Park. While it does have foliage, Zion is located on the edge of the Mojave Desert. The park may not be arid, but it certainly isn’t a deciduous forest either. However, the trees in the valley erupt into color during the fall before losing their leaves for the Winter.

The bright yellows and reds of the changing leaves pop out against the backdrop of the Navajo sandstone cliffs. This makes for stunning views and perfect photos. While the exact time frame during which the leaves change varies each year depending on the weather, October through early November is often the best time to experience the colorful landscape.

Crowds Begin to Thin

If you visited Zion during Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day weekend this year, you experienced some record-breaking crowds. During the four-day weekend over the Fourth of July this past summer, more than 94,000 people entered the park. This led to lines of over 90 minutes to board the shuttle and left hikers waiting as long as four hours to hike to Angels Landing.

But with Labor Day weekend now passed, the crowds of summer have finally begun to thin. Zion is entering what is known as a “shoulder season.” The term refers to the two seasons, one before and one after, the rush of tourists that visit the park during the summer months. Both the spring and fall shoulder seasons are great times to visit because so few people are able to. The tourist seasons largely mirror U.S. school calendars, with most visitors making their way to the park during the long weekends and summer breaks that children have off from school.

Temperatures are Usually Perfect for Hiking

Another big benefit of visiting Zion in the fall is the temperatures. Where it isn’t unusual for the daily high to hit triple digits in July and August, by September, things have begun to cool off. The average daily highs and lows for the fall months are as follows:

  • August: High 85/Low 55
  • September: High 78/Low 48
  • October: High 66/Low 39
  • November: High 56/Low 31

Even as the temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in November, with the right clothing, this makes for ideal conditions for taking on some of Zion’s more strenuous trails.

While most spring days in Zion promise nice temperatures for hiking as well, late winter storms can cause them to plummet and dump anywhere from a few inches to several feet of snow on trails, especially in the higher elevations. It isn’t impossible for the same to happen in the fall, but if you visit from September to early November, the chances are far slimmer.

The Shuttles are Still Running

If you’re afraid that visiting Zion in the fall means giving up the convenience of the shuttle system, don’t fret. Both the Zion Canyon Shuttle and the Springdale Shuttle operate until late November each year. If you are staying in-town, you can still hop on the Springdale Shuttle and ride it to the Visitor Center, then transfer to the Zion Canyon Shuttle for a ride through the park. Plus, with fewer crowds in the parks, you won’t have to worry about waiting in line for an hour or fighting to find parking at the Visitor Center.

Planning Your Fall Visit to Zion

Whether you’re drawn by the beautiful colors, the cooler temps, or just happen to have some vacation time you’re looking to use, fall is a wonderful time to visit the park. Book your stay at Cliffrose Lodge and stay right in the middle of the stunning scenery, surrounded by Zion’s red rock cliffs rising high above. Plus, with a shuttle stop just steps away, you can roll out of bed and head straight to the park with ease.