5 Reasons to Visit Zion in the Winter

Shooting in Yant Flat, a remote BLM trail marked by sandstone ridges that look a whole lot like a dragon's back.

Shooting in Yant Flat, a remote BLM trail marked by sandstone ridges that look a whole lot like a dragon's back.

As a backpacker that spent the first 10 years of my career on a budget, I’m all about shoulder season. Not only are you going to save some scratch, but you also have to deal with way less tourists, giving you that magical feeling of discovery that makes us love travel so much. Which is why I was super stoked to be checking out Zion in St. George County, Utah during the off-season. (Zion actually hit records for the third year in row, if you can believe it!)

With our camera bags packed and our puffers firmly in place, Micheal and I headed out to Zion and St. George for a quick winter weekender of filming. (Don't forget to peep the video below!) Here's why you should too:

1.  You can self-drive through the parks. Because numbers are so large in the summer months, Zion requires that guests take tourist trams to get inside the park. During the winter off-season, you can self drive. We rented a car at the Las Vegas airport, then drove 1.5 hours to St. George, getting a little dose of neon and nature in one trip. The road trip has all the hallmarks of a classic Southwestern adventure — the red rocks, the open road, and yeah, amazing burritos. Which brings me to the food...

2. There's plenty of warm winter food to warm your belly. Seriously the smoked chicken burrito at Oscars is one of the best I’ve had in my life. And who knew they had local beer in Utah! We loved the Polygamy Porter from Moab Brewing. Another fave was the Gun Barrel, where we got to try all kinds of really great game meats. (Be sure to check out my post tomorrow for more deets on where to eat in Zion.)

3.  The Narrows are practically EMPTY! OK, this was absolutely insane. We were wading through the river gorge for hours and saw maayyyyybe a handful of people. It was such a magical experience. And seeing the icicles and leaves changing while wandering around in our dry suits was pretty special too. (Prepare to get wet!) We practically had the whole place to ourselves, whereas in summer it's pretty much wall-to-wall hikers. If you're a nature photographer this is the ideal time to set up clean shots without having to crop out tourists tripping over themselves on the slippery rocks.

4. The temps are way more manageable. It was admittedly a little chilly, but I’d much rather be out here now than in the 115 degree weather, fighting other travelers for the shot. I guess this is one of those Robert Frost moments where I'd definitely choose ice.

5. There's tons of stuff to do outside Zion in the wintertime. Our buddy Mike also took us out to some dope local hikes, like Yant Flat and Babylon. The great part about BLM land is that you don’t have to pay park fees. Yant was totally surreal! Walking on that cragged sandstone ridges made me feel like I was walking on a dragon’s back.

It was a truly incredible experience, and I can’t wait to come back again in winters to come! 

Note: This trip was a collaboration between myself, Travel Mindset, and Visit St. George.