Zion National Park in Winter

A couple years ago, Mrs Bear and I visited Utah’s Zion National Park in October. The park was so crowded that we were unable to find a parking spot at the Visitor’s Center. Since the shuttle was then unavailable to us, we drove up the canyon to the tunnel, turned around, and left.

Despite being very disgusted and disappointed by the crowd control, we hadn’t forgotten the sheer beauty of this red rock canyon. So, while planning our drive back home from the California desert in midFebruary, we arranged a short revisit to Zion.

When researching possible winter stays in Utah, Zion was an easy choice. Most parks, such as Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands, are entered at high elevations. While remaining open year round, the access roads are not always plowed and lodges within the parks close. Zion, on the other hand, is entered at the canyon floor (around 4,000 feet). While this does not rule out snowy conditions, it is the exception rather than the rule. We made reservations at the Zion Lodge and, as the above photos attest, there was little snow or ice on the roads and hiking trails.

During the months of January and February, the park shuttle system is shut down. So we started off with a drive to the too of the canyon walls and transit of the 1.1 mile tunnel. This road actually leads out of the park if one continues, but we turned around, said ”hello” to the local residents,

and drove back to the Lodge.

The shuttle route is flatter and proceeds up a slot canyon that becomes more narrow by the mile. After reaching the end of the road, we began the walk along the Virgin River.

The photo above shows off my lovely Mrs Bear, and a view of the canyon as it continues to narrow.

We ventured forward another mile or so … But the zealots rent waterproof pants, parkas, and shoes, because the trail eventually merges into the River. This requires wading to continue. In the summer, the depth is lower and the water temperature is higher. A few of the hikers we talked to said the depth was currently near five feet. But they all came back happy.

We walked back down to the trailhead enjoying the peace, the quiet, and a general absence of people. As a Californian, I had always believed that nowhere could rival the splendor of Yosemite … But these two days in Zion have made me question my park ranking. i guess ill have to come back to re-evaluate my choices.

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