Yes, Utah has world class ski resorts with the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” but there are better reasons to book your adventure to Utah in the winter months. Utah’s National Parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches offer some of the best views this world has to offer. But why in the winter? Isn’t Utah bitterly cold in the winter? Here I offer three big reasons. Can I convince you?
1. No Crowds!
First, these parks are relatively abandoned in the winter as tourism slows and colder temperatures keep away less-determined adventurers. That’s not you right? Zion National Park received over 3.5 million visitors in 2015, breaking previous years’ records. As word spreads, this is becoming a similar trend in all of Utah's natural wonders. I’ve visited all 5 national parks in both seasons - a hike in colder weather that only has a few people on the trail is well worth the trade-off. In any case, the temperatures are fairly mild in some of the parks, especially in Zion which is located far enough south to enjoy a more mild winter. No crowds also means cheaper accommodations if you’re the hotel type, and fairly empty restaurants for when you need to refuel.
2. The Awesome Contrast of Snow and Desert
All 5 of Utah’s National Parks receive some amount of snow fall every year, and some receive more than you’d expect. In this new world of social media, it’s hard to get a new perspective on places that are so often visited, but winter provides that opportunity. As a landscape photographer and a living, breathing human, there is nothing more special to me than a fresh coat of snow on the red rock of Arches, the high canyons of Zion, and the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. In Zion, because of the more mild temperature, snow is rare and only happens maybe two or three times a year. In Canyonlands and Arches National Park, there is snowfall much more often, providing awesome opportunities for beautiful photographs. In Bryce Canyon, at an elevation of 8,000-9,000 feet, there is snow on the ground nearly all winter long. It’s hard to imagine improving the views in these awesome parks, but a fresh coat of the white stuff does just that!
3. Enjoy the Iconic destinations
This reason goes a long with the first two, doing the iconic hikes in the winter avoid not only the summer heat, but also the traffic jam on the trail. Some of Utah’s most iconic hikes, like Angel’s Landing in Zion, Mesa Arch in Canyonlands or Delicate Arch in Arches, are ridiculously crowded in the summer time. Many hikes in Utah are also made more difficult by the gruelling summertime heat, with temperatures hitting well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You can avoid both of these obstacles and see some of the most well-known landmarks in the Southwest without sweating through your clothes or sharing that sweat with 200 of your closest strangers.
Do yourself a favor, see these must see sights at least once in your life, and do it in the winter when you can take it all in and enjoy it!
Written by Josh Nelson
See more of Josh's adventures on instagram: @jrad_photo