Winter in Southwestern Utah: Zion and the Mojave Desert

Warmer temperatures make Utah’s Dixie (named so because of ill-fated early Mormon Pioneer attempt to grow cotton in the desert) a year-round travel destination. You can golf pretty much throughout the year on St. George’s championship-level courses. But it’s a land of contrasts, it can be sunny and warm in St. George and snowing just an hour north in Cedar City. The world famous Zion National Park is the main attraction but Snow Canyon State Park, Red Cliffs, Sand Hollow and Quail Creek are all equally wondrous parks to add to your itinerary, even when the weather dial isn't turned up to hot.

Zion National Park

Zion is Utah’s lowest park in both elevation and latitude, so its weather tends to be pretty fair year round. You can expect rain at times, but rarely snow, and cool temperatures especially in sunless canyon bottoms. You can also expect to have parts of the stunning canyon to yourself, ideal for solace seekers and nature photographers. Shorter daylight also brings sunrise, sunset and starry skies closer together — but bundle up for those chilly desert nights!

Temperatures can hover in a comfortable 50–60 degrees during the day but drop below freezing at night. Winter rains and periodic snow can build up on trails creating icy conditions in the morning, which often melts away in a few hours. Always exercise caution on wet and icy trails and turn back if conditions inhibit safe passage. Learn more about safe winter adventures, check location conditions and get the weather report at the visitor center, open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the winter.

A different winter wonderland all to yourself. Photo: Beatrice Nervo/NPS

A different winter wonderland all to yourself. Photo: Beatrice Nervo/NPS

Get the gear: Zion Outfitters
One of the most amazing things to do in Zion National Park in the off-season is to hike into the Narrows, hike a few miles up the Virgin River below towering rock walls that close in on you as you ascend the river bed. But you’ll need a drysuit, an impenetrable rubbery suit that keeps the cold water out and you warm and dry. Zion Outfitters rents the suits and other resources, as well as a helpful orientation session to get hikers ready for their canyoneering adventure.
95 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale
(435) 772-5090

Base camp: Springdale

Where to stay: Located near the entrance to Zion National Park Cable Mountain Lodge is practically in the park. The lodge has standard hotel rooms as well as spacious family-sized suites with kitchens and plenty of room and the hot tub is open year round. The property also offers a handy, up-to-date list of restaurants that are open in the off-season at its front desk. Or, let Larry and Liz host you at the beautifully designed and comfortable Zion Canyon Bed & Breakfast. Some accommodations take the winter off, but Springdale continues to welcome travelers to the mouth of Zion National Park. See even more lodging options below.

Cable Mountain Lodge
147 Zion Park Boulevard, Springdale
(435) 772-3366

Zion Canyon Bed & Breakfast
101 Kokopelli Circle, Springdale
(435) 772-9466

More Springdale accommodations

Where to eat: Zion Canyon Brewing Company’s brewpub has excellent pub grub and a good selection of beers, brewed onsite.
2400 Zion Park Boulevard, Springdale
(435) 772-0336

Base camp: St. George

While some of Springdale takes the winter off, St. George is a good size city on the main interstate full of great restaurants, year-round adventure and cultural attractions — a round of championship-caliber golf is frequently possible as well.

Where to stay: As a year-round destination and a winter getaway for Northern Utahns, hotels and motels abound in Southern Utah’s largest metro area, St. George. But for something out of the ordinary, check out the Inn on the Cliff, a boutique hotel set on a bluff high above the town. For a luxury experience try the Inn at Entrada, a golfing-getaway spot located in a gated community just an hour away from Zion National Park.

Inn at Entrada
2588 W. Sinagua Trail, St. George
(435) 634-7100

Inn on the Cliff
511 S. Airport Rd, St George
(435) 216-5864

Where to eat: The Painted Pony
Serving upscale southwestern cuisine alongside a great cocktail menu and wine list, The Painted Pony is open seven days a week.
2 W. St George Blvd., St. George
(435) 634-1700

 Explore more dining in St. George.

Jeremy Pugh

Jeremy Pugh is a writer living in Salt Lake City who, in one way or another, has been writing about culture, history, and the outdoors in Salt Lake City for more than a decade. Formerly the editor of Salt Lake magazine, Pugh is a freelancer and consultant writing for SKI, Sunset, and Salt Lake magazines and the author of the book 100 Things to Do in SLC Before You Die. A lifelong Utahn, Jeremy travels widely but always loves returning home to the mountains where he bikes, hikes, and skis as much as possible.

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Southwestern Utah