Visiting Zion National Park in the Middle of Winter – Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is hands-down one of the most beautiful places in the world and you’re wrong if you think otherwise. :)
I first visited back in the Spring of 2014 when we hiked and canyoneered the Subway a couple of times. Back then, the park was definitely busy and crowded, especially with all the jabronees on Angels Landing doing it for the ‘Gram, but the park felt manageable – I was able to find campsites, traffic wasn’t too bad, and we were able to cruise right on and off the free shuttles without dealing with lines.
I had some fantastic trips that left me craving to return.
Fast-forward couple of years through the rise of over tourism being experienced world-wide, I hadn’t dared to go back. Right after that first trip, visitation numbers to the park began to increase significantly from 3.1 million in 2014 to 4.5 million visitors in 2017. (NYTimes) I saw reports coming out that parking lots were filled by the early morning hours, waiting times for the canyon shuttles were measured in ‘hours,’ campsites were all spoken for with advanced reservations or #VanLifers, and there were legit lines and significant overcrowding on trails. That is definitely not my idea of a good time in the wilderness. Or anywhere for that matter.
My choice seemed to be that I could avoid a spectacular place that I loved or going back to that place and being pissed off at how crowded it was. I didn’t like the idea of that first option and since I already get irrationally angry at watching the hoards mistreat our parks, the second choice didn’t seem like a good option either.
As the holidays wound down last year, (I know, I’m way behind in postings!) I was itching to get out of town and into the wilderness for some relaxation on a photography road trip mission. Looking at some potential snowfall in Southern Utah, I figured I’d take another shot at Zion in the hopes of capturing some beautiful fresh snow in the crowdless canyons.
We unfortunately struck out on the snow, but the park was empty, quiet, and absolutely beautiful.