Last weekend Matt and I returned from our annual BIG vacation which, this year, took us to Las Vegas Nevada and the National Parks of Southern Utah.
After 3 days of festivities that, in keeping with the first rule of Las Vegas, can’t be mentioned, our friends Kyle and Heather got married in a beautiful ceremony at Caesar’s Palace followed by probably one of the best meals of my life at Scarpetta.
The day after the wedding, Matt and I rented a Jeep leaving behind the city of lights in favour of the quiet outdoor recreation of Zion National Park.
When putting together an itinerary for our trip I found little information online with tips for visiting Zion National Park in November, near American Thanksgiving 2013. Not that many people come to the park at this time of year, so you can avoid crowds quite easily and manage to find a sense of serenity and humility here among the impressive canyon vistas.
Here are some tips that I gleaned from our 3 days in the National Park in late November 2013.
We experienced weather in the 40s and very rainy. We were told this kind of weather is unseasonable for November; it’s usually cold but dry.
The wet conditions were shitty for hiking on slickrock, but they were good for keeping the tourists at bay and giving us the chance to see some pretty wicked waterfalls.
We noticed that the park was much busier on the single day we actually saw sunlight, especially among young families.
Most of the year, personal vehicles are not allowed in the park. A shuttle system takes tourists to all the trailheads and vistas which facilitates traffic. During November however the shuttle system only runs on the weekends.
The good thing about the shuttle is that it is very informative. A recording plays providing riders with information about the various points of interest in the park as you drive by them. It’s something you’d miss out on if you took your personal vehicle. It is possible, however, to miss out on the information if the shuttle is full of noisy people. This happened while we were there so I am sure it’s much worse during the peak travel season.
The hiking in Zion varies greatly in terms of difficulty making it good for all skill levels. Many of the trails are paved, a few are wheelchair accessible, and all of them are very clearly marked. ‘Easy’ trails will be very easy for fit people and ‘Difficult’ seems to infer a rapid gain in elevation moreso than unsure footing.
Note that at this time of year the sun set just after 5pm so you have much less time than you would in the summer to fit all your hikes in before dark. Choose wisely and be aware of how much time it takes to hike a trail prior to going out.
I’ll be posting about a couple of hikes that we did end up doing, so stay tuned!
Edited to add: Hike the Narrows and Other Exciting Zion Hikes
The town of Springdale is at the main entrance to Zion National Park and primarily consists of hotels, inns, restaurants, and shops providing services for park tourists. So, of course, in the off season many shops and cafes are closed or operating on shorter hours. It was nearly impossible to find an open coffee shop after 3pm and only a handful of shops were open, leaving us with very little to do when we weren’t in the park.
The combination of short daylight hours and limited store operating hours meant that we packed it in early most nights. Very early.
There are a few drawbacks to coming this time of year like the shorter days, cooler weather, and limited services in town but the benefits of visiting during the off season outweigh the drawbacks, in my opinion.
I can deal with the cooler temperatures, in fact I think I prefer it to the heat of summer. While the heavy rain was a but off-putting, it’s not typical for November and it did provide us the opportunity to see waterfalls we otherwise would have missed. I liked that the park was quiet, especially on weekdays, making the experience with nature much more personal and peaceful.
I would definitely go back this time of year.