Winter Wonder at Zion National Park

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They Say the Best Time to Visit National Parks is During the Winter Season

Zion National Park is no exception. I love going to Zion in the winter! Two big reasons being that it is less crowded and that you can drive your personal car through the main canyon. There are of course other advantages too, to which I can attest. Just today, I bought myself an inter-agency national parks pass, good for one year, and drove into the main canyon. I made lots of stops to take pictures of the gorgeous scenery. Actually, my picture-taking started before I even reached the entrance to the park and paid my fee. The drive to Zion National Park, coming from the direction of LaVerkin, is beautiful, with all the rose-white cliffs and bluffs on either side. It seemed especially beautiful to me today, as if I were seeing it with new eyes.

Every time I come out to Zion I’m focused on getting there at a certain time to start one hike or another.  As a result I probably don’t take in the sights along the drive as well as I do when in the park boundaries. Today I didn’t have a specific plan, I just wanted to get to Zion and take in the winter beauty, perhaps catch a glimpse of some unmelted snow atop the red cliffs. I was in no rush, and I really was just in awe of the spectacular cliffs. I think the red cliffs stand out more in the winter because there’s less greenery to distract from them. You have all those grey, bare trees that provide a stark contrast to the bright red and coral of the cliffs.

It is especially breathtaking on a clear day, and when I went today it was very bright and clear. Driving past the entrance to the park and into the main canyon, the views just got better and better, even as the light grew dimmer with the sunset and approaching twilight. I was happy to see some unmelted snow still remained on some of the tallest of the cliffs. Just having a spattering of snow like that makes for an eye-appealing contrast against the pines, and again, against the red of the cliffs. Contrast must be the word of the day, but it fits. There is beauty in opposites meeting.

The Virgin River Was at a Higher Flow Than During the Summer

Another advantage of the winter season, the Virgin River was pretty to see. I also loved how I could hear the sound of the river so well, that rushing, bubbling sound is so soothing to me. Though there were more vehicles than I expected to see and a few more people than expected. It was however, still minimal compared to the summer season.  I was able to enjoy great solitude and to really appreciate the quiet and peace in the canyon. There were a few places I stopped where I could have just stayed there for quite a while and soaked it all in, but I knew the light wouldn’t last forever. I knew I only had about an hour and a half’s worth of light to get all the way to the end of the main canyon, to the Temple of Sinawava, and back out. I didn’t want to miss out on anything for lack of light, like possible deer sightings.

Even with all my stops, I was able to view all of the canyon before it got dark. On my way back out I actually saw several deer, I’d say at least fifteen. Late evenings are the best time for deer sightings I’ve found. I also saw some wild turkeys who decided to cross the road in front of me. I have to say, driving or riding in a personal vehicle allows for much greater wildlife and scenery viewing than riding in one of the park’s shuttle busses, you’re not peering over someone’s head or craning your neck up to try and see the tops of the cliffs.

Another perk to going up with your own vehicle, you can pull over at any small shoulder and get out and take photos. The two great advantages of the winter season have a lot of great side-advantages. I was happy to get some good pictures, even just using my phone’s camera. It turns out that the night mode works quite well for twilight conditions. I like to masquerade as an amateur photographer even though I don’t have an actual camera at the moment, just my trusty phone.

There Are So Many Great Places to Eat in Springdale

After driving through the canyon, I decided to grab dinner in Springdale.  Of course some restaurants and shops in Springdale close for the winter, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were still quite a few open. I went with Blondie’s Diner, which is a cute little place in a building that was originally a home, built in the 1920’s. My grandpa and I had gone their quite a few years ago and decided to give it a try again. They had quite a lot of choices on the menu, with a good variety. They even had elk and buffalo burgers as options, which I wasn’t quite brave enough to try.

I went with a very traditional choice – chicken strips with fries. Now, to make things more interesting I did order an appetizer of “potato bites,” which I had never heard of before. I especially loved the ones with chopped jalapenos and cheese, they were hot from the fryer and delicious. The chicken tenders were also very good, carefully selected for great quality. I was happy with my meal, my dining experience at Blondie’s was a pleasant one because of the friendly service. I’ll have to go back sometime and try out their homemade pie, which I hear is really good. If you want to go check out the diner yourself on your next trip to Zion, you can visit the Blondie’s Diner website by clicking here.

If you make it out to the St. George area during the winter, be sure to take advantage of a trip to Zion National Park. Also, if you get a chance to drive through Springdale during the Christmas season, you can enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights at many of the businesses and homes. I was quite impressed with their light displays on my drive home. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!