What Is the Best Time to Visit Utah National Parks?

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A person walking at Arches National park, during the best time to visit Utah

Often, people don’t have much of a choice when planning vacations. It’s usually the summer months when the kids are out of school, and the parents can take off a week or two to enjoy some relaxation.

But if you can travel during the off-season, you’ll find cheaper accommodations, fewer crowds, and milder weather out West. That also includes the best time to visit Utah

Utah is a state you’ll want to add to your bucket list. From riveting canyons to intriguing hoodoos, the Beehive State has stunning scenery and breathtaking views.

Let’s look at the best time to visit and why you’ll want to make those plans sooner than later!

Is Utah Worth Visiting?

Utah is worth visiting for certain activities. From the glowing red rocks to challenging slot canyon hikes, southern it’s an adventurer’s utopia.

You may want to capture epic sunsets through the stone arches at Arches National Park. You may also want to bask in the radiance of the red and orange glow.

No matter what season or outdoor activity you want to enjoy, Utah is a state where you can spend weeks, if not months, exploring.

What Are the 5 National Parks in Utah?

Southern Utah is home to five of the most scenic national parks in the country. From the southwestern end where Zion National Park is to the central-eastern side of Arches National Park’s location, visitors can spend months exploring the area.

Known as the “Mighty Five” or the “Big Five,” these five parks welcome millions of travelers yearly.

Zion National Park in Springdale is known for its massive sandstone cliffs, a great location for canyoneering and backpacking.

Bryce Canyon National Park has the largest concentration of hoodoos found anywhere on Earth. It’s about a 90-minute drive northeast from Zion.

The central National Park – Capitol Reef – is located in Torrey. It’s a little more than two hours from Bryce Canyon. Here, visitors can check out the 100-mile geologic monocline called Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle on the earth.

Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park are on the central-eastern side of Utah. Only separated by Highway 191, these two parks in Moab can be visited on the same day.

Canyonlands, famous for its wilderness of vast canyons, and Arches, famous for its 2,000 natural stone arches, both offer hundreds of miles of hiking trails.

View of The Narrows in Zion National Park during one of the best times to visit Utah.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Utah National Parks?

There really isn’t a bad time to visit Utah, but the best time to visit Utah is in late spring and early fall.

Due to the extreme weather conditions in the Utah desert, nights can get quite chilly. The afternoons can get into the 90s.

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds and the summer heat, don’t go in July or August. You could spend hours in line at the entrance gates or fail to get reserved timed entry tickets for certain hikes.

Plus, hiking in the 90s can zap your energy quickly.

The spring season can still be cold at night, and there are still chances for snow during April, but it’s more comfortable than the summer months.

The weather is unpredictable in the spring, so you’ll want to pack accordingly. The same is true for the fall season.

Hitting the Utah National Parks in September or October will give you the best weather. Both seasons are prime tourist seasons, but if you aim for early spring or late fall, you’ll escape most of the crowds.

Although you’ll probably find lower rates and very few people in the winter, it’s also very cold. Bryce Canyon has the highest elevation, so you may be hiking in snow during the winter months.

Capitol Reef is the most remote, which means limited services and access in the off-season. Certain trails won’t be accessible, and many Utah campgrounds close for the winter season.

If you want to see the red cliffs of Zion National Park against the snowy white of winter, February may be the best time to visit Utah. 

A view of Capitol Reef during one of the best times to visit Utah.

What Is the Rainiest Month in Utah? 

Overall, the state gets about 15 inches of rain per year and 43 inches of snow per year.

Utah is a large state. The weather in the Salt Lake City area isn’t the same as in the southern desert region.

The yearly rainfall is well below the national average, so whenever you travel to Utah, you don’t have to worry so much about having many rainy days.

On average, April is the wettest month. Because Utah has a dry climate, there isn’t much humidity.

Pro Tip: Take your RV along for the ride on a trip to Utah! Here’s How to Plan an RV Trip to Utah’s National Parks!

What Is the Coldest Month in Utah?

Like rainfall, temperatures can vary from location to location within the state. Places in higher elevations – like Bryce Canyon – can see temperatures dip below zero and only get up into the low 40s during January, which is the coldest month.

The “Big Five” National Parks can be quite treacherous in the winter and have limited accessibility due to snow and ice. That may not be the best time to visit Utah.

A view of Bryce Canyon during one of the best times to visit Utah

How Many Days Do You Need for Utah National Parks? 

Depending on what you want to do at each national park, you could spend a couple of days or weeks.

If you want to go on several hikes or explore the backcountry, you’ll want to allot more time than someone who just wants to visit for a day or two.

If you can spend three or four days at each park, you’ll feel like you’ve spent your time well exploring Utah’s “Big Five.”

Keep in Mind: If you couldn’t tell, Utah is perfect for your next camping adventure. These are some of The Best Places for Utah Camping!

What Is the Best National Park to Visit in Utah?

Everyone will have a different opinion about the best National Park in Utah. Although they’re close to each other, all five are very different and offer different experiences for visitors.

According to the statistics, the most visited National Park is Zion, with over five million visitors in 2021. It was the first year the park saw numbers that high.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), Bryce Canyon National Park welcomed 2.1 million visitors in 2021.

Also, in 2021, Arches National Park had 1.8 million visitors, Capitol Reef National Park saw 1.4 million visitors, and Canyonlands had over 900,000 visitors.

All of these numbers have been increasing over the last several years.

A man sitting at Arches National park, during the best time to visit Utah

What Month Has the Best Weather in Utah?

If you’re planning a trip to Utah to visit the national parks, late spring and early fall will give you the best weather conditions.

Crowds will still be high, but the temperatures will be mild and comfortable. If you’re willing to brave the cold and deal with possible snowy conditions, April, along with October, will be the best time to visit Utah.

There will be fewer crowds while still avoiding the harsh winter weather of the higher elevations.

Have you visited the Utah “Big Five” before? When did you go?

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