Best Winter Destinations In Southwestern Utah

St. George, Utah will get you sunshine throughout the winter, but if it is snow and scenery that you want then here's some reccommendations.
Snowshoe enthusiast and friend, Greg Frei, enjoys the east side of Zion National Park.
Snowshoe enthusiast and friend, Greg Frei, enjoys the east side of Zion National Park.

Utah's Zion National Park can be a busy place in most seasons, but here's a secret for the winter; experience the park on the upper east side plateau.  At 6,500 feet in elevation the eastern plateau of Zion is 2,500 feet above the main canyon floor, and is a place that is more likely to get some snow.  The winter of 2016-2017 brought two to three feet of snow depth at times, but most winters the snow depth ranges from two to eight inches on average.  This means you'll often have enough snow for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, but it also means that it is frequently possible to simply walk/hike to scenic destinations.  This is true of the current dry and warm weather conditions that have existed so far in late fall of 2017.

A snowshoe enthusiast treks across the face of Checkerboard Mesa - Winter 2016.
A snowshoe enthusiast treks across the face of Checkerboard Mesa - Winter 2016.

Overlooks such as Observation Point and Cable Mountain are best accessed from the east side, since the distances to these points from eastern park boundaries are approximately three miles (6 round-trip) and it is an easier hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski across the plateau.  The other option is to start in the main canyon and hike up, and then down, 2,500 feet over a four-mile distance (eight round-trip).

Wildlife such as Wild Turkeys and Mule Deer are frequently viewed in winter months.
Wildlife such as Wild Turkeys and Mule Deer are frequently viewed in winter months.

Winter visitors will enjoy the more intense colors on the wet sandstone, and winter-time temperatures can often be more conducive to the active effort of hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.

Winter on the eastern side of Zion National Park - above the tunnels.
Winter on the eastern side of Zion National Park - above the tunnels.

The winter sun is much lower in the sky and this often creates better colors for photography, or even simply sitting and enjoying the scenic panoramas of Zion National park.

A wide angle perspective of the view from Cable Mountain.
A wide angle perspective of the view from Cable Mountain.

Cable Mountain (A brief history):  In 1901, long before the creation of Zion National Park, David Flanigan who lived in nearby Springdale determined it would be much easier to take logs from the plateau via a long cable, rather than hauling them via wagon.  The wagon trip around the canyon is said to have taken up to five days.  Flanigan created the wooden structure shown in pictures on this posts, and lowered lumber over 2,000+ feet to the canyon floor below in a process that took approximately two minutes.  The wood structure was partially destroyed on two different occasions by lightening and subsequent fires in 1911, and again in the 1920s.  Each time it was rebuilt and the system was used until 1927.

Winter hikers on the trail that leads to Observation Point or Cable Mountain.
Winter hikers on the trail that leads to Observation Point or Cable Mountain.

Visitors to Zion in winter will find better lodging rates, easier access to restaurants and shopping, plus lesser numbers of people and more quiet experiences in this wonderful national park setting.

Note: Bryce Canyon National Park is about 70 minutes away from the east gate of Zion National Park, and this makes Bryce Canyon and easy winter time day trip while also visiting Zion.  Brian Head and Eagle Point Ski/Snowboard resorts are also nearby.  Key locations for lodging while visiting these areas are Springdale, East Zion, Kanab, and Cedar City, Utah.

Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter