Visiting Zion in August
Learn all about what to expect visiting Zion National Park in August
August is a great time of year to visit Zion National Park. The valley of Zion Canyon is booming with life, and the cool Virgin River is an oasis in the hot desert. There are many benefits to visiting Zion in August, as well as some drawbacks. Below we have categorized the most common “when-to-go” questions to help you determine if August is the best month for you to visit Zion National Park.
Benefits of Visiting Zion in AUgust
The biggest benefit of visiting Zion in August is the wide array of activities you can enjoy. Anything from hiking and backpacking, to rock climbing and canyoneering, to bicycling and off-roading; it’s all available for visitors. The weather is very hot in August, but it is accompanied by beautiful and clear blue skies with amazing chances for sunrise and sunset photography. Of course, the scenery in August is some of the best that you will encounter all year. The flora is blooming as plants take advantage of the annual monsoon season bringing warm moisture, and the animals are all out and about to be seen. Many of the parks larger animals, such as mule deer and bighorn sheep can be seen on the cliffs or in the meadows, perhaps already beginning their annual rut, the mating season when males fight for the right to mate. All of the park’s reptiles and small mammals will still be out of hibernation for the summer and it can be a treat to see them scurrying across the road. August also brings with it Utah’s annual monsoon season that causes frequent afternoon thunder showers. While these storms can be dangerous as well as mess up your schedule, they can be beautiful and fantastic opportunities for photography as long as you’re far enough away. Seeing black thunderheads descending over the canyon pouring down sheets of rain and flashing out lightning is truly spectacular. It is recommended, however, to stay inside during these storms due to the danger of lightning strikes and flash floods, so maybe shoot from through the window.
Another benefit of August is your access to hiking trails. Gone is the time of winter when trails were closed due to ice and snow, and gone is the time of spring when high water levels closed the Narrows and other river trails. Everything will be open in August, so you can have your pick of any of the trails in the park. Angels Landing is a very popular option that will be open as the ice and snow have melted. The trail takes you to the peak of one of the largest rock formations in the park for spectacular views. But because of this hike’s popularity, you will have to get permits do trek the last quarter mile from Scout Lookout to Angels Landing. Make sure you plan ahead and do your research or book a trip with a guiding company to do this day hike where permits are included. The other very famous hike in the park, the Narrows, will also be open this time of year as the high water levels of spring have subsided. This hike is the most pleasant in the summer when the daytime temperatures are warmer and the frigid snowmelt water feels good on your aching feet. You don’t need permits to hike this trail, but it is very popular and you should expect a crowd. Make sure to read the flash flood advisories, however, as the slot canyon is prone to flash floods due to rains. Long hours of warm daylight will make it easier and more pleasant to explore more areas of the park as August certainly does not disappoint in Zion.
Drawbacks of Visiting in August
The biggest drawback of visiting Zion in August is the crowds. Summer is the busiest season in Zion National Park, and this means long lines for the shuttle buses, limited parking inside the park, and large crowds on trails. This can not only be annoying but can also be dangerous on certain trails, which is why trails like Angels Landing have permit requirements. Trying to squeeze passed hundreds of other people on narrow trails next to cliffs is not a good idea. In August, private vehicle access to Zion Canyon is restricted to those who are staying at the lodge. Other than that, you won’t be able to drive your private vehicle cat past Canyon Junction but will have to take the shuttle bus. While these buses overall lessen the traffic and make traveling in the park easier, they can be a major turn off for some people. First, you won’t have all your gear with you which can be burdensome especially if you’re traveling with the little children or older parents. Second, you’re limited to the buses’ schedules and cannot explore on your own time. And third, the buses can be very crowded with long lines to get on and sometimes standing room only. You will also find that accommodations in and around Zion in summer book up months in advance. You will need to book your accommodations at least six months before visiting in summer. If you do happen to find some thing available last minute, be prepared to shell out peak season prices for it as the rates of all hotels and lodges go up in the summer when most tourists come to visit. Even campsites are seldom found within a few months of your travel date, so whatever your method of travel, plan it early.
Zion is also very hot in August, frequently reaching into the high 90s or triple digits during the day. This forces guests to more carefully plan out an itinerary to make sure you have enough water and will be able to rest during the heat of the day if need be. The monsoon season also brings its own challenges with the dangers of lightning strikes and flash floods as well as the inconvenience of it raining many afternoons. Overall however, August is a great time to visit the park, and your biggest drawback will be that everyone else knows it’s a great time to visit the park. Summer is the easiest time to take vacation and that’s when everyone takes it. To avoid the stress of navigating the busy national park by yourself, we recommend booking a trip with a guiding company. If spring or summer is the only time of year that you can make it to Zion, here are some tips to lessen the impact of the crowds:
1. Get to the park early: the earlier you get to Zion, the more likely you are to get a parking spot; and the more of the park you have to yourself before the crowds arrive.
2. Visit Kolob Canyons: The Zion Canyon is small and crowded—since most visitors spend the majority of their time there. Kolob Canyons, on the other hand, are in a more isolated area of the park, provide incredible and unique views, and are much less travelled.
3. Go on a picnic: avoid the eateries at busy eating times, and choose to go on a picnic instead. You can stop at the grocery in Springdale before heading into the park. There are wonderful places along the river and in the shadows of the cliffs for a picnic meal.
4. Read our list of trails less traveled: these trails will give you a better chance for incredible views with less of a crowd.
Things To Do In August
Zion has many activities to participate in and you don’t have to be an avid hiker or backpacker to enjoy them. Hiking, however, is wonderful in August and is one of the best activities you can take part in. With trails ranging from easy to strenuous, there is something for everyone in Zion National Park, giving you the chance to experience the best of Zion from amazing vantage points. The weather is hot, so pack plenty of water and salty snacks. You can expect the trails can be crowded, so take an introspective look on how well you tolerate crowds and plan on getting to the park early so you can beat the heat and crowds. The Riverwalk Trail or Watchmen Overlook Trail are great options for shorter hikes, and the Pa’rus trail is a paved walkway that can be accessed by hikers, bikers, walkers, pets, and wheelchairs. The famous hikes in the park are also fantastic this time of year. The Narrows is a great option as you can experience a slot canyon and cool off in the river’s snowmelt water. You won’t need permits to be able to hike this trail from the bottom up, but you can expect it to be crowded. Angels Landing is another great option if you can get permits, but if you can’t Scout Lookout offers fantastic views and is a great alternative. Backpacking is also a popular option in Zion this time of year, but make sure to check Zion’s backpack regulations regarding group size and human impact as they are different than other national parks.
Bicycling through Zion Canyon is phenomenal in August, letting you avoid the crowded shuttle bus while feeling the wind whoosh past you as you cruise down the road without cars. Shuttle buses have bike racks in front if you wish to take your bicycle on them. Canyoneering and rock climbing are also popular activities in the park, and August is a great time to do them. Of course, these activities should only be done by those who are experienced or with those who are experienced to make sure that it is fun and safe for everyone. Be sure to check out our best tours page for more details. Visiting Kolob canyons is a great option to escape the crowds and enjoy some more of Zion’s fantastic scenery. About an hour from Zion Canyon in the north west corner of the park, Kolob Canyons is much less frequented and you will be able to drive your private vehicle through these amazing red rock cliffs. There are many other national parks in this area of the country within driving distance if you have time for a longer trip, such as Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante, Arches, and Canyonlands, just to name a few. Even the famous Grand Canyon isn’t that far away, so if you come from a long distance make sure you hit all the best national parks in this part of the country. Wildlife viewing is also a popular activity in August as all of the animals are out and willing to be seen. Keep in mind, however, that animals don’t typically like a crowd, so try to find a quiet place to sit and wait or observe. If you’re looking for birds, make sure to keep your eye out for California condors in the large open spaces or Mexican spotted owls in the slot canyons. If the heat becomes too much in the middle of the day, the visitor center or the Zion Human History Museum are a great indoor activities and provide exhibits on both geological and cultural history.
Things to see in august
There are nearly as many things to see in August as there are to do. Sightseeing is one of the most popular options in August in Zion because there are so many spectacular sites and because you can do it from inside an air-conditioned bus if it’s too hot. Riding the shuttle bus circuit can be a great way to see many sights in the park. There are so many fantastic things to see, however, that you’re not likely to be able to see all of them. To help narrow things down, we’ve created a list of some of the must see sights in Zion; make sure to do your own research though, as the list is by no means exhaustive.
Kolob Canyons: Without a doubt, Kolob Canyons is the best place to escape some of the crowds in Zion in the summer. Located in the north west corner of the park about an hour drive from Zion Canyon, Kolob Canyons provides stunning red rock cliffs, beautiful slot canyons, and ancient lava flows and volcanos to see. As an added bonus, you can drive your private vehicle through this part of the park even in summer and will be able to escape some of the crowded traffic of Zion Canyon.
The Canyon Overlook: This overlook is one of the best in the park and only requires a short hike. Trek a little ways up the side of the canyon from the parking lot on Highway 9, rest in the shade of the hidden cave if you like, and then journey up to the overlook where you will have a fantastic vista of the entire canyon, brilliant red rocks, and the gorgeous tree line. You can expect this trek to be a little on the crowded side, but it is well worth it.
Angels Landing: Even if you don’t want to hike Angels Landing or if you do but couldn’t get permits, you should at least see this spectacular and massive rock formation. The big bend shuttle stop offers fantastic views from below, but if you feel like doing a little hiking the west rim trail offers fantastic views as well. You can even hike the trail up to Scout Lookout as if you were going to go on to Angels Landing, as this first lookout gives you an amazing views of this rock formation.
Zion Human History Museum: If the crowds become too irritating or the heat during the middle of the day is too much to bear, you can take a trip to the Zion Human History Museum. Full of exhibits and wonderful information, the museum takes a closer look at two of the factors that have the largest impact on this landscape: people and water. Water is both a creator and destroyer in this land, as are humans, from the Native Americans, to early settlers and pioneers, to the visitors at the park today.
Hiking in August
Hiking is incredible in August—trails to high elevation give you amazing, panoramic views of the canyon below, alive with flora and fauna. There are also wonderful trails along the valley floor that take you next to the rushing and cool Virgin River, through the thriving cattails and cottonwoods. With trails that range from easy to strenuous, all ages and levels of ability are able to enjoy hiking in Zion. You can read our list of best trails in Zion for recommendations. The Pa’rus Trail is a great option for those looking for the scenic sights without the strenuous hiking. This paved trail that leads from Canyon Junction to the visitor center is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers and gives you fantastic views of the Watchman and many of the rock formations around. The Riverwalk is another great option for seeing the famous sites without the hard hiking. This trail takes you to the beginning of the Narrows where the path disappears into the river. But if you don’t want to take the plunge into the river, this short trail will still give you the feeling of a slot canyon as the walls become narrower and narrower the farther you hike. Watchmen Overlook Trail or Canyon Overlook Trail are also great options that are a little on the steeper side but are still short and manageable.
Of course, the famous hikes in Zion are simply spectacular in August, if a little hot. The Narrows is a great option as you be able to wade through the Virgin River and cool off in the water. Be prepared for this hike to be somewhat strenuous as many have described it as trying to walk on wet bowling balls. The large rocks on the river bed will be mossy and can make it easy to slip. Keep your things in a dry bag and wear clothes you won’t mind getting wet. Also make sure there aren’t any flash flood advisories for the Narrows the day you’re planning to hike as the slot canyon is prone to them. You can check the current conditions for up-to-date trail information before you set out. The subway, a lesser known canyoneering trail requires permits, but is fantastic if you’re up for a big adventure. This trek involves route finding and canyoneering, as well as swimming through a couple deep pools if you hike this out and back trail in a certain direction. Angels Landing is perhaps the most famous hike in the park and for good reason. This spectacular and strenuous trek will take you to the top of one of the largest rock formations in the park for fantastic views. Due to its popularity and its risk to falling on the narrow trails with cliffs sometimes on both sides of the trail, Angels Landing requires permits which are very competitive to get. Make sure to do your research and plan early to get permits or go with a guiding company that provide permits for you and send an expert guide of the trail along with your group.
Basecamp tours are a wonderful option for seeing much of Zion and nearby Snow Canyon. The company takes care of all the planning, accommodations and meals, and provides appropriate gear, so you can enjoy your trip without any of the stress that comes with planning a National Park vacation. Day hiking tours are also great for those who want to maximize their limited time in park, while gaining knowledge from a local and experienced guide.
backpacking in august
Backpacking is absolutely ideal in August. Since most visitors are doing day hikes, the backcountry provides the opportunity for solitude and peace while experiencing tremendous red rock cliffs and out-of-this-world rock formations. Read our page about backpacking permits for information on planning a backpacking trip. Zion has different and more regulations for backpackers than other national parks, so it’s important to know the backpacking regulations and to abide by them for your safety and the health of the park. Most areas of Zion do not allow true disperse camping, but require backpackers to camp in pre-designated sites and to get permits for each site they are going to occupy in the back country. This limits your flexibility on your trip as you have to make it to your campsite by that night. Zion does not allow any fires in the back country and has a strict pack-it-in, pack-it-out rule that includes all trash as well as human waste. Some options for backpacking trips would be the Narrows which has 12 designated sites or Kolob Arch via La Verkin Creek Trail which is a great option to escape some of the crowds. A Trans-Zion trek is also popular and a great way to see much of the park. Because many of these routes are so popular, it’s important to have back up plans for alternate campsites and trails if you can’t get the permits you want. Despite limitations that permits put on numbers, you shouldn’t expect to have the back country all to yourself as backpacking is a very popular activity in August.
Backpackers should be aware of some of the dangers that they might encounter while in the back country. Many of these also apply if you are a day hiking, so don’t discount this information even if you aren’t planning to go on a backpacking trip. The monsoon season that lasts from mid July through mid September poses some issues for backpackers besides inconvenient afternoon rain showers that make hiking unpleasant. Lightning strikes, while somewhat uncommon, are not impossible, so make sure you know lightning safety especially in your tent. Flash floods pose the greater threat as a result of the monsoon rains. It does not have to be raining where you are for a flash flood to occur; it just has to be raining somewhere that is above you in elevation. Anyone who is camping in a slot canyon or near a creek should know the risks of these floods and how to recognize warning signs. Check out the visitor center and online for flash flood advisories before you set out on your trip. If you see any of these warning signs, move to higher ground immediately: change in water color or clarity, excess debris in the water, the sound of roaring water upstream, rising water levels, or gathering clouds even miles away from you. You cannot out run or outswim a flash flood and even 6 inches of water moving at flood speeds can knock you off your feet. These flash floods often bring with them boulders, tree trunks, and other large debris that can cause serious injury or death. Another danger that backpackers currently need to be aware of is a bloom of toxic cyanobacteria in the Virgin River and its tributaries. This bacteria can lead to severe illness or death if not treated properly and can be contracted through ingesting the water or through an opening in the skin such as eyes, ears, or nose. No known commercial filtration system effectively removes the toxin, so only filter drinking water from a spring and not from rivers or streams. Check the national park website for current updates on the cyanobacteria bloom.
Weather in August
August is typically very hot in Zion National Park. The average temperature for Zion Canyon in August is a high of 97, and a low of 66 degrees Fahrenheit (36/19 degrees Celsius). In Kolob Canyons, the average temperature is a high of 87, and a low of 57 degrees Fahrenheit (30/13 degrees Celsius). Visitors should be advised that these temperatures are only averages and that the park’s actual temperature can vary greatly from these. It rains 6 days on average during the month of August. Zion experiences a monsoon season mid-July to mid-September, so always check the weather before starting on a trail and know the risks of a flashflood.
Be sure to take at least 3-liters of water with you for the day, especially as you may not have access to your car if you are riding the shuttle bus. Many of the shuttle stops have potable water, so you can fill up before heading out on a hike. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both risks in Zion in the summer when much of the day is very hot. Sit out the middle of the day on your hike if you need to to prevent overheating. It’s important to know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke as the latter is a life-threatening emergency while the former is less immediately dangerous. Visitors should also be aware that Zion is at elevation, ranging from about 3500 to about 8500 feet, and has a very dry, mountain climate. Visitors from humid areas or those who are used to living near or at sea level should be advised that you will become out of breath quicker than you would doing the same activity at home. If you’re in the park for more than a few days, you should acclimate to the elevation but it’s always good to factor it in to your hikes to make sure you don’t over commit yourself. Many guests also choose to bring lotion with them to prevent dry and cracking skin that can become wearisome on an outdoor trip. Slot canyons are great ways to spend the midday heat as they have a natural air conditioning that keeps them cool. This is largely due to the fact that the entire canyon does not receive very much sunlight throughout the day, except when the sun is directly overhead. Because of the heat, some guests choose to take a dip in the Virgin River or one of its tributaries to cool off during the day. While this is allowed, visitors should be aware of a recent bloom of toxic cyanobacteria in Zion’s waterways. Read the section above about backpacking for more information and check the national park website for current updates on the cyanobacteria bloom. Children and dogs are particularly susceptible to this toxin, so keep them away from water at all costs.
As was said above, August is part of Utah’s monsoon season that brings frequent afternoon thundershowers to the park. Visitors should be aware that the storms can be dangerous in multiple ways and should take cover when one appears. Lightning strikes are somewhat uncommon but are not impossible and can be fatal. The biggest danger that is posed to visitors from the monsoons is flash floods that can sweep away anything in their path. Slot canyons and dry washes are particularly susceptible, so make sure you know the warning signs and are up-to-date on any advisories for flooding. You cannot outrun or out swim a flash flood as these walls of water can come barreling down slot canyons 12 feet or higher bringing with them boulders, tree trunks, and other large debris. You can read the section above about backpacking for more information about flash floods. Although August comes with its fair share of weather concerns, it is still a great time to visit the park and knowing the risks the weather poses is the first step in preventing accidents.
Wildlife in august
August is a great time of the year to view wildlife in Zion. Both the large and the small animals are out during this time of year for visitors to see. Some of the parks larger mammals such as mule deer and bighorn sheep will be just at the beginning of their rutting season, the mating season. If you’re lucky, you might see glimpses of males of both species scuffling and headbutting each other for the right to mate. But you’ll find Zion’s smaller wildlife is just as interesting as the larger ones. All of the reptiles and small mammals will still be out of hibernation for the summer and they can be a joy to watch. Keep an eye out for the desert horned lizard, often mistakenly called a horny toad, that looks like a small version of a dinosaur. The horns on the back of its head make it unappetizing to most predators, except the road runner that angles the horns away from vital organs to ensure safe digestion. These lizards can also squirt blood from their eyes if they feel threatened, so take pictures from a distance. Also keep your eye out for the whiptail lizard, the great basin rattlesnake, and the desert tortoise, a very rare sighting in Zion. The park also boast some more elusive animals that you’re less likely to see. Porcupines and beavers both called the park home, but spend much of their time in their dens or lodges in the river. Slot canyons are excellent places to view wildlife, where the Mexican spotted owl makes its nests. These monogamous owls are federally threatened and though they usually prefer higher mountainous environments, they enjoy the natural air conditioning of slot canyons all year. The predators in the park, mainly gray foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions, don’t typically like a crowd and stay away during the summer. You might catch a glimpse of a fox or coyote in the evening, but the feline predators are sure to avoid detection with so many people around. Perhaps the most famous wildlife resident of the park is the California condor, the largest bird native to North America. Brought back from the brink of extinction through captive breeding programs, the birds have a small but stable population in Zion where they are still monitored. With a wing span that can reach up to 9 1/2 feet, these birds are majestic to see in flight. See if you can spot the number tags on their wings and ask a ranger about the specific individual you saw.
Recommended Wildland trips in august
Planning a trip to Zion on your own can be stressful as there are many factors that you have to keep up with such as weather, current conditions and advisories, where to stay, and what to do. While some people enjoy planning out every last detail of their trip, others don’t have the time to do so before they get to the park. This can result in losing time deciding what to do and missing out on amazing experiences just because you didn’t know about them. But you can bypass all that headache by booking a trip with Wildland Trekking and letting one of our expert guides show you around the park. All of our trips are all inclusive so we take care of your meals, accommodations, local transportation, and all the logistics so you can sit back and enjoy your trip. Whether you want to camp with us, stay at a lodge on an inn based tour, or just spend a single day with one of our expert guides showing you around, we have something for you. Feel free to check out all the trips we offer in Zion, but here are a few we especially recommend for August.
Angels Landing Private Day Hike: If you want to do Angels Landing as a day hike but couldn’t get permits or don’t want to do the treacherous trail on your own, then you can book this all inclusive day hike where permits are included and we’ll send one of our expert guides up on the trails with you. With included top-of-the-line backpack and trekking poles, tasty trail snacks, and a picnic lunch for on top of the world, this tour truly takes the stress out of a hike up Angels Landing, before and during your trek.
Best of Utah Basecamp: For some, experiencing the rustic side national parks is important, but maybe going on a backpack in trip would be a little bit too much. In that case, this camping tour of Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Staircase Escalante is perfect for a rustic but comfortable outdoors experience. Experienced the solitude of canyon country in these three distinct national parks with exciting hikes each day before returning to comfortable camping accommodations and delicious outdoor cooked meals. With so much to explore, don’t miss your opportunity for this fantastic six day camping tour.
Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon Tour: Many people come from long distances to experience the American southwest and the national parks that are there, so why not include the best national parks all in one tour so that you can get the best experience out of your trip? This 6 day, inn based tour takes you to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon National Park all in one fantastic trip. Enjoy exciting day hikes, slot canyons, and desert oases during the day before returning to comfortable lodges and premier dining in the evenings. All inclusive with your meals, local transportation, accommodations, and expert guide included, this trip truly maximizes your time in the American Southwest.
Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
Zion National Park is home to some of the most epic and amazing hiking vacations in the world. Wildland Trekking offers trips with the best of Zion: canyons, views, wildlife, solitude, adventure and fascinating natural and cultural interpretation.
Guided Zion treks are all-inclusive which covers permits; local transportation (excluded on certain tours); meals; equipment; safety systems and professional hiking/wilderness guides; all of which allows visitors to maximize their time in Zion and focus entirely on enjoying the Park.
ZION ADVENTURE TOURS
- INN-BASED HIKING PACKAGES: these tours are all-inclusive packages with lodging, amazing daily hikes, expert guides, meals, transportation and more!
- ZION CAMPING TOURS: camping-based hiking packages provide all-around hiking experiences of Zion on wonderful outdoor vacations.
- ZION DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day in Zion on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour on one of the Park’s best trails.
- ALL UTAH HIKING TOURS: check out a full list of Utah offerings, which include Bryce Canyon, the North Rim, Arches, Canyonlands and more.
- UTAH BACKPACKING TRIPS: explore options for discovering Utah on an all-inclusive backpacking trip with expert guides and mind-blowing scenery.