Visiting Zion in October
Learn all about what to expect visiting Zion National Park in October
October is a phenomenal time of year to visit Zion National Park. Autumn colors provide a sight that will amaze you—the cottonwoods turn a dazzling yellow, and there are pockets of maples that become an enchanting red. There are many benefits to visiting Zion in October, as well as some drawbacks. Below we have categorized the most common “when-to-go” questions to help you determine if October is the best month to visit Zion National Park.
Benefits of Visiting Zion in October
The biggest benefit of visiting Zion in October is that the summer crowds begin to disappear and there is a lot more breathing room in the park. This means shorter lines for shuttles, fewer crowds on the trails, and more opportunities to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature without hundreds of other people around you. While you still will have to take the shuttle bus to get around in Zion as cars are not yet allowed in the canyon, they will be much more pleasant and less of a hassle to ride with fewer people. Accommodations also become more widely available in October as peak season dies down. You will likely be able to find a place to stay within a few months or maybe even weeks of your travel date. You will also find that prices are not as astronomical as in the summer, as lodges know there is less competition for rooms. These benefits are truly a respite from the astonishingly crowded days of summer and give visitors a chance to enjoy the park in a much different way.
Another benefit of October is that the weather is still relatively warm during the day, not getting chilly until the evening. This also is a blessed relief from summer, where midday temperatures can reach into the triple digits. October is pleasant, maybe even hiking in a jacket during the day, and cool enough in the evening to enjoy camping and being outdoors. More excellent weather also means that there are plenty of activities for you to enjoy. Snow doesn’t arrive in Zion until December, so October is the perfect time for hiking as the weather is cooling off, but there is no snow or ice to worry about.
Rock climbing and canyoneering are also in prime season in October, while it is not too hot during the day. Bicycling and off-roading are also available for visitors who like faster-paced activities. Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the United States; autumn even makes it more so. October weather provides brilliant blue skies and awe-inspiring red, orange, and yellow cottonwoods next to the Virgin River, giving you amazing sunrise and sunset photography opportunities. There’s nothing quite like autumn-colored leaves contrasted against the red and white sandstone cliffs. Unlike many national parks in the American southwest, such as Grand Canyon or even Yosemite, Zion is a destination for fall colors as the landscape is transformed by the season.
Wildlife will still be out and about in October, and the bighorn sheep and mule deer will be in the rutting season, where males scuffle and head-butte for the right to mate. The cooler weather means that the animals would be more likely to be at lower elevations (where you will be) during the day as it is not so overwhelmingly hot. The lack of crowds makes them more likely to stick around in the more populated areas were you might get to see them. October is a fantastic month to visit the park if you can make it work with school and work schedules.
Drawbacks of Visiting in October
The biggest drawback to visiting Zion in October is less daylight to enjoy the park and complete your hike. As summer is all but a distant memory, the daylight in the park gets shorter and shorter. The sun rises roughly between 7:15 am and 8:00 am as the month progresses and sets between 6:30 pm and 7:15 pm. The shorter days also mean the park has less time to warm up. With highs typically in the 60s, October is fantastic for seasoned hikers who usually enjoy cooler weather for more strenuous hikes. The temperature drops quickly once the sun goes down, so you won’t get a chance to stay out hiking after dark, so plan ahead! To best utilize your time in the park, we recommend going on a guided Zion day hike, where a local Zion expert will provide fascinating geological and cultural interpretation.
An obvious drawback to October is that the weather is getting colder, perhaps too cold for some. While hiking on a sunlit trail will still be pleasant, hiking in slot canyons will be difficult. The natural air conditioning that keeps the slot canyons cool in the summer also prevents them from warming up later in the year. These canyons receive so little direct sunlight that they are typically colder than the rest of the park. In addition, the Narrows are very difficult to hike in October. While the water level will be down as the monsoon season subsides in September, the lack of sunlight will make the water incredibly cold and difficult to remain in. Immersion in cold water is the quickest way to contract hypothermia which can be life-threatening if the victim is not warmed up. You will need a neoprene wet suit or a dry suit with insulating layers to keep yourself warm to hike the Narrows. For some visitors, being unable to hike the Narrows is a huge drawback as this is one of the most famous hikes in the park, which uses the Virgin River for its trail in a spectacular slot canyon.
Another drawback of October is that you will still have to ride the shuttle bus to get around Zion Canyon. Despite the buses being less busy, you are still tied to their schedules and have less freedom to move about the park as you like. This can be especially cumbersome to those traveling with small children or older parents who need lots of gear or don’t want to be climbing on and off buses all day. The best way to avoid them is to visit Kolob Canyons or rent bikes if your party can.
Things To Do In October
There truly is something for everyone in Zion in October, even if you’re not an avid hiker or don’t want to go on a backpacking trip. However, October is a wonderful time of the year to go on a hike in Zion National Park with trails ranging from easy to strenuous that all give you the chance to experience the best of Zion from amazing vantage points. The Pa’rus Trail is a great option for those looking for a pleasant walk with fantastic views. Connecting the visitor center to Canyon Junction, this paved path is stroller and wheelchair accessible and gives you fantastic views of the Watchman. The Watchman Overlook Trail or Canyon Overlook are great options for shorter trails. Both are a little bit on the steeper side, but you won’t regret the hike once you see the view at the top. These overlooks are fantastic any time of year, but they are especially good in autumn when the colors are simply stunning. Of course, the more famous trails in the park are what many visitors are after. Angels Landing is still accessible in October, and permits may be less competitive.
Autumn is also a great season to bike through Zion Canyon. Bicycles are available for rental in Springdale, and nothing beats riding through the canyon with the crisp fall air rushing past you. Shuttle buses have bike racks on the front, so you can start or finish your ride wherever you like.
Rock climbing and canyoneering are options as long as the weather stays nice and isn’t too cold during the day. You should also visit Kolob Canyons in the northwest corner of the park. While you won’t need to flee here from the crowds as you will in summer, this park section is well worth a visit. About an hour’s drive from Zion Canyon, you can drive your vehicle through this part of the park, a big bonus for many visitors. There are also many other national parks within driving distance if you have time for an extended trip. Bryce Canyon, Gand Staircase Escalante, Arches, and Canyonlands are just a few of the spectacular parks in the area. Even the famous Grand Canyon isn’t that far, so if you’ve come from a long way, make sure you see all the best that this area of the country has to offer.
Photography is also great in the park. The cottonwood and maple leaves are turning vivid red, orange, and yellow, giving amazing contrast against the flowing Virgin River and the red and coral sandstone. The scenery in October provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing and photography.
Wildlife viewing and birdwatching are also very popular in the park, as many animals are coming down from higher elevations for warmer weather and more food. Keep your eye out for mule deer and bighorn sheep in the middle of their mating season as they fight with their antlers (or horns, depending on which species you’re looking at) for the right to mate. Some of the smaller animals in the park will be going back into hibernation, but still keep an eye out for snakes and lizards, as well as small mammals like chipmunks and squirrels.
Stargazing, star photography, and nighttime wildlife viewing are excellent activities if you’re up for braving the cool October nights. You might catch a glimpse of a ringtail or a gray fox in the campground, and you won’t be disappointed with the dark skies in Zion that showcase thousands of stars.
If the weather takes a turn for the worse and you need some indoor activities to warm up, the visitor center has great interpretive exhibits and a 22 min park film that is informative and entertaining. The Zion Human History Museum is also a great option and has exhibits on Native American history, the effect that water has on the park, and much more.
Things to see in october
There are nearly as many things to see in October as there are to do, and if you read the previous section, you know that’s a lot. Sightseeing is one of the most popular options in the park in October, as you can do it from inside a heated bus or stroll along some of the more accessible trails. There is almost no end of things to see in Zion this time of year, so we’ve compiled just a short list of some of the must-see sights. But do your own research to see what piques your interest in the park, as this list is by no means exhaustive.
Kolob Canyons: While you won’t have to flee here to escape the crowds as you would in summer, Kolob Canyons is still worth visiting. Located in the northwest corner of the park, this less frequented but no less stunning canyon features ancient lava flows and volcanoes, gorgeous slot canyons, and fantastic overlooks. Only about an hour from Zion Canyon, you’ll be able to drive your own vehicle in Kolob Canyons, so make sure to put it on your schedule for day trips.
Fall Colors: Unlike many other national parks in this area of the country, Zion is a destination for fall colors. Vivid yellows, oranges, and reds light up the canyon, giving amazing contrast to the crimson and coral colors of the sandstone cliffs. If you’re really looking to get good photography, get up at sunrise or stay out until sunset, as the warmer light of the sun at the beginning or end of the day will make the colors even more vivid.
The Narrows: Even if you don’t have the expertise or gear to hike the Narrows this time of year, you should at least see the beginning of this fantastic slot canyon. You can do this on the Riverwalk Trail, a short and relatively flat trail that takes you right up to the point where the path disappears into the Virgin River. Don’t forget to look up on this trail to see these towering cliffs around you become narrower and narrow or the farther you hike.
Zion Human History Museum: If you need a break from the weather, the Zion Human History Museum is a great option. The museum traces the two factors with the largest impact on this landscape: humans and water. The exhibit follows the history of human interaction with this land, from the Native Americans, to early pioneers and settlers, up until the time it was designated as a national park and today. The museum also looks at the impact that water has had on the park, both as a creator and destroyer.
Hiking in October
Hiking is ideal in October. The crowds have thinned immensely, and trails to high elevation give you amazing and panoramic views of the canyon’s colors. There are also wonderful trails along the valley floor that take you next to the rushing and cool Virgin River and through the colorful 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 Watchman Overlook Trail and the Canyon Overlook Trail are both spectacular options in autumn, as these views across the canyon let you see many of the fall colors all at once. Both of these trails are a little bit on the steeper side but should be manageable for most. The Pa’rus Trail and the trail leading to the lower set of Emerald Pools are wheelchair and stroller accessible if you’re looking for a shorter and flatter walk that will still give you amazing views. If you don’t want to brave the cold water this time of year in the Narrows, the Riverwalk is a great option to still get the slot canyon feel. It is possible to hike the Narrows this time of year, but the trek will require more gear and knowledge about the area to complete. The water in the Virgin River can get down in the 30s in fall and winter, so you will need a neoprene wetsuit or dry suit to complete this hike. The Narrows uses the river as its trail, so you can expect to be walking, wading, and sometimes even swimming in the river on your way through the canyon. Many have described this hike as trying to walk on slippery, wet bowling balls, as the rocks at the bottom of the river are often covered in moss.
Angels Landing is also available to hike in October, with permits slightly less competitive. The spectacular and treacherous hike takes you up to the top of one of the largest rock formations in the park. With sections of narrow trails, sometimes with cliffs on either side of you, this trail is dangerous and not for those who struggle with balance or fear heights. The system for getting permits for this hike can be confusing and annoying, so if you can’t get permits or don’t want to do the hike on your own, you can book a day trip with Wildland Trekking. We will provide the permits for this famous trek and an expert guide hiking with you.
If you want the views but not the treacherous section of the trail, you can hike to Scout Lookout just below Angels Landing for spectacular views. A lesser-known hike called The Subway can be done in October but should only be attempted by those experienced in canyoneering and route-finding. Make sure you read the current conditions for information on trail closures and flash flood advisories. Camping-based 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 great for those who want to maximize their limited time in the park while gaining knowledge from a local and experienced guide.
Backpacking in october
October is a great time of the year for backpacking. 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 stricter rules for backpacking compared to other national parks so it’s important to know the backpacking regulations and to abide by them for the health of the environment and for your safety. In most places in the park, Zion does not allow true disperse camping but requires backpackers to gain permits for predesignated campsites in the backcountry. This limits your flexibility as you will have to make it to your campsite that night. Zion also has a strict pack it in, pack it out rule that includes all trash and human waste.
The Narrows is an option for backpacking as there are 12 designated sites along the river. Kolob Arch via La Verkin Creek Trail is another great option to escape some of the crowds, and a Trans-Zion trek is also popular and a great way to see much of the park. Because many of these trails are so popular, it is important to have backup options and campsites ready if you cannot get the permits you want.
October is just at the end of the backpacking season in Zion as the temperature is getting colder and winter is approaching. Depending on when in the month you go, you will probably need a four-season tent and a 0° sleeping bag. While you are not likely to run into snow, hypothermia is still a risk as it can occur when the temperature is above 45° especially if you are hiking in the Narrows and are wet most of the day. Make sure to have dry clothes to change into immediately once you get to your campsite so that you do not become chilled.
Flash floods also pose a risk to backpackers and to those in slot canyons or camping near washes and streams. These floods are not nearly as common in fall as they are in the other three seasons, however, so they will not be as big of a threat. Still, make sure to check online and at the visitor center for any flash flood advisories for the area you are camping in.
Backpackers should also be aware of a recent toxic cyanobacteria bloom in Zion’s waterways. This toxin can lead to serious illness or death if not treated properly, and it can be contracted through ingesting water or openings in the skin, such as eyes, ears, or nose. No commercial filtration system is known to remove the toxin effectively, so you will have to filter water directly from springs in the backcountry. Dogs and children are particularly susceptible to this toxin due to carelessness while in the water, so it is advisable to keep them away from rivers and streams at all costs. Check the national park website for current updates on cyanobacteria toxins.
Weather in October
Zion is a large park with elevations ranging from 3,500 feet to 8,500 feet, so the weather you experience will greatly depend on your location and elevation. Weather in Zion during October is typically cool and dry. The average temperature for Zion Canyon is a high of 66 and a low of 39 degrees Fahrenheit (11/-1 degrees Celsius). In Kolob Canyons, the average temperature is a high of 68 and a low of 41 degrees Fahrenheit (11/-2 degrees Celsius). On average, it rains four days in October. Visitors should be advised that these numbers are only averages and that the actual temperatures in the park could vary greatly. Based on the averages, October is one of the best months you can visit for weather. With highs in the mid-60s during the day, you’ll be able to hike without a jacket in the sun but be cozy in the evening in your sleeping bag or around the fire at your campsite. For some, this may be too cold for comfort. These visitors would be better off visiting in September or May. But for those doing strenuous hikes or other activities like rock climbing or canyoneering, these temperatures are wonderful.
Wildlife in october
October is a great time for wildlife viewing and birdwatching in Zion. Even though most of the reptiles and small mammals will be hibernating for the winter, many larger animals will be out and more active than ever. The park’s staple ungulates, bighorn sheep and mule deer, will be in the rut in October. This is the annual mating season for these animals, where males scuffle and fight for the right to mate. Seeing two male bighorn sheep head-butte one another while balancing on precarious cliffs is quite a sight to behold. October also brings these animals down from the higher elevations where they had escaped from the heat in summer. Cooler October temperatures bring them down into the canyons and valleys again, where the temperatures are warmer, and food is more readily available. This makes them easier to see by visitors. The reduced crowds contribute to being able to see wildlife better.
The predators that call the park home, gray foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes, are shy and will try to keep out of sight. You might see a coyote or a fox looking for scraps around a campground at night or scurrying across the road, but the feline members of the predator family will be more careful to avoid detection. If you’re camping and out at night, listen for the cries of coyotes after they have made a kill and watch for the elusive ringtail, a relative of the raccoon that is strictly nocturnal. Other animals, such as beavers and porcupines, also inhabit the park but are rarely seen by visitors as their populations are not large, and they spend much of their time in their dens or lodges.
Zion hosts a wonderful cacophony of birds, from the giant California condor to the tiny hummingbird. Condors are one of the biggest draws to the park for birdwatching as they are federally endangered and have only recently been brought back from the brink of extinction. With a wingspan that can reach up to 9 1/2 feet, these birds are the largest native birds to North America and are truly majestic to see in flight. Golden eagles, Mexican spotted owls, and peregrine falcons are some of the birds of prey that you might catch a glimpse of. Watch for them hunting rodents in the evening hours especially. Visitors from the western United States might find the wild turkeys in Zion interesting. Although they are very common in the southeastern part of the country, the turkeys in Zion are a novelty to some visitors as they wobble along in large flocks, very slowly crossing the road.
If you’re interested in seeing a specific animal, ask a ranger where the best place would be to see one or what has been caught lately on remote camera traps.
Recommended wildland trips in october
Planning a trip to Zion in October can be a hassle as you have to keep up with the changing of the seasons, the current conditions, where to stay, and what to do. While some visitors enjoy planning out every detail of their trip, others can’t spare the time to do so until they get to the park. This can often lead to lost time deciding what to do or missing out on experiences just because you didn’t know they were there. But you can bypass all these issues by booking a trip with Wildland Trekking and letting one of our expert guides show you around. Our trips are all-inclusive, so we handle all the logistics, meals, local transportation, and accommodations 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 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 October.
Angels Landing Private Day Hike: October is simply stunning for doing Angels Landing, as the fall colors make this hike all the more beautiful. But we realize that getting permits is a huge hassle (if not impossible) and that the trek can be intimidating to those who have heard how treacherous it is. You can book this private day tour with Wildland Trekking if you want to do this hike. We’ll provide the permits, tasty trail snacks and a picnic lunch, top-of-the-line backpacks and trekking poles, and an expert guide to go with you; you can’t get any better.
Snow Canyon Private Day Hike: While it’s not technically in Zion National Park, Snow Canyon is well worth a visit and is nearly as stunning as the more famous sites. This all-inclusive private day tour is a great option as a day trip from Zion or just a stop while passing through. Experience dramatic cliffs and ancient lava flows interspersed with interesting cultural and geological history told by your guide and an included lunch and snacks.
Zion and Bryce 4-Day Tour: Zion and Bryce Canyon are so close together that it’s hard to visit one without visiting the other. That’s what we’ve done on this 4-day, inn-based tour so that you can experience the best of both parks on one trip. Hike the canyon Narrows, walk amongst the hoodoos, and experience the breathtaking scenery of red rock country before returning to comfortable lodge accommodations and premier dining in the evening. With a small group size and an expert guide, you won’t want to miss out on this fantastic trip.
Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
Zion National Park is home to some of the world’s most epic and amazing hiking vacations. 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 allow 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.