Utah is one of those places that once you’ve been there, you won’t ever want to leave. Their landscape of deserts and mountains gives you a remote wilderness experience that makes you feel like you’re on another planet. Home to the Mighty Five National Parks, countless National Monuments, and a seemingly endless sprawl of BLM land, Utah has no shortage of wild spaces to explore.
Wildland Trekking offers a wide variety of tours in Utah. As there is so much to cover in just one state, this article will only have the space to cover half of the locations we visit. We will discuss Wildland’s trips to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Although Utah is primarily comprised of a desert landscape, there are numerous ecosystems and diverse wildlife. In each park and monument, there will be new worlds to be discovered, and millions of years worth of ecological history to be seen.
When to Go
As with most states, different areas experience different climates and temperatures throughout the year. Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Glen Canyon are all situated in the Southern section of Utah. Although there is a multitude of recreation options available in Utah, we will be focusing on the best times of the year for hiking and backpacking.
Choosing when to go on a Utah adventure will be influenced by the recreational activities you wish to participate in during that time. Beyond that, begin to consider the type of weather and temperatures that you prefer, especially when hiking or being active outdoors. As Utah is a popular destination, choosing where and when to go can also be dictated by crowds. If you’re looking for more solitude on your trip, you may want to visit one of our destinations in low or shoulder seasons.
June-August (Summer) will be the hottest and the busiest time of year in any Utah Parks or Wilderness areas. Compared to other desert areas in the United States, Zion and Bryce Canyon will usually see average highs of mid-80s Fahrenheit. July will be the warmest month overall. While some days may be hotter and others cooler, one certain aspect is that it will always be busy.
Since the launch of the Mighty 5 advertising campaign back in 2012, Utah parks have dramatically increased in their annual visitation. Now, Zion National Park is in the top 10 most visited National Parks with 4.5 million visitors in 2019. On the 4th of July weekend in 2019, the park saw 94,000 visitors that weekend alone. Even spread out across the year, this would be a lot of people, but almost 40% of Zion’s visitors come during the summer months.
In both 2018 and 2019, Bryce Canyon saw around 2.6 million visitors annually. While Bryce Canyon National Park may not see quite as many visitors as Zion, their summer months will still be the most crowded time to visit. Glen Canyon Recreation Area is no different. This park ranks with the most visited parks and sees over 4 million visitors each year. Glen Canyon summer weather will usually be in the low to mid-90s Fahrenheit.
Grand Staircase-Escalante is a different story altogether. It is an expansive wilderness area with no official entrance. It is about 900,000 acres making it more substantial than all of the Mighty 5 National Parks combined. There are a few visitor centers scattered about, but nothing will be quite as established as Zion or Bryce. While there are areas of the monument that will be busier than others, it is not hard to get away from the crowds here. The summer temperatures will have a much higher average of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that this is a remote wilderness area with very few maintained trails, and all water must be brought in with you.
March-May (Spring) or September-November (Fall) will be the shoulder seasons for any of these Utah destinations. The spring is still a relatively busy time of year in any of Utah’s parks, especially during spring break periods (late March to mid-April).
Depending on the year, there may still be snow in some areas. This will be especially true in Bryce Canyon as it has an elevation of 8,000-9,000 feet. By mid-April, temperatures should have settled to the mid-50s on most days with nighttime lows between 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures make for great daytime hiking temps and allow for a leisurely late start to your day. By May, many of the crowds will begin to increase, and so will the temperatures.
September-November (Fall) is also a wonderful time of year to visit Utah. Monsoons still affect the southern parts of Utah, so once those weather patterns begin to fade in mid-September, the days are nearly perfect. Highs will range from the mid-50s-70s, and lows will be in the 30-40 range. There is always the possibility of early winter weather in November, so keep an eye on the weather if you plan to visit then.
Snowfall should be expected in Bryce Canyon, Glen Canyon, and Grand Staircase-Escalante earlier than in the other parks. The Fall brings favorable hiking temperatures in the Grand Staircase area with pleasant water temperatures as well. While temperatures will be a bit cooler after October, you can be sure that there will be fewer visitors.
December-February (Winter) will be the low season for tourists in any of these four park areas. Although the snow-covered canyons and red rock vistas are gorgeous this time of year, not many folks seem to want to venture out hiking when the average temperature is between 20-40 degrees Fahrenheit.
On sunny days, the trails of the park are warm enough to take a short hike or go snowshoeing for a while. The primary benefit of visiting during the winter is the lack of people. You are much more likely to see wildlife during this time of year and get some stunning photographs of famous vistas without the worry of being photobombed.
Wildland Trekking doesn’t even offer backpacking or basecamp tours during the winter season due to unpredictable weather conditions. However, we do provide some fantastic inn-based tours year-round that we’ll discuss in the next section.
Zion National Park
With a view of the canyon from below, Zion gives visitors a new perspective on the magnificence of nature. The park provides visitors a chance to see a series of canyons that were carved by the virgin river and weather events over millions of years. Wildland Trekking offers day hikes, inn-based tours, and basecamp trips that explore the wonders of this landscape. Maximize your time spent in one of America’s top National Parks with the help of our expert guides!
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is famous for its unique rock formations known as hoodoos and the surrounding rock mazes and towers in all colors of red, orange, crimson, and white. Don’t be fooled by the rocky landscape as this park offers a lush array of vegetation too. Wildland Trekking has a wide variety of tours in Bryce, including day hikes, inn-based tours, and basecamp tours. Bryce is also one of the best parks in Utah for out of this world photography. Discover vistas and desert hoodoos as our expert guides take you into the wilderness of Utah’s desert.
Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument
If you are searching for a location that will truly bring you off the beaten path, a trip to Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante is one that should not be missed. The 900,000+ acres of wilderness is filled with slot canyons to be explored, incredible native American history to be learned, and a surprising number of springs, creeks, and waterfalls. Choose from basecamp tours, Llama treks, inn-based tours, and backpacking tours to explore the remote corners of this high desert landscape.
Glen Canyon Recreation Area
Wildland Trekking explores Glen Canyon with either a backpacking trip or a multi-day Llama trek. Both ventures are an opportunity to experience Glen Canyon beyond what the typical 4 million visitors do each year. You will have a chance to sleep under clear, dark desert night skies and spend each day in a new desert oasis or surrounded by towering canyon walls. You will have a glimpse into what Glen Canyon looked like before it was flooded by Lake Powell.
See Glen Canyon Backpacking Treks or Llama Tours
Need to Know
Primary Departure City For Utah
For all of Wildland Trekking’s tours running in Bryce Canyon, Zion, or Grand Staircase-Escalante, they will start and end in St. George, UT. The only exception to this will be day hiking tours. These will start and end in the designated park you are hiking in.
The two gateway cities will, therefore, be St. George, UT itself, or Las Vegas, NV. Many guests choose to fly in and out of Las Vegas as flights are more affordable. St. George is only a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, making it feasible to rent a car then. You can also opt to take a shuttle from Las Vegas to St. George as they run daily. However, a rental car is often a cheaper option and will give you more flexibility before and after the trip to explore the many wonders surrounding St. George, UT.
Book In Advance
Beyond having to book your trip dates with us, you will be responsible for booking your lodging before and after your trip dates, as well as your transportation to and from the trip meeting point. Once you have gotten confirmation on trip dates from us, start to shop around for flights and lodging that fits your travel needs.
As mentioned earlier, many travelers will fly in and out of Las Vegas, NV, but there is a small airport in St. George, UT. Flying directly to St. George is often logistically easier, but Las Vegas is only a two-hour drive from St. George making it easy to get to after your flight. We do recommend that you give yourself a minimum of a one day buffer before and after your trip dates in case of travel delays of any kind.
Other than your flights, you should book your lodging ahead of time as well. St. George is a popular gateway city for many tourists planning to visit Utah National Parks. Therefore, if you are on a tour during popular travel months, ensure that your lodging is booked well in advance.
There are plenty of lodging options in and around St. George, but we do recommend considering the Best Western Coral Hills (20% discount) or the Seven Wives Inn (10% discount). To get the discount, just let the hotel staff know that you will be traveling with a Wildland Trekking tour, and they will apply it during payment. You can also store any other luggage that you don’t wish to bring along on our trek in your hotel or the company vehicle.
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) or visit our travel resources page and scroll down to the ‘Utah’ section.
Have more questions? Send us an email or call us at 800-715-HIKE (4453). We’re here 7 days a week from 9:00 to 4:30 Mountain Time to make sure your trip planning goes as smoothly as possible.
For more information about all your options, check out our Utah page on the website with the button below! Individual trip pages have detailed itineraries, trip specifics, travel information, and more.