As you drive towards Zion National Park the view of the distant mountain range and cattle ranches fill your view. Ten years ago, Springfield, the town directly outside of the park entrance, was close to a ghost town with only one or two stores and the same number of restaurants. Today, Springfield has an entire shopping center, plenty of restaurants, five or six hotels and inns, and many new things being constructed. With the Covid-19 pandemic, many people decided to venture into the outdoors, and national parks exploded in daily visitors. This affected the surrounding towns and many other parks across America. This has affected the environment in positive and negative ways. With the increased number of visitors, there's been an increased amount of funds for conservation and an increased amount of rangers on staff. With all positive things though, negatives are bound to come with as more foot traffic disturbs the terrain and many irresponsible hikers veer off established trails.
Zion Canyon during the winter is one of those environments that are unforgettable, with the rising red mountains and the white snow covering the peaks, it truly looks like someone painted the landscape around you. Hiking through these surroundings is like walking through a different world, and the trails make for a completely new challenge than hiking them during the other three seasons. During the winter off-season, Zion is less visited than any other time during the year. The National Park Service (NPS) opens the Zion Scenic Drive to private vehicles and lotteries for specific trails are unheard of. However, with the cold weather and snow, many new challenges are presented as many of the famous trails found in Zion are closed due to rockfall and heavy ice.
On all trails, chains and ice spikes are highly recommended, but I didn’t have either of those. All I had were a Patagonia Nano Puff and hiking boots that I got from Escape, and surprisingly walking over sheer ice for 2 miles uphill was incredibly easy. Looking back, I would use spikes, but they weren’t needed with these boots. The grip was fit for this challenge, and I was completely blown away by it.
Many people want to think they can hike these trails with a pair of athletic shoes just fine, but the difference in these two pairs of footwear was highly apparent. As I passed people on the trail, I saw many slips and falls on the hill. It was insane the number of people who weren’t prepared for the terrain. Zion trails during the winter are completely different than any other terrain you’ll see in the Southeastern region of the US, as the entire ground is this red rock, and trails containing lots of foot traffic reveal an unpleasant sight of packed snow forming a firm, slippery surface. These trails were not for the faint of heart.