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Weather and The Five Seasons of Southern Utah

Published on July 26, 2019 by sherene@mystarvr.com

What is the weather like?

The very first question that generally comes to our minds when planning our next vacation is - Weather!

“ What is the weather going to be like at Zion, Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon?”

When visiting the national parks of Southern Utah it may be an even more important question to ask. Unlike the rest of the state, that has four seasons, Southern Utah has five.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Monsoons!

Our little town of Kanab Utah sits in the middle of a Grand Circle.
-Bryce Canyon National Park to the North
-Zion Canyon National Park to the West
-Lake Powell/GlenCanyon National Recreation Area to the East
-North Rim Grand Canyon National Park to our South.

Kanab area parks map
We get ALOT of Park visitors. Most are only there for a few days, so our diverse weather can be hard to plan for, and have a big impact on their experience. But every season has its positives. So just be aware, and have a great time no matter what time of year!

SPRING and FALL

Zion Canyon

Spring and Fall are ideal times to visit Southern Utah and the national parks. Oftentimes, as early as March the weather turns lovely. May is a peak season for us in Kanab.
There will be Spring rains, but I always tell my guests to be sure and go in the rain! They will see waterfalls around the canyon that are never there any other time. Beautiful!

Zion flash waterfalls. Weather Zion Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon
September starts cooling down nicely and we have enjoyed beautiful days well into November and often including Thanksgiving. Crowds are thinning out and Autumn colors show in October.

In a nutshell April - May and Sept.- Nov. are just pretty darn fine!

SUMMER

Summer is hot. Beautiful but hot. Makes for great water sports time at Lake Powell and on our own small Jackson Flat Reservoir. 

paddle boarding Jackson-flat-reservoir.jpg

Photo credit of Jackson Flat reservoir and kayak rentals from http://alltournativeadventure.com/

Hiking is OK, just stick to the early morning hours or later in the evening.

The biggest secret to remember here is water! Drink a lot more water than you probably normally would. One gallon a day is recommended - and salty snacks! You need to replace the salt that you perspire out,  keeping the sodium balance up in your blood. Take water everywhere with you. This is a very dry climate that will suck your body of moisture without you even knowing it. July is generally the hottest month.

drink lots of water

Desert dwellers know there's a very good reason for mid-day siestas, avoiding blasting sunlight and hot temperatures.

National Park visitors don't always understand the need to avoid the heat of the day, which is why dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke and hyponatremia (low sodium blood level) can put a damper on activities, or even send visitors to the hospital.

Perspiration is how your body regulates temperature, so if you don't have enough water, your body will overheat. Minor dehydration triggers thirst, but as dehydration becomes more serious, the body starts to lose its ability to regulate temperature.
Symptoms of heatstroke include disorientation, combativeness, and hot skin. The remedy is to find some cool shade, rest and re-hydrate.

Winter 

Zion and Bryce Canyons are both open year-round but North Rim Grand Canyon amenities are only open until October 31. November 1 through December 1 the North Rim will be open for day use only (no overnight parking) unless snow closes Highway 67 prior to that date. Once the snow closes the road, North Rim does not open again until the middle of May.

Zion in winter. Weather Zion Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon

Zion during winter (November- February) months the park is slow but it is still open and draws visitors.  Rain and snow are common so bring plenty of layers and something windproof and waterproof. If you have been to Zion in the summer you know wait times on popular hikes can be long, Not in the winter! It may be chilly, but much more peaceful.

The Park shuttle will generally run thru November. December is the coldest month of the year.

I love Bryce in the winter!

Bryce canyon in snow

White snow on the red rock formations and blue skies. It is a wonderful kind of beautiful!

 Long winter nights show off Bryce's beautiful dark skies to perfection. Winter Astronomy is growing in Utahs SouthWest. Kanab has recently made lighting changes that have made the city eligible for International Dark Sky Community status!

Cross country Skiing - Snowshoeing- Ice skating and Hiking can all happen on the same trip.

Don't have your own snowshoes? No worries, The Bryce Canyon Snowshoe Program is designed for all levels of experience, from beginner to expert. These Ranger-guided outings introduce visitors to the wonder of Bryce Canyon in the winter. Check out their Full Moon Snowshoe Hikes and other winter activities here: https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/winter.htm

You can also rent all your equipment from Ruby's Inn right at the entrance to the Park https://www.rubysinn.com/

My girlfriends and I have a long-standing tradition of spending several days at Bryce every winter.

Cross country ski bryce canyon

Check out my Post on Cross country skiing Bryce here: 
https://mystarvr.com/cross-country-skiing-at-bryce-canyon-national-park-utah/ 

Kanab does get snow at times but seldom lasts the day. It gets about 14.8 inches of precipitation thru the year, mostly rain.

MONSOONS

The most interesting season is monsoons. Late July thru August and the first part of Sept. the climate changes dramatically from the dry arid climate of May and June to one of humidity and seasonal rains. This is what we call The Monsoon Season.

monsoons in southern Utah. Weather Zion Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon

This weather change is important to consider when planning a visit to the Southwest.

During these hottest months of the year, the desert bakes under intense solar radiation. Hot air rises as fast as 50 feet per second, creating an area of low pressure that draws warm, humid air from the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico.

As the hot, humid air rises it comes into contact with cooler, high-altitude air. This forms enormous heavy clouds that grow dark and ominous as they rise thousands of feet. Eventually, the clouds burst, producing torrential afternoon thunderstorms.

This is our rule of Thumb - If the weather report predicts 20% chance of rain - It is really 100% chance of rain, just a 20% chance that you will be standing under it!!

desert flower

Monsoons are vital to the environment in the Southwest. They keep wildfires in check and provide an important water supply to the people and animals who live in the deserts. Visiting the desert during the Monsoon season is a great way to see another lesser-known side to the Southwest. It is the perfect time to adventure and explore with somewhat cooler temperatures and abundant flora and fauna that come to life.

The most common hazards of monsoon storms are lightning strikes and flash floods. Head inside during a lightning storm. Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors. If no substantial shelter is nearby, get in your car and wait out the storm.

  • Don’t forget the 30-30 rule. After you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

lightning-strikes at Lake Powell. Weather Zion Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon

Storms are most common in the afternoon but they can happen at any time. And they often blow over in an hour or so leaving the ground and the air refreshed, but hopefully not flooded!

Hiking in Grand Canyon, Zion or the many other Utah or Arizona hiking trails near us requires greater caution in monsoon season, but with proper preparation, monsoon weather is nothing to be scared of.

Floods

The intensity of the monsoon season varies from year to year. In the last couple of years, we have had several “Two hundred year storms”. Meaning - A storm like this only happens once every Two hundred years. I think we have had three of those in the last two years.....!

Kanab truck in flood. Weather Zion Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon

Flash Floods are for real, but are amazing to see! Just do it from somewhere safe! Just remember - Never, ever be in slot canyons when there is rain in the forecast anywhere in the area.

You can stay out of trouble by never crossing moving water either on foot or in your vehicle (like in this photo!) and always check the weather forecast before hiking into any canyon. It’s important to also check the weather in areas “upstream” or up the canyon from where you will be hiking. It is possible to have blue skies overhead but a canyon may still flood due to heavy rains upstream.

I love this blog post from “Wild Girl Writing” about Monsoon Season

She lists  5 Tips for Surviving Monsoon Season in Southern Utah

1) Be weather aware. 

2) Know where you’re going.

3) Be cautious about where you take shelter.

4) Hire a local guide.

5) Enjoy the show from somewhere safe.

Please check out the entire Blog. Really good advice. I really like #4, as a local guide WILL keep you safe and WILL make sure you see some amazing backcountry no matter the weather.

Kanab Tour Co.

photo credit: Kanab Tour Company https://kanabtourcompany.com/

Know before you go! - Weather and trail Conditions for Zion, Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park Weather updates - https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/weather.htm

Zion Canyon National Park Weather updates - https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/weather-and-climate.htm

Grand Canyon National Park Weather updates (look specifically for North Rim) - https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/weather-dangers.htm

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Kanab Climate Averages

Kanab, Utah Average Temperatures. Weather Zion Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon

Here is a good overview of average temperatures in Kanab, Utah. Bryce and North Rim can be a little cooler. Zion, a little warmer.

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Kanab Utah Rainfall chart. Weather Zion Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon

Kanab, Utah gets around 15 inches of rain, on average, per year. The US average is 38 inches of rain per year.

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Kanab Utah Snowfall. Weather Zion Bryce or North Rim Grand Canyon

Kanab averages 26 inches of snow per year. The US average is 28 inches of snow per year. Snow in town seldom last thru the day but generally much longer in the canyons.

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Kanab, Utah daylight hours

On average, there are 256 sunny days per year in Kanab. The US average is 205 sunny days. That makes Kanab a great place to be, especially in the summer with the extra hours of adventuring daytime!

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Things to keep in mind when planning your trip - 

-Springtime the water levels May run very high and some hikes in Zion may be off-limits.

-Zion is the lowest altitude of the three parks, therefore will be the warmest in any season. Bryce and North Rim are both around 8000-9000ft. A jacket is always a good idea, especially in early mornings.

-The road to North Rim Grand Canyon traditionally does not open until May 15th. The past couple of years there has been some soft openings a little bit earlier than that, just depending on the weather conditions.

-Bryce Canyon is always eroding. And that includes hiking trails. It is not uncommon for popular trails to get washed out over a harsh winter. Some Trails may not be open in early spring.

-Zion Canyon shuttle buses run from April through Oct. and sometimes Nov. The busiest times of the year. But you still need to be there early to get parking.

-When hiking anywhere in Southern Utah in the summer months, plan your days around early morning or late evening hikes.

-Late Autumn will have lower water levels, better for hiking Slot Canyons. And lower visitor levels, better for hiking everywhere.

-Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon are considered high Mountain desert. The UV rays are much more intense and sunscreen is always a good idea. Summer, Winter and everything in between.

No matter when you come, you are going to have a great time. And if you don't like the weather now, just wait 15 minutes!
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