Zion Traverse in early December

JoggingFinn

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Oct 28, 2018
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Hi Everyone,

I'm heading to Zion the first week of December, and would like to do a west-to-east traverse.

How likely am I to encounter snow/ice so early in the season? I've seen this meter (https://wcc.sc.egov.usda.gov/nwcc/site?sitenum=561), but it seems to be at higher elevation.

I have microspikes and poles, and warm gear - but I'm not truly outfitted for a full-time winter expedition.

Lastly, if I were aiming for a 3/4 night itinerary, would I likely be able to make camp each night by a reliable water source?

Thanks all!
 
The Kolob Canyon (Lee's Ridge Trailhead access) might not be open as of early December. (It has been closed all summer for road construction.) So you need to keep an eye on that. When coordinating your itinerary with the Park they can assess the reliability of water at that time of year. Personally I know there is La Verkin Creek and a nice spring at the campgrounds in the Kolob section.
 
The Kolob Canyon (Lee's Ridge Trailhead access) might not be open as of early December. (It has been closed all summer for road construction.) So you need to keep an eye on that. When coordinating your itinerary with the Park they can assess the reliability of water at that time of year. Personally I know there is La Verkin Creek and a nice spring at the campgrounds in the Kolob section.

Thanks. Any reasonable workaround if the road remains closed? (Sorry, not too familiar with this park).
 
They aren't letting people walk the road at the Kolob Visitors Center. @Jammer went up and over Black Ridge but that seems above and beyond unless it is day 1 of a 40+ day trip, which his was....ha. There should be road access to the Hop Valley Trailhead off of the Kolob Terrace Road. But that cuts off at least 12 miles of trail. The road construction was a 5 month project which started May 1st so maybe the road will be open by the first of December.
 
Somebody posted in the Zion Fb group that that the road could be open by Thanksgiving, but... you may want to check with the park for the latest in a few weeks. In general I really wouldn't recommend the route over Pace Knoll/Black Ridge unless you have no other option. It's got some great views -- but it's steep and brushy and will likely add a half day.

Pace Knoll view West.jpg
Pace Knoll view East.jpg

Snow and ice will likely depend on the recent weather, but it's definitely a real possibility. I was hiking through 4" of fresh snow in late April this year!
 
Any guidance on how likely I'll be to encounter snow/ice the first week of December?

That's a 50/50. It'll definitely be cold enough for snow and ice. You won't really know the answer to this until the week of. You might want to plan a contingency elsewhere just in case. Definitely work with rangers to lay out a formidable plan. For backcountry camping, you'll need a permit, and I know that at least during the busy season, you're required to camp in designated backcountry campsites along certain sections of that traverse. I assume that's probably true for any time of the year but again, something to verify with rangers when you apply for your permit.
 
Yes if you could do this, then this sounds like a Great Hike! Now up here in Wyoming it is being a mild fall - winter so far, so maybe it is being a mild one also down that way. Like Jammer said, earlier had heard that the road might be opened again by around Thanksgiving time or so. Hope so for your sake. If you are able to do this ....
... then Go and Enjoy!
 
Construction equipment was still up at Kolob Canyons this weekend and the road is still closed. It was cold enough to snow during the day up at Cedar City, but it wasn't sticking.
 
OP here. Still working on planning the upcoming trip.

I have a 15 degree down bag that's probably good to +20 or so. I suspect that this alone may not be good enough for the colder nights. Does that sound right?
 
This is a fun little tool. Can look at monthly climatic averages for any given weather station. I look at Bryce (7,500, right around the highest elevations you'll get to on the trans-Zion if memory serves me) and it looks, uh, considerably chillier than your 20f threshold.

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/datatools/normals

1542604580382.png

Cedar City Airport (5,500, probably a bit lower than you'll be most of the time):

1542604672721.png
 
This is awesome. Thank you. And as always, the numbers don’t lie —- which is to say, I think my bag alone won’t do it.
 
This is awesome. Thank you. And as always, the numbers don’t lie —- which is to say, I think my bag alone won’t do it.

I can't comment on the trans-Zion temperatures early December, but @LarryBoy graph (for a similar elevation) is spot on for the Bryce temperatures early December. We have hiked several times (not camped), in early December in Bryce in single digits. When the sun is out and when you are moving everything is fine, but early morning we have twice encountered a negative double digit windchill factor on the rim. We need a lot of calories to stay warm during hiking alone.
A week ago temperatures were already below 20F on Cedar Mesa.
 
OP again. So, for the Traverse route, do you more experienced folk think it's reasonable to think temps in early-December would be between 50ish daytime and 10-20 nighttime?
I'm basically just spitballing based on the data...
 
From Zion National Park's Twitter feed
"Reminder: The Kolob Canyons Road, including access to the Visitor Center and all trailheads along the road, remain closed to all traffic. Major road construction has required this closure. Weather permitting, we hope to have the road open in early 2019. Thanks for your patience. "

OP: I hope this group is giving you more help than reddit
 
There is snow on the road from Hop Valley trailhead and above. Many spots up to ten inches. So be prepared. All the higher elevations like West Rim and East Rim are snow covered


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
there may be more snow in the high elevations after today and Thursday. I've hiked the East Rim Trail to Cable Mountain in February and there was very little snow. Below freezing in the morning(20's) but it warmed up quick once the sun came up, and it melted the ice and things turned to mud. In shades areas, expect ice to be present.

If a cold front moves in, all bets are off.
 
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