The best times to visit Salt Lake City are winter, spring and fall, depending on which outdoorsy activities you have in mind. The winter months bring Utah’s famous snow while visiting during spring and fall makes hiking through nearby canyons more comfortable than in the warm summer months.
But just about any time of year can have its appeal in this beautiful mountain city!
Weather in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City has a wide variety of weather, depending on the time of year. Summer gets hot with temperatures in the 90s Fahrenheit and even up to the low 100s F. Winter is the opposite with regular snow and average lows below freezing in December, January, and February. If you’re coming to ski, come in the colder months. If you’re coming to hike, spring, summer, and fall are all fine, but spring and fall are best if you’re not a fan of heat.
Salt Lake City is located at high altitude at 4,226 feet above sea level. Chances are you won’t notice it too much, but don’t underestimate the importance of sunscreen year-round and be prepared to feel a little winded during activities.
In winter, Salt Lake City often experiences something called inversion. Inversion is when a dense cold layer of air gets trapped under a layer of warm air, and what essentially happens is all the car exhaust and air pollution hangs out on top of the city. If you’re heading out to the mountains, this shouldn’t affect you, but if you’re staying in town and especially if you have asthma, heart, or lung issues, be prepared for a reduction in air quality.
Prices and Crowds
Salt Lake City remains pretty stable most of the year as far as hotel and lodging costs go. You may see some spikes if there is an event in town, but you can always find a reasonably priced hotel to stay at, especially if you’re willing to stay outside of the downtown core. Major happenings include the Sundance Film Festival in late January and early February. It's centered in nearby Park City, but some events take place in Salt Lake City as well. Ski season is also a big to-do in the area, but the crowds and cost increases generally happen at the ski resorts, not in town. The biannual Conference held by the LDS church and focused on Temple Square is also a consideration as downtown hotels will likely be booked.
Popular Festivals and Events
Salt Lake City has a number of major festivals and events throughout the year, but most don’t impact the city overall or cause major city-wide traffic jams. However, General Conference—a twice-yearly conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—brings thousands of visitors to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City for a weekend in April and October each year. You may want to skip staying downtown those weekends if you don’t plan to go to the Conference, as the city will be more crowded and hotels will be more expensive. Other major festivals include the Days of 47 Parade on July 24, (Pioneer Day, a holiday in Utah) that shuts down part of State State Street downtown.
Winter in Salt Lake City is paradise if you love snow sports. Temperatures frequently stay in the freezing range, and snow is a usual occurrence. With it, the area’s ski resorts open to eager skiers. With an international airport in downtown Salt Lake City, you can land and be out on the slopes within an hour or two. Nearby ski resorts include Alta and Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton and Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and luxurious Deer Valley in Park City. Beyond skiing, you’ll also find plenty of snowshoeing trails, tubing areas or even just sledding at places like Sugar House Park right in town.
Events to check out:
- Christmas lights displays dot the area, but be sure to see the light display at Temple Square in downtown SLC. Time your visit for a weeknight if you don’t want to deal with the crowds.
- Sundance Film Festival is one of the area’s biggest happenings. It’s centered in Park City, which is about a half-hour away from Salt Lake City, but also has events in Salt Lake City and Ogden.
Spring is an amazing time in Salt Lake City. Snow is often still falling in the mountains so skiers can live it up, and yet all the green things are waking up in the valley below so enjoying some nature, parks, or even just shopping are all pleasant and enjoyable. Dress in layers as weather can be variable. If you’re a sports fan, the Salt Lake City Bees (a minor league baseball team) kick off their season in April. If you really want to get into the spring spirit, head to the Capitol to see the 433 Yoshino cherry blossom trees that line Capitol Hill. They usually blossom in late March or early April.
Events to check out:
- The Salt Lake City St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a large annual event that winds its way through the Gateway downtown. After the parade, a party called a siasma takes place at the Gallivan Center.
- Living Traditions Festival takes place over three days and is a multicultural festival that celebrates SLC’s ethnic communities. Expect traditional music, dance, arts and crafts, and all kinds of delicious food.
Summer in Salt Lake City features plenty of hot days so pack your tank tops and sunscreen! While the peak of the day can be toasty, afternoons and evenings are ideal for picnics in the park, hikes in town or out in the canyons (the canyons are usually cooler even during the day), or enjoying one of the many summer festivals. Whatever you do and wherever you go, bring more water than you think you’d need, especially if you’re out being active.
Events to check out:
- Utah Arts Festival is the state’s largest outdoor multi-disciplinary arts festival and about 70,000 people head to downtown SLC each summer to check out everything from visual arts to literary and urban arts to arts for kids.
- July 4th is celebrated in SLC as it is in most places—with fireworks and fun! Rather than one major display, you’ll find many fireworks displays and other events throughout town.
- Pioneer Day is a holiday in Utah, celebrating the arrival of Brigham Young and Mormon pioneers to the area on July 24, 1847. The holiday features fireworks, concerts and other events, but a highlight is the Days of 47 Parade (the largest parade in the state) in downtown.
- Utah Pride is one of the larger Pride festivals and features the state’s second-largest parade, as well as food, entertainment, vendors, and more.
Fall is a lovely time to visit Salt Lake City. Temperatures cool down a bit but aren’t yet cold. Football games at the University of Utah are a highlight for sports fans, and scenic drives in the canyons near town (Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood, Millcreek, and Emigration canyons) are always a good idea as the fall foliage is a treat. Even spots right in town like Liberty Park are great for leaf-peeping.
Events to check out:
- The Utah State Fair is the quintessential state fair experience filled with fried food, fun, rides, games and entertainment. It’s perfect for kicking off fall.
- Greek Fest celebrates Greek culture with food, folk dances and the opportunity to learn about the perhaps surprisingly large Greek community in the area.
- FanX is a pop culture expo that was formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con. Get your cosplay ready to go!