Bryce Canyon National Park is like a giant playground for adults. The arches, rock formations, and vibrant colors make it extremely magical but even more so when it is dusted with snow.
If you’re looking to visit Bryce Canyon in winter then you’re in luck…and if you weren’t considering it yet then I hope this post convinces you! It is one of the best U.S. National Parks to visit during the winter. Only a few roads and trails are closed during the season which leaves the majority of the park open for exploration.
In this post I cover the best Bryce Canyon winter hikes, travel tips, where to stay, and other things to do. Slip on those boots and bundle up because it’s about to be a cold adventure!
Bryce Canyon In Winter
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First thing first- let’s begin with essential park information. Bryce Canyon runs a bit differently during the winter so it is important to be aware before your visit. I break it down for you below!
Entry into Bryce Canyon is $35 per vehicle and can be purchased online or upon arrival. If you plan on visiting other National Parks, however, investing in an America the Beautiful Pass is highly recommended and will save you money.
Bryce Canyon does have a shuttle service but it doesn’t run in the winter. You’re left at the mercy of being able to find parking at the trailheads or walk further on your own two feet. Luckily a lot of the viewpoints and trailheads have decent sized parking lots, so you should have no problem finding parking. The popular Sunrise and Sunset viewpoints still fill up fast especially if the park happens to be busy.
Bryce Canyon National Park is the largest concentration of rock hoodoos in the world. That is pretty impressive. But believe me when I tell you it is even more impressive when dusted with snow. And if you think the snow will keep away the crowds- think again.
When I visited in December of 2020 parking was hard to find and the crowds filtered in by early morning. This was even during a snow storm! I visited between Christmas and New Years which happened to be a busy time for the park and leads me to believe it is a usual thing.
I just visited again December 2022 days before Christmas and the park was much less crowded than my previous experience but still had a good amount of people. Parking was easy to come by and the area was pretty quiet.
My best advise is to play it by ear. If the park is crowded then plan to arrive for sunrise in order to secure parking and witness the orange rocks glow. The further you hike into the canyon the further you’ll distance yourself from the crowds anyways. Most visitors hang around the viewpoints and Navajo/Queen’s Garden loop.
But if you get lucky and Bryce Canyon isn’t that busy then you’re okay getting a later start to your day. You can wait for the sun to rise and give some warmth to your adventure! But just keep in mind you have shorter days because the sun will set around 5 PM.
Like most U.S. National Parks, cell service in Bryce Canyon is very limited. Be sure to have a map and/or GPS device with you while hiking.
This is also important if you plan on hiking deep into the park while snow is falling. When I last visited it was during a pretty heavy snowfall and it covered the trail quickly. There wasn’t a soul in sight at the time so I had no foot prints to follow. It made it difficult at times to follow the trail so I utilized Gaia GPS.
Winter Road Conditions
If it is early winter and the park hasn’t experienced heavy snowfall yet then the roads will be fine. However if the park has received some winter storms you’ll want to be prepared.
The conditions can change drastically and fast during or after a snowstorm. The roads become very slick with ice, black ice, or deep snow that hasn’t been plowed yet. This means you’ll need to drive slow and with caution so you don’t slide off the road or get stuck.
Always check the weather conditions before arriving. If the park is expecting snow then a 4×4, snow tires, and chains are highly recommended. If you don’t have either of these, I highly suggest waiting until the plows have cleared the roads and stick to only the main roads through the park.
Where To Stay In Bryce Canyon During Winter
Bryce Canyon National Park sits at a high elevation on top of a plateau, meaning the weather can be variable. The park experiences rain and snow storms throughout the year and temperatures can fall below freezing every night between October and May.
With this in mind, visiting Bryce Canyon in winter means you most likely will want to purchase accommodations to keep you warm and dry. But for whatever reason you enjoy camping in the winter or have a sick setup, I’ve included a campground option for you below!
- Bryce Canyon Lodge is only open for winter season from November 1-27th. Their Sunset Lodge, Guest Studio, and Guest Suites are your choices during this time and you’ll need to secure them plenty ahead of time online!
- North Campground is first-come-first-serve during the winter season and is located right in the park. RV’s are allowed.
- Just outside of the park are Ruby’s Inn (Best Western Plus) which has an on-site restaurant, Bryce View Lodge, and Bryce Canyon Grand (Best Western Plus).
My personal favorite is Ruby’s Inn. The family history can’t be beat and their grounds have everything you need- a general store, laundry, restaurant, and activities. They’re also right outside of the park which makes it super convenient!
Tips For Visiting Bryce Canyon In Winter
Visiting Bryce Canyon in winter is fairly easy but being prepared is essential for a safe adventure. Here are a few tips for your visit:
- Have the proper footwear. If you plan on getting out and doing some hiking or walking around, having waterproof hiking boots will help keep your feet warm. Pair them with Merino Wool socks to stay extra toasty!
- Dress in layers. As you move around more you’ll get warm and probably strip down. But it is always best in the winter to begin with a base layer, insulating layer, and protective layer like a packable down jacket.
- Have an ice scraper in your car. If it snows over night or during your hike you’ll want something to be able to brush the snow and scrape ice with. Never pour water on your windshield thinking it will help melt the ice- it doesn’t work!
- Begin your adventures early. The earlier you get out and finish your hike, the better. Every day I’ve hiked Bryce Canyon in winter the snow got worse in the late afternoon to evening. Not to mention you have less daylight in the winter!
- Check restaurant hours of operation! The restaurant choices around Bryce Canyon National Park are already slim, and their hours may be different in the offseason. Always double check to make sure you’re not left without anywhere to eat. The Subway closed at 6 p.m. when I was there during December…yikes.
- If you want to see all of the viewpoints I suggest driving to the end of the park and starting backwards. The reason being is all of the viewpoints are on the left as you’re driving into the park. If you drive to the end first and turn around then they will be on your right and you won’t be stuck trying to constantly turn left!
Pro’s Of Visiting Bryce Canyon In Winter
With the exception of around the holidays, Bryce Canyon is usually less populated than during the peak season. This means you may have parts of the trail to yourself if you hike deep enough into the canyon. Regardless of the population, the views alone are worth visiting. It is a very unique time to see the hoodoos dusted with snow!
Con’s Of Visiting Bryce Canyon In Winter
Due to high elevation snow is always possible during the winter here. The roads and trails may be icy, not every road or trail is open during the winter, and the shuttle service won’t be running. You’ll also have to brave the low temperatures. If it is snowing then your visibility into the canyon will be very limited, which is a bummer if you’re staying on the rim portion.
I always recommend tracking yourself or following an already made track so you can check in and be sure you’re on the right path. Below is a screenshot of one of my hikes in Bryce Canyon!
Preparation saves lives. Know where you are going ahead of time and always have a way to keep yourself on trail. One way to do this is with a GPS system or app like Gaia GPS.
You can download my tracks from Bryce Canyon National Park and gain access to my library of all tracked hikes. Once downloaded, you can load it into your own trusty device for ease of mind!
Best Bryce Canyon Winter Hikes
Now what you’ve been waiting for- the low down on the hikes. Before you start planning though, it is always good to know what is open and what is closed.
Here is a quick list of areas typically closed during winter. It is always best to check the National Park website for current closures and weather conditions before arriving!
- Wall Street
- Rim Trail between Bryce and Inspiration Point
- Agua Connecting Trail
- Paria View road (closed to vehicles, open to pedestrians)
- Fairyland road (closed to vehicles, open to pedestrians)
But don’t worry because there are PLENTY of trails and viewpoints left open to explore. I’ve listed them for you below!
Navajo/Queens Garden Loop
Distance: 3.0 miles RT
One of the most popular hikes in Bryce Canyon National park during any season is the Navajo and Queens Garden Loop. It is a moderate loop that is easy to find, short, and gives you a great over-all experience in the park.
Many travelers, photographers, and the like spend a lot of time on this trail taking photos because there are so many great rock formations and back drops.
To hike this loop you’ll start at the Sunset Point and end at Sunrise point, or vise versa.
Pro Tip: The Wall Street to Queens Garden is another favorite loop but the Wall Street portion is always closed during winter. You’ll only be able to hike the Navajo to Queens Garden, or vise versa.
Distance: 7.7 miles RT
If you’re up for a longer and more strenuous hike then you may consider the Fairyland Loop. This is one of the largest loops in Bryce Canyon to hike! It takes you down into the amphitheater, past some hoodoos, back out of the amphitheater, and around a portion of the rim.
Usually you’d enter the trail from the North end of the park, however, this road is typically closed during winter. Instead, you can begin the loop from Sunrise point.
Local Tip: If you’re up for a short side excursion, you can also visit Tower Bridge. Once you come upon where the two trails intersect, just hike on over to view the Tower Bridge and retrace your steps back to the Fairland Loop, then continue.
Distance: 3 miles RT
One Bryce Canyon winter hike that is easily forgotten about is the Tower Bridge. It is an easy to moderate hike down into the canyon and ends at a viewpoint where you can view the Tower Bridge from below.
To get to the Tower Bridge you’ll begin at Sunrise point and hike along the Rim trail to Fairyland Loop. You’ll actually hike along the Fairyland trail for a bit until you come across a sign to turn off for the Tower Bridge.
Once you get your fill of views you turn around and head back the way you came. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can combine it with the Fairyland Loop to add quite a bit of more mileage.
Distance: 3 miles RT
The Peekaboo Loop is one of my favorite Bryce Canyon winter hikes because it is tucked back further into the canyon and you usually lose the crowds. It is also a very scenic loop providing tunnels to walk through, a view of windows, and is a great moderate challenge.
Peekaboo Loop itself is 3 miles, but there are essentially two main ways to get to the loop which will add to the mileage depending which way you approach.
One way to reach Peekaboo Loop is by starting at Bryce Point. From the parking lot there is a trail called the Peekaboo Loop Connector that you’ll take. You’ll intersect with the loop and can go either way! Once you complete Peekaboo Loop you’ll hike back up the connector trail to the parking lot.
Sometimes Bryce Point is closed during the winter, or the road to access it is temporarily closed due to road conditions. If so, you can also hike it from the Navajo Trail. Instead of taking a left to loop into Queen’s Garden, you’ll take a right and hike a short connector trail to Peekaboo Loop. The signage is very easy to follow so you’ll be able to find your way!
Figure 8- Navajo / Queens Garden And Peekaboo
Distance: 6.5 miles RT
Another great option is to hike a big figure 8 by connecting the Navajo / Queens Garden Loop with the Peekaboo Loop. This is a great moderate day hike option that gives you a fun experience of Bryce Canyon. If you had only one hike to choose, I’d choose this one!
To hike this figure 8 I’d start at Sunset point, go down the Navajo Trail, connect to Peekaboo Loop, then connect back with Queen’s Garden and end at Sunrise. From Sunrise point back to Sunset point it is just less than .5 miles on the Rim Trail!
Pro Tip: All of these loops and trails can get confusing. It is a lot easier if you familiarize yourself with the park map when planning and/or hiking!
The Rim Trail
Distance: 5.5 miles one way
You don’t have to hike into the amphitheater to enjoy it! The Rim Trail is just as it sounds- a trail that leads you along the rim of Bryce Canyon and you still get some epic views.
The Rim Trail is 5.5 miles one way from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point but during the winter a portion of it is closed, so you’ll only be able to hike as far as Inspiration Point.
Still, you don’t have to hike the entire thing! You can always turn back whenever you feel.
Distance: 0.8 miles RT
Tucked away and hidden off US-12 is Mossy Cave, one of the easily missed Bryce Canyon winter hikes. If you’re looking to stretch your legs you may consider stopping for a quick peek.
While it doesn’t look like much during the summer, it actually transforms for the winter season. Giant icicles hang off the overhang and into the opening. There also is a frozen waterfall nearby if you’re up for more exploration!
Distance: 1.0 miles RT
The Bristlecone Loop trail is probably the least popular of all Bryce Canyon winter hikes because it is located on the most Southern end of the park and rarely shared on social media. The trailhead embarks from Rainbow Point which is 18 miles in, at the very end of the Scenic Drive.
Short and easy, the Bristlecone Loop takes you along the highest point of Bryce Canyon National Park through a forest of Spruce, Douglas Fir, and White Fir. About halfway through and the views open up, allowing you to see the vastness beyond the park. Hike counter-clockwise for an easier hike or clock-wise to break a little sweat.
Other Bryce Canyon Winter Activities
Believe it or not there are other ways to enjoy the snow in or around Bryce Canyon National Park! Ruby’s Inn not only provides affordable accommodations and a family restaurant, but they also have some fun activities for you and your family!
For more information and pricing on each activity be sure to check out Ruby’s Inn here.
Snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing
A fun way to get outdoors to enjoy a fresh snowfall is to go snowshoeing or cross country skiing. It makes traversing on the fresh, fluffy snow much easier so you don’t sink in. They can even be a great winter workout! Ruby’s Inn provides rentals, maps, and trail info so you’ll be all set for your adventure!
Local Tip: The Canyon 2 Canyon trail is one of the best for snowshoeing and cross country skiing!
Ruby’s Inn has a winter activity center which includes an Ice Skating rink. They allow you to bring your own skates or they’ll provide rentals if you don’t have any (for a small cost). You can’t experience winter without playing out on the ice!
If you have as snowmobile you may want to bring it to Bryce Canyon. There are miles and miles worth of trails for you to explore- both fresh and groomed. Stop by Ruby’s Inn during your visit for exclusive maps and trail information!
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
Every year a winter festival is hosted by Ruby’s Inn near Bryce Canyon National Park. They host a ton of activities as well as free clinics, demos, and tours. It is a great way to get out and be introduced to a new hobby- skiing, kayaking, archery, crafts, and more!
Final Thoughts On Visiting Bryce Canyon In Winter
There is no place like Bryce Canyon National Park during the winter. The desert landscape transforms into a giant winter wonderland just waiting to be explored!
Regardless if you enjoy winter hiking or not, the views alone are worth stopping by. You can always look into the amphitheater from one of the viewpoints above or try something different such as snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
After visiting during a two day constant snowfall I have to say I had a blast and I’ll definitely be visiting every winter that I can just to play in the snow.
I’d love to hear from you!
Have you visited Bryce Canyon in the winter, or plan to in the future? Share in the comments!
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— Update: 31-12-2022 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Best of Bryce Canyon winter: Hike the HOODOOS in snow! ⛄ Utah December pics ⛄ Best Bryce Canyon winter trails ⛄ Utah travel blog from the website www.flashpackingamerica.com for the keyword bryce canyon hikes winter.
If you’re looking for a national park to visit in the winter that has snow-packed trails with beautiful winter landscape, then you just might want to consider Bryce Canyon National Park!
It’s winter in southern Utah!
As far as how much time to spend in the Bryce Canyon National Park, it’s totally reasonable to make it a perfect one day in Bryce Canyon.
When is there snow at Bryce Canyon?
So, it’s very likely that there will be snow if you visit Bryce Canyon National Park in December, January, and February. It’s also possible that there’s snow in October, November, March, and April.
If you’re wondering if there’s snow right now in Bryce Canyon, have a look at the official Bryce Canyon National Park accounts on facebook and twitter. They usually post recent pictures of the park, and in winter they tend to mention weather conditions too.
As the date for your Bryce Canyon winter vacation gets closer, check this page for current alerts that will include road closures due to heavy snow. They usually mention temporary road closures on facebook and twitter too.
Bryce Canyon is at high altitude!
The generally accepted elevation that starts to be considered “high altitude” is around 8,000 feet (2,440m).
But most people generally don’t feel ill-effects at this height, although it is possible.
The Rim Trail, where most of the hikes listed below start, is around 8,000 feet, with slight variation depending on which part of the Rim Trail you are on.
If you are concerned about the altitude, you might consider staying the night before near Bryce Canyon National Park.
This will give you an overnight to get a little adjusted before you go hiking the next day.
A hotel that’s a 15-20 minute drive from Bryce Canyon might be at an elevation of around 6,000-7,000 feet.
9 best winter hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park
aka best things to do in Bryce Canyon in winter!
I went to Bryce Canyon in December 2019, and the pictures in this blog post are from that time.
1. Queens Garden Trail (out-and-back)
Time: 1-2 hours
Start at Sunrise Point for an out-and-back trail. This hike goes down into the canyon so you’re walking among the hoodoos, and you can go to “Queens Garden” and then go back the same way you came.
See more photos from this Bryce Canyon winter hike: Queens Garden Trail
Explore the map.
2. Navajo Trail (out-and-back)
Time: 1-2 hours
Start at Sunset Point for an out-and-back trail. This hike also goes down into the canyon. This is also called the Navajo Loop Trail, but it’s not a loop trail in the winter because the “Wall Street” section is closed.
See more photos from this Bryce Canyon winter hike: Navajo Trail
Also see more photos from the viewpoint where this winter hike starts: Sunset Point
Explore the map.
3. Queens Garden + Navajo Loop Trail
Time: 2-3 hours
For a longer and a bit more diversified hike, instead of doing Queens Garden or Navajo Loop as an out-and-back, you can combine these two trails for a loop since they connect.
This is the most popular option for hiking in Bryce Canyon.
Explore the map.
4. Queens Garden + Navajo Loop + Peekaboo Loop (Figure 8)
Time: 4-5 hours
For an even longer and more diversified hike, you can add in the Peekaboo Loop Trail. Peekaboo connects to the Navajo Loop.
Explore the map. It doesn’t look like a figure 8 here since it doesn’t include the entire Peekaboo loop, but if you map out Peekaboo, it’ll look like a figure 8!
5. Tower Bridge Trail (out-and-back)
Time: 2-3 hours
Start at Sunrise Point. You’ll take this trail to do the Fairyland Loop (next listed hike), but you can also make it an out-and-back.
Explore the map.
6. Fairyland Loop Trail
Time: 4-5 hours
Start at Sunrise Point. You can then take the Tower Bridge Trail to start the hike down. Or you can keep walking along the rim trail and start the hike at Fairyland Point.
Explore the map.
7. Rim Trail (out-and-back)
Time: 30 minutes to 3+ hours depending how long you want to make it!
Several of the loop hiking options above include hiking along the rim trail. You can also choose to hike only the rim trail, which means you won’t be hiking into the canyon at all. There are a few hills along the rim trail, but it won’t be as steep as the other trails.
So for a solid winter hike, you can choose viewpoints along the Rim Trail that have parking lots to start your hike (Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point), and then do an out-and-back along the rim. This will give you frequent views of the hoodoos in the canyon from above.
In winter, the Rim Trail between Inspiration Point and Bryce Point is closed.
The road to Fairyland Point is also closed in winter, so you won’t be able to start your Rim Trail hike from there.
Explore the map.
8. Mossy Cave Trail (out-and-back)
Time: 1 hour or less
This is actually located outside of the main area of Bryce Canyon National Park, but still considered to be a part of a national park recommended trail. So this can be something to do at the start of your day or at the end of your day. Your destination is a small cave with icicles.
See more pictures from this Bryce Canyon winter hike: Mossy Cave Trail
9. Ranger-led snowshoe hike
Time: 1.5-2 hours
This isn’t a specific trail, but definitely an activity to consider if you’re looking to experience Bryce Canyon in winter!
You don’t even need to bring your own snowshoes. That will be provided, for free!
This is a snowshoe hike guided by a park ranger, and the specific trail you do will be determined by the snow conditions that day.
The only real requirement is that you wear snow boots or waterproof hiking shoes – your feet will be checked when you sign up on the day of your hike!
See more photos of this Bryce Canyon winter hike: Snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon with a park ranger
And there are some of the best winter hikes in Bryce Canyon!
Want to do ALL of these trails that are open in winter during your trip to Bryce Canyon this winter?!
Here’s how to make it a perfect 2 days of winter hiking in Bryce Canyon
Pack your hiking poles!!
- Sign up for the snowshoe hike at the visitor center at 8am
- Queens Garden Trail + Navajo Trail + (part of) Peekaboo Loop Trail
- Start at Sunset Point
- Walk Rim Trail from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point
- Hike the loop: Queens Garden + Navajo + Peekaboo
- Free park ranger guided snowshoe hike
- Drive the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive and stop at the scenic viewpoints
- Mossy Cave Trail
- Fairyland Loop Trail
- Start at Sunrise Point
- Hike the loop: Tower Bridge + Fairyland Loop
- Arrive back on the Rim Trail at Fairyland Point
- Hike the Rim Trail back to Sunrise Point (or, keep going to the end of Rim Trail to Inspiration Point, then head back to Sunrise Point)
This is basically as I did it during the 2 days I was in Bryce Canyon.
The main slight variation was that I wasn’t able to do the full Peekaboo Loop Trail as there was a meeting time for the snowshoe hike… and I was going too slow. 😉
So I just started off on the Peekaboo Loop and made that portion an out-and-back by turning around after a little bit instead of completing the whole loop. Even that small portion I did on the Peekaboo Loop I thought was great.
If you are also planning for the snowshoe hike… if you don’t take too much time after you sign up for the snowshoe hike at 8am, and you’re speedy on the trails, then you might have time to do the whole Peekaboo Loop before the snowshoe hike, or at least a lot of it! Otherwise, if you’re interested in Peekaboo, the combination hike of Navajo + Peekaboo (without Queens Garden) might work out better.
Snowshoeing at Bryce Canyon
If you’ve never gone snowshoeing before and have even a small interest in it, then definitely consider doing the park ranger-led snowshoe hike!
If you want to do snowshoeing on your own, Bryce Canyon National Park can be good for that too.
The Bristlecone Loop Trail seemed like a good spot for it.
The Rim Trail between Sunrise Point and Fairyland Point, as well as between Inspiration Point and Sunset Point seemed like it could be an option too. I say this based on what the trail conditions were when I was at Bryce Canyon.
The Rim Trail between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point is more popular which means more foot traffic which means there’s a greater chance of no snow on this part because the path has been trampled over a lot more.
You can stop by the Bryce Canyon National Park visitor center to talk to a park ranger when you arrive for snowshoe trail recommendations based on current snow conditions!
See Bryce Canyon winter photos:
- Queens Garden Trail
- Navajo Loop Trail
- Mossy Cave Trail
- Park ranger snowshoe hike
- Sunset Point (Starting point of Navajo Loop Trail on the Rim Trail)
- Bryce Point (short stop on the scenic drive through the park)
- Farview Point to Piracy Point (short stop on the scenic drive)
- How to spend one perfect winter day in Bryce Canyon
Make it a Southwest America national parks winter road trip!
- 5 day road trip: Arizona Utah national parks route
- One day in Grand Canyon National Park in winter
- One day in Zion National Park in winter
HAPPY HIKING BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK IN WINTER!
— Update: 31-12-2022 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Things to do in Bryce Canyon in Winter: The Perfect 1-Day Itinerary from the website www.destinationdaydreamer.com for the keyword bryce canyon hikes winter.
Let me start with this- you have to visit Bryce Canyon in winter. It’s one of the most magical experiences to see the gorgeous red, limestone hoodoos covered in snow. Basically, imagine unique out-of-this-world views (like you’re standing on Mars) and then add snow. And this my friends, is what you get when you visit Bryce Canyon National Park in the winter.
Utah is home to not one, but FIVE national parks. All five parks are full of red rocks and all five parks are more beautiful and unique than the last. However, in my opinion, Bryce Canyon is the best national park in Utah to visit in the winter.
What is Bryce Canyon known for?
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its enormous limestone spires called hoodoos. The hoodoos are formed from ice and rainwater breaking down rock through different ‘freeze cycles’ over thousands of years. Within the park, you can see hoodoos from viewpoints going on for miles and miles within different basins in the park.
In the winter, you can hike, snowshoe, cross-country ski, stargaze, and more all surrounded by these amazing red rock hoodoos. Below you’ll find how to spend the perfect one day in Bryce Canyon.
When is there snow at Bryce Canyon?
The best part about visiting Bryce Canyon in winter is timing it right to be able to see the red rocks covered in white snow. The park is located at a high elevation of almost 8,000 feet meaning it gets colder and can have more treacherous winter conditions than other Utah national parks.
Snow can fall as early as October, however, the most snowfall occurs December-February. We visited over Valentine’s day and were welcomed with a winter snowstorm and freshly snow-covered hoodoos. Plus this snowstorm means we were very thankful we were familiar with driving in snow (thanks to me being a Utah native) and had great studded, winter tires on our car.
When is the best time to visit Bryce Canyon?
You may not initially think of visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in the winter, however, in my opinion, winter is by far the best time to visit. You’ll find much smaller crowds, plenty of parking, and an amazing magical atmosphere. Nothing quite beats seeing the Bryce Canyon hoodoos covered in snow.
Related Post: 27 Amazing Things to do in Utah that Aren’t National Parks
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Winter Bryce Canyon access map
Use this National Park Service map to familiarize yourself with the park. The red road is always open and cleared often, however, the blue dashed road may be closed after snowstorms as they work on clearing the road. When we visited in mid-February, the blue dotted road was closed. However, almost everything I recommend takes place on the red road.
Bryce Canyon 1-Day Itinerary
- 8 am: Sign up for ranger-guided snowshoeing tour at the Visitor’s Center
- Morning: See Thor’s Hammer at Sunset Point Overlook
- Walk the Rim Trail
- Hike down among the hoodoos on Navajo Loop Trail (out-and-back trail in the winter)
- Noon: Picnic lunch in your car to warm up before snowshoeing
- 1pm: Ranger guided snowshoe tour to Paria Viewpoint
- Afternoon: Drive to the remaining scenic overlooks in the park
- If the road is open, see Natural Bridge
- Evening: Stargaze bundled up with a warm drink (sunset is generally between 5 and 6 pm in the winter)
- Either coming into town or leaving town, drive through the Red Canyon Arch Tunnel just 20 minutes outside of the park
How to experience Bryce Canyon in the winter:
In greater detail, here is how to experience Bryce Canyon in one day. If you are lucky enough to visit Bryce in winter and you have more than one day, you’ll find more additional wintery things to do at the end of the post.
1. Drive through the Red Canyon Arch
Unique experiences start before you even enter Bryce Canyon National Park! I recommend taking the Scenic Byway 12 (Highway 12) from Panguitch to Bryce (and vice-versa). You will get the unique experience of driving through Red Canyon Arch that is carved right out of the mountain!
2. See Thor’s Hammer at Sunset Point Overlook
Thor’s Hammer is the tallest hoodoo in Bryce Canyon National Park. All of the hoodoos range in height from the height of a human to stories tall. Thor’s Hammer is 150 feet (45 meters) tall- that’s around 15 stories tall! Also, the hoodoo resembles Thor’s Hammer (as the name suggests).
The best place to see Thor’s Hammer is from Sunset Point. There is a parking lot at Sunset Point. It’s only a 450-foot walk from the parking lot to Sunset Point.
Sunset Point offers some of the most famous and breathtaking views in all of Bryce Canyon National Park.
3. Walk the Rim Trail
You can also hop on the stroller/wheelchair-friendly Rim Trail from Sunset Point. The Rim Trail (as the name implies) follows the rim of the main amphitheater.
The Rim Trail is paved from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point (1 mile/ 1.6 km roundtrip). The official Bryce Canyon National Park website says it is stroller/wheelchair accessible even in severe winter weather.
The stroller we take on all of our adventures is the Baby Trend Expedition Jogger. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a great, inexpensive, and durable stroller/car seat combo. Ours has logged over 500 miles!
In the winter, you can access Rim Trail from Sunrise Point to Bryce Point. The trail is about 3 miles one way and has several steep elevation changes along the way. However, you can walk and enjoy the view for as long as you want before turning back to the car.
PRO TIP: The section between Sunset Point and Sunrise Point is a pet-friendly section of the Rim Trail. This is great news! Pets are only allowed on paved sections of trail and this is an area with a beautiful paved section.
4. Hike among the Hoodoos on Navajo Trail
Hiking down into the hoodoos is a must when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. The view from above is amazing, but getting down in the canyon and looking up is a totally different experience. The best trail to do this on is the Navajo Loop Trail.
To get to this trail you will drive to and park at the Sunset Point parking lot. You will see the trailhead sign there. This is the same parking lot/point that I talked about above.
Even though the trail name is Navajo Loop Trail, the trail is actually NOT a loop in the wintertime. This means you’ll hike down and hike back the same way you came. When this trail functions as a loop in summer, it is 1.3 miles (2.16 km) long. I think when we hiked in winter, we probably hiked around .5 miles down and .5 miles back (1-mile roundtrip). Even though the distance is not long, remember you will be hiking down and up switchbacks covered in snow making it a little more strenuous.
The Navajo Loop Trail takes you right down into the hoodoos! You’ll pass the famous Thor’s hammer (the tallest hoodoo in the park ), Two Bridges (two sandstone arches/bridges that cover the trail), and to the bottom of Wall Street (the park’s only slot canyon). The Wall Street slot canyon is closed in winter for safety reasons, so you can’t hike through but the trail takes you to it.
Related Post: 27 Amazing Things to do in Utah that Aren’t National Parks
The trail can be very slippery from snow/ice and there are steep drop-offs. Because of this, you may want to stick to the Rim Trail if you are hiking with littles.
PRO TIP: Shoes with good traction are required if you want to hike down past the rim on the Navajo Loop Trail (or any trail past the rim). When it is especially icy, traction devices may be necessary.
You can buy traction devices at the visitor’s center. However, it would be wise to bring a pair with you in case the visitor’s center doesn’t have any available. You can buy the traction devices here!
When we hiked, I was wearing hiking boots and my husband was wearing winter boots with good tread. These were sufficient (with a little slipping) because of the recent snowfall.
However, once the snow turns icy, the traction devices would definitely be necessary to get back up the steep Navajo Loop Trail.
5. Participate in a free ranger-guided snowshoe tour
Taking a ranger-guided snowshoe tour at Bryce Canyon National park is one of my favorite things I have EVER done. And the greatest part is that the tour is free with snowshoes and poles included! The tours are usually 1.5-2 hours long and you’ll snowshoe around 1 mile (1.6 km). The tour included us and about 10 other people and the ranger.
Our tour took us through the woods and out to Paria Viewpoint. This is a unique experience because the Paria Viewpoint is inaccessible by car during the winter so the only way to get there is via snowshoe or cross-country skis!
Our ranger told us the history of the area and taught us all about the hoodoos. He also showed us a Bristlecone Pine which is one of the oldest living organisms in the world. Bryce Canyon National Park’s oldest Bristlecone Pine is 1,600 years old!
How to participate in the snowshoe tour:
Reserve a spot (in person) for the tour because space is limited. Signups start at 8 am at the Visitor’s Center on the day of the tour and end once all the spots are full. Unfortunately, there is no way to sign up in advance. These tours also require a sufficient snow-depth and staff level to happen.
I was worried about enough snowfall for us to experience snowshoeing. We were in Bryce Canyon National Park in mid-February and there was a big snowstorm the day before we came. I called the visitor center early in the morning and asked if the tour would be happening. They said yes, so we headed right over to the visitor center to sign up!
There is no age requirement for the tour but you’ll want to think of your kids before reserving a spot. You’ll just want to make sure your kids are in the mood to snowshoe through sometimes deep snow and possibly be a little cold. Or, if they are young enough, that you’ll be able to carry them in a pack the whole way.
Snowshoeing ended up being our favorite thing we did in Bryce and I highly recommend participating if possible.
PRO TIP : You must bring and wear snow boots or waterproof hiking boots on the ranger-led tour. They will not let you participate if you are wearing tennis shoes or something similar. Your feet would also get pretty wet and cold if that is what you are wearing. If you have any questions about what is acceptable, you can give them a call.
Read more My Favorite New River Gorge Hikes
You can also participate in a full-moon snowshoe hike and winter astronomy programs! We did not do these, but they sound like such a great experience! You can find more info here when you scroll towards the bottom of the page.
6. Drive to every viewpoint in the park
The driving-accessible area of Bryce Canyon National Park is quite manageable. This is great news when you only have one day in Bryce Canyon or a half-day to spend in the park. Here are all of the scenic viewpoints you can visit within the park via a car in the winter:
- Sunrise Point
- Sunset Point
- Inspiration Point
- Bryce Point
These viewpoints are on the section of road that may be closed or temporarily closed due to weather:
- Piracy Point
- Fairview Poin
- Rainbow Point
- Yovimpa Point
The drive-time from the entrance to the furthest viewpoint (Yovimpa Point) is only 30 minutes, however, the road past the Bryce Amphitheater may be closed due to snow. You can see the Bryce Canyon map located at the top of this post for reference. That extended area was closed for us, but we were still able to see and experience so much from the road that was open.
PRO TIP: Pets are allowed at these viewpoints as long as they stay on the paved areas.
7. See Natural Bridge (if road is open)
Natural Bridge is one of Bryce Canyon’s arch formations that you can see within the park. There are no trails down to the arch, but there is a great viewing area that can be reached via car. This area of the park may or may not be open depending on if there have been recent snowstorms.
8. Stargaze from Sunrise or Sunset Point
The longer winter nights at Bryce Canyon make for a perfect excuse to enjoy stargazing within the park. You can expect for the sun to set around 5-6 pm. Within the park, you can see the Milky Way spread out across the gorgeous starry sky. If visiting on a Saturday, you may even be able to participate in a stargazing experiencing with a ranger where they point out constellations with a laser pointer.
Because of the cold winter weather, you will want to make sure you bundle up with extra layers and stargaze from a viewpoint like Sunset Point where your car will be very close by for when you need to warm up. It is not recommended to travel far from your car to stargaze in the winter.
Additional Things to do in Bryce Canyon
If you are lucky enough to have more than one day when you visit Bryce Canyon in winter, here are some extra additional things to do that you’ll love.
- Winter Festival at Bryce Canyon: Each February, Ruby’s Inn holds the annual Bryce Canyon Winter Festival including guided cross country ski and snowshoe tours, ice skating, art classes and more! Keep in mind Bryce Canyon will be busier during the winter festival than other times of the winter season, but it may be worth it to participate in the extra activities.
- Hike Mossy Cave Trail: A short 1-mile trail to a small rock overhang that may have large icices hanging in the winter
- Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to the rim of Bryce Canyon: Looking for a cozy and romantic (but also family-friendly) things to do in Bryce in winter? Book a magical 20-30 minute horse-drawn sleigh ride to look out over the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.
- Rent snowshoes or cross-country skis from Ruby’s Inn: Just outside the park, you can rent snowshoe or cross country ski gear to use within Bryce Canyon or in other nearby areas. Use the designated areas for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing to Fairland Point or the Paria Ski Loop.
- Participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count: For a unique activity in Bryce Canyon, participate in the annual bird count put on by the Audobon society
- Participate in a ranger-guided full moon snowshoe hike: If you are lucky enough to be visiting Bryce in the winter AND during a full moon, be sure to take advantage of the special ranger-guided full moon snowshoe hike. Signups take place at the Visitor’s Center.
Related Post: 11 Best Utah State Parks You’ve Got to Visit
Tips for experiencing a Bryce Canyon winter
- Check weather conditions frequently. Download the UDOT traffic app to keep an eye on current weather and road conditions. Be sure to heed warnings to steer clear of certain roads/areas if needed. And if you are not comfortable with driving in the snow, take extra caution.
- Rent a car with good winter tires and/or 4-wheel drive. We drove our sedan with studded winter tires and it did great during a snow storm. You may end up not needing it, but if you run into a storm, you will be so glad you have it.
- Dress appropriately and be prepared for inclement weather. During the winter in Bryce Canyon National Park, temperatures can hover around freezing and dip below freezing in the early morning and evening. Be sure to bring layers and large coats, gloves, hats etc. to keep warm. We visited on a particularly chilly day in February. I was wearing a long sleeve, a sweater and a large coat along with a hat, gloves and warm socks.
- Bring slip-on traction devices if you plan on hiking. Some Bryce Canyon winter hikes require traction devices. This is because the trails can be steep and when the snow gets packed, they become very slippery and almost impossible to climb back up and dangerously slipper on the way down. You may laugh at this, but it definitely can be necessary! If needed, the Visitor Center usually has these for sale.
- Pack plenty of water. You may be tempted to not bring as much water as you would if you were visiting Bryce Canyon during another time of year. However, staying hydrated is just as important in the winter and dehydration tends to sneak up on you. Plus, hydration is crucial if you are not used to the high altitude of Bryce Canyon and it the water can help you adjust.
- Bring in a picnic lunch or lots of snacks. Most if not all food options within the park are closed during the winter season. To make the most of your time within the park, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a warm lunch in your car inbetween activities, or if it’s not too cold, at one of the scenic overlooks.
- Bring extra clothes in the car with you. Nothing feels better after getting wet and cold in the snow than being able to switch out to some warm, dry clothes. Socks and sweaters are specially easy to keep extra in the car in case you need a switch halfway through the day.
- Be aware of the sunset time. In the winter you can expect the sun to set around 5-6 pm. Be sure to plan accordingly.
- Pets are only allowed on paved surfaces within the park. This means campgrounds, parking lots, viewpoints (all except one unpaved viewpoint), and the paved section of the Rim Trail between Sunset Point and Sunrise Point. Also, pets are not allowed to be left within your vehicle while you hike (plus, the weather is so cold you probalby wouldn’t want to do that anyway). If you’re looking for hikes among hoodoos where your dog is allowed, check out nearby Red Canyon which is enroute to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon
Another great thing about visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in the winter is that accommodations are less expensive and often have plenty of availability. Most accommodations are located in Bryce Canyon City which is literally right outside the entrance of the park (an 8-minute drive to the Visitor Center).
- Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel: We stayed at the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel and it is one of my favorite hotels we have ever stayed in.
The entrance looks like a big winter lodge and feels amazing with a big fireplace and cozy couches. Our room was super clean and had everything we needed. The best part was the amazing, complimentary breakfast buffet. The buffet had eggs, bacon, pancakes, and all sorts of yummy things. Honestly, we still talk about it to this day😅. The warm breakfast was a perfect way to start our day of adventuring out in the snow.
The best part is, when we stayed in February, we only paid around $75 per night! So yes, I highly recommend this hotel.
2. Ruby’s Inn: One of the most common hotels in Bryce Canyon you will hear about is Ruby’s Inn.
We opted against staying at either of these since the above-mentioned Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel was newer and nicer and only slightly more expensive each night. However, both of these hotels look like great options. I’d recommend Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn over the Bryce View Lodge at Ruby’s Inn.
Ruby’s Inn holds a winter festival each February that looks like a lot of fun! However, you do not need to stay at Ruby’s Inn to participate in the winter festival.
3. Bryce Canyon Lodge: If you are looking for lodging options within Bryce Canyon, Bryce Canyon Lodge is perfect for you. Although Bryce Canyon Lodge is not open the entire winter, it is open until January meaning you could stay here for your Christmas trip to Bryce Canyon. During the winter, the area of Bryce Canyon Lodge which is open is the Sunset Lodge. These rooms are furnished with cozy oak and hickory furniture custom-designed for the lodge. Plus, to keep with the park’s tranquil setting, the rooms do not have TVs or WIFI.
4. Camping at North Campground Within Bryce Canyon: Although most of the campgrounds at Bryce Canyon close in the winter, North Campground is available year-round. This is perfect if you love winter camping and want to stay within the park. North Campground is home to the outdoor amphitheater where some ranger programs take place in the winter.
Bryce Canyon from Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is one of two airports you can fly into to visit Bryce Canyon. The drive from Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon covers 260 miles and is about 4 hours as long as the weather and traffic are good. We drove to Bryce Canyon from Salt Lake City in the evening, spent the night, and explored Bryce Canyon the following day. A snowstorm hit the evening we arrived. Because of that, snow remained on the roads and we were happy we had studded snow tires.
The drive would have been quite difficult if we had not had such great winter tires. We actually saw a truck get stuck in the snow when they got off the road a little too far😬.
If you are renting a car you will want to inquire about winter tires/4 wheel drive options.
Bryce Canyon from Las Vegas
The drive from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon is almost identical in length as the drive from Salt Lake City covering 260 miles and taking about 4 hours. Again, if you are visiting in winter flying into Las Vegas, you will want to inquire about winter tires/4 wheel drive options on your rental car.
If driving in this way, you may want to look into taking a detour to the Grand Canyon or Zion National Park on the way to Bryce.
Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park
The drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is 75 miles taking about 1.5 hours. Since it’s such a short drive, these two parks are great options to visit together on a Utah road trip. Zion is at a lower elevation than Bryce, so if you are visiting in the winter, you will want to check the weather at Bryce Canyon before you leave to make sure you won’t be getting stuck in a snowstorm.
Check out these other posts, I know you’ll love them:
- 11 Best Utah State Parks You’ve Got to Visit
- 27 Amazing Things to do in Utah that Aren’t National Parks
- How to Spend One Perfect Day in Island in the Sky: Canyonlands National Park
- Yellowstone with Kids: The Ultimate 2 Day Itinerary
Those are my top things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park in winter. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about Bryce Canyon and I’ll be sure to answer! I’m a real person who loves to talk travel 🙂
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— Update: 31-12-2022 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article What to Do in Bryce Canyon in Winter from the website www.thecrowdedplanet.com for the keyword bryce canyon hikes winter.
Bryce Canyon in winter is a true wonderland! If you like silence and nature, it’s the place for you. Find out what to do in our Bryce Canyon in winter guide!
We all know that snow makes everything more beautiful. Do you know what else makes a wonderful place truly unforgettable? Silence and peace – and for that, there’s no better place in the US Southwest than Bryce Canyon National Park in winter.
Bryce Canyon is not technically a canyon, but a complex of wide red rock amphitheatres, filled with hoodoos, arches and other rock formations. It is a favourite of photographers and hikers, and one of the most iconic US national parks.
Bryce Canyon is worth visiting year round. Views and experiences are never the same – in the warm season, you can enjoy adventurous hikes into the canyon, and witness the hoodoos and spires change colour as the sun journeys across the sky.
Trouble is, you’ll have to share the views with thousands of others. The solution? Visit Bryce Canyon in winter. Yes, it’s cold, and the weather might alter your hiking plans – but you’ll gain silence, peace, and the magic of a snow-dusted landscape.
There are many advantages to visiting Bryce Canyon in winter, but the main one is probably the fact that you’ll have the entire place (almost) to yourself. On the day we visited in February 2020, there were only four other cars in the entire park.
However, visiting Bryce Canyon in winter also mean you’ll have to plan what to do, and be prepared for the weather. Here we’ll tell you everything you need to know – from driving and hiking info, to practical things to know to make your Bryce Canyon visit in December, January and February truly one to remember!
Where is Bryce Canyon National Park?
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah, along State Route 63, not far from Bryce Canyon City, where you’ll find hotels, a few stores and gas stations.
The closest actual town is Panguitch, about 27 miles away, offering a wider choice of food and accommodation options. For visitors flying in, the best airports to head to are Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, both about 270 miles away.
Bryce Canyon is 72 miles away from Zion National Park, which is also wonderful in winter. Driving time between the two parks is only 1 hour 20 – in theory, you could visit them both in one day, but we definitely recommend dedicating at least one day to each!
Things to Know About Bryce Canyon in Winter
Bryce Canyon Altitude
Bryce Canyon is located at considerable altitude – between 8000 and 9000 ft (2400-2700 meters).
Altitude does affect the weather, especially in winter – just keep reading the ‘Weather’ section below for more info.
It’s also important to be aware of the dangers of altitude sickness. Between 8000 and 9000 ft, you may feel tired and short of breath, and experience nausea, headaches, insomnia, and a general sense of dizziness. Remember that altitude sickness can hit at any time, so even if you’ve been fine in the past, you may experience it during your visit to Bryce Canyon.
The best way to prevent and deal with altitude sickness is to stay hydrated, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and get plenty of rest. If symptoms don’t improve, leave Bryce Canyon and get to a lower altitude – you’ll certainly feel better as soon as you descend.
Bryce Canyon Winter Weather
Given that Bryce Canyon is located at high altitude, it comes as no surprise that it’s generally colder than other parks in southern Utah, like Zion. This is certainly a blessing in summer – in winter, you’ll need to keep an eye on the weather.
In December, January and February, average highs are between 36 and 38°F (just above 0°C) dropping to 15-17°F (approx -10°C) at night. Nighttime temperatures drop below freezing between October and May, so even if you are not visiting Bryce Canyon in winter, you may still want to pack a warm jacket!
Snowfall starts as early as late October, and generally you’ll find snow until April. Most snow falls between December and February, so keep your eyes open for weather alerts – you most definitely don’t want to be driving through a winter storm, so keep your plans flexible just in case.
Most of the time, the weather at Bryce Canyon in winter is bright and sunny, with clear blue skies that make the snow and red rocks stand out even more. This was the case when we visited in early February, and we hope it will be the same for you!
Driving to Bryce Canyon in Winter
Bryce Canyon is in a remote location, away from major cities. As we said before, we recommend keeping your plans open when visiting in winter, because driving in a snowstorm can be dangerous, as it gets icy and slippery.
After a snowstorm, roads are ploughed and cleaned quickly – this is definitely the case in the park itself. We visited on a sunny day and the roads were perfectly clean.
However, minor roads you may end up driving on to get to the park may not be as clean, so be aware and carry snow chains, especially after a snowstorm.
People at Bryce Canyon in Winter
The vast majority of the two million people that visit Bryce Canyon every year do so between May and October.
In winter, you’ll find very few people around – we visited midweek in February, and only saw about 10 other people the entire day. During the weekend, or during public holidays such as President’s Day when the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival takes place, you’ll certainly find more – but still way fewer than in summer!
Prices at Bryce Canyon in Winter
Entrance fees at Bryce Canyon are the same year round – it costs $35 per vehicle to access, valid for 7 consecutive days. If you’re also planning to visit Zion or other national parks, we recommend buying the America the Beautiful pass – it costs $80, and allows access to all US national parks for one year.
Visiting Bryce Canyon in winter, fewer people also means you can get great deals on accommodation. Ruby’s Inn and the Bryce Canyon Grand, the closest hotel to the national park, were both offering great winter rates when we visited.
Things to Do at Bryce Canyon in Winter
The easiest way to enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park in winter is driving along the main 18-mile road, offering a series of stops in scenic locations on the rim of the amphitheater.
Between Mile 1 and 3 (Bryce Amphitheater), the road is ploughed immediately after storms, so it will be safe to drive even if you visit in the midst of winter. From Mile 3 to 18, the road may be closed for up to 3 days following winter storms.
Rangers at the Visitor Center recommended to drive to the end of the scenic road first, and then stop at the viewpoints as you make our way back, so that parking spots are on the same side you’re driving on.
The scenic spots are marked and easy to find. On top of that, we were given a useful map at the Visitor Center, complete with a list of viewpoints and their corresponding mile marker.
The first viewpoints, at the end of the scenic road, are Yovimpa and Rainbow Point (Mile 18 and 17 respectively), also coinciding with the park’s highest location. At Yovimpa Point you’ll also find various trailheads leading to campsites, while Rainbow Point the famous Under-the-Rim trail to Bryce point begins.
However, campsites are closed in winter, and most hiking trails (save for some in Bryce Amphitheater) are impassable due to heavy snowfall.
Moving on along the scenic drive, you’ll encounter two other scenic locations it’s worth stopping at – Natural Bridge (Mile 12) and Swamp Canyon (Mile 6). If you have time, there are lots more viewpoints to stop at – make sure you allow at least half a day for this scenic drive, as there’s a lot to see!
Between Mile 3 and Mile 1, you’ll find Bryce Amphiteather, the park’s ‘big ticket’ attraction. There are four viewpoints – Bryce, Inspiration, Sunrise, and Sunset Points, all offering spectacular views.
The Rim Trail runs between these four locations on the edge of the amphitheater, and the section between Inspiration and Sunrise point is also open in winter. Make sure you pay attention though, as the trail is covered in snow!
If you love winter hiking, Bryce Canyon is the place for you. You are pretty much guaranteed you’ll find snow – meaning that winter boots, traction devices such as spikes or crampons, and hiking sticks are a MUST.
You can buy traction devices at the Visitor Center, in case you need them, or rent them from outfitters in Panguitch and Bryce Canyon City. You can also rent snowshoes.
Some trails at Bryce Canyon National Park are closed in winter – here is a list of those that stay open, and are usually safe to hike. Make sure you check trail conditions at the Visitor Center before going on a winter hike!
-Rim Trail (1 to 9 miles – from 30 minutes to 3 hours) – this is probably the easiest winter hike in Bryce Canyon, since it’s flat and well beaten. The easiest (and most popular) section to hike is the half-mile between Sunset and Sunrise Points, running along the rim of the amphitheater, but if you want to hike more you can continue for up to 9 miles all the way to Fairyland Point.
-Queens Garden Trail (1.8 miles – 1.5 hours) – the easiest trail descending into Bryce Amphitheater, perfect if you want to get close to the hoodoos and rock formations. It descends about 300 feet from Sunrise Point, ending at Queen’s Garden, where you can see a rock shaped like Queen Victoria.
-Navajo Loop Trail (1.3 miles – 1.5 hours) – another easy option to get down to the canyon, this time starting from Sunset Point. It can be combined with Queen’s Garden to create a loop trail in winter, taking about 3 hours from start to end.
**UPDATE** Following a rock slide in March 2020, the Navajo Loop is partially closed.
-Peekaboo Loop (5.5 miles – 3/4 hours) – this is a steep loop trail through the hoodoos, starting from Bryce Point, all the way to the Wall of Windows, one of the most beautiful rock formations in Bryce Canyon. It’s only recommended in winter for very experienced hikers, and proper traction devices are absolutely essential!
-Fairyland Loop (8 miles – 4/5 hours) – this trail combines hiking along the rim and into the amphitheater, close to spectacular rock formations. It’s fairly long and encompasses a section of the park that’s rarely visited, especially in winter, so make sure you take all necessary precautions.
This is definitely the most remote hike in Bryce. If you want to know more about hiking in the US away from the crowds, check our best US offbeat hikes post!
Similarly to many other US national parks, Bryce Canyon also offers a series of FREE ranger-led programs – in winter, the most popular are definitely snowshoe hikes.
Snowshoeing takes place daily when snow conditions allow it at 1 pm, and usually last about 2 hours, introducing visitors to the geological wonders of Bryce Canyon and to the ecosystem in winter.
Advance sign-up is required at the Visitor Center from 8 am onwards on the day, and snowshoes and poles are provided for no extra charge. It’s the perfect winter activity in Bryce Canyon for those who wish to hike and learn about the environment at the same time!
Full moon snowshoe hikes are also on offer sometimes between November and March, about once or twice a month when snow allows. These are very popular, and tickets are distributed with a lottery system.
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
For the past 35 years, Bryce Canyon National Park and the historic Ruby’s Inn Hotel have been hosting the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival, taking place on President’s Day weekend (mid-February).
The aim of the festival is showcasing the best of Bryce Canyon in winter. The program includes a vast range of events for everyone. You’ll find adventures like canoeing and snowshoe hikes, activities for kids like watercolour painting, storytelling, cookie decoration and crafts, and educational talks about geology, nutrition, nature and more.
Bryce Canyon does get busy during winter festival, so if your priority is getting away from it all, maybe opt to visit at a different time. Otherwise, it’s a great event to sample all that Bryce Canyon has to offer, surrounded by spectacular winter scenery.
— Update: 31-12-2022 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Bryce Canyon in Winter: Things to Do, Seasonal Tips, & More! from the website www.meganstarr.com for the keyword bryce canyon hikes winter.
Are you planning a trip to Bryce Canyon in winter? This guide will help you plan your travels and includes all the best things to do!
Bryce Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the United States and is one of the Mighty 5 in Utah. It truly is a special (and underrated!) place.
This travel guide will detail the many things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park in winter, including the best hikes, winter activities, park facilities, and more!
If you have any tips for a stellar Bryce Canyon National Park winter trip, let us know in the comments. Thanks!
Reasons to Visit Bryce Canyon in Winter
To be completely honest, the warmer months and shoulder season are when most people choose to travel to Bryce Canyon National Park. Summer in Bryce Canyon is actually quite tolerable compared to summer in other Utah parks.
Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park is rather cold, but, it usually is pretty sunny. So, you can beat the crowds, enjoy cheaper accommodation options nearby, AND still not have to stress about rainy days ruining your trip.
Fewer visitors also means that it is easier to take photos if you’re a photographer. Granted, weather is still more likely to play a role, but chances are you will have epic photography conditions.
One thing to note is that some facilities at Bryce Canyon do have different hours during the winter months. We detail this below.
How to Get to Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is located about 4 hours from Salt Lake City and just 2 hours from St. George. If you’re interested in the ways to get there, continue below!
The closest major airports are in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Both of them are about 270 miles apart from the park and require a 4-hour drive.
A comparably smaller distance away from the park is the Cedar City Airport (90 miles away), and St. George Airport (125 miles).
To arrive at this park by car, take the road along Highway 12 between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon parks for the ‘scenic route’.
Alternatively, drive via Highway 89 from Zion National Park. Driving from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon only takes about an hour and a half. And Zion in winter is quite the spectacle and should be on your Utah itinerary!
When is it Winter in Bryce Canyon?
The months of December through February are often the coldest and snowiest in Bryce Canyon National Park, which doesn’t really come as a surprise.
Throughout this guide, we will refer to winter and be mostly considering the months mentioned above. November and March are far more unpredictable in terms of weather!
How Cold Does it Get in Bryce Canyon National Park
During the winter, the temperatures in Bryce Canyon can reach the mid-30s, while normal lows tend to hover around 15F at night.
Daytime is usually slightly above freezing, but still, you need to be prepared for cold bursts. Below are the average highs and lows for winter in Bryce Canyon NP.
- December: Highs of 2C/36F, Lows of -11C/12F
- January: Highs of 2C/36F, Lows of -12C/11F
- February: Highs of 3C/38F, Lows of -10C/13F
Does it Snow in Bryce Canyon National Park?
Yes, it does snow in Bryce Canyon. Not counting the occasional exception, on average, the park gets slightly under 100 inches of snow each year. But there’s been an instance where 82 inches of snow fell in the month of January in Bryce Canyon alone!
From October to May, chilly temperatures and snow can be expected for most nights. December through February are the months with the most snow, though snowstorms in March and April can still happen.
Bryce Canyon Facilities in Winter
Some of the park’s facilities close during the winter months and during snowstorms. Here are some things to be aware of before visiting BCNP in winter:
- Sunset Campground closes during the winter months from November until April. North Campground remains open.
- The Lodge at Bryce Canyon (and its dining facility) are closed in winter. Sunset Lodge Unit remains open.
- The General Store at Sunrise Point is closed.
- Restrooms at the Peekaboo Loop, General Store, and Inspiration Point are closed. Rainbow Point, Farview Point, Sunset Point, North Campground, and the Visitor Center remain open).
Bryce Canyon Visitor Center
Visiting the park’s Visitor Center is definitely something to put on your Bryce Canyon itinerary. Here, you’ll get a plethora of information, including driving and hiking instructions, weather forecasts, a current schedule of Park Ranger-guided programs, etc.
While checking out the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center, guests are welcome to check out various museum exhibits and the bookstore located on the property. You can also see the new, 20-minute-long, award-winning film entitled “Shadows of Time.”
Be mindful of the fact that the working hours for the Visitor Center are reduced to 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the wintertime.
Road Closures in Winter
There are two roads that do close to traffic during the winter months. The road to Fairyland Point (1 mile long) and the road to Paria View (.3 miles long) both close in winter. You can still access the roads on XC skis, snowshoes, or by foot.
If there is a heavy snowstorm, the main park road will close for a short period at Mile Marker 3 for plows to make their way in and clear. This can last a day or two depending on the snowstorm.
The Bryce Amphitheater area will remain open during this time (that includes many of the main sights).
Winter Park Regulations
Please also note that skiing, snowboard, or any other winter activity is prohibited from the rim or within the canyon itself. The freeze and thaw cycles make this extremely dangerous and it can actually damage the hoodoos and other formations within the park.
What to Wear in Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter
One great thing about visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in winter is that it is never extremely cold, so you can just wear layers and take them off accordingly. However, you still need to pack some winter gear!
Here are my recommendations for what to wear and bring to Bryce Canyon National Park in winter:
Note: I am a huge fan of REI for all of my winter gear in the US, but I also love throwing minimalistic Scandinavian brands into the mix. I am listing an array of my favorite winter gear below.
- Waterproof shoes / hiking boots (especially if you’re hiking and the weather is not favorable… I have been using these Keen Targhees for over 10 years… no joke!)
- Crampons (be sure to have grips if you’re hiking – the trails can be icy!)
- Hat (I have heaps but my favorites are from Libertine-Libertine and Samsøe & Samsøe)
- Fleece jacket
- Gloves or mittens (I prefer mittens but not always practical for activities)
- Neck gaiter
- Comfortable socks (I am the blister queen)
What to Pack for Bryce Canyon Winter (Gear & Miscellaneous)
There are a few non-clothing items that I highly recommend bringing with you when you visit Bryce Canyon National Park:
- Trekking poles (great for beginner hikers or those with a poor gait)
- Sunscreen (the sun shines A LOT here… even during winter! I love Sunbum sunscreens)
- Water bottle (I use this Klean Kanteen one)
- Odor-blocking storage bags (to use for food waste)
- Mobile power bank (phone batteries deplete faster during winter)
- First-aid kit
- US National Parks Pass (saves so much money and can be used at over 2,000 sites!)
Things to Do in Bryce Canyon During Winter
Snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon
If you are planning a trip to Bryce Canyon during the winter with your significant other or with your family, you may just be lucky enough to experience a winter wonderland. And if you are greeted with a bit of snow, snowshoeing is a fantastic activity to do!
Snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon is one of the unique ways to not only see the beautiful surroundings of the location but also to connect with nature. The Canyon 2 Canyon route is suitable for both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing throughout the year.
Note that the Ruby’s Inn Winter Activity Center (Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill building) offers more thorough information on the spot and all the necessary equipment to rent. They will help you plan your trip!
For those interested in ice fishing in the state of Utah, definitely plan a day excursion to Panguitch Lake.
The Panguitch Lake Big Fish Derby brings together ice fishing enthusiasts from all over the USA. During the winter, the Boulder Mountain area contains around 60 fishable lakes that are well-stocked with trout.
From November to April, most of the roads leading to the high-elevation lakes of Boulder Mountain are closed, but snowmobile access is possible.
Note that the area is best accessed from the town of Panguitch during winter months and at the lake, there are 3 local lodges that stay open year-round.
Inspiration Point is an absolutely stunning viewpoint that should not be missed on a Bryce Canyon trip.
Silent City (near Sunset Point) has many rows of seemingly frozen hoodoos set against the backdrop of Boat Mesa and it is visible from here.
Inspiration Point’s nature has a huge variety of plants, including Bristlecone Pines. They are tall and narrow, have needles covering the whole length of their branches, giving them quite the bushy appearance!
If you’re vigilant enough, you might even encounter a Mountain Short-horned Lizard trying to camouflage itself in the beautiful scenery. There are no trails that lead down into the canyon from Inspiration Point’s high cliffs, but the Rim Trail connects Bryce Point and Sunset Point.
Snowmobiling near Bryce Canyon
Another thrilling winter travel activity you can try is snowmobiling near Bryce Canyon.
The East Fork Trails, which are considered to be an ideal snowmobile destination, offer several miles of trails and play areas near the Tropic Reservoir and the East Fork of the Sevier River.
Visitors can experience stunning plateaus and panoramic vistas of Bryce Canyon through the beautiful Dixie National Forest. The road passes through the Aquarius Plateau complex and non-groomed Forest Service roads and provides a lot of jaw-dropping views.
If you’re familiar with the area, know that the Pine Lake and the Cedar Breaks areas are also located nearby. Keep in mind that these are the nearest areas for snowmobiling as the activity is not actually something you can do inside of the park.
Click here for additional information.
Drive the Southern Scenic Drive to Rainbow Point
One of the best things to do in Bryce Canyon in winter is to take a little drive along the Southern Scenic Drive to Rainbow Point. There are 9 viewpoints along the drive, each one promising to deliver the ultimate wow factor.
Starting from the park entrance to the end of the road at Rainbow at Yovimpa Points, the major park road is 18 miles long (29 kilometers).
Something that distinguishes the Southern Scenic Drive is that the park’s elevation rises as you drive south. This elevation variation is the product of uneven tectonic processes that uplifted this region over the previous 20 million years.
This is what produces a striking contrast between the north and south ends of the park, and it is so worth seeing with your own eyes. Especially if there is a dusting of snow!
Visit nearby Red Canyon
Nestled in Dixie National Forest, Red Canyon is located nearby (the distance is just 9 miles) and should definitely be part of your Bryce Canyon winter itinerary!
A ridge on the 7-mile Thunder Mountain Trail offers one of the most iconic views of Red Canyon. This trail passes through tree-covered washes on its way to the Claron Formation’s pink and white limestone cliffs, which feature some of Utah’s most beautiful red rock formations.
As you can imagine, the views from the top of the red cliffs below are breathtaking, especially during the winter months.
When covered in snow, the Red Canyon, which parallels Scenic Byway 12, provides easy-accessible trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Cross-Country Skiing in Bryce Canyon
Cross-country skiing lovers will be delighted that they can find plenty of opportunities for the spot around Bryce Canyon!
Going cross-country skiing in Bryce Canyon allows enthusiasts to access around 30 kilometers of groomed trails that wind through Ponderosa pine forests, meadows, and, most importantly, spectacular views.
This is probably one of the very best ways to get acquainted with the extraordinary vistas of the park and partake in a winter sport at the same time.
Ruby’s Inn Winter Activity Center has all the necessary rental equipment, maps, etc. On their website, you can find more information on the rates and daily availability.
Stargazing at Bryce Canyon
Another thing that Bryce National Park prides itself on is the variety of astronomy and night sky programs within the incredible Utah national park. Stargazing in Bryce Canyon is one of the most popular things to do there!
Because it is secluded and located a far distance from city lights and polluted air, this park can easily be called “a sanctuary for natural darkness”.
There are over 100 astronomy-related programs offered each year. If you’re thinking about when the best time is to visit is, many say that during the week of the new moon or the week prior to the new moon, the night sky is at its best.
For moon lovers looking for a nocturnal adventure, there are trails that are 2-mile, 2-3 hour hikes that are being done only during the full moon.
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
No wintertime visit to Bryce Canyon is complete without being present at the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival!
The event usually offers free-of-charge clinics, demonstrations, tours, etc. Throughout the festival, health clinics such as pain relief, injury prevention, and nutrition classes are available.
Guests can participate in or just view a lot of thrilling competitions throughout the festival’s duration.
Be mindful of the fact that heavy snow may cause some events to be canceled, but the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival will go on regardless of the weather conditions. In 2023, the Winter Festival will be held on February 18, 19, and 20.
Bryce Canyon Winter Hikes
Bryce Canyon remains accessible during winter for most hikes, but there are a few areas and trails that close down. The Bryce Canyon trails that close during the entire winter season are:
- Wall Street Side of the Navajo Loop Trail
- Rim Trail between Inspiration and Bryce Points
- Bryce Point Peekaboo Connector Trail (often closes due to winter conditions)
Below are a few Bryce Canyon hiking trails that you can access during the winter months.
Navajo Loop & Queens Garden Trail
One of the best winter hikes in the region is the Queens Garden Trail, which starts at Sunrise Point and descends 320 feet (98m). It’s the easiest way to access the canyon from the rim.
The length of Queens Garden is only a half-mile (0.8 km). You can either visit Queens Garden alone or continue on to Navajo Loop (together it becomes around 3 miles (4.7 km).
Many hoodoos, which resemble unique garden elements (not really a better way to describe them!), can be found along this trail. This hike is all about the views, so definitely take your camera with you!
Mossy Cave Trail
This comparably easy hike of Mossy Cave is one of the lowest elevation hikes in the park. Also, if you like hikes that begin with a climb and end with a descent, this one should be your top choice (especially for beginners).
The trail is 0.4 miles (0.6 km) one-way and forks to allow access to Water Canyon in one direction and a protected overhang known as Mossy Cave in the other. During the wintertime, this area is covered in icicles, and in moss when it’s summer.
Tower Bridge Trail
Tower Bridge Trail is a moderately-trafficked, out-and-back trail. It starts at Sunrise Point and heads northeast along the Fairyland Loop Trail. It’s a 3 mile (4.8 km) hike that takes about 2-3 hours to complete.
The trail has moderate difficulty, because of the drop in elevation from the rim down to the Tower Bridge site (950 ft/290 m). Once at Tower Bridge, you can either return to Sunrise Point or continue and get around the Fairyland Loop.
This hike is rated as one of the most iconic ones at Bryce Canyon National Park. Fairyland Loop Trail is an 8 mile (12.9 km) length hike, located in the northern part of the park.
It takes you through spectacular hoodoos and scenery along the rim and into the canyon; including a spur trail to Tower Bridge.
If hiking in the winter months, you might encounter mud, snow, or ice, but the hike is still doable and offers a really unique experience with a totally different landscape.
Winter Camping in Bryce Canyon National Park
There are a couple of options for camping in Bryce Canyon National Park, but only one campground remains open during the winter months. You will need to prepare to stay at the North Campground, located near the visitor center and Bryce Amphitheater.
Since there are a limited number of sites at these campgrounds, only a few sites can be reserved… the rest are first-come, first-serve! Prepare accordingly!
Alternatively, you can go backcountry camping in Bryce Canyon National Park and that is a great way to take an extended weekend trip from Vegas or SLC.
You will need a permit that needs to be obtained up to 48 hours in advance for $5. You can pick it up at the visitor center.
The two trails that offer access to backcountry camping are the Under-the-Rim Trail (22.7 miles with 8 campsites) and Riggs Spring Loop (8.9 miles with 4 campsites). You can not wild camp on the trail and must only do it at the designated sites.
Where to Stay near Bryce Canyon National Park
There are not an overabundance of places to stay right beside the park, but here are some awesome options (and Ruby’s Inn organizes winter activities):
- Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn
- Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
- Bryce View Lodge Part of the Ruby’s Inn Resort
- Bryce Canyon Pines
- Luxe Bryce Canyon Home with Fireplace, Patio and Grill
There are so many amazing reasons to visit Bryce Canyon in winter and we hope that we helped you plan your winter itinerary to the gorgeous national park!
If you have any other winter in Bryce Canyon tips to share, please leave them in the comments! Thanks!
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