I’ve always said Bryce Canyon National Park is like a giant playground for adults. The arches, rock formations, and vibrant colors make it so magical…but even more so when it is dusted with snow!
If you’re looking to visit Bryce Canyon in winter, you’re in luck. It is one of the U.S. National Parks that are very winter hiking friendly. Only a few roads and trails are closed during the season, leaving the majority of the park still open for exploration.
In this post I cover the best winter hikes, travel tips, where to stay, and other things to do when you visit Bryce Canyon in winter. Slip on those boots and don’t forget your warmest hat because it’s about to be a cold adventure!
general park information
Entry in to 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 American 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.
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!
My best advise is to arrive for sunrise 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 in the winter. Most visitors hang around the viewpoints and Navajo/Queen’s Garden loop.
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.
WINTER ROAD CONDITIONS
If it is early winter and the park hasn’t experienced snowfall yet, the roads will be just 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. They can 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
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 onsite restaurant, Bryce View Lodge, and Bryce Canyon Grand (Best Western Plus).
- Bryce UpTop Lodge is not too far down the road off US-12 headed towards Zion, and is family owned and operated. They feature a bakery, restaurant, and little store for groceries and supplies!
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.
- 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 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 vising Bryce Canyon 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 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.
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
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.
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: 8 miles
If you’re up for a longer, more strenuous hike, then consider the Fairyland Loop. This is one of the largest loops in Bryce Canyon to hike! It takes you along the rim of the canyon, past some hoodoos, and down into the bottom of the canyon.
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
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, to a point 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
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, you’ll be able to find your way!
Figure 8- Navajo / Queens Garden and Peekaboo
Distance: 6.5 miles
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.
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!
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