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With so many people visiting in the summer, most people don’t even think about taking a trip to Bryce Canyon in winter. However, it can be a great way to avoid the crowds and see the park covered in a blanket of snow.
Even though some parts of the park are closed in winter, like the Wall Street portion of the Navajo Loop Trail, one of the best Bryce Canyon National Park hiking trails, there are still many spots open to the public. Plus, Bryce Canyon City, Utah, even has its own winter festival!
Below, learn all about what it’s like to visit Bryce Canyon in winter.
What to Bring for Bryce Canyon in Winter
When visiting Bryce Canyon in winter, you have to pack differently than you would if you were visiting in the summer. Because it’s colder, the hiking trails will also be a lot icier, meaning you’ll have to pack a lot more to stay safe.
The first thing you’ll want to be sure to pack is traction devices. You can easily buy spikes to put on the bottom of your shoes at a place like Amazon. These will ensure that you’re less likely to slip on the trails if they happen to be icy.
If you want to be extra careful, a pair of hiking poles can also go a long way on the ice!
You’ll also want to pack lots of layers because it can get freezing in the mornings, only to warm up by mid-day. Think jackets, sweatshirts, hats, and gloves; articles of clothing that you can take off as the day goes on.
Lastly, make sure you bring hiking boots. You can buy hiking boots pretty much anywhere, but my favorite boots are from The North Face. You can purchase a similar pair to the ones that I have here!
Of course, also make sure you bring the basics, like a water bottle (this Hydro Flask is my fave!), snacks, a portable charger, and sunscreen.
Bryce Canyon in December Weather
On average, the weather in Bryce Canyon in winter is around 36°F each day, but of course, that fluctuates. It only rains a few days each month in the winter, but you can definitely expect snow.
In fact, the park starts to get snowy as early as October!
The altitude is also something you’ll have to get used to, as the park is 7,664 feet up in elevation. If you’re not from a high altitude, then it definitely can take a bit for you to get used to it.
Don’t rush into activities, and don’t force yourself to do too much in one day in Bryce Canyon to be safe.
A great way to get an overall idea of what the park is like (as far as snow and ice goes) is to go to the Visitor Center when you first get to the park. The rangers are always super helpful, and they’ll let you know what’s going on. Be sure also to grab a Bryce Canyon map while you’re there!
Bryce Canyon Winter Lodging
There are so many great places to stay near Bryce Canyon, but in winter, you’ll definitely want to just stay in either Tropic or Bryce Canyon City because of their proximity to the park. It’s best to stay as close as possible because of the snow!
You could also consider booking a Utah cabin for the night.
Here are some of the best places to stay during your visit!
Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn
The absolute best place to stay if you plan on participating in outdoor winter activities while visiting is Ruby’s Inn. Not only is it affordable, but there are snowshoes and cross-country ski rentals available right at the hotel as well.
This is the most accessible place to stay if that’s a concern to you, as it’s right near the entrance of the park!
If you have an RV or want to camp in a tent, you can easily consider staying right at the North Campground. It usually requires a reservation, but in the winter, no reservation is necessary, and instead, it’s first-come-first-serve.
There are about 50 spots for tents only and another 50 for RVs only. The campground is in a great location right near the Visitor Center, the popular Fairyland Loop Trail, and even the General Store. Note that there aren’t any electric hookups.
Be sure to learn all about successful winter camping tips before braving the cold!
Bryce Country Cabins
The Bryce Country Cabins is where I stayed during my trip to Bryce Canyon, and I loved it. You’ll have your own log cabin, which is nice and toasty in the winter. Plus, there’s a little kitchenette area with a table and chairs, a refrigerator, and a microwave.
While technically located in Tropic, the Bryce Country Cabins are only a short drive away from the entrance to the national park. There are also tons of great local restaurants right near the cabins that you could easily walk to if you wanted.
Best Things to Do in Bryce Canyon in Winter
Wondering what to do in Bryce Canyon? Winter activities are a bit different than those that you can enjoy the rest of the year, so keep reading.
Visit Popular Viewpoints
The viewpoints in Bryce in winter are unlike the rest of the year because you can see the hoodoos covered in snow! The great thing about the views is that, for the most part, you can just drive to a parking lot and take a short walk to get to the spot.
Popular spots worth checking out include Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Bryce Point, and Inspiration Point.
Bryce Point is definitely one of the more underrated spots to see, while Sunrise Point is incredibly popular. If you want to see Sunrise Point, visit it right in the morning!
Snowshoe to Take in the Scenery
When visiting Bryce Canyon in January or any of the other winter months, definitely look into snowshoeing! This is one of the most unique things to do in Bryce Canyon, and it provides a great way to explore the area while also getting some exercise.
There are a few ways to do this! You can rent snowshoes at a place like Ruby’s Inn Winter Activity Center or bring your own.
Another way to do this is to go on one of the full-moon snowshoe hikes with the park rangers! They offer these from November to March, but the snow levels must be higher than 16”.
Stargaze at a Popular Viewpoint
Stargazing in Bryce Canyon in winter is an experience unlike any other. Sure, you can stargaze any other time of the year, but the whole canyon lights up differently at night when it’s covered in snow.
There are ranger-led stargazing programs, but a great way to do stargazing in the park is just to find your favorite viewpoint (like Bryce Point or Sunrise Point) and park in the parking lot there until the sun is down. Then, walk out to the point and take in the marvelous view.
If you want to visit and take photos, be sure to set your camera to the proper night sky settings or risk your photos not coming out well.
Hike in the Park
Arguably the best thing to do when visiting Bryce Canyon in February or any other winter month is to go hiking. Some of the best Bryce Canyon winter hikes offer great views of the Bryce Amphitheater, the main attraction in the canyon.
If you’re interested in Bryce Canyon winter hiking, just know that there are a few different trails that close, including part of the Rim Trail that goes from Bryce Point to Inspiration Point and the Wall Street portion of the Navajo Loop Trail.
Here are a few of the best hikes to do in winter:
- Sunrise Point to Sunset Point (Easy trail, 1.1 miles)
- Queens Garden Trail (Easy, 1.8 miles)
- Mossy Cave Trail (Easy, 0.8 miles)
Drive the Scenic Route
If it’s super cold during your visit, drive the scenic road! This only takes a few hours time and allows you to go all the way through the park. You can even pull off and check out some of the best viewpoints along the way.
The road you’ll want to follow is Highway 12, which will bring you through glorious red sandy areas with red rocks. At one point, you’ll even go through a super short red tunnel right over the road. This is a popular spot to stop and take a photo.
Go Cross Country Skiing
Yes, when visiting Bryce Canyon in December, you can absolutely go cross-country skiing! Many people don’t even know that this is an option. You can’t ski right into the canyon, but there are some fantastic routes higher up that you can enjoy.
The best place to rent cross-country skis is right at Ruby’s Inn, similar to the snowshoes.
If you’re staying at Ruby’s Inn, there are trails right nearby that you can enjoy throughout Bryce Canyon City. Or, you can go to the park and enjoy the Bristlecone Loop Trail, Fairyland Point Road, or certain parts of the Rim Trail.
Snowmobile For Fun
While you aren’t allowed to snowshoe directly in Bryce Canyon National Park in winter, there are tons of trails nearby that are super fun and open to the public!
A lot of the trails are well-maintained too, which makes the experience even better. The majority of the trails are free to use.
Duck Creek Village is one of the best places to snowmobile, as well as the ones that start right near Ruby’s Inn. There are quite a few spots in the area where you can rent snowmobiles, too, or you could book a tour.
Visit Red Canyon
Red Canyon is a spot located off Highway 12 worth seeing when visiting Bryce National Park in winter! The canyon is filled with red rocks, just like the name suggests, and truthfully it’s even more breathtaking in winter than during the rest of the year.
The snow creates a stark contrast against the red rocks, and when it’s untouched primarily, it looks incredible in photos! While doing the scenic drive along the highway, be sure to stop at specific parts of the Red Canyon during your trip. You won’t regret it!
Attend Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
Last but not least, you have to attend the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival! It usually takes place in February (over Presidents’ Day Weekend) and is hosted for the community.
During the event, there are tours, fun outdoor activities, and even free classes. Plus, it occurs over three days, so even if you can’t go one day, you can go the next. The schedule changes each year, but usually, there are photography clinics, art classes, guest speakers, yoga, archery, ski clinics, and more.
Sometimes, Ruby’s Inn even offers ice skating too as part of the fun!
When does it snow in Bryce Canyon?
This depends on the year, but you can expect to see snow in the canyon as early as October. Usually, it’s not on the trails yet until later in the season.
Does Bryce Canyon close in winter?
Bryce Canyon as a whole does not close, but some parts of different trails close due to weather danger. For instance, the famous Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop Trail usually closes down around October.
Can you hike Bryce Canyon in winter?
Yes, you can! Certain parts of the park close in the winter (as mentioned in the answer above), but you can easily ask the park rangers which trails are open while you’re there.
Is Bryce Canyon Lodge open in winter?
It’s open during November and then reopens back up in March. However, winter conditions start to become present in November, so it’s still a great time to see Bryce Canyon in snow.
How many days should you spend in Bryce Canyon?
You can spend just one day in Bryce Canyon National Park, or a week. No matter the amount of time you have there, you can experience the highlights. A good number of days to aim for is about two to three! We’ve found that two days allows you to fully cover most of the top hikes in the park.
If you’re spending winter in Bryce Canyon, check out some more Utah posts below!
- When is the Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park?
- Where to Stay When Visiting Bryce Canyon
- How to Spend One Day in Bryce Canyon National Park
- 13 Best Things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
- 13 of the Best Hikes at Bryce Canyon National Park
- 19 Charming Cabins for Rent in Utah
- 14 Breathtaking Slot Canyons in Utah You Can’t Miss