Winter in Bryce Canyon
Looking for a little adventure to beat the winter blues? Bryce Canyon is one of the top National Park destinations for winter activities. From skiing to stargazing and everything in between, winters at Bryce Canyon have a little something for everyone.
Here’s what you need to know.
What to Do in Bryce Canyon in Winter
U.S. National Park Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park are legendary; these beautiful red and orange-hued structures dazzle millions of visitors every year. A majority of those visitors come in the summer and fall months when the weather is warm and ideal for hiking. But Bryce Canyon is just as magical during the winter when the hoodoos are snow capped. These are the most popular winter activities at Bryce Canyon:
1. Snowshoe Hiking
When the snow hits the ground at Bryce Canyon, snowshoers hit the trails! Snowshoers with some experience usually enjoy the Rim Trail and the Bristlecone Loop Trail, but the roads leading to Fairyland Viewpoint and Paria View are closed in the winter months, allowing for snowshoe traffic. If you’re not an experienced snowshoer but have always been curious, ranger-led snowshoe hikes are a perfect way to get started! Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are free, and they even lend out their snowshoes and poles! All you have to do is register at the visitor center.
2. Day Hiking
There are two popular hiking trails that closed for safety reasons for the duration of the winter season at Bryce Canyon; the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop Trail, and the Rim Trail between Inspiration and Bryce Points. As long as the park doesn’t see a significant snowfall, most of the other hiking trails at Bryce Canyon are open! Take a look at the Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park for more information. A word of caution, though: water runoff, packed-down snow and freezing conditions can make even the easiest trail dangerous. Always wear proper winter footwear and additional traction devices attached to the soles (the author is partial to YakTrax, but any over-the-shoe traction device will do). Take a look at our What to Pack section for more information.
Just a reminder: your body needs just as much hydration during winter hiking as it would during summer hikes! Be sure to carry plenty of water with you, even if it’s zero degrees outside!
3. Cross Country Skiing
U.S. National Park Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Keep in mind that skiing down into the Canyon is strictly prohibited– and actually illegal–but if you’re an avid cross-country skier, taking in the snow-capped hoodoos from the Rim Trail at the main Amphitheater can be a magical experience! Check in with the Bryce Canyon visitor center for updated trail information.
4. Horseback Riding
The horses of Bryce Canyon are hard at work year ‘round! Ruby’s Horseback Riding Adventures offers four different trail rides throughout Bryce Canyon and the surrounding Grand Staircase Escalante region. Time and pricing varies, so be sure to check their website for more information and to make reservations.
5. Sleigh Rides
For those looking for a smoother ride, Ruby’s Horseback Adventures offers winter sleigh rides, too! Per their website, Ruby’s Horseback Riding Adventures Sleigh Rides last approximately 20 to 30 minutes. The cost is $25 per person and kids 3 and under are free. If you’re looking for a unique way to see the snow-covered hoodoos, a sleigh ride is the way to go! Check the Ruby’s website above for times, availability and reservations, or call 435-834-8032.
Bryce Canyon National Park is an International Dark Sky Park. That means it’s far away and high enough in elevation that light pollution from surrounding cities doesn’t affect the clarity of the night sky. On very clear nights with little moon glow, stargazers are even able to see the Milky Way illuminated in the night sky! Winter skies are certainly no exception. During the winter months, park rangers lead astronomy talks and programs when weather conditions permit. Be sure to check the visitor center schedule when you arrive!
If you’re really lucky, you might visit Bryce Canyon during a full moon. That means that while the night sky may be too bright to see the stars, you’d be able to take a ranger-led Full Moon Snowshoe Hike. Here, you’ll have the rare and unique opportunity to see the snow-capped hoodoos aglow under the winter moonlight. These hikes are by registration only, so if you’re interested, make sure to sign up at the Bryce Canyon visitor center!
When to Visit Bryce Canyon in Winter
The winter season at Bryce Canyon is November through March. Bryce typically sees an average of about 100 inches of snow throughout the winter season, and daily temperatures range from the teens to the mid-thirties fahrenheit. At night, though, temps can plummet below zero, and snow can turn to ice very quickly. It’s important to check the weather report before heading out on your daily adventures. (The National Park Service recommends checking the National Weather Service website here).
Winter Events in Bryce Canyon
Two ravens conspiring on snow-top hoodoos in the Bryce Amphitheater / Brian B. Roanhorse, NPS
Bryce Canyon in December
Each December, Bryce Canyon National Park partners with Audubon Society to host the Annual Christmas Bird Count. This event is the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, and it happens in national parks all across the country (You can read all about it on the Audubon Society page here). At Bryce, 90 different birds have been recorded in the species list and each year, volunteers gather to count them! This family-friendly event is a great way to see the natural beauty of Bryce Canyon, get some fresh air, and help a worthy cause!
Bryce Canyon in February
During President’s Day Weekend each February, Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon National Park hosts a family-friendly Winter Festival. During this long weekend, the Park is filled with free activities for all ages, interests and skill levels. The 2022 festival included:
- Archery clinics
- Guided Snowshoe tours
- Hoodoo geology talks
- Morning yoga clinics
- Family dance party
- Southern Paiute astrology demonstrations
- Moon hikes
- Watercolor classes
- Cross country skiing clinics
- Leather journal making
- Fat biking
- Photography lessons
And much, much more!
Most of these activities are completely free, you just have to sign up!
Where to Stay at Bryce Canyon in Winter
Ruby's Inn / Fabio Achilli from Milano, Italy, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Even though lodging at Bryce Canyon National Park is limited during the off season, there are still some great (and affordable!) options.
The Bryce Canyon Lodge
This is the only property located inside the gates of Bryce Canyon National Park, and it stays open until the last week of November before closing completely for the winter season. Staying at the lodge gives you up close-and-personal views of the Bryce Amphitheater area as well as free parking and fine dining options. Reservations can be made by calling 877-386-4383 or by visiting their website.
Ruby’s Inn (Including Ruby’s Best Western Grand Hotel and Bryce View Lodge)
Ruby’s offers a variety of affordable room options, and during the winter months, it’s one of the only dining options as well! No matter which property you choose, Ruby’s grants full access to all of their amenities, including indoor pool, general store, shuttle services, and more! During the winter months, Ruby’s Cowboy Buffet is one of the closest open restaurants to Bryce Canyon. In addition, Ruby’s Inn host the annual Winterfest celebration, with many of the activities taking place inside the property.
We here at Shaka Guide love Ruby’s. They offer comfortable and reasonably priced rooms, friendly staff, and a bevy of amenities perfect for a weary traveler.
And the Cowboy Buffet is simply unbeatable!
For reservations at any of the three Ruby’s properties, call (866) 866-6616 or visit their website.
Loop A of North Campground
The North Campground is adjacent to the Bryce Amphitheater, and from November to March, only Loop A is available for camping. Loop A is conveniently located just inside Bryce Canyon National Park’s gate, so campers have amenities within walking distance. There are about 30 camping sites and flushable toilets here, but during the winter there is no potable water or dumping. That said, the North Campground is a great place to set up shop if you’re looking for an affordable alternative to the traditional lodging. The site is first come-first served, and a small fee applies. For more information, check out the park’s website.
What to Pack for Bryce Canyon in Winter
Christopher Michel, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon during the winter months, the key thing to keep in mind is that the weather will be chilly and can change drastically. It’s possible that temperatures can be in the mid-thirties during the day and plummet to below freezing as soon as the sun sets. And because Bryce Canyon is nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, snowfall can happen quickly and without warning. When you’re packing for your winter adventure at Bryce Canyon, keep in mind that layering is essential.
Here is a suggested list of things you may want to bring along on your Bryce Canyon winter adventure!
- Thermal undergarments
- Light, non-cotton base layers (to keep you dry and warm as you sweat)
- Tee shirts
- Durable, waterproof winter boots with good traction
- Detachable traction devices for boots
- Heavy wool socks/gaiters (to keep feet dry and prevent snow leakage)
- Waterproof winter coat or fleece
- Durable, waterproof pants or snow pants
- Insulated, waterproof gloves
- Insulating hat that covers ears
- Ear muffs
- Heavy scarf
- Sunscreen (trust us; you can still get a sunburn in the winter at Bryce!)
- A camera!
So, should you book a trip to Bryce Canyon in winter?
Absolutely! The park has plenty to do all year round, with a special allure during the colder months. So we say pack those layers and start planning! And don't forget to take Shaka Guide along for the adventure.
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