Winter in Bryce Canyon: You have to see it!

Posted By Allison on Dec 18, 2014


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What’s more beautiful than Bryce Canyon National Park in the summer? It’s Bryce Canyon in the winter. Orange hoodoos and green bristlecone pines topped with snow against a bright blue sky… It’s absolutely spectacular and my meager photography skills do not do it justice.

My husband and I enjoyed a romantic getaway to Bryce Canyon last January. I was excited to try winter activities like snowshoeing, star gazing and seeing the sun rise over the canyon. I was not disappointed.

Here’s what you need to know if you’d like to see Bryce Canyon in the winter.

Winter in Bryce Canyon - You have to see it! | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Weather

Winter weather in Bryce Canyon National Park is mostly sunny, with clear air and chilly temperatures, though snow storms are possible. Check the forecast before you leave home to avoid driving in treacherous weather in this remote area.

Daytime temperatures are usually above freezing (32 F). There is one main road through Bryce Canyon, which is maintained year-round, so you should have little trouble driving through the park soon after a snow storm. That’s the best time to see Bryce Canyon’s winter splendor.

For more details and links to current weather information, visit the official Bryce Canyon National Park website.

Winter in Bryce Canyon - You have to see it! | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Activities

After the scenery, the winter activities are what brought us to Bryce Canyon in January. We signed up for a ranger-led snowshoe hike and attended one of Bryce Canyon’s popular star gazing shows.

My husband and I were the only non-park employees on the ranger-led snowshoe hike we signed up for at the visitor center. It was our first time on snowshoes. The hike was free and gear was provided for us. We hiked about one mile round-trip with frequent educational stops. It was a good workout and I had fun! I would definitely take my kids (ages 7 and 10) on a ranger-led snowshoe hike another time.

Bryce Canyon is one of the clearest and darkest places on earth to go star gazing and winter is an especially good time to catch one of the year-round star gazing programs because of Bryce Canyon’s high altitude, clear skies and cold temperatures. When we were there, the program began with a light, but long-ish lecture about light pollution from a park ranger.

Once it was good and dark, we took turns at the big telescopes outside, which was the highlight of the evening. Cold temperatures are likely to drive most people back inside after the first 30 minutes. If you’re willing to wait, you’ll get the telescopes and rangers to yourself before long.

Winter in Bryce Canyon - You have to see it! | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Pack warm layers and sturdy, waterproof footwear with excellent traction for winter at Bryce Canyon. Hiking trails will be open, and we found that even the well-trod sidewalks could be icy.

Cross-country skiing, full moon snowshoe hikes, skiing, sleigh rides, horseback riding and snowmobiling are also offered in or near Bryce Canyon National Park. Ruby’s Inn hosts a Winter Festival in mid-February. Contact the ranger desk, Ruby’s Inn or a local outfitter to find out what activities will be available during your visit.

Winter in Bryce Canyon - You have to see it! | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Low cost

Off-season hotel rates add to the thrill of winter in Bryce Canyon. We stayed at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel, just outside the park gates on a holiday weekend and rates were under $100 per night. Read my full review here.

The Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels near Bryce Canyon. It has a year-round pool and hot tub access and a complimentary hot breakfast buffet. Its new, comfortable rooms and rustic lobby are especially cozy in the winter.

Winter in Bryce Canyon - You have to see it! | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Small crowds

Winter in Bryce Canyon means small, off-season crowds at every viewpoint and zero parking hassles. We had no problem finding great photo ops and plenty of solitude. If you really want to get away from it all, winter in Bryce Canyon is the time and place to do it.

The downside of the off-season in a place as remote as Bryce Canyon is that there are few hotels and restaurants to choose from. The Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel and Ruby’s Inn – both owned by the same family – are open year round and both are good hotel options.

The only open restaurant near our hotel was Cowboy’s Buffet and Steak Room at Ruby’s Inn. We tried the buffet and thought it was OK, but most of the soup and salad bar tasted like it came from a can or a bag. I suspect that getting fresh produce to the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter is not easy.

Ruby’s Inn also has a small grocery. You may be able to find other dining options in Panguitch or Tropic, but it’s a 15-20 minute drive either way. I recommend bringing picnic supplies from home for lunches, at least.

Unless you’re serious adventurers or you really love seeing the canyon from every single viewpoint, a weekend is probably long enough for most families to appreciate winter at Bryce Canyon National Park. If you have more time, you can pair your visit to Bryce Canyon with one or more of Utah’s other national parks, which are also lovely – and uncrowded! – in the winter.

Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park. No crowds, inexpensive and ABSOLUTELY spectacular! | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Utah

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Allison
Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for the information. I was thinking about taking a short family trip during the Christmas break and think this looks like a viable option… The other one we are considering is Zion National Park. I’ve heard that one is pretty neat as well, with the frozen waterfalls and stuff.

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    • Sounds fun! I think that both are good options. Zion will be warmer, but Bryce may offer more ranger-led activities. The trick with Bryce will be snow. If there isn’t yet enough, it’s hard to go snowshoeing, etc. Of course, that means that the hiking trails will be open! Just be sure to prepare for slick and muddy terrain.

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  2. Allison, great post!

    Bryce Canyon is on our list for next summer, but I wish we could go now. We just returned from Rocky Mountain NP and we loved it for many of the reasons you love Bryce – low crowds and great scenery. We felt at times like we had the place to ourselves!

    I didn’t realize the elevation was so high there, but 9k ft is no joke! The vistas are tremendous from up there! And to be able to stargaze in that clear, dark sky sounds awesome!

    Great read and lovely photos!

    Carrick

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    • Thank you, Carrick! It has been years since I visited Rocky Mountain NP. Now I want to plan a trip! I hope you have a great trip to Bryce next summer.

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