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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.