Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah is renowned for its unique red rock spires, known as hoodoos. The park’s high elevation (between 8,000-9,100 feet), notoriously dark, clear skies, and fairly short, easy hiking trails make Bryce Canyon in winter a popular destination.
While it’s open year-round and has plenty to offer visitors, there are some things to know about visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in winter.
Weather in Bryce Canyon in Winter
Bryce Canyon National Park in winter is magical but can be extremely cold. Its high elevation also means the weather is sometimes unpredictable, so it’s important to be well-prepared. Days are often chilly but sunny, while temperatures dip into freezing nearly every night between October and May. It can snow at any time, but it is most likely from December through mid-March.
Winter Closures in Bryce Canyon
The main park road remains open year-round but may close intermittently for plowing after heavy snowfall. Two short roads to Fairyland Point and Paria View close in the winter but are still accessible to foot traffic, and one of the park’s two campgrounds stays open all year, North Campground. The campground is first-come, first-served only from October 7th through May 18th, and the dump station is not available.
Things To Do in Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter
From leisurely drives and watching the sky to heart-pounding outdoor activities, there’s something for everyone in Bryce Canyon in winter.
Bryce Canyon’s scenic drive is 18 miles one way, with 13 viewpoints along the way. Several have picnic areas, restrooms, and trailheads, and one, Sunset Point, hosts daily Ranger Geology Talks year-round. Allow 2.5-3 hours to complete the round-trip drive, including stops.
Bryce Canyon in winter does mean some snow, but the park’s trails are well-maintained and heavily traveled enough that you can generally hike all season long. Dress appropriately in layers so you’ll be comfortable no matter the weather, and pack trekking poles or crampons (or both) to navigate safely on icy surfaces.
One of the nice and unique things about Bryce Canyon is that the majority of its hiking trails are short and fairly easy. Some of the most popular, which are appropriate for hikers of all ages and experience levels, include:
Rim Trail between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point: 1 mile, easy
Queens Garden: 1.8 miles, easy
Navajo Loop: 1.3 miles, moderately difficult due to a steep ascent (note: Queens Garden and Navajo Loop can be combined for what many people say is the best hike in the park!)
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
One of the best things about Bryce Canyon in winter is the accessibility of the park’s hiking trails. With a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis, visitors can get up close and personal with the iconic red hoodoos even after heavy snowfall.
Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are offered when conditions are right (you need a few inches of fresh snow, and it can’t be too packed down or icy), and the park even provides snowshoes and trekking poles. Because of the unpredictable nature of snow, advanced registration isn’t available for snowshoe hikes. Instead, sign-up sheets are posted at the visitor center in the morning when conditions are favorable.
You can also rent snowshoes or cross-country skis from Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon City and explore the trails on your own. Snowshoeing is permitted on all park trails in Bryce Canyon in winter, and cross-country skiing is allowed on trails above the rim. Bryce Canyon City also maintains several trails.
With its remote location far removed from city lights, Bryce Canyon is an official International Dark Sky Park. Combined with its unique geography, positioned at the top rim of a canyon, the stargazing here is incredible.
Unsurprisingly, astronomy lovers and photographers flock to Bryce Canyon National Park in winter, taking advantage of the extra long, extra dark nights. For more casual night sky observers, the park offers ranger-led Full Moon Hikes, typically once a month, depending on the moon cycle. These wildly popular hikes are open to everyone but do require a ticket won via a same-day lottery.
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
Bryce Canyon in winter is so spectacular that it has its very own festival, aptly named the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival.
Held over a long weekend in mid-February, this highly anticipated annual event celebrates all things winter and The Great Outdoors. Activities include guided hikes and walks, geology talks and guest speakers, photography workshops and photo contests, stargazing sessions, kids’ crafts and games, kayaking and archery lessons and demos, and more. Best of all, many of the events are completely free!
Cruise Into Winter in Bryce Canyon
With 120 convenient rental locations, including several throughout The Southwest, it’s simple to visit Bryce Canyon in winter! Pick your preferred RV model, choose your trip dates, and hit the road!