Bryce Canyon is arguably one of the most beautiful national parks in the country, let alone Utah. The park has some amazing views, especially during the winter months. If you’ve never been to Bryce Canyon National Park before, now is the time to go! Winter is a great time to visit Bryce Canyon because it offers visitors a chance to see the park at its best. Snow blankets the canyon floor and creates stunning natural formations.
There are several ways to enjoy a trip to Bryce Canyon in the winter. One option is to stay overnight, another would be to take a day trip from Las Vegas, or you could try my favorite way to travel and make it a National Park road trip.
How to Get to Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in the southwest corner of Utah. Unfortunately, there aren’t any major airports close by. The two main airports that travelers usually use to get to Bryce Canyon National Park are Las Vegas (LAS), which is about a 4 and a half hour drive or flying into Salt Lake City (SLC) and then driving about 4 hours to get to the park.
There are a few smaller airports that are closer, but usually they have limited services for flights. Provo (PVU) would be the first option. Although it still takes about 3 and a half hours, budget airlines such as Allegiant fly here and can save you a lot on airfare.
The closer option is St. George Regional Airport (SGU). This will take the drive to Bryce Canyon National Park down to only two and a half hours. Most major airlines do operate flights to St. George, but on a very limited schedule.
Weather During Winter months in Bryce Canyon National Park
Winter months in Bryce Canyon National Park usually have highs in the 40’s and lows in 10’s. It rarely ever gets below zero in the park. Although there can be snowfall in November and December, a majority of the snow in Bryce Canyon National Park arrives between January and March.
Where to stay in Bryce Canyon National Park during the Winter
Sadly, the Lodge at Bryce Canyon is normally only open for a short period of the winter. This year (2022), it is only open until November 27th. Although the lodge might be closed, don’t let that stop you from visiting the park in the winter.
Although the lodge might be closed, there are plenty of options right outside the park entrance. Not the fanciest hotels, but the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel and the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn are located right near the entrance. During the winter months rates are much more affordable as well.
If you are looking for something a little quieter there are plenty of rental cabins on VRBO that can create that serene getaway feeling.
Tips for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in the Winter
This is probably the millionth time that you have heard or read this, but be sure to get the America the Beautiful Pass! This pass will allow you free entrance to National Parks for a year. The entrance fee for Bryce Canyon National Park is $35, almost half the cost of the America the Beautiful Pass.
Two roads are closed during the winter months. The 1 mile (1.6 km) road leading to Fairyland Point and the 0.3 mile (0.5 km) road leading to Praia View.
Two trails are closed during the winter months as well. The Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop and Rim Trail between Inspiration and Bryce Points.
While there are only 2 seasonal road and trail closures, snow storms can cause roads and trails to be inaccessible until cleared by park personnel.
If you plan on backpacking (yes, even in the winter) a bear vault is required to keep your food and other items with strong odors safe from wildlife.
3 Reasons to visit Bryce Canyon National Park in the Winter
This is the Time Bryce Canyon National Park is A Lot Less Crowded
While visiting National Parks is always worthwhile, sometimes they can be very crowded. This makes it a little bit more difficult to do certain trails or visit a viewpoint. Sometimes this might take away from the “awe” of the park.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a commonly visited National Park, with over 343,000* visitors in the month of July (2021) alone. However, in the winter months, the amount of visitors decreases dramatically. In December (2021) for example there were just over 44,000* visitors and in January (2022) there were only 31,000* visitors.
Visiting in the winter allows you access to lots of the areas of the park while there are fewer people around! Sunset point is beautiful in the winter, and this last winter when I visited, there were only a handful of other tourists in the area.
Although some of the trails do face seasonal closures, the trails that are open do not feel crowded. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Many of the visitors in the winter go to areas where it is easily accessible by car, leaving hiking trails wide open to be explored.
The Snowy Landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park
Although it is difficult to plan this in advance, the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park is right after a snowfall. The snow covered hoodoos (tall skinny shafts of rocks) are picturesque when blanketed by snow. The hoodoos are one highlight, but all of the red rock peeking out from the snow creates a magical moment.
Not only will you see red rocks and hoodoos covered in snow, but a vast number of beautiful icicles hang from arches and other rock formations. Streams are covered in a thin layer of ice, but you can still hear the sound of the flowing water underneath.
You might be surprised to learn that wildlife is more abundant during the winter months. That means the chances of seeing wildlife in the early morning or at dusk is much greater than during the summer months.
Winter Activities in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park offers plenty of winter activities for visitors. Most hiking trails will have some snow cover. Check trail conditions before heading out as snowshoes might be needed if it is a long trail. One of my favorite trails that does not require snowshoes is Mossy Cave. This short 0.8 mile hike will bring you to a small cave that during the winter months fills with icicles.
Although it is illegal to ski off the rim (for obvious safety reasons), there are plenty of cross country ski areas both inside and outside of the park. If the weather is just right there is even the opportunity to do a full moon snowshoe hike with a park ranger!
If you are looking for an extreme adventure, backcountry camping is allowed in the winter in Bryce Canyon National Park. This isn’t for everyone, as weather conditions can be cold, and there is always the possibility of snowstorms. Permits are required if you plan on backpacking in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Regardless of when you go, Bryce Canyon is a must see, but visiting in the winter just adds some extra magic to the park!
* Information gathered from: https://irma.nps.gov/STATS/Reports/Park/BRCA