Bryce Canyon National Park

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: January 2023

Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for having the largest collection of hoodoos in the world. These red rock pillars are made of sandstone and have been shaped and formed throughout the years by uneven weathering and erosion. And because it sits at a higher elevation, this area can experience some heavy snowfalls, especially in the winter.

After spending the past couple of days at Zion, it was time to move onto the next park on our “Mighty Five” road trip of the national parks in southern Utah. We took our time driving to Bryce Canyon, which is about a two hour drive from Zion, because of the weather. When we woke up in the morning, the weather forecast said it was -11°C in the park (and felt like -19°C with the windchill), but it was supposed to warm up later in the afternoon.

It was a scenic drive to get to Bryce Canyon, which involved driving through the quiet countryside. Since the park is at a higher elevation, there was quite a bit of snow on the ground as we neared the entrance. We also had a sneak peak of some of the red rock formations as we drove through the Red Canyon section of Dixie National Forest. There were even a couple of red arches through the rocks that the road leads through.

We arrived at Bryce Canyon late in the morning and started at the Visitor Centre to pick up a map of the park and inquire about the conditions on the trails. It turns out that only the first three (of eighteen) miles of the road was open, which is typically the case in the winter, especially after a major snowstorm. But most of the hiking trails can be accessed along these first three miles, along with a few scenic viewpoints.

We drove to Sunrise Point to admire the views and stretch our legs. From the parking lot, there’s a short path that leads to a viewing platform that provided our first glimpse of the towering hoodoos, which were blanketed in snow.

Sunrise Point also provides access to the Queen’s Garden Trail, which we planned to combine with the Navajo Loop (4.6km loop, rated moderate). The trail descends into the canyon and provides a closer view of the hoodoos. We strapped on our microspikes and got ready to head downhill. The path was covered in snow, but it was compact and well travelled.

Along the way there were a few archways that were created through the red rocks that the trail passes through.

Near the end of the trail there’s a short detour that leads to the Queen Victoria viewpoint, which features a stunning collection of colourful hoodoos.

The trail connects with Navajo Loop which leads to Sunset Point. In the winter, the trail is not a loop as the Wall Street section is closed as there is a higher risk of a rockfall in the area once the temperature drops below freezing overnight. Instead we followed the Two Bridges portion of the trail. The first stretch leads through the valley before winding up a series of short and steep switchbacks towards the rim of the canyon. The switchbacks eventually lengthen out and provide sweeping views of the canyon below, including a close-up of Thor’s Hammer, one of the most famous and recognizable hoodoos in Bryce Canyon.

As we neared the rim of the canyon, we made a short detour towards the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop. While there was a sign and blockade to indicate that this portion of the trail was closed, we could still access the viewpoint which provided a nice view of the only slot canyon in Bryce Canyon.

We were huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top of the canyon at Sunset Point. In some ways the colder weather was better as it helped to quickly cool us down whenever we stopped. We followed the path along the rim of the canyon back towards Sunrise Point where we parked.

We hopped in the car and drove to Bryce Point, which marked the end of the plowed section of the main road through the park. From the parking lot, there’s a short path that leads to a viewing platform that features the most iconic view of the park of the full amphitheatre of hoodoos. Most of the strenuous trails in the park originate here, but our legs were (mostly) done hiking for the day.

On the drive out, we stopped at the Visitor Centre again to go through the different exhibits and watch the 25-minute feature film about Bryce Canyon, learning more about the unique rock formations found in the area.

We then headed to the Mossy Cave (1.3km round trip, rated easy), located at the northern end of the park on Highway 12. There’s a short trail through the forest that crosses a couple of bridges and leads to a grotto that was filled with some spectacular icicles and ice columns. A natural spring seeps from the rocky cliff, which is how these icicles form. Since the cave is sheltered from the sun, the icicles sometimes last until June.

On the way back to the parking lot, we followed the footsteps down into the canal. There was a sign to indicate that the irrigation canal, known as the Tropic Ditch, was dug by Mormon pioneers in the late 1800s. Except for the severe drought of 2002, the water has flowed continuously through here for over a century and the families living in and around the town of Tropic still benefit from the canal. The path followed along the frozen canal to an icy waterfall.

By the time we wrapped up our hike it was getting late so we headed to our hotel outside the park. We were planning on returning to Bryce Canyon the next morning, but due to a snow storm overnight, we decided to skip it and just drive to Capitol Reef National Park where the weather would be warmer.


93 thoughts on “Bryce Canyon National Park

  1. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, what an amazing collection of beautiful photos, Linda. This only proves that on a winter holiday, you don’t always have to ski or snowboard to enjoy and explore the snow-covered landscape. You can just slip into your sturdy snow boots and warm clothes and off you go onto the dreamy winter hiking trails in one of the beautiful National Parks, up and down the spectacular canyons and valleys filled with snow-covered sandstone pillars and bizarre-looking rock formations. Bryce Canyon really is an extraordinary place to visit. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s always a bit of a gamble to travel in the winter as the weather can be so unpredictable. Bryce Canyon looked beautiful covered in all that snow, which made for a very memorable hiking experience to see the hoodoos up-close. The timing worked out well as overnight there was a massive snow storm so I doubt we would have been able to do much hiking if we went the next day. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

  2. Lyssy In The City says:

    That is so interesting to see it covered in snow! I was there in mid-may and it was actually relatively cool temperatures so the hike wasn’t too hard. We went down Wall Street and up the other way. The arch on the trail made me laugh because that’s where we got lost. People were taking a picture under it so I didn’t go through and see that the trail continues that way. Luckily we figured it out.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was surprised at how much snow there was at Bryce Canyon. No wonder most of the main road was closed. It made hiking a bit more challenging, but the snowy scenery was spectacular. Glad to hear that you found your bearings. We really struggled with navigating some of the trails in the desert.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much. It was neat to see the colourful hoodoos coated with a dusting of snow. It’s too bad that most of the main road was closed because of all the snow, but we were able to hit up the highlights and do a bit of hiking. Thanks for reading. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! Hiking in the snow definitely adds an extra element of challenge. We came prepared though and brought our microspikes, which gave us much better traction on the snow. I was a bit concerned about the cold, but we warmed up in no time once we got moving. Our coats even came off as we were hiking back up the rim of the canyon.

  3. Diana says:

    Not gonna lie, I’m a little jealous that you got to see Bryce covered in snow. I was hoping it would snow when we were there a couple years ago, but no such luck. I love all your photos of the hoodoos dusted in white!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It was very neat to see the hoodoos and colourful landscape covered in snow. It all looked so magical. It’s too bad most of the road was closed when we visited, but at least we could still access the main viewpoints and most of the hiking trails.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! We were a bit concerned about the weather and all the snow, but the trails were in pretty good condition. While we couldn’t see as much of the park because of all the snow, the scenery looked breathtaking.

  4. kagould17 says:

    Oh wow. You had a lot more snow on your visit, than we did in Jan 2018. We spent 3 nights here and on the last day, the entire road was opened. The hike to Queen’s Garden and Wall Street was one of our favourite hikes, but the Wall Street extension was closed for us too. Thanks for the memories. Happy Valentine’s Day Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The timing of our visit to Bryce Canyon worked out well with the snow. We visited a few days after a massive snowstorm. While most of the main road was still closed, the snowy scenery looked gorgeous. Thankfully we still had access to most of the hiking trails. The hike to Queen’s Garden was my favourite as well, even if we had to tackle the uphill at the end. Hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day. Enjoy the rest of the week. Linda

  5. wetanddustyroads says:

    Wow, how amazing is the red arch you drove through (and the white snow makes it even more beautiful). I’ve seen pictures of the hoodoos on other blogs, but never covered in snow. I’m glad your legs held up to that beautiful icy waterfall – beautiful photos.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The red arches through the rocks were pretty neat and well worth stopping to take a picture of, even if it meant having to climb up the snowbank on the side of the road. The hoodoos were pretty spectacular. I’m glad the trails were in decent shape and we were able to hike into the canyon to see them up close. The frozen waterfall was an unexpected surprise. This was a great example where following the footprints in the snow actually paid off.

  6. Rose says:

    Wow! as other commentors have said, beautiful photos! To see the hoodoos draped in white, and to see frozen waterfalls, like time stopped for a moment. All lovely!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The snow covered landscape looked magical. I’m glad the trails were in decent condition and we were able to see the snow-covered hoodoos up close. The frozen waterfall was an unexpected surprise as it wasn’t part of the actual trail.

  7. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    Such a wonderful photos with full beauty of mist can view 🌹🙏❤️ the shape and colour of
    The rocks looking marvelous 👏👌frozen waterfalls another mind blowing and the explanation so lovely to read✍️😍 thank you for sharing and Happy Valentines 💕👏

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The snow covered landscape looked so magical, which made being outside in the cold worth it. Hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s day as well. Take care. Linda

  8. Mike and Kellye Hefner says:

    Another bravery award for you guys! If you did Escalante from Bryce to Capitol Reef, you are certainly heroic – especially if there was snow on the road. Bryce is near the top of our favorites, but we haven’t been there in the winter. Your photos are gorgeous! Safe travels.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! We ended up taking the longer route to get to Capitol Reef as we heard that the Scenic Byway 12 can be a bit sketchy after a snowfall or with freezing temperatures. Our rental car didn’t have winter tires and we didn’t want to risk it. It’s too bad as it’s reputed to be a beautiful drive. Next time.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. It was neat to see the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon covered in snow. It all looked very magical. One of the benefits of visiting in the winter was that it wasn’t very busy.

  9. michellecj333 says:

    We were there in January of 2021 and it looked very similar to your views!! We also did the Navajo loop then, and we also huffed and puffed up that switchback!! Haha! Shannon worked on the Dixie National Forest visitor center museum- so we stopped by there but it was closed :(. Anyway….. loving your gorgeous photos here! You saw more of the park than we did on our quick visit !! I enjoyed hearing about Mossy Cave and the tropic ditch….. guess I’m gonna need to make another trip!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Glad to hear that we weren’t the only ones working up a sweat on the Navajo Loop. I honestly have no idea how people hike some of these trails in the middle of summer! That’s awesome that Shannon worked on the Dixie National Forest visitor center museum. It’s too bad it was closed when you visited. It’s funny because we were thinking the same thing about needing to return.

  10. Travel Essayist says:

    Beautiful photographs, I love all the archways both on the road and trails. You are very hardy to do the hikes with a windchill of minus 19C. But it looks like it was worth it, it’s another place on my list to visit in the future. But maybe Spring or Fall…

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! The arches were pretty neat to drive and hike through. It was also a bit of a bummer that the entire scenic drive wasn’t open, but the landscape looked spectacular with all that snow. It was pretty chilly, but once we got moving, it wasn’t too bad. If anything, the cold worked in our favour as we were climbing back up the rim of the canyon.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      One of the downsides to visiting in the winter was that only the first few kilometres of the scenic drive were open. The snow made the landscape look even more magical though. And it wasn’t very busy.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Glad to hear that Bryce Canyon is on your list. The desert landscape in Southern Utah in general is gorgeous, which makes for some scenic driving. We’re not a fan of the heat so opted to visit in the middle of winter, which meant dealing with the snow and the cold at some of the parks. Once we hit the trails though, especially those uphills, the cold actually helped. I have no idea how people hike half these trails in the heat!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m so glad we packed our microspikes as they were definitely needed on the snowy trails. We saw a few people slipping and sliding in running shoes, which did not look fun. Plus I imagine their toes were freezing. The hiking was more challenging because of the conditions, but the snowy scenery looked magical.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Aww thanks. The snowy landscape at Bryce Canyon looked gorgeous. It’s too bad most of the scenic drive was closed, but at least we were able to hit up the main overlooks and explore a few of the trails.

  11. Dawn-Marie says:

    Wow! Beautiful photos and place to walk! It looks strange seeing a red sandstone canyon, snow and green trees all together in one place. Those natural rock formations are amazing. I automatically think heat and sand in a red sandstone canyon. Do you know what kind of wildlife you would find in this landscape? What a wonderful world 🌎 😍

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The snow added an extra element of challenge on the trails, but the scenery looked stunning. It was hard to believe that we were still in the desert. While we didn’t see any wildlife in Bryce Canyon, we learned from the visitor centre about how the park is home to many animals, including mule deer, pronghorns, mountain lions, squirrels, prairie dogs, birds, butterflies and other insects.

  12. Ab says:

    This was a beautiful day you spent out in Bryce Canyon, Linda. I love all the snow capped scenery and viewpoints you shared and those hoodoos were something else. The snow really brings out a different dimension to the landscape.

    It’s also nuts to think how varied the temperature got in your trip. -19! Guess you weren’t too far off from our Canadian winter weather. 😆

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I think it was probably colder at Bryce Canyon than back home in southern Ontario! And there was definitely more snow there. Thank goodness it wasn’t windy, so it actually wasn’t too bad. Once we got moving, we warmed up pretty quickly. The snowy hoodoos looked magical.

  13. leightontravels says:

    I’ve seen a lot of photos of the hoodoos over the years, but this is the first time I see them covered in snow. Gorgeous! What a beautiful place for a long winter walk. Shame that the storm prevented you from going back to the park the next day. What was the foot traffic like, I wonder. I doubt many people braved this freezing weather.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The hoodoos and red rock formations looked so pretty with all that snow. The conditions on the trails were pretty good, but we definitely needed our microspikes. The one benefit of the colder weather is that the park wasn’t too busy. We encountered a few people on the trail and also a tour bus full of people at one of the viewpoints who were totally underprepared for the snow (which gave us a good laugh). It’s too bad about the snowstorm overnight, but we ended up having more time to spend in Capitol Reef National Park, which was one of my favourite stops along our road trip. We pretty much had it all to ourselves.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The huge collection of hoodoos at Bryce Canyon is very impressive. Even though most of the main road through the park was closed, I’m glad we were still able to visit the main viewpoints and hike a couple of the trails.

  14. NortheastAllie says:

    I love the bright orange and red landscape mixed with the snow of winter! That is really neat that you saw a frozen waterfall too. This makes me want to check out this area some day.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Even though it was cold, the snowy landscape in Bryce Canyon looked really pretty. The frozen waterfall was not even part of the actual trail. I’m glad we decided to follow all the footprints in the snow to check it out though.

  15. Bama says:

    There’s something captivating about the colors: red sandstone against white snow. In some photos, I even imagined a magical land filled with magical creatures!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The desert landscape in southern Utah is incredibly beautiful. We had a wonderful time exploring the trails. It was a bit chilly, but perfect weather for hiking. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      All that snow made the landscape and towering hoodoos look magical. It’s too bad most of the scenic drive was closed because of the weather though. That’s awesome that a hummingbird took notice of Pam’s hat when you visited. I hope you were able to capture some pictures of the experience!

  16. rkrontheroad says:

    The southern Utah national parks are some of my favorite places. I haven’t seen Bryce in winter. The contrast between the red rock spires and snow in your photos in so interesting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This trip has been a long time in the making. We were actually planning on visiting southern Utah in 2020, but had to postpone because of the pandemic. I’m glad we finally got to visit. I was a bit concerned about what the weather and road/trail conditions would be like in the winter, but it worked out pretty well. Seeing Bryce Canyon covered in snow was such a highlight.

  17. Linda K says:

    What an amazing road trip! I’m just catching up on all the blogs for the parks you visited and am definitely thinking what a wonderful adventure this would be. Seems like you went at the perfect time to see some landscapes covered in snow and some shining brightly in the sun.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had such a wonderful time in southern Utah. We were a bit concerned about what the weather would be like in the middle of winter. While most of the scenic drive and a few of the trails were closed, the scenery in Bryce Canyon looked stunning with all that snow. Plus it wasn’t very busy.

  18. BrittnyLee says:

    The landscape there is breathtaking. You must have been enjoying the view. The hiking trails looked incredible ! I have the studs to put on my shoes too. Matt and I use them sometimes. It’s been a while. They’re great though. They help so much. I love the hoodoos. They’re so neat !! I can’t imagine standing near one. That must’ve been a great feeling. I like that they had passageways cleared through the mountainside too. Beautiful blog

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The snowy scenery at Bryce Canyon looked magical. We were a bit concerned about all the snow, but the trails were in pretty good condition. I’m glad we brought our microspikes though. They are such a game changer when it comes to hiking in the winter. I haven’t tried the ones with studs, but I’ve been thinking about getting a pair as they seem like they would be great for walking around on the sidewalks when it’s icy outside.

  19. Lookoom says:

    I’m more used to seeing Bryce Canyon in summer, but winter and snow give it a different look, bringing out its original shapes by contrasting colours.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The snow-covered hoodoos looked so magical. It was a bit of a gamble to visit during the middle of winter as we weren’t sure what the conditions would be like on the road or the trails. But I’m glad it worked out as the snowy scenery was beautiful. Plus it wasn’t very busy.

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