I travel full-time and live out of my camper van so I can visit National Parks, like Bryce Canyon. Being nomadic allows me to more deeply explore the United States. I’ve been to Bryce Canyon several times and think it’s one of the best National Parks to visit during winter.
Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park is magical. The blue sky against the red rocks dusted with snow is really something to see.
Because Bryce Canyon sits at over 8,000 feet elevation it gets predictable snowfall throughout the winter months. If you’re planning an upcoming trip to Bryce Canyon in the winter then you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide I’ll cover:
- Winter Activities in Bryce Canyon
- Tips for Winter Travel in Utah and What To Pack For Bryce Canyon
- Best Bryce Canyon Winter Hikes
- Winter Weather in Bryce Canyon
Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit Bryce Canyon is April-May or September-October when the weather is still warm during the day and the crowds are smaller. It’s also possible to visit during the summer, but expect more crowds and warm afternoons.
Where To Stay: There are several options for lodging inside of the park, including two campgrounds and Bryce Canyon Lodge. There’s also several options for places to stay in Bryce Canyon National Park just beyond the park’s entrance, including hotels and vacation rentals.
How To Get There: The closest airports to Bryce Canyon are either Salt Lake City (SLC) or Las Vegas (LAS), both are just 4 hours from the park. I find Las Vegas typically has cheaper airfare and car rentals than Salt Lake City.
How To Get Around: You can drive your own vehicle in the park or utilize the free shuttle service. The shuttle can be picked up inside the park entrance at the visitor center or, if parking is limited, there are also pickup locations outside of the park in town. The shuttle operates April-October.
Reservation System: Bryce Canyon has no reservation system for park entry. Reservations for camping and backpacking are required.
Safety: Bryce Canyon sits at 9,000 feet of elevation so it’s not uncommon for hikers to feel tired and become dehydrated more easily. Make sure to pack lots of water – the park recommends at least 1 liter of water every two hours.
The elevation also means temperatures can fluctuate quickly, as much as a 40℉ difference in a few hours. Always wear layers, even in the summer months.
Additionally, Bryce Canyon is home to Mountain lion and Great Basin rattlesnake, so be sure to stay alert while hiking.
Be cautious of lightning. Summer storms are common in the afternoons. If you hear any thunder make sure you are away from the plateau rim (the most dangerous spot during a storm).
Entrance Fees: The Bryce Canyon entrance fee is $20 per person, or $35 per vehicle. An Annual Entrance pass is available for $70, or you can purchase an annual American The Beautiful National Park Pass for $80 which will get you into all National Parks.
P.S There are 6 free National Park Days in 2024!
Why Visit Bryce Canyon In Winter?
Bryce Canyon in the winter is a magical experience. The white snow dusting the rich red and orange hoodoos feels ironic. Many people assume Bryce Canyon is always warm (and it looks like a hot place with all those red rocks) but it’s actually the coldest National Park in Utah because it sits at such high elevation. Snow during the winter is very common for Bryce Canyon.
It might surprise some people to know just how much there is to do in Bryce Canyon during the winter! Within the park, and just outside of its borders, is an abundance of winter activities for all interests.
Bryce Canyon Map
Winter Activities In Bryce Canyon
Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park offers a unique and exhilarating experience for visitors. As snow blankets the famous hoodoos, the park’s landscape takes on a new character, ideal for winter sports and photography.
This season is perfect for those who enjoy quieter, less crowded trails and the crisp, clear air of winter. You can engage in activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking.
The park’s winter accessibility also provides a great opportunity for photographers to capture the stunning contrast of red rock formations against the snow. This guide will cover the best winter activities in Bryce Canyon, offering practical tips for a memorable cold-weather adventure.
There’s ample opportunities for cross-country skiing in Bryce Canyon. Some of the trails available include sections of the Rim Trail along the edge of the Main Amphitheater, the Bristlecone Loop Trail (at the end of Southern Scenic Drive which may close due to snow), Paria Ski Loop, and the unplowed Paria View and Fairyland Point roads.
Bryce Canyon allows snowshoeing on all hiking trails. If you don’t have your own you can rent snowshoes at Rubys Inn.
Generally, snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon is excellent on freshly fallen snow. Once the snow becomes compact and gets icy it’s more difficult to snowshoe. Instead, I recommend hiking in traction devices.
Navigate icy, snowy and muddy hikes with EXOspikes
A majority of the best hiking trails in Bryce Canyon start along the canyon rim and descend down into the amphitheater – these trails can be steep and slippery in the winter so it’s really important to pack proper gear.
Ranger Guided Snowshoe Hike
When the conditions are right Bryce Canyon offers a ranger led snowshoe hike which is the highlight of any winter trip to Bryce Canyon. You cannot sign up for these events in advance, instead you’ll have to visit the Visitors Center the day-of to sign up beginning at 8am.
Spots are reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis and include snowshoes and poles. There’s no cost to participate. The hike is good for all abilities but you must be over 8 years old.
The ranger guided snowshoe hike takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete and is approximately 1 mile long. The only requirement, aside from reserving a spot the morning of your hike, is to wear waterproof boots. You’ll be turned away if you show up in tennis shoes.
Full Moon Snowshoe Hike
The Full Moon Snowshoe Ranger Hike at Bryce Canyon is one of the most rare ranger led activities in the park. Not only does it require a full moon, but it also requires 16”+ of snow.
If you visit Bryce Canyon between November and March you can potentially participate in this amazing experience.
Winter Astronomy Ranger Program
Winter astronomy at Bryce Canyon is extra special because of two reasons: first, Bryce Canyon is a dark sky park and has incredible night sky regardless of the time of year, and second, the extended nighttime hours in winter mean it’s even easier to see the winter sky beauty during your visit to the park.
Be sure to stop by the Visitors Center when you arrive at Bryce Canyon to see if there are any Winter Astronomy Ranger led programs scheduled during your trip. These are even more magical if you’re visiting around a new moon when the sky is extra dark.
While you aren’t allowed to snowmobile in Bryce Canyon National Park, you can rent snowmobiles from Thunder Mountain in Brian Head, or participate in a scenic snowmobiling tour of the surrounding area.
Rates start around $105.00 for a 1.5 hour snowmobiling tour.
Ruby’s Horseback Adventures provides unforgettable sleigh ride experiences during winter in Bryce Canyon. The sleigh ride takes you to the canyon rim for some incredible views.
Christmas Bird Count
The Christmas Bird Count is an annual program put on by the National Audubon Society. The count is exactly what it sounds like – an event in which volunteers count and record the birds they see within a 15-mile diameter circle.
The purpose of the Christmas Bird Count is to collect valuable statistical data regarding the bird populations within the Bryce Canyon National Park ecosystem.
The 2023 Christmas Bird Count at Bryce Canyon will be on Saturday, December 16. It begins at 8am at the Visitors Center. There are hard or easy hikes to choose from, depending on your ability.
Ice skating is available just outside of the park entrance at Ruby’s Inn Winter Adventure Center. The outdoor ice rink is available during the winter months, exact opening dates can be found on their facebook page.
Winter horseback riding at bryce canyon national park
Unfortunately, winter horseback riding at Bryce Canyon is not available after November. However, if you’re planning to visit in early winter this is a great activity to participate in. Horseback rides come in a variety of start times and lengths.
I rode a horse into Bryce Canyon and really enjoyed the experience! My horse really loved to walk along the edge of the canyon, which was terrifying and exhilarating.
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival 2024
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival 2024 will be held February 17-19. There is literally something for everyone at this festival, from ski clinics to photography classes. Additional activities include yoga, classes for pottery, archery, nutrition, watercolor painting, and leather working. There are also options for cookie decorating, a movie night, and snowshoe or walking tours.
Best Bryce Canyon Winter Hikes
Distance: 0.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 121 feet
Trailhead: Mossy Cave Trailhead, along Rt 12
Highlights: A short hike leading to a mossy overhang and a small waterfall.
Mossy Cave is a fun winter hike in Bryce Canyon. The hike follows a river and leads to a waterfall. In the winter it’s possible to see the waterfall frozen and spot icicles along the falls.
The trailhead for Mossy Cave is outside of the park entrance, located along route 12.
Navajo Loop And Queens Garden Trail
Distance: 3.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 649 feet
Trailhead: Sunset Point
Highlights: Combines Navajo Loop Trail and Queens Garden Trail for an incredible 3.1 mile loop into the lower canyon.
Navajo Loop is made up of two portions: the Wall Street half is closed during the winter but the Two Bridges half remains open. You can connect the Two Bridges half of Navajo Loop trail to Queens Garden Trail to form a 3.1 mile loop.
This is one of the most popular hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park. Just remember, the hikes along the canyon rim start high which means you descend first and then ascend on the way back out.
Winter Weather in Bryce Canyon
Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park brings a unique and serene beauty, but it’s also characterized by cold temperatures and snow. The park transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a different perspective than the warmer months.
Average Daily High and Low Temperature By Month
October in Bryce Canyon sees a noticeable shift towards cooler weather. Average daily highs are around 57°F (14°C), while nighttime lows typically drop to about 29°F (-2°C). The crisp autumn air and changing leaves make this a beautiful time for hiking and photography.
November brings a more pronounced chill to Bryce Canyon, signaling the approach of winter. Average daily highs hover around 46°F (8°C), and nighttime lows often fall to 20°F (-6°C). With the possibility of early snowfall, the park begins to transform into a winter wonderland, offering a different but equally stunning experience.
The winter season starts with chilly days and cold nights. Average highs hover around 36°F (2°C), while the lows can drop to around 15°F (-9°C). Snow begins to accumulate, draping the park’s famous red rocks in white.
This is often the coldest month in Bryce Canyon. Average daily highs are around 37°F (3°C), and nighttime lows can plunge to 10°F (-12°C). The snow-covered landscape is a draw for photographers and winter enthusiasts.
As winter continues, temperatures remain cold. The average highs are about 39°F (4°C), and the lows are around 20°F (-6°C). Snowfall is still common, though less heavy than in December and January.
|High Average Temp (°F)
|Low Average Temp (°F)
Weather Considerations For Winter, Bryce Canyon
- Snow and Ice: Bryce Canyon receives a significant amount of snowfall in winter, which can lead to icy conditions on trails and roads. It’s crucial for you to be prepared with appropriate winter gear and to check road and trail conditions.
- Variable Conditions: Weather can be unpredictable, with sudden changes. Days might be sunny and relatively warm, or they could be snowy and windy. I recommend layering your clothing.
- Winter Activities: Despite the cold, winter is a magical time to visit Bryce Canyon. Activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking are popular. The park’s ranger-led snowshoe hikes are a highlight, offering a unique way to explore the park in winter.
- Road Closures: While the main road along Bryce Amphitheater is maintained in the winter, it’s not uncommon for the Southern Scenic Drive to be closed due to snow. The road leading to Fairyland Point and to Paria View remain permanently closed during the winter.
- Trail Closures: Most hikes in Bryce Canyon remain open during the winter. However, the Wall Street side of Navajo Loop Trail and the section of Rim Trail between Inspiration Point and Bryce Point are permanently closed during the winter season.
Remember, these temperatures are averages, and actual conditions can vary. It’s always a good idea to check the current weather forecast and park conditions before planning a trip to Bryce Canyon in winter.
Tips For Winter In Bryce Canyon
Safety and Navigation
Due to the high elevation Bryce Canyon sits at, snow is extremely common during the winter. I highly recommend renting a car you are comfortable driving, and prioritizing 4wd if you plan to be in deep snow.
Check The Weather Forecast Often
Weather can change quickly at Bryce Canyon, so I recommend you check the weather forecast daily and plan your activities accordingly.
Because of the weather changes, I have the best time at Bryce Canyon when I’m prepared for last-minute changes to my plans. For example, some hiking trails may close due to inclement weather so I’m always prepared with a “b-list” of things to do in case anything on my original plan is adjusted.
Dress In Layers
This is always important, but especially so in the winter. Proper layers for outdoors include a base layer that dries quickly (moisture-wicking), a warm jacket (I like fleece for warmth) and a rainproof and windproof shell (I find most rain jackets work well to cut down the wind which will blow right through my fleece).
Wear Traction Devices
Traction devices are fairly inexpensive, and crucial for hiking in Bryce Canyon. The first snowfall may be fluffy and easy to walk on, but it quickly gets packed down and turns icy. This is where the proper footwear will make or break your winter experience at Bryce Canyon.
Pack More Water Than You Think You Need
Just because it’s winter and cold outside doesn’t mean you need less water (I repeat this to myself daily). The elevation of Bryce Canyon can be deceiving and will lead to dehydration more quickly than you’d expect. Additionally, many water facilities in the park will be closed, or winterized, due to the freezing temperatures so do not plan to be able to refill at trailheads as you would during the summer months.
Bring Food And Snacks
When I hike, I always pack more than I expect to need. This has saved me a few times when I drastically underestimated the hike (like on a recent 14er in Colorado that took me 5 hours longer to hike than I expected). Shelf stable hiking food isn’t going to go bad, so it’s a safe bet and if you don’t use it, you can save it for your next hike.
Pack Extra Clothes And A Blanket
It’s unlikely you will need these, but if you need them and you don’t have them things can go wrong very quickly in cold weather. Pack a spare set of clothes in case you get wet hiking. Wet clothes will suck heat away from your body very quickly and it’s important to get into something dry as fast as you can. A blanket is also crucial in case of a car breakdown or if you simply want to enjoy the sunset at Bryce Canyon.
Get My Favorite Blanket For Travel!
Hiking in snow means cold feet, especially if you don’t have waterproof shoes. Nothing is worse than cold wet feet on a hike. I really love my Danner Hiking Boots – they’re the most comfortable hiking boot I’ve ever owned, and there’s no “break-in” time required.
I pair them with my Darn Tough socks, which are a bit of an investment around $25 per pair but they’ll last forever. I have 3 pairs I cycle between which is more than enough for me. Darn Tough socks are made in the USA with Merino Wool, are very comfortable and prevent blisters, and they come with a lifetime warranty (for literally ANY reason you can return these- I know of someone who accidentally burned hers on a campfire and they were replaced no questions asked).
Bryce Canyon Accommodations In Winter
Winter in Bryce Canyon means a few of the typical lodging options are closed for the season and unavailable. Unfortunately, this includes the Bryce Canyon Lodge. However, if you do want to stay inside of the park the North campground remains open year-round (but with limited amenities).
Additionally, Ruby’s Inn, Bryce Canyon Pines, Bryce Canyon North Campground and Bryce Valley Lodging are open during the winter.
Ruby’s Inn is a historic inn located just outside of the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. The Inn has hotel rooms, cabins and an RV park with full hookups available. They also have an indoor pool, general store and rent winter gear like snowshoes and cross country skis.
Bryce Canyon Pines is a rustic option and offers motel rooms and cottages. They have an on-site restaurant which is known for the delicious homemade pies they bake.
Bryce Canyon North Campground, Loop A, is open year round. From October 8th through May 18th the campsites are available first-come, first-serve. During the summer reservations are required. The water and dump station are closed in the winter, but there are flush toilets available year-round. Unfortunately, there are no showers at this location. Sunset Campground is closed from November to April.
Bryce Valley Lodging is another good accommodation option, located a short drive away in Tropic. Cabins are available and come with basic kitchen facilities (great for travelers who want to save money by cooking for themselves instead of eating every meal at a restaurant).
FAQs – Winter Bryce Canyon
What Are Bryce Canyon Winter Hours?
Bryce Canyon National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, even in the winter. However, the visitor services and facilities have specific hours and some might be reduced during the winter months. The gates to the park are always open, but if you arrive during “operating hours” you’ll be greeted by park staff who will take your entry fee and answer any questions you have about the park.
Note: Bryce Canyon Shuttle only runs from April through October. During inclement weather the Southern Scenic Drive may be closed to vehicles.
Is It Worth Visiting Bryce Canyon In The Winter?
Yes, I think Bryce Canyon in the winter is one of the best times to see the park. The snow is incredibly beautiful and unlike anything else I’ve seen in the United States. There are far fewer crowds, too, which makes it a much more relaxed experience – you may even have hiking trails all to yourself.
Additionally, the chance to participate in a ranger program, like snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon, is such a fun experience and only offered during winter (obviously).
How Cold Is Bryce Canyon In Winter?
Bryce Canyon National Park experiences cold temperatures during the winter months, primarily due to its high elevation, which averages around 8,000 to 9,000 feet. Here’s a general idea of the winter temperatures you can expect:
- December: Average high temperatures are around 36°F (2°C), while average lows can drop to around 15°F (-9°C). Snowfall is common, adding to the chilly feel.
- January: This is often the coldest month in Bryce Canyon. Average daily highs are around 37°F (3°C), and nighttime lows can plunge to 10°F (-12°C). The snow-covered landscape is a draw for photographers and winter enthusiasts.
- February: Temperatures start to rise slightly but remain cold. Average highs are around 38°F (3°C), with lows averaging 15°F (-9°C).
It’s important to note that these are averages, and actual conditions can vary. The park can experience sudden weather changes, and temperatures can be even lower, especially at night or during snowstorms.
When Is There Snow At Bryce Canyon?
Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park typically begins to fall in late October or early November and can last until March or April. However, the most consistent snow cover usually occurs from December through February. This period is when you’re most likely to experience the park’s famous hoodoos blanketed in snow, creating a stunning and unique landscape.