Ask Lance Syrett (fourth generation Bryce Canyon enthusiast) what his favorite season is in the park, and he won’t hesitate: winter. Winter is "the frosting on the cake" according to this local. Lance caught his great-grandpa’s vision and loves to host tourists from the family headquarters at Ruby’s Inn. There’s few things that have changed in the small town of Bryce since the inn was founded 100 years ago (they have one traffic light now!). And thanks to the crew down at Ruby’s Inn and fearless park rangers, winter is truly the best season to visit this “fairyland of color and form.” Also, you should really think about heading down during the Bryce Canyon Winter Fest (cross country ski races, fat bike demos, paint classes, yoga classes, photo workshops, western dancing...all the fun things).
Take a weekend, or an extra long weekend (Hello, Winter Fest!), to get away from the winter blues in your neighborhood--the fresh air and stunning views will rejuvenate your hope in humanity. Three days of winter euphoria await.
Salt Lake City → Bryce Canyon: 4 hours or 4.5 hours with pit stops
Favorite Pit Stops:
Scipio Antique Shops on Main Street
The Gem Movie Theater (and ice cream!) in Panguitch
Las Vegas → Bryce Canyon: 4 hours
Favorite Pit Stops:
Swig ‘n Sweets where you can get all sorts of mixed drinks the kiddos will love.
Larsen’s Frostop Drive-In for quick burgers, fries, and shakes
We recommend that you arrive in the area around lunch time...because Ethel’s homemade pie at the Bryce Canyon Pines restaurant is a desert-first requirement (staff favorite: strawberry banana pie).
Check-in to your hotel. Lodging that won’t disappoint:
Ruby’s Inn - in the heart of Bryce Canyon town
Bryce Canyon Pines - pleasantly removed from the hubbub
Throw your bags in the room, change into some warm clothing, strap on your winter boots and head for the park. You’re going for a hike down Navajo Loop.
Extra warm layer
During the winter season, it’s common for the last stretch of this loop to be closed off due to rockfalls--so, really, it’s an out-and-back hike that you can make as long or as short as you wish.
Start at the Sunset Point lookout point. You’ll head down a ramp that swoops around to the iconic switchbacks. Once you’re out of the switchbacks you’ll run into a sign where you can choose to continue on to either Sunset Point or Queens Garden--you could do both with older kids. The toughest part of this whole trail sequence is the switchbacks at the beginning--remember: you have to hike back up those on your way out. So think about your kids’ short little legs and dreams of hot cocoa back at Ruby’s Inn.
Grab a bite to eat at Ruby’s restaurant or you can head into the grocery store in the same location if you’re anxious to get back to your hotel room and relax. You might want to hit up the grocery store for lunch tomorrow while you're in the park.
Sleep well. Tomorrow will be wonderfully packed with “whoa-amazing” adventures.
Ruby's Inn Restaurant
Ruby's Inn General Store
Cross Country Skiing Ruby's Nordic Center
Bryce Canyon consistently wins awards for being the most beautiful place in the country to cross country ski. Ruby’s Nordic Center is a great place to learn and its scenery will take you out to vast views on the rim and through quiet forests where only the sounds of winter birds can be heard.
Ruby’s Nordic Center has all the gear you’ll need. Rentals are $7 for a half day or $10 for a full day. They open at 8:00 a.m. A couple hours around the groomed trail is about right for most people and families. If you’re experienced and love a faster pace, we suggest veering off Ruby’s groomed tracks and head towards Fairyland Point--about 3 hours.
Picnic lunch in the park because you’ll be on your way to meet with a ranger for a geological snowshoe adventure.
Snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon National Park with a National Park Ranger
Sign up for a snowshoe tour in the visitor center. You’ll have to do this sometime in the morning before your cross country ski or start skiing earlier so you can get into the park to sign up ASAP. First-come, first-serve. Tours normally start at 1:00 p.m. and the ranger will show up with all the snowshoes and poles you’ll need.
The ranger will blow your mind with the coolest naturalist raddest mind-blowing geological facts. Ever heard of the following?
The Paunsaugant Plateau: one of Utah’s High Plateaus, defined by seismic faults that extend the plateau about one-hundredth of an inch per year. Paunsaugant is a Paiute word that means “home of the beaver.”
Claron Formation: the sequence of rock formations with their varied hues that are so iconic to Bryce Canyon, limestone that has either more calcite or dolomite mixed with iron or manganese + oxygen gives changes the color of the rock. Once an ancient lake. Varies in thickness from 300 to 700 feet.
Frost Wedging: a process of erosion where water mechanically erodes away the rock.
Plus these rangers will tell tales of lightning strikes, survival, and adventure. It’s a leisurely little walk in the snow. Enjoy the stories; enjoy the views.
Ice Skating at Ruby's Inn Adventure Center
Since you’re on a roll, and only in Bryce for so long, you’ll definitely want to keep moving when the sun goes down to keep warm. Head over to Ruby’s Adventure Center for some music, ice skating, and hot cocoa. Rent skates for only 3 measly dollars for adults; 2 dollars for kids.
Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail
In the winter, you’ll have the access the Peek-a-Boo Loop trail from the Navajo Loop trail. Head down those switchbacks, and then you’ll come to a sign that will take you in the opposite direction of Queens Garden / Sunrise Point. The Peek-a-Boo Loop trail in its entirety is great for teenaged kids, but you might want to cut it short with younger littles (simply go out and back as far as you please).
Get to the trailhead just as the sunrises (usually between 7:00 - 7:30 a.m. in the winter months). Hoodoos have never looked so glorious. And there’s a reason this trail is called Peek-a-Boo: every corner you turn takes your breath away with crazy amazing rock formations.
Mossy Caves are just outside of Bryce Canyon town--about a ten minute drive towards Tropic. The hike is only about a half mile long (one way), and you get to see some pretty amazing ice formations during the winter months.