Visiting in Winter

 

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The Bryce Amphitheater in Summer and Winter
Desert landscape of red rock spires, cliffs, buttes, and forested plateau Wintry landscape of red rock spires, cliffs, buttes, and forested plateau
Summer from Bryce Point NPS / Peter Densmore
Winter from Bryce Point NPS / Peter Densmore
The Bryce Amphitheater remains accessible year-round, though some trails and nearby roads close seasonally.



 

Planning a Winter Visit

The stark white of freshly fallen snow, red rocks, blue sky, and evergreen trees--some say Bryce Canyon is even more beautiful in winter! Here at 8,000 feet (2,438 m) the scenery changes dramatically in the colder months, providing unique opportunities to see the park and requiring a very different packing list. Begin by reviewing regular closures and regulations, read about typical weather, and then explore the many ways you can experience this winter wonderland.

A Typical Winter Visit

A shorter visit should focus on the first 3 miles (4.8 km) of the park, known as the Bryce Amphitheater. After a stop at the Visitor Center just past the fee booths for restrooms, the park gift shop, and other amenities, continue 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the turn for Bryce Point. The road to Bryce Point is 2 miles (3.2 km) long and ends at one of the park's most popular overlooks.
Return toward the main road, then turn right to then see Inspiration Point. Inspiration Point provides easy walks along the rim and a steeper (often icy) walk south to a higher overlook.
Continue on to the main road, and turn right back toward the Visitor Center. Your next right turn will be for Sunset Point. In addition to a beautiful view, visitors can enjoy a flat 1.0 mile (1.6 km) walk along the Rim Trail to Sunrise Point and back.
For more moderate hikes, the Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden Trails descend from Sunset and Sunrise Points, respectively. Note that the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop closes every winter. See the Alerts and Conditions page for trail statuses.
We strongly recommend traction devices for all winter hikes within the park.
Enjoy the suggestions above, and combine with a (40 minute) drive on the Southern Scenic Drive to Rainbow Point, with stops at scenic viewpoints like Natural Bridge on the way back. Note that the Southern Scenic Drive temporarily closes after winter storms. See the Alerts and Conditions page for road statuses.
Enjoy a the Junior Ranger Program or a Ranger Program such as Ranger-led Snowshoe Hikes or rent snowshoes or cross-country skis in Bryce Canyon City (information below).
Those who are prepared with traction devices and good winter clothing might enjoy longer, more strenuous day hikes.
Stargazing can be spectacular with winter's cold, clear skies. In winter, we face out toward the dimmer outer arms of the Milky Way galaxy. Seeing the faint winter Milky Way is a privilege only available in truly dark places, like Bryce Canyon. Overnight temperatures are very cold, so we recommend Sunset and Inspiration Points as good stargazing locations with nearby parking lots. If you're staying overnight, you can find nearby lodging accomodations or camp within the park.

Annual Winter Events

In addition to daily activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival and Christmas Bird Count are two popular annual events.

Seasonal Closures and Operations

  • There are only two roads that are closed to vehicle traffic for the entire winter season: the 1 mile (1.6 km) road leading to Fairyland Point and the 0.3 mile (0.5 km) road leading to Paria View. These two spur roads close after snow levels begin to require plow removal, but remain accessible for hikers, cross-country skiiers, and snowshoers.
  • Following snowstorms, the main park road closes temporarily at mile marker 3 to allow snow plow crews to clear snow from the higher elevations of the park's scenic southern drive. Closures typically last a day or more, depending on snowstorm durations. Along the first three miles of the main road, the Bryce Amphitheater area (which includes Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point) is the first area to be plowed, so it remains accessible even during temporary closures of the scenic southern drive. Check the Conditions Page for road statuses.
  • There are two trails that close for the entire winter season: the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop Trail (the Two Bridges side of the Navajo Loop remains open for down-and-back hiking or for combination with the Queen's Garden or Peekaboo Trails) and the Rim Trail between Inspiration and Bryce Points. The Wall street side of the Navajo Loop closes due to extreme rockfall danger, while the Rim Trail between Inspiration and Bryce Points closes due to snow cornices along steep cliffs.
  • Ranger programs continue year-round, but become less frequent in winter.
  • While camping remains available at North Campground year-round, Sunset Campground closes each winter from November into April.
  • The Lodge at Bryce Canyon and dining room close in winter, but lodging often remains available at the Sunset Lodge Unit.
  • The General Store at Sunrise Point closes in winter.
  • Restrooms at Inspiration Point, the Peekaboo Loop, and the General Store close in winter (Restrooms remain available at Rainbow Point, Farview Point, Sunset Point, the Visitor Center and North Campground).
  • The North Campground RV Dump Station closes in winter.
  • Private and guided horse rides end at the end of October and resume in April or May depending on the weather.
  • On Thanksgiving and Christmas Day the Visitor Center is closed.
 
Map of the park depicting areas that are open or closed to visitor use in winter
Access to the park changes in the winter season, with some road and trail closures and temporary closures following snowstorms.

Download a Larger Winter Access Map (921 KB)

Winter Regulations

Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, etc. off of the rim, into or within the canyon is illegal due to the highly dangerous nature of such activities and the damage to the resource they can cause. The daily freeze-thaw cycles that form our unique hoodoos also make steep sections of the canyon susceptible to slides and rockfalls.
Visitors are responsible for knowing and abiding by park laws and policies.

 

Weather

The weather can change quickly in any season at this high elevation, but winter storms can create some of the most challenging conditions. Review historic weather data below, and check out the 7-day forecast as your visit approaches.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Temperature (°F)
Avg High 37 38 45 54 64 75 80 77 70 58 45 36
Avg Low 15 17 23 29 37 45 53 50 42 32 23 15
Record High 59 64 67 75 85 92 98 90 86 79 68 60
Record Low -26 -26 -11 -3 13 21 28 23 16 0 -12 -23
Precipitation (in")
Normal Rain 1.8 1.4 1.5 0.8 0.8 0.6 1.6 2.0 1.8 2.0 1.3 1.2
Maximum Rain 7.4 6.0 4.9 5.8 3.5 3.3 5.7 7.7 5.4 6.4 7.3 3.7
24 hr Max Rain 3.3 2.3 1.8 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.4 2.2 2.1 2.6 1.4 3.3
Normal Snow 17 18 17 8 2 0.1 0 0 0.1 3 10 14
Maximum Snow 82 55 48 62 18 2.5 - - 2 16 36 50
Thunderstorms 0 0 0 1 3 2 11 12 4 1 0 0
 
Traction device for shoes
Shoe traction device for icy trails

Winter Hiking

After a big snowfall most of the park's day-hiking trails require snowshoes. However, after a few days of melt, and with continued use, the trails become so well packed and icy that snowshoes are no longer effective to provide traction and stable footing.

Traction Devices

For much of the winter the most popular trails are so icy that steep sections cannot be safely traversed without some sort of additional traction device for your hiking shoes or boots. Mountaineering crampons or other, lighter options which fasten over your winter footwear like the one pictured here work well. We recommend wearing these devices throughout the park, especially in parking lots and other paved areas to avoid injuries from slipping and falling.

Traction devices are available for purchase at the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association's bookstore at the Visitor Center.

 

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is allowed throughout the park on all trails. But be aware that though snowshoes make it possible to travel through deep powdery snow, snowshoeing is still a highly strenuous activity. Most snowshoers enjoy walks along the Rim Trail, Bristlecone Loop, Fairyland Road, and Paria Road.
Don't have your own snowshoes? Join a Ranger Program! Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are designed for all levels of experience, from beginner to expert. Snowshoes and poles are available for free for those who sign up for these programs, which are provided when snow depth and staffing permit.

Ranger-led Snowshoe Hike Basics

Time Usually 2 hours
Duration Approximately 1 mile (1.6 km)
Attendance Fee Free
Minimum Age 8 years old +
Required Equipment Winter clothing, water, and waterproof boots (Snowshoes, poles provided). Tennis shoes will not be permitted.


How to Sign Up

When programs are offered, registration is required as group size is limited and hikes are subject to cancellation. When snow depth and weather permit, sign-up will be offered at the Visitor Center the day of the program beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing until full. No advance sign-up or reservations are available.

Full Moon Snoeshoe Hikes

One of the rarest ranger programs is a full moon snowshoe hike. Both the full moon date and the weather have to cooperate to create the necessary conditions. Review the Required Equipment for a snowshoe hike, then check out the full moon hike calendar.

 

Cross-country Skiing

Another great way to explore Bryce Canyon is on cross-country skis. Though it is illegal to ski off of the rim into the canyon, you can enjoy a variety of routes above the rim. These include sections of the Rim Trail along the edge of the Main Amphitheater, the Bristlecone Loop Trail; Paria Ski Loop; and the unplowed Paria View and Fairyland Point roads.

Cross-country skiing opportunities are abundant just outside the park, too! Bryce Canyon City also maintains many miles of groomed ski trails. If you don't have your own skis, cross-country skis as well as snowshoe equipment can be rented in Bryce Canyon City.

Snowshoe and Cross-country Ski Rentals

Snowshoes and crosscountry skis are available for rental outside the park at Ruby's Inn in Bryce Canyon City.

 

Winter Backpacking

Traversing Bryce Canyon's backcountry is challenging year-round. Winter conditions include deep snow and sub-zero temperatures. Finding and following the trail can be extremely difficult in deep snow. Losing the trail makes it difficult to find the key routes back up to the rim and the Rainbow Point Road. For this and other reasons (open fires are prohibited, the Rainbow Point Road may be closed for several days after a big storm, etc.) winter backcountry permits are issued to only the most experienced and well-prepared adventurers. Ski and/or snowshoe equipment is highly recommended.

 

Winter Astronomy

Long winter nights show off Bryce's beautiful dark skies to perfection. When staffing and weather conditions permit, we may offer winter Astronomy Programs. For availability, check the Calendar page or at the Visitor Center upon arrival. For safety reasons, inclement weather and/or air temperature/wind chill below 10° F (-12° C) may force cancellation of the event.

 
Woman on wintry, snow covered trail in red rock landscape
With the right equipment and clothing a winter hike can be a beautiful memory of Bryce Canyon

NPS / Keith Moore

Last updated: November 13, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O Box 640201
Bryce, UT 84764

Phone:

(435) 834-5322
Phones are answered and messages returned as soon as possible as staffing allows.

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