Winter Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park

Don’t Miss the Magic
Hikers experience Bryce Canyon National Park — sometimes called
Hikers experience Bryce Canyon National Park — sometimes called "the last grand sanctuary of natural darkness" — after dark along the Navajo Loop.

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most spectacular parks in Utah but too often folks just make a quick drive to one of the many overlooks, peek down into the canyon and drive on. Thus, lots of Bryce Canyon visitors come away with an incomplete impression of the park and miss Bryce’s greatest wonders. To really experience Bryce Canyon, you must go down into Bryce Canyon. The park’s two most popular hikes — Fairyland Loop and Navajo Loop — descend into canyons that reveal the magic of walking below the towering hoodoos.

At an elevation of up to 9,000 feet above sea level, Bryce Canyon gets regular snow during winter months, but hiking in Bryce during the cooler season is not only possible, it's highly recommended. Winter cuts the crowds and while you’ll meet other hikers, you’ll often have this special place all to yourself.

Gear up

Hiking boots

Your light trail hikers won’t cut it. You’ll want a breathable, waterproof boot with a sturdy, super-grippy sole.

Day pack
You’ll need a waterproof (or at least resistant) pack with enough room to stash all your layers as conditions change. Size matters: Make sure you’ve got room for snacks, water, a beanie, gloves, extra-mid layer and room to stash your outer layer if things heat up. Hiking in cold weather is about staying dry, so don’t be a hero. If you’re sweating a bunch, stop and peel a layer or two.

ICEtrekkers or Yaktrax
These inexpensive devices strap onto your boots and act as “chains” to give you traction on packed snowy, icy trails. They are available for sale at the Bryce Canyon Ranger Station and, if the trail is clear, are easily stashed in your day pack.

Snowshoes and gaiters (only if needed)
If you’ve arrived following one of Bryce’s periodic blizzards and there is new snow on the trails, you will need snowshoes and gaiters (to keep snow out of your boots). But before you go, consider that the popular Fairy Loop and Navajo Loop trails, for example, get a lot of traffic, even in winter. So, unless you are making first tracks on the trail after a storm, you’ll likely be walking on packed snow and ice, which makes snowshoes more of a hazard than a benefit. Consult the rangers on trail conditions. You can rent both at Ruby’s Inn Nordic Center just outside the park.

Tina Nardi and Alex Stoy capture the snow-dusted backdrop of Bryce Canyon's Sunset Point.
Tina Nardi and Alex Stoy capture the snow-dusted backdrop of Bryce Canyon's Sunset Point.

Trekking Poles
Clawing your way up snowy and, at times, icy trails and across wet slick rock (which unlike dry slick rock is genuinely slick) can be tricky. Some nice sturdy, collapsible poles, with a snow basket and a rubber tip will give you an extra place to put weight down while on slippery descents and can help you if you find yourself in deep snow.

Breathable, waterproof jacket and rain paints
You’ll want a nice breathable outer layer for your top and bottom that will repel water and let your perspiration out when you’re climbing if you get caught in rain or snow.

Non-cotton base layers
Wicking fabrics are a must; they’ll keep the moisture away from your skin as you sweat. After you stop moving you’ll cool down quickly and want to keep yourself as dry as possible.

Jeremy Pugh

Jeremy Pugh is a writer living in Salt Lake City who, in one way or another, has been writing about culture, history, and the outdoors in Salt Lake City for more than a decade. Formerly the editor of Salt Lake magazine, Pugh is a freelancer and consultant writing for SKI, Sunset, and Salt Lake magazines and the author of the book 100 Things to Do in SLC Before You Die. A lifelong Utahn, Jeremy travels widely but always loves returning home to the mountains where he bikes, hikes, and skis as much as possible.

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