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Bryce Canyon National Park   |  Hage Photo

5 Days   •   499 Miles

Winter's Summits and Rockscapes

There’s no better way to experience a bit of everything Utah offers. Ski its heavenly powder snow, then point your car southward to wind your way through the exquisite Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park and a series of crimson-hued state park gems along the way.
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Hold on to your (snow)hats: this itinerary covers the absolute best highlights Utah's wildscapes have to offer, from the high alpine summit of Mt. Timpanogos to the petrified sandstone dunes of Snow Canyon and everything in between. Consider this your sampler platter of the most spectacular vistas in Utah, including multiple state parks and world-famous Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks. Once you've taken them in, you'll want to come back for more. 

By visiting in winter, you get a rare look at both the ski resorts up north and the parks in the south, which are infinitely quieter and more peaceful in the colder months. It's a chance to see what our dramatic desert red rocks look like when dusted with snow. You'll want to hike it all... but budget plenty of time for photography, because you're going to need it. 

Bundle up, bring some good walking shoes, and pack lots of layers. You'll need your puffiest puffy jacket for stargazing in Byrce Canyon at 8,000 feet, yet you can probably get away with shorts and hiking sandals in St. George a couple days later. Plan accordingly! And keep in mind, your clothes aren't the only thing that need to be winter-ready. You'll hit some high elevations on this trip, and with those come snowy roads and occasional storm conditions, so if the forecast is snowy or icy, a four-wheel-drive car with good tires and caution are a must. 

Start: Sundance Resort
Finish: St. George
Hours of drive time: 12

DAY 1

Experience Utah’s Famed Powder at Charming Sundance Resort

0 Miles

Sundance Resort is a tucked-away gem just an hour south of the bustling Salt Lake City and Park City area resorts and minutes from the Provo-Orem metropolitan area. Far enough to feel away from it all, yet in striking distance for easy day-tripping and resort-sampling. Sundance was famously founded by Robert Redford, whose artful taste and genuine love of the outdoors come through in every aspect of the experience, from the decor to the menus and on-mountain adventures. The dramatic ridgelines of 11,700-foot Mt. Timpanogos tower above the resort and enthrall skiers at every turn. 

There are a number of rooms, suites, and cabins available to rent on-site, as well as plenty of great Airbnb rentals within striking distance. Enjoy a midday snack at their delicious deli, followed by a hot toddy at the beloved Owl Bar, a rich yet laid-back rustic atmosphere. Park City and Deer Valley are within easy driving distance if you want to pursue their shops or restaurants. 

This itinerary plans on just a day at Sundance, which is enough for a taste, but spend a few more days in the area if you can. Not only is Sundance worthy of multiple days of skiing or riding, but there are several additional world-class resorts easy to visit within about one hour's drive –– Park City, Deer Valley, Snowbird, Alta, Solitude, and Brighton. Get your fill of famed featherlight Utah powder before heading south to see what this desert's all about. 

Where to Stay
Sundance Resort, Utah Valley

Tips for Travel
Make your dinner reservations and ski school reservations ahead of time. Sundance is a cozy resort with just a few (excellent) restaurants on-property and you'll want to make sure you have your spot secured. By pre-arranging your dining, rental gear, and lodging, you'll be well situated to do what these mountains encourage you to do: relax.

DAY 2

From Mountaintops to High-Elevation Hoodoos

251 Miles

Get up bright and early for a four-hour drive south to the exquisite Bryce Canyon National Park. It's hard to imagine a more otherwordly landscape, and with any luck the famous "hoodoo" rock formations will be capped with brillant white snow. 

From the park's central "Bryce Canyon City," there's an entire network of hiking trails and paths of varying degrees of length and difficulty –– but all are beautiful. We recommend the Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden Trail as a moderate-length hike that gives a great sampler of the landscape. You can sign up for a guided snowshoe tour at the Visitor Center. Snowshoeing is beginner-friendly and a gorgeous way to tour the park –– all you have to do is walk, and you'll float right on the snow's surface. 

Bryce Canyon is also a designated International Dark Sky Park, which means the stargazing is unbelievable. For a guided stargazing evening, inquire at the ranger station about the latest astronomy and night sky programs. 

Where to Stay
In the park, Sunset Lodge is open for part of the winter. After that, choose a hotel just outside the park; there are plenty of options in the park's gateway town of Bryce and in Tropic just several minutes down the road. 

Tips for Travel
Bring winter hiking boots, "YakYak" style winter shoe spikes, trekking poles, and plenty of warm clothing if you want to stargaze or spend a lot of time outside. Stay well hydrated to help avoid altitude sickness. Also, keep in mind that since Bryce Canyon is in remote, mountainous terrain, a four-wheel-drive vehicle, snow tires, and/or chains might be a great idea if there's any chance of snow in the forecast. Bryce Canyon is usually sunny –– but when it's snowing, a four-wheel drive vehicle will feel much more secure. 

DAY 3

Rainbows of Desert Rock: Descending the Grand Staircase to Zion

152 Miles

Being in Kodachrome Basin State Park is like stepping into a world with super-powered filters that enhance and enrich every color. A bit quieter and smaller than Bryce Canyon nearby, it's a special corner of the world with meandering hiking trails that wander through age-old rock formations in unfathomable shapes. You'll encounter colorful straited rocks, sandstone pinnacles jutting into the sky, curious rock bridges, and countless nooks to explore. 

There are several excellent established hikes and nature walks, and you certainly can't go wrong –– so choose a shorter one if you're sparse on energy or time. If you're able to swing it, the Panorama Trail is a six-mile wonder. 

Then, stop at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, which is just a 20-minute jaunt south of the turn to Zion –– well worth a detour for beautiful midwinter photographs of huge pink sand dunes agasint a blue desert sky. The ensuing drive to and through Zion National Park will amaze and inspire. In fact, you just might need to pull off the road a few times to snap and gaze. You'll arrive in Springdale just in time for dinner and perhaps a pint of local ale at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. 

Where to Stay
Springdale (or consider East Zion-area-accommodations)

Tips for Travel
As you're descending to lower elevations than you were in earlier in your trip, the temperatures do warm up. But you'll still want to pack plenty of layers for hiking, and keep snow-boot spikes in your pack in case they can help your footing on snowy or icy baths.

DAY 4

Behold Zion National Park in its Silent Winter Glory

20 Miles

Welcome to a highly sought-after mecca... sitting in wintery silence. This season is the ticket to a peaceful experience visting Zion National Park, as if you time it right you can ditch the crowds and the shuttles lines that are familiar to summer visitors. (And skip the blazing summertime temps.) Local wildlife is out in abundance, and you're even allowed to drive to all the park's trailheads (as opposed to summer, when visitation levels make shuttles mandatory). 

Take a hike to Scout Lookout or Observation Point, carefully avoiding any icy trails or sections. Scout Lookout gets you within a stone's throw of the famed Angel's Landing pinnacle, minus the final section, which is more dangerous to hike in winter. Then, have a close-up look at the Virgin River and the famous Zion Narrows on the Riverside Walkway. The Narrows are a refreshing hike in the summer, but you probably won't be in the mood to get wet in the winter, so just observe from the dry shore. 

Where to Stay
Springdale, Utah

Tips for Travel
Temperatures in Zion vary wildly based on whether you're in the sun or in the shadow of the park's deep canyon walls. Bring more layers than you'll expect, plus hiking boot shoe spikes and trekking poles in case the paths get icy or snowy. Never ever attempt a steep or exposed trail if the surface is slick and watch for overhead ice.

DAY 5

Petrified Sand Dunes, Desert Art, and a Glimpse at Pioneer History

76 Miles

Brigham Young Winter Home historical site

Descend from the sky-high canyon walls of Zion to the sunny St. George area, where temperatures hover around the mid-50s even in mid-winter. (Hey, it isn't balmy, but it's pleasant novelty after skiing four days ago.) One of the best ways to get to know St. George is to venture into Snow Canyon State Park, which lies within the greater Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a gem amid a gorgeous landscape. There are several exceptional hiking trails and paths, plus a long, paved bike path. The Petrified Sand Dunes are a favorite winter walk, with sweeping views of the greater canyon surrounding you. 

Around mid-day, check out the Southwestern and Native American art galleries in nearby Kayenta Artists' Village, which doubles as an excellent lunch spot. You can also reserve a golf tee time if that's your cup of tea. With its mild weather, St. George is a beloved golf destination for Utahns, who come down from Salt Lake in the cooler months to enjoy a few rounds. (By contrast, this area spikes well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for much of the summer, so this is the time to enjoy it.)

For a taste of local settlers' history, tour the Brigham Young Winter Home historical site. It will give you a feel of what drew the area's early pioneer settlers and how they set up homesteads in a place that's piping-hot for so much of the year.

Where to Stay
Ivins Hotel (like Red Mountain Resort) or an Airbnb (in one of the housing developments near Snow Canyon State Park) or in St. George's many accommodations. 

Tips for Travel
In the sunny St. George area, you may at long last be on the dry trails in mid temperatures. Take a deep breath of the fresh, cool desert air. You've made it.

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