Top 4 Hiking Trails & Viewpoints to See When Visiting Bryce Canyon in the Winter
Bryce Canyon National Park is very different in the Summer and Winter; in fact, Winter is the only time I absolutely love visiting this national park. It’s less crowded and looks like a magical fairytale winter wonderland with the contrast of the white snow on the red-orange hoodoos. Temperatures can also drop significantly… it was a low of 6 deg F when I visited and when it’s windy… it’s really bad. But with the right layers (here are some of my current favs), you’ll be fine.
I’ve been to Bryce twice with snow: Thanksgiving 2016 and New Year 2019-2020. Snow can start as early as Nov and the trails can remain open, but conditions vary year to year, month to month. A lot of the park roads/ trails can be closed during winter storms so be sure to check current conditions when planning your trip.
Here are some of my favorite hiking trails in Bryce, with levels ranging from a beginner’s walk in the park to family-friendly trails, to hiking down into the canyon.
THINGS TO SEE: Bryce Amphitheater, Byrce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, Sunrise Point MILES: 1-6 mi out and back TIME: 1-2 hr DATE I WENT: 11/26/16 DIFFICULTY: easy
The Rim Trail is one of the easiest and flattest in the park, offering views of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater the entire time. It’s mostly paved and pet-friendly, but in the winter, the trail can get covered with snow too.
The Rim Trail connects all 4 viewpoints in Bryce (Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point) and can be as long or short as you choose. From the first to the last of these four viewpoints, the trail is about 2.8 miles one way. I think Bryce Point and Sunset Point are the best vistas so I only hiked that part of the trail which was 2.4 miles one way.
Navajo Loop Trail
THINGS TO SEE: Thor's Hammer, Two Bridges, Wall Street MILES: 1.3 mi loop TIME: 1-2 hr DATE I WENT: 11/26/16 & 12/31/19 DIFFICULTY: easy-moderate ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 550 ft
This very popular trail starts at Sunset Point. Wall Street is closed in the winter so the Navajo Trail cannot be done as a full loop – when I went late Nov, the trail was all open and on the last day of Dec, it was closed. However, you can still hike down one-way to see Thor’s Hammer, Two Bridges and access the trail connecting to the Peekaboo Loop.
Fun fact: this is the very first hike I ever did as a kid and I had no idea what it was until I revisited the park as an adult in 2016.
THINGS TO SEE: wall of window, Bryce Canyon from the bottom MILES: 5.5 mi loop TIME: 3-4 hr DATE I WENT: 11/26/16 DIFFICULTY: moderate / strenuous ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 1571 ft
The trailhead starts at Bryce Point and is a little steep as the hike descends quickly into the canyon floor, so make sure to bring microspikes if there is snow on the trail, possibly even snowshoes. When I went Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago, the trail was very icy and for a short section that I took my microspikes off… I slipped… hard… on ice… and had a bruise on my butt bigger than the size of a tennis ball – learn from my mistake.
The Peekaboo Trail is my favorite hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and I love that it’s more secluded in the colder months. The Peekaboo Loop is 3 miles itself, but the trail to connect from Bryce Point down to the loop adds some miles. It can also be connected with the Navajo Trail above to create a longer, figure 8 trail. It’s listed as a strenuous hike and winter conditions can make it harder, but the trail is so beautiful offering many different views and plenty of photo ops.
THINGS TO SEE: waterfall and dripping mossy cave in summer, icicles in winter MILES: 0.8 mi out and back TIME: 1 hr DATE I WENT: 1/1/20 DIFFICULTY: easy ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 200 ft
Mossy Cave Trail is one of the easiest and underrated trails of Bryce Canyon National Park, probably because the trailhead starts outside of the park, 4 miles east on Hwy 12. The trail hikes along a stream and in the winter, the waterfall is frozen and the mossy cave has no moss but it’s filled with icicles that are way cooler – but I haven’t seen this trail in regular conditions. This is a great family-friendly trail.
Remember to pack plenty of water, layers, and wear sunscreen – just because it’s winter and cold, doesn’t mean you don’t need these. There are lots of BLM roads nearby if you’re looking for a place to park and sleep (vanlifers). The North Campground only has one loop open in the Winter and Sunset Campground is closed Nov-Mar.