Hiking Inn to Inn
Add Bryce Canyon National Park to your bucket list for spectacular winter beauty, hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing. We visited in late December. A blanket of snow brought a peacefulness that was a contrast to the busy summer season. The crowds had thinned, the air was clear, and views stretched for 100 miles.
Ancient rivers eroded the edge of Southern Utah’s Table Cliff Plateau forming pinnacles, spires and fins called hoodoos. They are the “Legend People” of Piute lore, turned to stone by Coyote. Walk the Rim Trail or drive the park’s road, stopping at overlooks. The views are breathtaking and ever-changing, a photographers dream.
Winter hiking on steep trails can be dangerous, but attaching traction devices to your boots gives you a firm grip on snow or ice. You can buy them at sporting goods stores or at the park’s visitor center. We use ICEtrekkers. Some other brands are Yaktrax, Kahtoola, or STABILicers.
On a bright, sunny day we descended into Bryce Amphitheater from Sunset Point on popular Navajo Loop Trail. Reaching the canyon floor, we took the 3.7 mile Peekaboo Loop. The snow was deep, but others had broken trail. Hiking through forests of pinyon pines, fancifully shaped hoodoos towered around us. We only saw only two other hikers on Peekaboo.
We returned to the rim on Queens Garden Trail. This section has some of the most fantastic and whimsical formations. We hiked through tunnels carved in the soft rock and assigned names to the hoodoos. “That one looks like a woman on a horse.” “There’s Abraham Lincoln!” A short side trail leads to a spot where if you use your imagination, you can see Queen Victoria overlooking her court. Many of the courtiers wore tall white hats of snow.
Reaching the rim at Sunrise Point, we strolled the half mile back to our car. The sun was dipping low in the west, casting long shadows from the hoodoos, such an eerie and beautiful sight, a great way to end our six-mile hike.
Within the park, there are many cross-country ski routes above the rim. Just outside the park, Ruby’s Inn offers 30km of groomed trails and ski rentals.
Ruby’s also rents snowshoes for inside or outside the park. Day time ranger-led snowshoe hikes start from the visitor center, and full-moon hikes are offered from November to March. Snowshoes and poles are provided free of charge. Call the visitor Center, 435-834-4747 for information and reservations.
Ruby’s also has a skating rink and rentals.
Where to Stay
Lodge at Bryce Canyon is the only lodging within the park. It was built in 1925, but 2015-16 is the first time it will stay open all winter. Rooms start at $121.