Some may say that Bryce is not a four season park, but I am here to tell you it is. We made the trip in the dead of winter where the the temperature was in the single digits at best.
So what can you do at a park like this when the weather is like that? Almost everything! Typically the days start out with wind chills below zero, but if you come prepared it is very possible to still enjoy this magical place comfortably.
A great family hike to do around this time of year is the Navajo Trail. Starting from Sunset Point you’ll embark on relatively short 1.3 mile loop into the main amphitheater. You will get up close and personal with the main attraction of the park-the hoodoos! Over the 1.3 miles you will descend a moderate 550 feet into the heart of the canyon and then back up to Sunset Point.
If you are making this trek in the winter time, while the hike is simple, coming prepared is paramount.
As I stated previously, wind chills at this time of year regularly drop below zero and the canyon is also notoriously windy.
You will obviously need layers. You will warm up when you get moving but will quickly cool down when you stop. The trick is maintaining a stable body temperature.
A good rule of thumb when layering up for the winter is having a dry fit (100% polyester) base layer. This will dry faster than cotton when you sweat in it. Follow this up with a thicker second layer of cotton or a down jacket. Your top layer should always be windproof and if there is a chance of precipitation, waterproof.
If you’re like me, you may even want something to cover your face like a mask or a scarf.
Leave room in your pack to add or remove layers as necessary.
You will be traversing some steep switchbacks in a few areas, so if you like carrying trekking poles or a hiking stick this is a great trail to utilize those tools on. But perhaps the most important piece is some form of traction! Your hiking boots aren’t going to be enough to cut it here on the slick ice that develops on some of the relatively steep sections of the trail.
The fix for this problem? Crampons. I prefer to use Yaktrax. If you don’t plan on using them more than a few times the regular walking pair (around $20) should do. If you’re like me and always seem to be ending up hiking on snow and ice, I would recommend a spiked or diamond grip pair (around $45). This will have enough durability and traction to get you through snow and ice packed trails that aren’t too difficult.
During the summer, this park is a whole different animal. If you plan on doing any real hiking, you are going to want to come early to beat the heat and hopefully the crowds as well (another perk to winter is the lack of crowds!).
The key in the summer is making sure you have plenty water for yourself. My general rule of thumb is I begin by thinking about how much water I think I am going to need then bring about 16 ounces more. You never know when a hike is going to be more difficult than you originally thought or if you may even go off on a side trail you didn’t know you would encounter!
Whenever you decide to go, in any season Bryce Canyon is a must see for anyone planning on hiking or just driving through.
The park is like no other park in the world, so get out there and find your Prime Adventure!