One of Utah's best kept secrets; Bryce Canyon in the Winter
|Bryce Canyon in the Winter|
After reviewing my pictures from my recent adventures in Nevada, I was reminded of the brilliant colors of Bryce Canyon and how its augmented by winter snow. I visited Bryce Canyon when I was on a grand Utah road trip where I hit every national park in the state. After having visited this park in the spring, I thought it might be less enjoyable. However I was pleasantly surprised by the winter and enjoyed a popular national park all by myself. Turns out that some of the most renowned photography of Bryce Canyon are those taken in the winter. The famous Navajo Loop, normally a mile long hike, become an excellent snowshoeing trail too.
Despite Bryce Canyon's fame, it is located in a rugged and alpine part of Utah. If you are driving, I'd recommend checking road conditions and incoming weather- the park is at 8,000ft which can get snowed in all the way into May. Also, whenever traveling through Utah, make sure you bring an extra tank of gas! Bryce Canyon itself is near several stations but many routes to it are through areas without any.
|"Wall Street" at sunrise|
I'd recommend getting to Bryce Canyon before sunrise. The amphitheater faces east which is why sunrise is generally considered the best time for photography. Here is a hiking map
from the NPS website. The aptly named "Sunrise Point" and "Bryce Point" are where most sunrise pictures are taken. "Paria View" also has some good opportunities.
The Navajo Loop Trail
is one of the most frequently hiked trails of the park and I believe this is well-deserved. Its one of the only trails that penetrates the deep canyons created by the hoodoos and fins. Its also about a mile in length although it is very steep. If you wish to hike further, it is also the jump-off point for many of the wilderness trails of the park.
|Bryce Canyon in the Winter|
Given the trail's steepness, I would highly recommend bringing some snowshoes and trekking poles. The trail also has a significant amount of switchbacks; it would be easy to lose your footing as you're climbing in and out of canyons. Fortunately it is well marked and there are usually enough tracks in the winter to make it straightforward. But don't be afraid to go off trail! On a pair of snowshoes, you can really move through the amphitheater and search for that perfect shot.
As you can see from the hiking map, there are many options for hiking below the rim. Most of these trails will be difficult to follow in the winter; only a few signs exist and the trails are not marked. The best options for further hiking are the trails which circle the rim. The main trail goes from Bryce Point to Fairyland Point and provides excellent views of the infamous amphitheater and other hoodoos of the park.
|Bryce Amphitheater |
The southern portion of the park is even less frequently traveled and holds some further treasures. At Rainbow Point you can wander through one of the few ancient Bristlecone Pine Groves of the country. Yovimpa Point also provides views of the expansive Colorado Plateau and the Grand Staircase.
Bryce Canyon is too often thought of as a summer destination. However the winter offers more solitude and unique photography opportunities. The same could be said about most of Utah's other national parks. I certainly prefer this park in the off-season.
Read. Plan. Get Out There!
|Bryce Point Overlook|