Visiting Bryce Canyon in Winter
After our big trip through the southwest over Thanksgiving break, we decided to take advantage of the time off during Christmas break and do another big road trip. We had talked about doing the Utah National Parks during the spring or summer, but when my sister offered to host us all in one of her timeshares in Las Vegas for Christmas we knew we had to make some time to visit Southern Utah. Our plan was to drive to our farthest destination in Utah, and make our way back down through the south end to Las Vegas and then head back home through Death Valley National Park. Also want to note that the government shutdown started on the day we left and as we were driving, we didn’t know if and what we would be able to access when we got there. Thank you to social media for keeping us updated through the trip!
We got on the road the Saturday before Christmas and drove all day (12 hours) to Bryce Canyon National Park. The itinerary for the week was decided super short notice and partly on the fly. As we drove, I booked our hotel from the road on the Hotel Tonight app (not an ad, just love them!). You never know what hotels are going to pop up on the site, but lucky for us there was availability at Rubys Inn. A good friend of mine had recently recommended it to us, so I booked based on her personal review. This place has it all; indoor pool, outdoor skating rink, a restaurant, general store and market, laundry room, you name it they have it. This little town is far from any big city and there isn’t much else around ( No Target or big supermarkets) so the general store came in handy for sure. They also just happen to be minutes from the entrance to the park.
We got up the next morning and had the buffet breakfast that was included in the reservation. It was pretty good and served up everything from pancakes and hash browns to scrambled eggs and fresh fruit. After breakfast we stopped into the general store to pick up a few items for lunch. It’s not fancy and don’t have a huge selection, but they had a few options. We grabbed some packaged deli meat , cheese and some instant noodle type stuff. We had packed nuts and fresh fruit too. We had packed our small car cooler and a thermos with boiling hot water (I had boiled it in an electric kettle in our hotel room that morning). Our goal was to spend as much time in the park during the day and not come back to town until dinner.
We arrived to the park early in the morning and found out that half of the park was closed due to ice and snow and not enough staff because of the shutdown, so we had limited access to trails. We ended up doing part of Rim Trail which was easy enough for the kids and had beautiful views of the snow covered hoodoos. My favorite moments from the hike were stopping and sitting near the edge to just look into the canyon. The formations are truly unique and seeing them covered in white snow was extra special. The trail itself was also snowy and icy but we managed with our regular hiking boots. It did get icy up at the top near Inspiration Point, so we ended up turning back right before that. There were some pretty steep cliffs without railings along the trail, so we definitely had to keep an eye on the kids.
We had parked in the lot across the street from the visitor center so we popped in there after our hike to see what other areas we could explore. There they told us about the scenic drive on highway 12 and pointed out some spots to stop at on the way. Since half of the park was closed, we decided to do the drive.The first stop we made was at Mossy Cave. It was a short hike to a cool icicle covered cave. Along the trail a little river was still running. We hiked to the top and hung out to enjoy a warm drink. I had packed our thermos, some hot chocolate , tea packets, and paper cups so we warmed up in the cave. When we were all done we made sure to pack up all our trash and we hiked back down. The hike down was super icy and the kids went down on their bottoms some of the way. Bryan and I were as careful as we could be and managed to make it down with only a few slips and luckily no injuries. For this hike, I would have liked to have snowtrax or something similar but we weren’t prepared for it so we managed the best we could. Luckily we had extra clothes in the car to change the kids wet pants. They stripped to their long underwear and had lunch in the backset of the car. Once we were all warm, dry and fed we made our way back on highway 12 toward Escalante. The rest of the drive was beautiful. We stopped at a few viewpoints and turned back around once we hit Escalante. Most things in the town were closed and we couldn’t figure out if it was because of the off season, it being almost Christmas or because of the government shutdown. There were a couple of motels, coffee shops and antique shops but we weren’t able to explore them. Once we got back to Bryce Canyon area, we stopped in to Bryce Canyon Pines restaurant for dinner. They were short staffed and there was a long wait for a table, but we were assured the food and the pie was worth it, so we waited. I had the french dip sandwich, Bryan had a burger and so did the kids. Most things were complety made in house and they had a good list of local Utah beers. We topped off the meal with a slice of peach pie a la mode.
The next morning we packed up all our things, had breakfast at the inn and took the kids ice skating across the street. From there we would head to a slot canyon and Zion, but all did not go as planned. Stay tuned for the next post on Zion National Park.