When I hear the word summer, images of roadtrips and red rocks pop into my head. My parents’ idea of a vacation when my sisters and I were little included hiking and being crammed in a car for hours. I have visited every national park in Utah multiple times. As a kid, I hated hiking. So it’s funny now that it’s my favorite thing.
This trip was different though. My parents and I arrived in Bryce Canyon one day in late November under the flurry of a snowstorm. We took our customary photo at the park sign and then checked into a Best Western just outside the park. It was my first time visiting the park in the winter and I was excited.
If you are looking for a unique winter destination, Bryce Canyon should be at the top of your list. While summer reigns supreme in terms of park visitation, winter shouldn’t be overlooked. The trails are quieter, and the snow is spectacular against the red rock.
Our first official day in the park started with the easy hike 0.8 mile out-and-back Mossy Cave Trail. The snowstorm had continued overnight, blanketing the famous red rock formations with a heavy dusting of powdery snow. Despite being strictly anti-cold weather, I felt like I was like I was in a wonderland. Having been so many time before, Bryce had lost some of its magic for me. But the snow made it feel like the first time all over again.
My parents and I cautiously made our way over the bridge and up toward the waterfall. At the time we went, the waterfall was underwhelming, but the journey to get there was so beautiful it didn’t matter.
My mom isn’t much of a hiker, so we dropped her off at the hotel to watch Korean dramas, before heading to our second hike of the day. We purchased traction chains for our boots at the Visitor Center after a suggestion from a ranger, and they turned out to be a life saver. We saw many others dangerously sliding all over the trail. Challenging ourselves, we attempted to do the Figure-8 Combo (6.4 miles) which combines the combines the Queens Garden, Peek-a-Boo Loop and the Navajo trails.
A well travelled trail, it really highlights all the best things Bryce Canyon has to offer. It was my first time hiking in snow and I loved it. The contrast of the white against the rock made even the switchbacks exciting. When the sun hit the snow just right, it sparkled. Gentle breezes brushed snow off the trails and made the trail feel like freshly shaken snow globe. The last time I had done this trail I was a little girl grumbling the whole way, but this time I excitedly led my dad along the trail, gawking at all the sites.
Eventually the cold seeped in, and we were tired and hungry. We called it quits before completing the Queens Garden, and decided it was time for some hot soup. We picked up my mom from the hotel and had lunch at Bryce Canyon Pines. The soup was exactly what we needed after a good hike. My family liked this place so much we went back again the next day.
We finished our evening early at Inspiration Point to watch the sunset. It was a chilly evening, and the temperatures were dropping fast once the sun finally set.
I am a sucker for a sunrise, so I asked my dad to drive me back to Inspiration Point around 6am. It was a shocking 7 degrees, and my dad refused to leave the car. I met other photographers outside whose faces were as red as my beanie. I love meeting other photographers and inquiring about their set ups.
With a scarf wrapped up to my eyes and hands firmly tucked into my jacket pockets, I watched the sun slowly creep up over the canyon. The color of the snow covered Hoodoos changed from blue to pink and the suns rays stretched over them. It was breathtaking.
By the time my dad and I started our next hike, the temperatures had definitely risen. The snow, which looked so powdery the day before was rapidly melting. The slush was causing a muddy mess on the Fairyland Loop (8.0 miles) but we continued on anyway. The mud caked up in our boots and slowed us down. But the sunshine was nice contrast to the chilly day we had before.
We admired the unique rock formations along the loop greeting other hikers we met along the way. I feel so thankful to share these times with my dad. He is my favorite person to pass a couple hours with because we never run out of things to talk about.
We repeated the lunch at Bryce Canyon Pines and then picked up some souvenirs from the Visitor Center. We packed up early the next morning and made our way to Las Vegas for a much needed spicy Sichuan lunch at Mian. The thing I crave the most when I travel is Asian food, my ultimate comfort. Stomach fool of noodles, we drove home to Los Angeles.
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