I had very high expectations about Bryce Canyon National Park, in fact they were so high I was worried that I might be disappointed. So many people have told me that Bryce Canyon was their favorite park out of the Utah parks. That’s pretty high praise considering the caliber of these national parks. Has that happened to you when you set your expectations too high? Well, that certainly wasn’t the case with our Bryce Canyon visit! We arrived at Bryce Canyon a little apprehensive, seeing snow in places and feeling the colder shift in temperature. However, the ranger at the Visitors Center assured us that most of the trails were open and we didn’t need any special gear to hike the trails. Even the road to Rainbow Point was open at this time (last week of December)! We were beyond excited and felt extremely lucky to be able to experience so much more of Bryce Canyon than expected. Honestly, I was prepared to be alright with just looking at the canyon from the rim if snow was an issue because it was December after all.
I knew exactly which hike I wanted to do first! The highly recommended Queens Garden to Navajo loop trail was first on our list. I couldn’t wait to experience it for myself. We made our way to Sunset Point to find the trailhead and take our first look at the canyon. The parking lot was pretty full, but we were able to find parking pretty quickly. After experiencing so much car congestion at Zion, this was a refreshing change.
My daughter ran up ahead to the rim, and I stopped to watch her as she got very still and took in the scenery. After a moment she turned around, gave me a funny look, and gestured for me to come over (“what the heck are you just standing there for, you gotta check out the view!”) Love that her teenagery self can be inspired by nature and even better yet want to share it with her mom! I’ve seen may beautiful pictures of Bryce Canyon, but there is no substitute for standing at the rim and seeing it for yourself. Looking into the canyon for the first time is a take-your-breath-away, awe-inspiring moment. To be able to see and experience the expanse, the enormity, the colors, the patterns, the hoodoos (tall spires of rock), the shadows cast by the sun, the snow, and so much more…. is absolutely incredible! This is exactly why we love National Parks and why we want to continue visiting them.
Queens Garden to Navajo Loop hike (~3 miles):
We walked along the rim trail to the Queens Garden trailhead taking in the views. Tripping over rocks, forgetting to look at the trail because the views were mesmerizing.
There were many people who started the Queens Garden hike along with us, so I figured that this popular hike would just be crowded. However, after about a quarter of a mile, the crowds dropped off and we had the trail all to ourselves. This hike was seriously amazing! There was so much to see and take in. I love that we came across something new around every corner. The snow added an extra element of interest and contrast. You had to walk around some icy snow areas on the trail, but for the most part, it was very walkable just with our hiking shoes.
We continued on to the Navajo Loop trail. The entire hike is about a three mile hike which is pretty easy except for the last section up the switchbacks.
I was breathing pretty hard at the top, but it was so worth it. The scenery on the hike was so unique, varied and just plain beautiful. This hike ranks up there with my all time favorites.
On our way out we stopped at Paria View Point to get some sunset pictures. It is really hard to take a bad picture at Bryce Canyon.
I made reservations at the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand hotel for two nights about a month prior. For $116 a night it was a great deal and it turned out to be a nice place. Also, the breakfast was included and I was pleasantly surprised at how extensive the selection was. We were expecting to grab a banana and something bready, but we ended up having a full sausage, eggs and biscuit breakfast (with fruit, yogurt, pastries, cereal, juice, etc… available as well). I would stay here again just for the breakfast! Not knowing what the weather was going to be like when I made the reservation, we decided to skip camping this time. With the sunny weather, it probably would have been ok to camp, but I was very happy with our accommodations at the Best Western.
Our friends recommended that we eat at Ruby’s Restaurant, which was basically one of the only places to eat. We were pretty hungry after our hike and looking forward to a warm meal. All three of us had the buffet dinner and enjoyed having so many choices. We got to the restaurant right when it opened at 5 pm, so there was no line when we were seated. However, an hour later when we were leaving, the line was about 20-30 people long (maybe more) with an already full restaurant. It’s a good idea to get there early! (or at least before the sunset viewing crowd arrives)
Our day at Bryce Canyon put big smiles on our faces. So far, Bryce Canyon was everything everyone said it would be… and then some!
If you’re interested, here are some posts related to this trip:
Winter Camping in Valley of Fire State Park
Celebrating Christmas in Zion National Park
Seeking Solitude in Zion National Park
Driving Tour of Bryce Canyon National Park