#NationalAnna: Birthday in Bryce Canyon

For my 26th birthday I wanted to do something extra special. I had always thought about renting a cabin or house in a neat place just to hang out with my friends for a few days, and why wouldn’t you want to spend a wintry weekend in Bryce Canyon?

Winter in Bryce Canyon is so neat. I’d always seen photos of the snow-capped hoodoos and it’s a place that seems like even more of a dreamland in winter. But do you know what kind of dreamland my friends and I got to experience?

Peter and I left on Friday morning to get in as much time as possible in the park, and that fogginess is what we arrived to when we visited Sunset and Sunrise Points. Visibility was so poor it was hilarious. Our best view of the day? We walked a few feet down the trail at Fairyland Loop.

The whole week before my birthday weekend, the park had been sunny and warm (at least, it was warm for February). I really feel like we were blessed with such an incredible experience, fog and all. Peter and I were alone, literally just the two of us, for the majority of the day. The only time we were around more than 2 other people at any one time was at the visitor center. Bryce is not only one of the most popular locations in Utah, it’s one of the most popular national parks. Having this type of park to yourself is unheard of.

You can’t miss Bryce in the winter because it’s a paradise for SNOWSHOEING. Peter and I both tried it for the first time earlier in the season, so the appeal of snowshoeing Bryce was huge. They close park roads to allow people to snowshoe all winter long! Our first stop in the park was the road to Fairyland Loop. We saw a couple cross country skiers as we were coming in, but other than that, we literally had the entire road and surrounding woods to ourselves. I can’t emphasize enough how wild it is to be so alone in such a busy park.

The amazing thing about snowshoeing Bryce is that you’re basically allowed anywhere. Normally you stay on the roads and trails and that’s it. But when everything is covered in snow it doesn’t matter where you head! We walked around areas with completely untouched snow, places we never would have been able to explore otherwise. Keep in mind that you can’t rent snowshoes in the park, but you can find them lots of places nearby, meaning on the way to the park, or bring them with you

After snowshoeing, we drove around to a few viewpoints just to explore the areas,  and we were further engulfed by the fog. I was waiting for Slender Man to step out from behind a tree at any moment. It was hauntingly beautiful.

I’ll probably never visit Bryce when it looks like this again, and I don’t even think it’s that common for Bryce to look quite this foggy in winter. I mean, most people are going to avoid this weather as much as possible. We were committed to coming because we had a room reserved at the lodge. It would have taken some incredible convincing to stop me from moving forward with this trip.

It just kept getting foggier and foggier as the evening went on, and snowier too, which made for some real sketchy driving conditions for our friends who had left in the late afternoon/early evening. Thankfully, they made it to us safely, but it was a much different trip for them than it was for me and Peter. They even brought me a birthday cake!

Let’s talk about the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. The lodge has a few different buildings/components, and only one building, the motel-style one, is actually open in the winter. Even though I would have loved to stay in one of the actual cabins, the motel room was super great! It was fairly spacious and even had its own little balcony. The rate, at least in winter, was reasonable. And split between a few friends it was plenty affordable. It was a special occasion and even if it had been more expensive I would have been happy to pay. I look forward to going back again to try staying other places.

Going outside on Saturday morning was the best surprise. It snowed 5 or 6 inches and was still coming down just a bit. Perfect weather for hiking down below the rim, right? We weren’t originally going to do the whole Navajo/Queen’s Garden Loop, but that didn’t matter. Once you got below, things cleared up quite a bit, and it was great until we started ascending once again. Then it was time for some serious wind burn. The snow only came down heavier as the time went on and the wind only hurt us more. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

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