At the beginning of January, we took a family vacation to Utah to visit and hike some of the Southwest National Parks. My mom, now retired, has a goal to visit every National Park, so this crossed a few off of her list! I wasn’t sure what to expect, because the winter is considered the “off season”, but it was an incredible experience at some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
I’m from Nebraska, and because of my work schedule (not being able to take off a ton of days), I flew from Omaha to Las Vegas with extended family. From there, we rented a car (note: rent an SUV in the winter) and headed to our “base camp” to meet my parents and brother, who drove. Base camp AKA beautiful VRBO rental between Bryce and Zion. It was off a main road, but in enough wilderness that we got a true Utah winter experience.
We have always had great luck with VRBO rentals and have been utilizing them since I was in middle school. I’ve used both Airbnb and VRBO, but really prefer VRBO.
The first evening we spent time just taking in the surroundings. The mountainous drive from Las Vegas through Deer Creek gave me a little bit of vertigo, so I enjoyed relaxing on the sofa reading. This vacation gave me time to read four books (see which books here on Goodreads), which in my opinion, is the best kind of trip!
The first full day, we hiked Bryce Canyon National Park. This was during the government shutdown, so a lot of things were closed, including the Lodge, the Visitor’s Center and many of the trails. The winter weather, though, was about 45 degrees, perfect for hiking and wearing an average amount of layers.
Here’s a full hiking recap:
We started the day by packing sandwiches for lunch and getting our gear on. If you’re hiking Bryce in the winter months, even if you think you don’t need them, you’re going to need spikes or Yak Tracks. My dad wore hiking boots without them and made it about 10 feet without sliding. He immediately had to put his on. You’re also going to want to bring water, because with Bryce, you start at the top of the canyon and hike down. The elevation changes are noticeable.
The view from the Rim Trail/Sunset Point to Sunrise Point Trail is breathtaking. We started by parking at the Rim Trail and hiked the part of it that was open. It’s an 11-mile trail, but we only did a portion of it. It’s an easy one, but worth the views. The Sunset Point to Sunrise Point Trail is quick and connected to the Rim Trail.
Everything at Bryce Canyon is red and gorgeous. The rock formations are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
I kind of wanted to die after hiking uphill on this trail. It is “moderate”, but hiking back and forth up a steep canyon is rough. My Apple Watch said I hiked 36 flights of stairs. Here’s the bottom of where you start to hike back and forth. Breathtaking views and the bluest sky. Bryce is picturesque.
Once we finished this (we took our time and did about 3-4 hours of hiking here), we headed to an information center that was open (thanks to a grant), and ate our sandwiches/relaxed our tired legs. We wanted to hike more of the trails, but honestly, a lot of the park was closed from the shutdown/season, so we ended our day early to head back to “base camp” and relax.
Bryce Canyon is BEAUTIFUL, and I highly recommend visiting if you’re headed to Utah. The rock formations are unique and the hiking is worth the trip, even if you have to take a few breaks to rest 😉
Be sure to pin the image below on Pinterest so you can remember this post for your Bryce Canyon recommendations!