For day two of our Southern Utah trip we were surprised to wake up to snow. I opened the slats on the blinds early Monday morning so that I could watch the sunrise come across the canyon walls but to my surprise I watched the sky light up and a flurry roll in. Wasn’t expecting that!
I had seen that the temperatures had dropped quite a bit from when we were researching and putting the trip together, and I had even seen that there was a chance of a light snow in the forecast for Sunday night but I just thought OK no big deal, we’ll wake up to this beautiful dusting of snow and we’ll be on our way.
It was beautiful, that’s for sure, but it did change our plans and commute for the day.
We stopped for coffee in Springdale to warm up before we drove into Zion National Park.
MeMe’s Cafe is super cute and their breakfast menu looks amazing. We’re more of the coffee to go type, but if you’re looking for a great place to dine in – this would be my recommendation.
With caffiene in hand we made our way through the park and to the trailhead for the Emerald Pools.
We took about a million photos on the short hike up to the lower pool, and about a million more on the short hike back to the car.
From there we had thought we’d head over to Weeping Rock but there were so many trails closed with winter wash outs and ice warnings (and the snow was still coming down) that we thought we’d be better off getting on the road to Bryce before things got any worse.
Even just getting out of Zion is an incredibly photo worthy journey.
Once we were through the Mt Carmel Tunnel, the road conditions really changed. We were no longer driving in wet slop that was easy to navigate, we were now in full on snow – a couple inches on the roadway and big patches of ice. FUN!
That was a really stressful forty minutes of driving and I was so so so happy when we arrived at the Mount Carmel Junction (PS take a right here and you’ll be headed to the Grand Canyon). We stopped in for a nerve settling break at a giant gas station/gift shop before heading north on 89 for our destination of the day: Bryce Canyon National Park.
The remainder of the drive was a lot better – wet and bare roads for the most part – a few sections of ice that we got through without issue. Nonetheless I was so grateful when we finally reached our turnoff for Bryce and the hotel came into view. We made it!
We decided to trek out to the park before checking in at the hotel and arrived at Bryce around 12:30 pm.
A large section of the park was closed because of the heavy snowfall (almost two feet!) but we were able to get to the section I most wanted to show my mom anyway – Sunset Point. Sunset Point is the trailhead location for the Navajo Loop. Instead of doing the downhill loop, we walked along the Rim Trail from Sunset Point to Inspiration Point, and then the full length of the rim of this amphitheater back to Sunrise Point. The Rim Trail actually goes a lot farther than what we did; from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point is something like 18 miles but we did cover our section of the amphitheater pretty well.
It was like trekking through the arctic (in capris and trail runners ) but it was worth it for so many reasons. 1) I never really got cold 2) the view was incredible 3) the silence of snow combined with the vastness of that open canyon…unreal.
We also stopped in at the visitors center to get some information and watch the video about the park history.
Bryce Canyon gets it’s name from Ebenezer Bryce, a pioneer who settled in the area and people who came to visit jokingly referred to the “canyon” in his backyard as “Bryce’s Canyon” – fun fact, it’s not really a canyon
When we finally did check in at our hotel, our first priority was getting something hot to eat!
We chose to eat at our hotel, Ruby’s Inn which has kind of a cool story; a couple named Reuben (Ruby) and Minnie Syrett established a ranch near where the hotel is back in 1916. They moved their family out to Utah and set up shop before they even know about Bryce Canyon. Another rancher came by and told them about the canyon and the Syretts started inviting everyone they knew – eventually setting up a lodge right by the canyon. As the operation grew, the lodge was moved to it’s present location and 100 years later it’s a Best Western still owned and operated by Ruby’s family.
The hotel has a great pool and hottub space which we thoroughly enjoyed before calling it a night.
Planning a trip of your own? Here’s some additional info:
DIRECTIONS. From Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon, we took the east exit from Zion through the Mt Carmel Tunnel and drove on HWY 9 until the Mt Carmel Junction. Take a left to head north on 89 which takes you through the small town of Hatch. A right onto Scenic Byway 12 and you’ll see the signs for Bryce Canyon National Park. Total miles: 73.
LODGING. Ruby’s Inn was great and really affordable. It’s also incredibly close to the park entrance and has a general store, gift shop and whatever else you might need all right there – even a tire shop. If you’re looking to camp, there are really cool camp accommodations in the Red Canyon area although as the weather gets warmer, these areas fill up quick. We’ve camped in Hatch before, which was lovely and perfect, it’s just a longer drive into the park to do things.
ATTRACTIONS. If the road is open, you should definitely drive the full rim of Bryce Canyon via the main park road. My top recommendations for “must do” hikes along that route include the Navajo Loop Trail and/or the Queens Garden Trail -Queens Garden is one of the easiest trails in the park and is at a significantly lesser incline than the Navajo.
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS. Red Canyon is just before you get to Bryce – you’ll know it from the two very distinctive red rock overhanging tunnels you drive through. I would love to ride my bike on the paved trail and there are several hikes here listed as “not to be missed” in the local guides: Thunder Mountain Trail and the Casto Canyon Trail are going on my list for “next time.” Mossy Cave Trail is still considered a part of the national park but you get to it from outside the main park area. Going all the way back to HWY 12, you take a right towards Escalante and you’ll see a trailhead just as you’re rounding the bend in what feels like “leaving Bryce.” The trail is less than a mile and relatively little climb but is pretty magical.
The next town over “Tropic” is where you’ll find the historic Ebenezer Bryce Cabin and the accompanying heritage center.
Scenic Byway 12 – if you’re heading to Moab there is a faster way to get there but I have to recommend taking the scenic byway – the 45 minute delay is worth the wonders of the world you’ll drive over, through and by on your way. Just absolutely stunning.
And that’s where I’ll end it for today because in the morning, we’re headed down that very road. HWY 12 to Capitol Reef – here we come!