Photographing Bryce Canyon National Park in the winter with a toddler in tow

November 20, 2018

Jamie planned yet another perfect vacation and photography destination trip for us this year (2018). On the heels of our successful trip to Sedona in 2016 , she planned another winter trip for us to Bryce Canyon National Park and surrounding Utah. This time we planned a few things differently. We boarded Maxx (the dog) because much of Bryce does not allow dogs nor do the local hotels. We also split the travel into two days with a stop in Las Vegas on the way to Utah and on the way back. Jamie also opted to bring our new Canon T7i as opposed to the G9X she brought to Sedona. The T7i is super lightweight and the new STM lens is also much lighter than other glass we own. This made hiking with it ideal.

On February 17th we wanted to get an early start on our trip but I already had other plans. I went to The VOID at Downtown Disney and fought in an untethered physical world VR experience as resistance forces against the empire set in the Rogue One Star Wars era with my Dad and another family friend. As soon as I was done blasting storm troopers, Jamie, Silas and I hopped in our loaded Subaru and drove to Las Vegas to spend a night at the Main Street Station Casino and Brewery.

On February 18th we walked over to the Hash House A Go Go at the Plaza Hotel and Casino. There are two of these restaurants in Las Vegas and if you can make it to either one, I highly recommend it. Get there early though as the lines start forming very quickly. Every breakfast item on the menu is special in some way and the portions are huge. We left breakfast, checked out and immediately drove for Bryce via Zion National Park. The faster way is to go past Bryce on the 15 and come back down from the north but we couldn’t skip out on a chance to pass through Zion again. We spent some time at the visitor center and then drove up the switchbacks to the long tunnel which is lit only by natural light “Windows” cut into the rock. Once we made it to the other side of the tunnel, we found the first place with parking and took Silas out for a look around. We didn’t really hike as we needed to make it to Bryce so we drove on. Finally around 5PM we made it to the city of Bryce Canyon. We got dinner at Ruby’s Inn Cowboy’s Buffet and Steak Room, which would also be where we ate almost every meal while in Bryce. Then we checked in across the street at the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel.

Stretching our legs in Zion

On February 19th we started exploring the park. Because of the snow during the winter, everything past Bryce Point road was closed. We started by driving to Sunset Point and going on our first hike from there. We made sure to wear our Ice Trekkers traction devices on our shoes and I had my trekking poles replete with snow baskets. With Silas bundled up and in the backpack, we set off on Navajo loop trail past Thor’s Hammer. I wanted to go back via Wall Street but it is closed all winter due to potential rock fall so we took Queen’s Garden Loop trail to Rim Trail past Sunrise Point and back to the car. In total we hiked 2.6 miles and descended and gained 604 feet in elevation. Right around the Queen Victoria overlook, Silas began to get cold and uncomfortable so it’s good we didn’t try to hike a longer loop. One thing I learned from that day is the wind shear comes on abruptly in certain places in the canyon. After that day, we made sure to put the rain fly on the backpack which protected Silas from the wind better.

February 19th GPS recording on AllTrails

Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park

The views were amazing

After the hike, we drove to Bryce Point to take some photos from the overlook. Only one of us got out of the car at a time so Silas could warm up comfortably in his car seat. It had snowed the night before and the path to the overlook was icy. You could feel the wind was particularly strong from the exposed overlook. The wind caused any snow to ice over. I saw a couple of people have a very difficult time making it to the overlook because they didn’t hold the hand rail. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the visitor’s center.

The view from Bryce Point

On February 20th we drove to Inspiration Point and hiked the Rim trail to Bryce Point. When we pulled into the parking lot to hike, the lot was not plowed and we could not see the parking spots. We just had to guess where the spots were. We put Silas in the backpack with the rain fly on this time and set off. Jamie took a lot of great photos on this hike. I tried to get a few photos in with my cell phone camera which requires much more understanding of the limitations of such an endeavor. The T7i just has a much better dynamic range, sharper lens and better sensitivity in the sensor. When we got to Bryce Point, we gave Silas a quick snack and set off back for the car. Silas started getting uncomfortable again towards the end of the hike but it was closer to the finish. We also hiked 3.2 miles and spent a little over 2 hours outside so all things considered, he did really well.

February 20th GPS recording on AllTrails

There was a lot of snow on Rim Trail

View of Bryce Point Road taken by my cellphone camera

On February 21st we decided to venture to Red Canyon which is only a short drive from Bryce. We parked in the Red Canyon Visitor center parking lot. The visitor center itself was closed for the winter but the lot was plowed. Because the trails here were safe with no major drops or cliffs, we let Silas hike the first mile on his own while I carried the backpack for when he got tired. He did really well and even though it took an hour to go a mile, we had fun. Silas had waterproof shoes and pants so hiking in the snow didn’t bother him and he was actually warmer since he was moving. When he did get tired, we gave him a snack and put him in the backpack and hiked another 2.4 miles. The scenery here was better than expected. I recommend stopping here if you get a chance when you visit Bryce. There were many more trails in Red Canyon that we wanted to hike but we ran out of time on our trip to visit them.

February 21st GPS recording on AllTrails

Silas hiking in Red Canyon

On February 22nd we packed up everything and set off for our travel day to Las Vegas. On the way we decided to take highway 12 through Panguitch to highway 143 which takes you up the back way to Brian Head. A note of caution is in order here. Fuel up, stock up on water and food and charge your cell phones because this road is only plowed during the day. I also don’t recommend this trip in the winter without all-wheel drive. As it was, the road was plowed and we didn’t run into any problems in the Impreza. Normally you can take highway 148 to access Cedar Breaks National Monument but that road is unplowed and closed during the winter. We stopped momentarily at the snow bank where the road was closed and took some photos from afar. From there, we drove up to Brian Head. As we entered the city, we could see miles and miles of trails covered in several feet of fresh powder perfect for snowshoeing. We were just passing thru so we stopped at one of the many ski lodges that operate their own chair lifts and got some coffee and let Silas stretch his legs. Passing through made me want to plan a future vacation with Brian Head as the destination.

The road to Brian Head was mostly plowed

Even the sign for Brian Head is snowed in

We drove another 200 miles and stopped at the Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. I highly recommend this place as it has activities for children of all ages. There are multiple floors of exhibits and interactions for children and adults alike to participate in an observe. Silas and I built competing Lego race cars and raced them down a customizable track. He also played with a water exhibit featuring water jets that ring bells, shooting water ramps that fire plastic balls into the air and all sorts of other fun stuff.

Even traversing floors is an adventure at the Discovery Children’s Museum

We spent the night at the Golden Nugget and then drove the rest of the way home on the 23rd. All in, it was a successful and relaxing vacation. We had plenty of down time in between hikes and activities and saw many great sights. The weather was something we had to plan for but did not inhibit us really in the slightest. Preparing to dress in layers including a waterproof outer layer, having traction devices for our shoes, having an capable car and keeping a good mindset about the snow made the trip to Bryce and the surrounding area in the middle of winter enjoyable and one of the best trips I’ve been on.

You can see many more photos in the Zenfolio Gallery. You can also buy prints from there to support ShezPhoto. The first 19 photos in the gallery were edited in Snapseed and are particularly great for prints. We have many of them printed on our own wall.