With its high elevation and with the heavy snowfall Utah has received this year, I had several people ask me why on earth we chose to go to Bryce Canyon in the middle of March, a month that’s infamous for being completely unpredictable.
Now that I’ve actually been, I think there are definitely a couple of things that I would have liked to know (or be reminded of) before we embarked. So, for any fellow travellers interested in visiting Bryce Canyon (especially in the early spring), here are some tips:
*Be prepared for ALL kinds of weather, including blazing sun, pouring rain, or heavy snow. On our trip, we got *lucky* enough to have the first option, but because the forecast had only predicted it to be in the high 40s and low 50s, we hadn’t bothered to pack sunscreen. After a four-hour hike in almost-70-degree temperatures, we returned to the hotel as red as tomatoes, and it was much more difficult to fully enjoy the rest of our vacation as planned because of it. So, remember to pack sunblock, aloe vera, a sturdy umbrella, and clothes that will let you be comfortable in any weather (short-sleeved shirts, light waterproof jackets, and a heavy coat).
*If you’re planning on doing any hikes, count on many of the trails being iced over, very muddy, or full of snow. Make sure you’ve packed sturdy hiking shoes with good traction (and preferably more than one pair if you have them because our shoes got soaked all the way through). If your hike is long enough to warrant carrying a backpack, make sure to carry plenty of water (we packed 3 liters for two people for a four-mile hike, but had it been any warmer, we would have wanted more), an umbrella or light jacket just in case the weather changes, and extra socks (so you don’t have to go around all day with dripping wet socks like we did).
*We stayed at Ruby’s Inn (Best Western), which was decently-priced and at a convenient distance to the park (about 3 miles). The nice thing about the hotel was that it had virtually everything you could need: a restaurant, a gift shop, a gas station, a grocery store, an outdoor goods store, AND a pool/hot tub. March was a great time for us to book because there were hardly any people staying there. However, even though they offered pretty much all the necessities at their little stores, they are VERY pricey (we went to go buy some sunscreen after we got fried, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to spend the $15 for a bottle). If you can, pack everything you need before coming to save yourself some money.
*Although we’d heard Ruby’s Inn has decent food for lunch and dinner from family members who had visited, we went there for breakfast and were extremely disappointed. We paid almost $20 for a meal that neither of us wanted to touch because it was so greasy and heavy and unfresh. On the bright side, we found a FABULOUS restaurant about 15 minutes south in Tropic–a quaint little local place called Clark’s, which served some of the best burgers and fries I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Plus, since we went during the off-season, there was never any wait (the first night we went, we were the only ones there, and they treated us to fresh-out-of-the-oven bread AND made us a dessert as per our request, even though there weren’t any listed on the menu). The restaurant was so good, we made a point of going again the next day, even though it hadn’t been in our plans. We also ate at a local steakhouse called Foster’s, which fell somewhere in between Ruby’s and Clark’s. It was a little pricier, but the service was great and we had no complaints (although we didn’t rave about it as much as Clark’s either).
*The benefit of going to Bryce in the off-season is that you avoid most of the crowds and the heat–we were the only two people on our first hike, and we rarely were disturbed at any of the lookout points we drove to. However, the downside to going during the off-season is that a lot of the tourist places in Bryce City and Tropic are closed, such as the cute little faux-historic “Old Bryce Town” they’ve constructed and a bunch of the gift shops and food vendors. So, if crowds aren’t your thing, go in the spring. If you’d like to be able to fully sample everything that’s available, you’d probably want to wait until summer to visit.
Regardless of the time of year you decide to visit Bryce, you will be guaranteed some of the most spectacular views you’ve ever seen–this is definitely one national park that’s worth the trip (and the $25 entrance fee!).