So you’re headed to Utah in winter!
And more specifically… you’re headed to Bryce Canyon National Park in winter!
What to wear hiking in Utah national parks when there’s snow?!
So first, a short little story. Because you might be wondering if you ACTUALLY need some of the suggested things on the list!
This is something I witnessed when I was at Bryce Canyon in winter.
The people who were involved were laughing, so it’s okay to laugh with them. 😉
This was at a popular Bryce Canyon viewpoint, Bryce Point.
In winter, Bryce Point is a spot that you drive to, and then there’s a short trail to reach the overlook.
There was a girl who seemed like she was afraid that she would slip on ice as she was walking on this snow-covered path. So she was holding onto the railing as she very slowly made her way forward to the overlook.
Well, she fell anyway.
Shortly thereafter, her dad walked over to her. It looked like he was talking to her, so I would imagine he was saying something about how she should be careful.
And then, he fell at the exact same spot!
So the question…
Could this have been prevented?! What can you do so YOU won’t slip and fall at Bryce Canyon?!
Possibly the #1 thing that can be VERY helpful to wear when visiting Bryce Canyon in winter is ice traction devices that you can slip on over your shoes!
There are some popular viewpoints that can be up a steep icy hill even without stepping foot onto an official hiking trail. And even on flat sections there can be some ice.
While ice traction devices can’t completely avoid slips and falls, they can help to decrease the chance of you slipping on ice! I’m pretty sure these two weren’t wearing anything.
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The list: What to wear hiking in Bryce Canyon in winter
The Queens Garden Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Quick list of what to pack for hiking Bryce Canyon in winter
- Hiking boots – for women and for men
- Hiking poles – for women and for all
- Bring along one of these traction devices:
- Wool socks – for women and for men
- Moisture wicking underwear (aka hiking underwear) – for women and for men
- Fingerless gloves
- Comfortable daypack to carry your hiking essentials – for women and for men
- Beginner-friendly snowshoes
See more about each of these below!
Ice traction devices!
If you are going to buy just ONE thing for your Bryce Canyon winter trip, then make it some sort of ice traction devices!
That thing about how there is ice you can’t see near the popular viewpoints!
- Nanospikes or yaktrax at the minimum can be very helpful even for scenic overlooks that you drive to that don’t require any hiking. I would consider this the minimalist option. They will be easier to pack in your daypack too. So you can pack them in your backpack, and if you decide you want to wear them while out on the trails, you can pull them out and put them on.
- Microspikes: These might be the best choice of these 3 listed here when it comes to traction for possible icy conditions. These will dig into the snow and ice more.
If you will be doing a lot of hiking in Bryce Canyon, then I highly recommend hiking poles! (aka trekking poles)
I don’t like using hiking poles and after the fact I wish I had used them more from the beginning of my winter trip because of all the downhill hiking I did in the national parks.
Walking on steep hills going down puts extra stress on your knees. And if you’re doing a lot of downhill hiking, especially if you’re not used to it, it can eventually take a noticeable toll on your knees! The top hiking trails in Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon (the 3 national parks I went to during the winter trip) all had pretty steep hills.
So I especially recommend hiking poles for hiking down to not put as much stress on your knees.
But they can also be helpful for hiking up too. They can help you so you’re not using as much energy to hike up that hill.
The added benefit of hiking with trekking poles is that they can also help to catch you if you do happen to slip a little on ice.
Hiking poles can also possibly be the ONE thing to buy, as an option for an alternative to the ice traction devices. Although I think the ice traction device might be better. But hiking poles can help you from falling too!
For deeper snow, you might want “snow baskets” for the bottom of the poles. You’ll need rubber hiking pole tips to put on the bottoms of the hiking poles so the snow baskets will stay put. Some hiking poles will already come with these rubber tips.
Also to note, hiking poles aren’t allowed on carry-on bags on a flight, and might not fit in small suitcases either! So be sure to look into this if you’ll be flying to Utah.
Before starting to plan for my Bryce Canyon trip (or more broadly before my national parks winter trip), I didn’t own hiking-specific footwear like hiking shoes or hiking boots. All my hikes were always generally done wearing trail running shoes or regular running shoes.
But for this winter trip, I decided to get hiking boots, and I’m so glad I did!
My main reason for getting hiking boots was to better protect my feet from the cold. Running shoes are designed to be much more breathable, which means more cold air flowing through to your feet. Cold feet are not good no matter what, and especially if you’re hiking for miles!
Waterproof hiking shoes are better than regular shoes so the wet snow won’t give you cold wet feet. These can also keep your toes more insulated (warmer!) than regular shoes.
I even now wear my hiking boots for some warm weather hikes. If there’s a chance my shoes might get wet or muddy, the water resistant nature of hiking boots usually keeps my feet generally dry. If I’m hiking on sand dune trails, far less sand enters my hiking boots. And if I’m hiking to waterfalls, then it keeps my feet dry for water crossings!
There are also more winter-specific hiking boots which you may consider. I was happy with regular hiking boots since I could use them year-round.
See top outdoor shoe brands:
Always break in your shoes before walking in them for an extended period of time! Don’t make Bryce Canyon your first time wearing new shoes! That can lead to injury. Proper fit of your shoes is important too so you’ll want to make sure the shoes you buy are good for your feet.
Fingerless gloves on the hand you’ll be taking pictures with your phone so you don’t have to keep taking off your gloves when you want to take a picture!
There are also touchscreen gloves but it seems like these types of gloves don’t always work.
Also speaking of your phone, you might want to bring along an extra charger because the cold temperature can drain the battery of your phone quicker than you’re used to.
Make sure you pack along enough WATER and SNACKS! So if you are going out on the trails, don’t go hiking with nothing! And keep extra gallons of water jugs in your car for easy access to water!
Although I managed with my 9 liter backpack, you might also want to look at bigger packs, maybe 20 liter so any extra layers of clothes you want to take off can fit comfortably.
If you want to try a new winter activity, there’s no better place to snowshoe for the first time than Bryce Canyon!
Bryce Canyon usually has a free guided snowshoe hike. For this, snowshoes are provided by the National Park Service and you don’t need to bring your own.
If you don’t want to snowshoe with the group, then there are also places that you can snowshoe in Bryce Canyon on your own.
Stop by the visitor center for trail recommendations based on current snow conditions when you get to the park, but in the meantime, the Rim Trail to Fairyland Point and the Bristlecone Loop Trail might be a couple of trails that can work well for snowshoeing!
As for clothes in cold weather hiking…
It’s all about layers!
The best layer to wear as your bottom layer is some sort of moisture-wicking layer. Think something like a tech T-shirt. If you’re hiking with a bunch of clothes on, you will get hot. This means you will sweat. That’s why tech t-shirts that are designed to dry quicker are ideal for hiking in any type of weather. (tech t-shirt for women and tech t-shirt for men)
Then from there, you can wear maybe a long sleeve tech T-shirt, or even more than one. Wear loose shirts. Loose shirts are better to insulate your body heat, and you’ll want to have room to put on the layers underneath. (long sleeve tech shirt for women and long sleeve tech shirt for men)
And then you might want to wear a fleece or something, or maybe a sweatshirt. Northface is a classic fleece jacket brand.
And then possibly an outer layer, which could be something like a jacket. A windbreaker type outer layer can serve to keep more of the cold out.
How you’ll want to dress in winter out on the hiking trails can be based on personal preference. But layers are good so you can peel them away if you get hot when you’re hiking. It might be cold in the morning (and/or cold before you start moving), but as you continue to move out on the trails, and as the temperature starts warming up compared to the super cold morning, you might start to get hot.
I was hiking in Bryce Canyon in December and I was just dressed up in tons of layers. I didn’t wear a proper winter jacket. I wore a tech t-shirt, multiple long sleeve tech t-shirts, a sweatshirt, and then my outer layer was a rain jacket that I had. Rain jackets can also serve as somewhat of a windbreaker. (I did bring a winter jacket on my trip, but I just didn’t wear it for hiking.)
Personally I had on Columbia snow pants as well, since those are the pants that I had. Some people don’t like wearing snow pants for hiking because they think it restricts movement. Another thing you can do is wear some sort of long pants, and then wear rain pants over them as a sort of wind-breaker and to trap the heat. (Rain jackets/pants tend to be less breathable than other types of clothing material. This can be helpful in cold weather!) You may also look to wear some sort of fleece-lined leggings.
Wool socks would also be a good choice. Not only will they provide a bit more warmth than normal socks, but they also can wick away sweat and be more comfortable too. Wool socks are good hiking socks no matter the weather. See wool socks for women and wool socks for men.
And there’s a bit on what to wear hiking in Utah’s national parks in winter!
For more things to do, have a look at beautiful winter hikes to see the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon! Also see ideas for how to spend a perfect winter day in Bryce Canyon.
HAPPY PACKING FOR WINTER IN THIS GREAT UTAH NATIONAL PARK!
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