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Old 12-17-2015, 01:57 PM   #1
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Bryce Canyon and Zion, any Suggestions?

Thinking of doing a bit of Utah in winter to avoid the summer crowds. Anyone have any recommendations? Things to do, places to stay?
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Old 12-18-2015, 02:51 PM   #2
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Bryce Canyon is at a very high elevation, so it will be winter up there, for sure. The park is breathtakingly beautiful with snow on the formations, and popular with x-c skiers and snowshoers, but if y'all are not used to winter camping and driving, you might want to investigate where you'll be staying and issues with winter RVing. A portion of one of the campgrounds is open all winter, but given the elevation, I don't think you'd want to camp there if your AS were not winterized and you didn't have serious snow tires. (Not "all weather tires" which are for people who don't drive in a lot of snow.) The CG has restrooms, but no hookups at the campsites. Hopefully the Good Sam RV park guide can tell you which RV parks in the area are open in winter. Some should be, as the surrounding area attracts snowmobilers. Having power would be a big help for those cold nights.

Bryce Canyon National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

Zion NP is at a much lower elevation. It has become extremely popular in recent years, but according to a park ranger we asked, it is comparatively quiet during December and January. Visitation picks up in February. It can freeze and snow in Zion, but the winter weather overall is much more camper-friendly. The Watchman campground has sites with electrical hookups. Some of the higher-elevation park roads (like the road to Lava Point) will be impassable due to snow.

There are some year-round RV parks in Springdale and outlying towns.

If it were us, we'd be game for this sort of trip, but would probably focus on Zion. You could park your RV in this area, and then take a day trip or overnight to Bryce without the AS & stay in one of the nearby motels, keeping an eye out for the weather.

Zion National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

There is also an interesting year-round state park called Snow Canyon near St. George, UT. Snow Canyon State Park | Utah State Parks The St. George area also has some historical house tours related to the history of the Mormon church in the area.

If you are skiiers, you might also consider a trip to Brian Head. Ski & Snowboarding Resort in Utah | Brian Head Resort

Regardless, you're gonna need some serious winter boots, parkas, hats, & mitts. Stay toasty!
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Old 12-18-2015, 03:59 PM   #3
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We did Zion and Bryce Canyon this past summer.

I'll be blunt: I would skip Bryce Canyon altogether and go to Zion.

I felt Bryce was highly over rated. We stayed at Ruby's campground, which was adequate but high priced, we felt. Everyone we met was very nice, but I could never shake the feeling that the entire town was based solely on getting as much money out of the tourists as possible. YMMV, of course.

On the other hand, Zion has a fantastic bus system to take you to the various hiking trails, all with spectacular scenery. The town of Springdale has about everything you could need, and was easy to get around in.

Just my impression; I get it that others may have different views of Bryce, but we were pretty dissapointed in it.
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Old 12-18-2015, 04:24 PM   #4
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Len N Jeanne- Good point about Bryce being at high elevation and maybe just parking at Zion and doing a day trip up to Bryce, that's actually really good plan. Sounds like January might be the best bet before the tourist rush.

Llando88- How did you feel about the park itself? All the pictures I see look really cool, especially with some snow on the spires. Were the views just not as good compared to those in Zion or is Bryce just not that pretty in person? It's always been so high on my to-do list!
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Old 12-18-2015, 04:25 PM   #5
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We went to Bryce and the North Rim in late September and it was plenty cool at night. I remember the North Rim closing for the year shortly after we left.

We did not make it to Zion and hope to return to the area. I have a friend who is really big into hiking and had been to both places. He prefers Zion because it was a more dramatic area to hike in. He said that at Zion you are on the floor of the park looking up where as at Bryce you are on the top looking down. He said Bryce was more like a ride at Disneyland.

We found Bryce spectacular. We hiked down to the floor and took in breath taking scenery at every turn. We need to go back and see Zion, Arches and all the other special places there. We are so fortunate to have places like this set aside. Go see them all.

We stayed at the state/national campgrounds. No hookups but reasonable rates and easy access. Camping in the winter? Not going to happen there.
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Old 12-18-2015, 04:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thelongway View Post
Len N Jeanne- Good point about Bryce being at high elevation and maybe just parking at Zion and doing a day trip up to Bryce, that's actually really good plan. Sounds like January might be the best bet before the tourist rush.

Llando88- How did you feel about the park itself? All the pictures I see look really cool, especially with some snow on the spires. Were the views just not as good compared to those in Zion or is Bryce just not that pretty in person? It's always been so high on my to-do list!
Sorry, I said it was overrated, but did not elaborate:

We took the bus in and got out at a few of the stops. The bus is very convenient. The views were ok. It was not, really, that spectacular, to be honest. Was it worth an hour? Sure, it was ok; we got on the bus at Ruby's at maybe 09:00, and were back in the campground at maybe 10:45.

Worth the trip? Live up to the hype? For us, no, not at all.

I do freely admit others might find Bryce absolutely awesome; we just did not find it so.
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Old 12-18-2015, 04:41 PM   #7
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He said that at Zion you are on the floor of the park looking up where as at Bryce you are on the top looking down. He said Bryce was more like a ride at Disneyland.
I'd agree with this.

I'm sure if we'd have hiked in, we'd likely have really enjoyed it.
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Old 12-18-2015, 11:45 PM   #8
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The southern Utah parks are all so special and different. We like Bryce a lot, but then the secret may be just getting out and walking. (Or in your case, ski touring or snowshoeing.) Most visitors seem not to leave the designated scenic overlooks. One thing that's kind of fun is viewing Sunset Point at sunset, and Sunrise Point at-- well, you guessed it.

If the Bryce and Zion park lodges are open, they are worth a stay, and at least a meal, just for the ambiance.

It will be real winter in all of the southern Utah parks, just less so in Zion on account of its lower elevation. Zion canyon can be balmy in February, but you never can tell. If your route takes you close to Moab, Arches NP is another beautiful spot that is packed with people in the spring through fall. The area is very popular with mountain bikers, jeepers, rafters, and hikers. There will be snow in winter, but the crowds should diminish. Canyonlands NP is probably best viewed in spring or fall, after you drop your AS at your campsite and take off in your high-clearance 4WD tow vehicle to explore. Capitol Reef NP is also beautiful and perhaps the least visited of the bunch.

Arches National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Canyonlands National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Capitol Reef National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

Just check ahead to see how much of the parks remain open in winter, and please be really prepared for winter driving, both in southern Utah and to get there and back. If the road gets slick or snowy, find a cozy spot to pull off the highway and wait it out. The country in between the parks is very sparsely settled except around the St. George urban sprawl area, and the park gateway communities. There are a lot of remote stretches of highways at higher elevations. The Utah DOT will have road condition info, and the parks all post their winter closures and monthly weather conditions.

Also, camping in a winterized AS is kind of a pain, but less so than having your water lines freeze. Just take a lot of water bottles and some light antifreeze (you can put water down the sink or manually flush the toilet, but you don't want it to freeze in the waste water tank.) Heat up water in a tea kettle, and either shower elsewhere or settle for sponge baths. It's easy enough to de-winterize once you're in Zion (there's a good RV service center in nearby Hurricane, UT) if it's at a time when you know temps will be above freezing during the day.

If you do this, you will see some beautiful scenery, but we just want you to stay safe.
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Old 12-19-2015, 01:19 PM   #9
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On one of our first western trips, we went in search of trees and that guided our route. Bryce Canyon has several bristlecone pines (oldest trees) and we loved every aspect of the park. Would not like to directly compare Zion and Bryce as they are too different and compliment each other as they are fairly close. It was fall so we went over the Donner Pass to get to sequoia and redwood country. Try a tree tour sometime, it was wonderful.
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Old 12-19-2015, 01:59 PM   #10
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No one mentioned Kodachrome State Park near Bryce. Beautiful park to hike and camp. Some hookups and nice sites.
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Old 12-19-2015, 06:12 PM   #11
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Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I think Bryce is up there with Grand Canyon in sheer natural beauty. We've seen both in snowy winter, and they are spectacular. Zion is another beautiful spot. Latest we've been there is Thanksgiving. ( Note: I don't think the shuttle buses run in late fall/winter.). We are from California and not used to winter/snow towing or camping, so we would leave our Airstream at home and motel it.
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Old 12-19-2015, 06:34 PM   #12
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Old 12-19-2015, 06:50 PM   #13
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The Zion River RV Resort is a very nice park, offering full hook-ups, showers, etc. very convenient if your TT is winterized.
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Old 12-21-2015, 09:40 AM   #14
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We stayed at Moab Valley RV Resort late summer. North on 191 at 128, a Highways West park. They have 2 other parks in Moab, Canyonlands and Arches. Great hiking and biking along the Colorado River and around town, and Arches NP is great.
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