Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT


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"Bryce Canyon National Park is a popular winter playground. It is located at a high elevation   
and often receives heavy snowfall. The park is incredibly beautiful during winter, when snow
flocks the evergreen trees on the canyon rim and drifts against the colorful hoodoos."
~ Utah.com website

You know those gorgeous photos they put on calendars with the snow-capped red sandstone hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park?

Here's an example from the 2017 calendar I bought that features photos from Bryce. I took a picture of this photo credited to Mike Reyfman:

We've never been near Bryce Canyon in the winter -- especially in an RV -- so we took a day trip over there in our car this morning from Zion, hoping to see some classic Bryce snow scenes. Snow was forecast above 6,000 feet last night and today in southern Utah. Since most of Bryce is in the 7,000-9,000-foot elevation range we thought we might have a good chance to see a fair amount of snow.

This week while we've been staying in Springdale and hiking/cycling in Zion National Park it's been springtime at the lower elevations of approximately 4,000-6,000 feet.

Even at 5,700-6,300 feet on the Observation Point Trail yesterday I found these manzanita flowers in the upper part of Echo Canyon . . .

. . . and a pretty white flowering tree near the high spot along the East Rim:

We know there is snow at higher elevations in the park; we already saw some up at Kolob Reservoir on the Kolob Terrace Road several days ago, and we've heard reports about deeper snow at Cedar Breaks National Monument a little to the north where elevations get up over 11,000 feet.

We've lucked out for five days with no rain in Springdale and Zion Canyon. Since rain was predicted here for today, we figured we may as well go find snow and maybe some sunshine at higher elevations east of here.

What we found was beautiful sunshine and puffy white clouds on our way out the east side of Zion,

overcast skies, falling snow (but not as much snow as we hoped we'd see), and wintry temperatures through Red Canyon and at Bryce Canyon,

Light snow falling at Fairyland Point (elev. 7,758') in Bryce Canyon NP

and warm (mid-60s F.) temps with post-rain overcast skies back at Zion/Springfield when we returned:

Mist over the mountains on the outskirts of Springdale this afternoon

That's OK. We still had fun, missed the rain at Zion, and got to see Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon in another season besides spring and fall.


We left our RV park in Springdale about 9 AM to drive through the park and out the east gate on UT 9.

Here's a map section showing today's route in yellow, with orange dots to mark the start/finish at Springdale (left side of map) and turnaround point in Bryce Canyon NP:

The red dot I added NE of Hatch is the location for Red Canyon, the national forest area we liked so much last fall. We drove through it today on our way to and from Bryce Canyon, stopping only to make our RV park reservation for later this month.

Here are a few more pictures I took as we drove through the eastern part of Zion National Park:




Checkerboard Mesa, an oft-photographed monolith on the east side of the park

We had to wait a few minutes in the park at the long tunnel just past Canyon Junction for one-way traffic from the other direction but there was no wait on the return.

There are height restrictions through the very long tunnel, with one-way traffic for RVs, tour buses, and other wide or tall vehicles. They have to drive down the middle of the tunnel where the ceiling is the highest, and they get to pay a $15 fee for the privilege.


At Mt. Carmel Jct. we drove north on US 89, turned east on UT 12, and stopped at the Red Canyon Village RV Park and store where we stayed last fall. The campground officially opened today for visitors; there are already four campers there, probably seasonal campground employees.

We reserved the same spot we occupied for a month last fall for April 28 to May 31 of this year:

Our site in Sept.-Oct., 2015 at Red Canyon Village

We're both excited about going back to Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon for a month! We really enjoyed exploring both places during autumn and are interested in seeing what they are like in the spring. 

It was snowing at Red Canyon this morning and downright cold at ~7,000 feet. The area sure looked different than it did last fall!

Here are some pictures along Scenic Rt. 12 through the national forest:



Ironically there was less snow on the Paunsaugunt Plateau between the canyons than there was at Red Canyon or Bryce Canyon, where enough snow was falling that we couldn't see the rock formations as well as on a clear day.


As mentioned at the top of this entry, we were hoping to see the iconic Bryce snow scenes we've seen on calendars and postcards but there wasn't much snow on the formations, just a little between some of them. As much as it was snowing while we were there, it wasn't sticking to the ground or the hoodoos much.

We went to the Sunset Point, Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, and Fairyland overlooks. It was so cold and windy we didn't stay very long at any of them. Here are some of the pictures I took:

Jim looks cold as he heads toward the Sunset Point Overlook.

Expansive view of Bryce Amphitheater

Thor's Hammer to the right

Navajo Trail access at Sunset Point

Snow poles, I presume??

Above and below: view south toward the rim from Sunset Point


Bryce Point Overlook (8,300' elev.)

Fairyland Overlook

Well, that was disappointing with so little snow. Tomorrow the hoodoos and other formations might look better than today. We need to visit in January if we want to see a lot of snow.

We had large salads for lunch at the lodge and browsed at the visitor center before leaving. There were more visitors than we expected considering the weather but there was no problem finding places to park the car today.

Beginning tomorrow, the National Park Service is offering free entry to all national parks until April 24. That won't affect us much at Zion since we're leaving day after tomorrow but it might at Arches and Canyonlands next week.


On the way back there was more snow everywhere until we got to lower elevations near Zion National Park. It fell while we were over at Bryce: 

Snow along US 89 (above) and UT 9 (below)

I took some photos as we drove back through the eastern part of the park but the scenes weren't quite as picturesque as they were in the morning when the sun was out:


Our total mileage today was about 185 miles.

We got back to our campground in Springdale about 4 PM and could tell that it had rained while we were gone. We lucked out with mostly sunny days all the rest of the time we've been in this area.

Jim played ball with Casey and rode with her several miles on the bike; he did a long solo bike ride yesterday while I was hiking the Observation Point Trail. I took Cody to the park at the other end of town to walk on the trail there again:

Although it looked like another storm was approaching, it diverted before reaching us and Springdale didn't get any more rain this week.

Next entry:  taking Sue's new bike for a long ride in Zion Canyon

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil