A four-day weekend: Bryce Canyon National Park in the winter
I was told Bryce Canyon looked like another planet, yet I was still mesmerized and awe-struck at the first sight of the canyon. I experienced this feeling of surprise at both Zion and Bryce -- I was (very pleasantly) surprised that the parks, in real life, exceeded the extremely high expectations I came with already, having obsessed and read about the parks for some time prior to our trip. The trip, especially Bryce Canyon, was a good reminder that there are some things in life that you just have to experience - no words or pictures can do justice to what it's like to actually soak up the experience in your own body and mind.
After a full day in the Narrows at Zion National Park, we drove, again in the dark, to the Best Western Grand Hotel in Bryce Canyon. While not as quaint as our motel in Springdale near Zion, the Best Western had all the amenities, convenience, and comfort--well worth our measly $90 for the night! We woke up the next morning, fueled up on the complimentary continental breakfast, and headed our way to the national park, only a few minutes away.
We stopped by the visitor's center for hike recommendations, as they knew the best, given the snowy conditions. We considered signing up for the guided snow-shoe tour in the afternoon, but decided against it, since we (mostly I) didn't have the proper footwear. We survived just fine on our hike, which was completely covered in packed snow, but if I had to do it again, I would definitely pack solid hiking boots with traction and ankle support and coverage. It would have helped immensely walking in the slippery snow and keeping ankles warm and dry!
We did a short loop hike that started at the top of the canyon at Sunset Point, went along the rim to Sunrise Point, and then took us down on Navajo Trail so that we could see the unique rock formations up close. It was incredible to see - I've never seen a place like Bryce. It's hard to fathom that these thousands of rock towers and spires (called "hoodoos" officially), that the narrow crevices and windowed rock walls, were all created by forces of nature over thousands of years. In my head, the canyon looks like a little kid's playground of drip sand castles! :)
Pictures are worth a thousand words, especially in a place that's worth a thousand visits, so I'll leave it to my camera to do the talking. I'm no photographer, but I hope they are good enough to convince you that you need to see this amazing place in person!