Peekaboo Loop Trail Guide Overview
If you have followed our blog at all in the past, my wife and I have a bit of a tradition around Valentine's day. It's not quite your typical Valentine's day red roses and overpriced dinner. We usually jump in the car and drive to Yosemite National Park to go backcountry snowshoe camping! You can check out our Dewey Point and Clouds Rest Winter guides at the links.
This year unfortunately was a rough winter, I got RSV, COVID and then finally bronchitis and without a doubt was pretty out of shape for our typical winter adventures climbing out of Yosemite Valley. I was feeling a lot better though and wanted to get out of the apartment for some hiking, so we chose to take two days off and drive up to Bryce Canyon and Zion national Park!
Bryce Canyon National Park is this super unique park with the greatest concentration of hoodoos anywhere on earth. Hoodoos are the tall rock formations that are formed by years of erosion. Bryce has spectacular views all year, but they seem to become even more magical when you sprinkle in white snow to contrast with the vibrantly red hoodoos.
The hike we chose to do at Bryce Canyon to experience all its magic starts at Sunset Point. We then planned to hike down into the canyon via Navajo Loop Trail, and then once down in the canyon we explored Peekaboo Loop trail! The entire trip is about 4.71 miles with about 1,487 feet of elevation gain.
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Navajo Loop Trail to Peekaboo Loop Trail Map
The map above can be viewed and downloaded on Caltopo here.
Winter Bryce Canyon National Park Logistics
Planning a trip to Bryce Canyon in the winter needs to be taken seriously, due to the possibility of extreme weather and extreme cold. After our 9ish hour drive from Southern California it was 9 degrees when we got to our hotel! Coming form fairly warm California, we loved seeing all the huge icicles!
Bryce Canyon does not have a large town right outside like some of the larger National Parks, like zion. Hotels are pretty limited along with places to eat dinner, breakfast or lunch. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Ruby's Inn which has a little nostalgia factor for me because I stayed there as a young kid with my family on my first trip "out west" since I grew up on the east coast. It's nothing fancy but has a restaurant attached that has breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast buffet was actually included in our stay so it was convenient to roll out of bed, grab breakfast and head straight into the park.
One other thing to think about is that in the winter a lot of businesses in this area are closed. The hotel inside Bryce Canyon National Park was closed, and a handful of restaurants so plan your trip accordingly and make sure places are open.
Lastly, always check the weather, and current park conditions. We had fantastic hiking weather in the lower to mid 30 degrees fahrenheit while we were there. The next week got super windy and the temperatures dropped down into -25 degrees fahrenheit!
Winter Bryce Canyon Gear List
As with any winter hiking trip you have to be prepared. Layers, layers, layers are the name of the game! One minute you are in the sun and the next you are in the shade for a mile and the temperatures drop. Hiking between the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, there are a lot of shaded spots when the sun is out. Prepare for constant changing temperatures.
Other than the obvious layers, some sort of traction device for your feet is highly recommended... scratch that I would say absolutely needed when hiking down into Bryce Canyon in the snow. My wife and I use Microspikes (Amazon Affiliate), and they have worked fantastic for us over the years.
You can check out my entire gear list for this hike here. I tend to over pack with a lot of photography gear, but you can get a good idea on what you need on your trip. My wife's gear list can be viewed here.
Winter Peekaboo Loop Trail Guide Bryce Canyon National Park
My wife and I arrived at the parking lot around 9:30 am. As we parked the first thing I noticed was the path from the parking lot towards the canyon was literally an ice skating rink. So we instantly put our Microspikes onto our boots. As we got to the canyon ledge, the snow and red rocks did not disappoint! It felt great to be breathing the fresh air, and I was super excited to get started and hiking into the canyon!
We started hiking down the canyon with our puffies on as we slowly warmed up our bodies. The Navajo Loop trail starts with large sweeping switchbacks that slowly and gently guide you down into the canyon. The large sweeping switchbacks match the large sweeping views that you get looking down at the hoodoos below.
The trail here was fairly packed down and very slick. The trail was pretty wide at this point so the drop offs into the canyon were not too terrifying. Either way don't forget your microspikes if hiking in the snow in Bryce Canyon!
The first intersection you hit on the Navajo Loop trail is for a section called Wall Street. Wall street is a really narrow section that is closed during the winter. I can only assume they close it for safety reasons due to potential falling snow, rocks or icicles in the winter.
After passing by the intersection for Wall Street, the switchbacks become a lot smaller, as you enter a narrow canyon. This was one of my favorite sections of trail, especially in the morning light. The small trees were just glowing towards the bottom adding to the magic as we descended deeper into the canyon.
Once through the narrow switchback slot canyon, you quickly make it to the bottom of Bryce Canyon. At this point the terrain drastically changes and you are not at the bases of the massive rock formations that you have been gazing at from above. As the trail flattens out it becomes more of a sparse forest with the hoodoos becoming the backdrop.
You can see the cone in the bottom right of the picture above. This is the intersection that the wall street trail would connect back to create the full Navajo Loop trail. From here we continued east towards the Peekaboo Loop Trail.
As we hiked through the forest there were plenty of signs at the intersection to help navigate along the path. In the winter though these signs can be easily buried in snow. Always be prepared to navigate without any trails or trail designators if you are going winter hiking or backpacking. Another note especially in tight canyons, GPS is not always a reliable option as views to the satellites above can be inhibited.
When we reached the start of Peekaboo Loop, we had the option to go right (Counter clockwise) or left (Clockwise) around the loop. For no particular reason we chose left and decided to go counterclockwise. I may be biased since it was the direction that we picked to go but I think this left the most grand views toward the end of the loop and I was very happy with our random choice!
At this point you begin to climb in elevation again, and your legs get a bit of a wake up. Nothing crazy just noticeably different than the flatter part we just trekked through. I also noticed the trail was narrower and less defined at this point. It seems not as many hikers came through here. There was still a beaten down path, just not as well defined at certain parts.
The conditions for this hike were fantastic. The snow was packed down enough on the trail that we did not need snowshoes at all. I reached out to the Bryce Canyon National Park twitter account a couple days before we left to see if snowshoes were necessary or if microspikes were good enough and they kindly got back to me and said microspikes would be all we needed. On that note, with no snowshoes make sure you stay on the hard packed trail... I took one step too far to the right while my wife was taking a picture and I quickly sank down to my knee...
As the Peekaboo Loop trail meandered through hoodoo after hoodoo there were fantastic views around every twist and curve of the trail. I know Bryce Canyon is beautiful all year round, but I was so happy to see this place covered in a blanket of white fluffy snow!
After climbing back up a little bit of elevation on the meander trail between the Cathedral and fairy Castle the trail started descending back down to the forest. Much to my excitement I saw the trail up ahead went through a small tunnel through a hoodoo!
A short while after we were back in the forest. This point of the trail was the least packed down and we were more or less following footprints in the snow. It was interesting that this section had much less foot traffic. Apparently not everyone was doing the full loop. At this point I had to glance down at my map a couple of times just to make sure we were not following random footprints in the snow. It can be easy to assume you are on trail when following footprints.
Once through the forest the trail begins to climb again and passes through another intersection that goes up towards Bryce Point. We could see a small crowd of tiny people up in the distance peering down towards us from Bryce Point. Shortly after the intersection you will pass the one and only bathroom on the trail. The trail at this point brings you close to the base of the rim of the canyon and the views start to become stunning!
After briefly hiking just below the rim and taking in some unique views looking back up the canyon, the trail dips back towards the forest but then immediately begins to rise back up again.
What I love about this hike, is that it not only twists and turns and goes up and down like a light roller coaster but it also contracts and expands. One minute everything is wide open with striking 360 degree views and the next minute the trail contracts into a narrow canyon. I love the variety while hiking the Peekaboo loop!
As the trail slowly winds back down to the forest floor, you slowly make your way back to the start of Peekaboo Loop. The entire loop is about 3 miles. Once back at the start of the loop, it's back up the narrow switchbacks as you make your way back up to the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park.
The one last safety thing to think about while hiking Bryce Canyon is that once you hike into the canyon you need to plan to hike back out. This is not like hiking up a mountain where it's "easier" at the end going down hill. You need to be prepped to hike back out of the canyon at the end. Pay attention to your body and be safe, and stay warm!