Red rocks and snow at Bryce Canyon

Follow the storms to Utah's stunning national park, where no crowds equal pure winter bliss. Here's where to go and what to see.

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THE LURE OF THE HOODOOS

The snow falls into the night as we head to dinner at Ruby's Inn. With the park lodge closed in winter, Ruby's becomes the main gathering place for Bryce visitors. Most are foreigners, and Japanese, German, and French blend into a Babel-esque chorus of excited voices.

Hoodoos, both the fantastical rock formations and the word itself, seem to be a source of endless fascination.

A German tourist asks, "The rock. The red rock towers? Like church." He awkwardly pantomimes a steeple. "What called again?"

"Hoodoos," the waiter replies.

"Hchew … tsoos?" the tourist asks gutturally and tentatively.

The waiter has clearly been through this drill before and answers patiently. "You're good, you're real close," before drawling, "Hooooo doooooos."

We walk back to our room belting the old Bo Diddley rave-up "Who Do You Love?" then wake up the next morning to 8 inches of Utah's finest powder atop the truck, the parking lot, and, by the looks of the Weather Channel, a good portion of the state too.

Although it took millions of years to form the red-orange limestone labyrinth of Bryce Canyon National Park, in winter it takes only one day and a good storm to make this ancient place look new again. Bryce feels reborn. For one thing, virtually no one is in the park. If I'm not cutting fresh paths through forests where the ponderosas cast violet shadows on the untouched snow, I'm following the scalloped tracks of deer or the stitchlike footsteps of rabbits between buried manzanitas.

As for the hoodoos, their reds appear deeper against the pure white backdrop. Snow etches every crevice and joint, highlighting the rock's intricate textures. I can't shake the notion that somehow, overnight, the desert has pushed its way into the clouds, a heaven of red rock with an otherworldly beauty so purely of the Earth. This is what we were looking for.

 

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