I arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park for the first time in March, 2005. My first night in the area was spent at Red Canyon. This has got to be one of the most beautiful areas in the United States. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit, I recommend you make the time to do so. I spent that first night in the parking lot of the Red Canyon Visitor Center–located halfway between Panguitch, UT and the entrance to Bryce Canyon. Although it was closed, and there was several inches of snow on the ground, the parking lot was clear. I set up camp and prepared to spend a quiet night under the stars. A night I will remember forever. Quiet, cold, and peaceful. It is one of the times that will stay with me forever.
The winter of 2004/2005 was a cold, snowy one for the area. In March, 2005 there was quite a bit of snow on the ground and it was chilly, to say the least. I had been traveling across the Southwest and did not expect the cold weather I found there. I was led to believe that spring brought warming temperatures, and that most of the snow would be gone. I arrived at Bryce Canyon mid morning and prepared to go to work. The lodge and most of the other buildings were snowed in. Life at 8,000 feet is different than what I was used to. The winters last longer and the summers are shorter, and less severe than areas closer to sea level. Coming from California, this was a shock to my system.
I had signed on to help open the operations and work the entire season. The temperatures at night were well below freezing. It snowed 10 out of the first 15 days I was there. I had never spent any time in such conditions in my house on wheels. That year became a learning experience for me. The dogs loved it there. Shadow, an Akita mix, was in heaven. He loved the snow and winter conditions. Missy, a Queensland Healer by birth, tolerated it. I survived by persevering in the face of adversity. I learned quite a bit and returned the following year.
Bryce has around 150 employees at the height of the season. The HR Department is a small operation. I spent most of my first year (2005) working there, and all of my second. What a way to meet, greet, and get to know people of all ages, various cultures, and all walks of life.
In 2011 I returned for more fun in some of the best off-roading and hiking terrain in the west. There are not very many trails in the park and off-roading is not allowed inside the park boundaries. However, the Dixie National Forest offers some of the best roads and trails you would ever want to find. If you have the inclination, you will be able to spend some time well above the 10,000 foot level.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a small park in comparison to other parks across the nation. The elevation is approximately 7,900 feet at the park entrance and climbs to above 9,000 feet 19 miles away at its southern end. There are just over 50 miles of hiking trails that wind their way alongthe rim and down into the canyon. It is listed as a canyon,
but that is an error that was made over a hundred years ago and will never be changed. Bryce Canyon is not a canyon. It is something quite more, and quite different. If you care to learn more about the park and the surrounding area, it is recommended that you take the time to visit the park, or visit the NPS website (not a bad thing to do for any park you plan on living/working at).
Working at Bryce Canyon is an intimate affair. With so few employees you can be sure to get to know a good portion of them. The concessioner begins the process of opening in mid March. The opening date for the public is April 1st. Approximately 100 people are hired to get the lodge, retail, and restaurant awake and ready for the visiting public. At the height of the summer season you can expect about 150 employees, and by the end of the season (closing is November 1st or shorty thereafter) there are, again, 100 or fewer employees. The operations at Bryce consists of a lodge and cabins (144 rooms), restaurant, gift shop, and general store. The two campgrounds in the park are operated by the National Park Service.
Bryce Canyon is 80 miles from a city of any size (Cedar City, UT), however a small, quaint town (Panguitch, UT) is but 27 miles west of the entrance of the park, and an even smaller community is 9 miles to the east (Tropic, UT). Ruby’s Inn (as of 2007 it has been incorporated into a city–Bryce, UT) is a mile north of the main entrance, and provides shopping, auto services (gas, maintenance, etc.), limited entertainment, food, RV parking, and lodging.
If you do not have transportation, you can expect your employer to provide some transportation (very limited) to Cedar City for shopping and surrounding recreational opportunities (water rafting, hiking, visits to other National Parks, ATV riding, etc.).
Your employer will pick you up from the airport or bus station in Cedar City or St George, and return you there at the end of your contract. Something I learned, though, is that many employees that were picked up by the employer at the beginning of the season find transportation at the end of the season. I watched several of them go off toward winter employment with others they bonded with during their stay at Bryce. There was even a marriage or two during my times there.
I recommend spending at least one season at Bryce. The park and surrounding area is beautiful. The weather is mild during the summer months, and the number of visitors is much less than other parks around the country. If you enjoy nature and wish to spend some time visiting the canyonlands of southern/central Utah, this is a prime location for a home base.
If you go, make sure you get up to the Aquarius Plateau and Powell Point. It’s an experience you will never forget. And, if you plan on doing any hiking within the boundaries of the Escalante-Grand Staircase (not far to the east), make sure you have a dependable GPS, and extra batteries, whenever you’re there (not a bad idea in the Dixie, either).