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Hopping out of the van, we were greeted by the cold like a slap in the face. Our fingers working slowly as we struggled to strap snowshoes to our boots.

The day started out with temperatures hovering around 10 degrees. We aimed to cover 6.5 miles the first day alone – in snowshoes, through two feet of fresh powder. A 1,000-foot elevation gain would be our goal that day while the temperatures warmed up to 30. There was no trail to follow but the footsteps of the person in front of us.

Over the next five days, we’d cover 30 miles of hiking and snowshoeing through Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. Our group consisted of 12 hikers plus two guides. Most days we had no trail and wouldn’t see any other hikers.

The golden peaks and hoodoos received a light dusting of new snow every night, reminding me of frosted cinnamon rolls. We had a front-row seat to the antics of mule deer and mountain goats.

We stayed in a lodge each night in the town of Mt. Carmel, Utah, the week after Christmas, celebrating the New Year among friends, family and hiking companions. The lodge was quite spacious, built to sleep 60 guests.

This winter trip afforded us the opportunity to explore Echo Canyon, Refrigerator Canyon, Sunrise and Sunset Point, Observation Point, Checkerboard Mesa and the hoodoos of Bryce. All the fantastic scenery of Bryce and Zion is just as impressive in the winter months – and without the crowds.

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