Want to go to Bryce Canyon National Park, but don’t know where to begin planning? Well, do not worry as you’re in the right place!
In Utah, nearly 2.5 million people visit the “Big 5” national parks each year, with Bryce Canyon National Park ranking second. Bryce Canyon is renowned for its exceptional geology and breathtaking sunrises. With several treks and gorgeous drives, there is no shortage of amazing activities.
This article provides a comprehensive handbook on Bryce Canyon. We will discuss the best times to visit, how to get around the park, where to stay, and the greatest activities.
Let’s dig in and begin your Bryce Canyon National Park vacation planning!
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1. Bryce Canyon At-A-Glance
These are a few highlights to consider when planning your trip:
Spring and fall are the best times to visit due to the moderate weather, which is ideal for trekking. You can also visit in March or November, at either end of the high season, to avoid crowds (but be prepared for the cold!).
The lodge at Bryce Canyon is the best place to stay if you are seeking lodging within the park. The Best Western Ruby’s Hotel in Bryce, Utah (just a few minutes from the park entrance!) comes highly recommended as an alternative to staying inside the park.
A four-hour drive will take you to Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, the nearest airports.
The easiest method to go about Bryce Canyon is in your own vehicle. Visit Rentalcars.com to find offers on rental cars and Outdoorsy to rent an RV or campervan.
GyPSy Tours, a narrated self-guided tour perfect for road vacations and beautiful drives, is my go-to for learning more about the park. You may learn a lot about the history and geology of Zion and Bryce Canyon by reading either the Zion & Bryce Canyon Handbook or the Utah “Mighty 5” Bundle.
Remember to obtain an America the Beautiful National Park Pass in advance. You can visit more than 400 national parks (including Bryce Canyon!) with this $80 pass, valid for an entire year.
2. Why Should You Visit Bryce Canyon?
The hoodoo rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park are well-known. These gravity-defying rocks are the result of erosion spanning millions of years. As water freezes and expands, it erodes plateaus, leaving behind hoodoos.
Hoodoos are found in the dry environs of the southwestern United States as well as Cappadocia, Turkey. The largest number can be found in Bryce Canyon National Park. Each year, millions of tourists flock to view magnificent hoodoos illuminated by the rising sun.
Bryce provides a picturesque route from which you can view the hoodoos. You can also go for excursions into Bryce Amphitheater, the primary canyon of the park, to witness up close.
Its proximity to other prominent Utah parks makes Bryce Canyon the ideal destination on a road trip through the state. Many people who go to Zion National Park or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument also visit to Bryce Canyon for its proximity to the aforementioned parks.
3. When to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park?
Bryce Canyon does not close for the winter due to snow like other national parks. In fact, many visitors choose to visit Bryce Canyon National Park during the winter months. It is a sight to witness the contrast between the orange-red hoodoos and the white snow that covers them.
Bryce Canyon National Park receives the most snow among the Big 5 Utah parks due to its elevation of over 8,000 feet above sea level. The park’s elevation means that even in the height of summer, early mornings may be rather cool.
However, if hiking is on your agenda, you should go to Bryce Canyon in the late spring or early fall. Those that travel during the off seasons avoid the peak summer crowds.
I recommend visiting between December and February if you want to picture snow-covered hoodoos or snowshoe around the rim.
4. Getting to Bryce Canyon National Park:
From any airport in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon National Park may be reached in a little over four hours. If you are visiting Bryce and Zion National Parks on the same trip, I recommend flying into and out of Las Vegas.
5. Bryce Canyon National Park Shuttle
This distant park requires a vehicle to access, but Bryce Canyon National Park may be explored without one. From April until October, except for February, the park service provides an optional shuttle service. The shuttle service between Bryce and Bryce Point begins at 8 a.m. Visitor center, campgrounds, and the famed park lodge are among the stops.
Park at the Bryce shuttle stop outside the park’s gates if you plan to take the shuttle. This eliminates the hassle of finding parking near the tourist center or resort.
While the usual park shuttle does not travel all the way up to Rainbow Point, tours to Rainbow Point are offered twice daily and can be reserved in advance. You can book your spot on the 3.5-hour tour at Ruby’s Inn, Ruby’s Campsite, the Shuttle parking lot, or by calling the park office one week in advance.
6. Bryce National Park Service, Parking and Driving:
Even though the park shuttle is convenient for people who arrive later in the day when parking is hard to find, I prefer having my own car because it gives me more freedom. The sunrise at Bryce Amphitheater is another not-to-be-missed event.
Only one in four cars that enter the park during the summer will find a parking spot. Around 9 or 10 a.m., parking at popular locations, such as the visitor center and lodge, becomes problematic.
If you choose to drive your own vehicle within Bryce, you should arrive early. I recommend visiting before sunrise to photograph the night sky and sunrise.
7. Bryce Canyon Exploration Tip
Explore the principal amphitheater and Bryce Canyon Lodge in the northern region of the park to begin the day.
Save the southern portion of the park, including the drive to Rainbow Point, for the afternoon. The latecomers who are already circling the lodge’s parking lot will be more than happy to take your spot.
Drive all the way to Rainbow Point to begin. The best route to take is to start at the top and drive down to the vistas, as all the attractions are on the eastern side of the road.
8. Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon National Park?
Discover your stay options at Bryce
8.1. Bryce, Utah
It is impossible to beat the convenience of staying in Bryce (as opposed to staying within the park). The distance between Bryce and the center and easy access is only five minutes by car. In addition, park shuttles and tours to Rainbow Point begin at these hotels.
This little tourist destination outside the park features hotels, restaurants, RV parks, and campgrounds.
Two great Best Westerns are within a quarter mile of each other: the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn and the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. There is a laundromat, hot showers, a pool, and a hot tub at the Ruby Inn RV Park and Campground. This campsite also offers cabins for reservation.
Consider Tropic if you are willing to forgo park proximity for a more affordable option. Tropic provides inexpensive lodgings and inns only 15 minutes from the park.
I slept at the Bryce Canyon Hotel, a simple hotel modelled after log cabins.
8.3. The Lodge at Bryce Canyon National Park
Built in 1924, the Lodge at Bryce Canyon is a popular tourist destination thanks to the park’s historic charm. There are only 114 rooms in the inn, so make your reservations as soon as possible.
Reservations can be made thirteen months in advance.
The resort is unparalleled for those who seek convenience within the park. You are only a few feet from Observation Point at Dawn, the excellent spot to observe the sunrise and night sky.
8.4. Camping in Bryce Canyon National Park
North Campground and Sunset Campground are the two campgrounds found inside Bryce Canyon National Park.
North Campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis year-round. Reservations at Sunset Campground can be made six months in advance through Recreation.Gov, from May to October.
In winter, Sunset Camping is closed. Each campground has approximately 100 campsites.
9. Backpacking in Bryce Canyon National Park:
The Under the Rim trek is Bryce Canyon National Park’s most popular backpacking route. This one-way, 23-mile trek requires a backcountry permit and takes 1-2 days to complete.
The trail extends from Bryce Canyon Area to Rainbow Point along the length of the park. As the name suggests, you spend most of the trip beneath the rim of the amphitheatre amid the hoodoos.
9.1 Permits and Logistics
This trek necessitates that hikers camp at one of eight backcountry locations. In order to maintain the park’s ecosystem, camping is permitted only in authorized places.
The $5 permit can be acquired up to 48 hours in advance from the visitor center. No reservations will be taken through phone or email.
Due to the one-way nature of this trip, you will need to arrange transportation back to Rainbow Point. Using the park-operated Rainbow Point Shuttle Tour is the most convenient method.
You can reserve tickets for this before beginning your hike. Ride the shuttle from Rainbow Point to Bryce Point and back.
10. Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon National Park may have fewer day hikes than other Utah national parks, but there are a few that you shouldn’t miss.
10.1. Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Combination Trails
This 2.9-mile hike goes down into Bryce Amphitheater, where visitors can get an up-close look at the park’s iconic hoodoo formations. You can combine the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop paths for a longer loop trip.
Beginning at Observation Point at Dawn, this trail leads in a clockwise direction to Sunset Point. Although trekking in this direction is more difficult, I believe the vistas are superior.
The trail gets its name from a rock structure that resembles Queen Victoria, which can be seen at about the one-mile mark. Passing through the amphitheatre, appreciate the unusual hoodoos, such as the renowned Thor’s Hammer.
Before ascending to the amphitheatre rim, you can observe Wall Street, a deep slot canyon along the Navajo Loop.
10.2. Peek-a-boo Trail
This 5.5-mile loop is suitable for seasoned hikers. The hike begins and ends at Bryce Point, with a elevation gain of 1,571 feet. After the steep drop into the canyon, the trail’s loop segment commences. As you make your way through the towering hoodoos, keep a look out for iconic rock formations like the Wall of Windows.
Consider the following combination hikes if you’re looking for a tough hike that explores Bryce Amphitheater thoroughly:
4.9-mile “Mini Figure 8” (Peek-a-boo + Navajo Loop) “Figure 8 Combination” of 6,400 yards (Peek-a-boo + Navajo Loop + Queen’s Garden).
10.3. Sunset-to-Observation Point at Dawn
This level, paved path overlooks the enormous amphitheatre covered with hoodoos. This trek is ideal for individuals who cannot make the steeper descent to wander among the hoodoos. It is only 0.5 miles each way.
If you are completing the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop combination, you will return to your starting place via this half-mile rim walk.
10.4. Mossy Cave Trail
The creek that gives this trail its name can be found along Highway 12 (just beyond the park’s main entrance). The “mossy cave” is filled with icicles during the winter and with green moss during the summer.
Unique to Bryce Canyon National Park is the contrast between the lush green vegetation and flaming red granite. You can continue down the trail until you reach a waterfall that feeds the stream you just followed.
11. Activities Other Than Hiking in Bryce Canyon:
In comparison to other national parks, Bryce Canyon offers an abundance of non-hiking activities, including scenic roads and breathtaking overlooks. These are my top preferences.
11.1. Astronomy & Full Moon Hikes
A visit to Bryce Canyon National Park is incomplete without a nighttime exploration of the park. As a certified dark sky park, more stars are visible here than virtually anywhere else. I suggest coming to the park approximately one to two hours before sunrise and staying for the sunrise.
If you’re here during a new moon, there’s a strong possibility you’ll be able to see the milky way with your bare eyes.
On nights with a full moon, park rangers lead hikes of 1–2 km. You will walk among the eerie hoodoos with only the light of the moon (flashlights are not permitted).
Due to the monthly occurrence of the full moon, there is a significant demand for full-moon hikes. On the day of the hike, all interested persons must participate in a physical lottery. Everyone in your group must be present at the 4 p.m. show at Bryce Lodge Auditorium every day this summer drawing. In the winter, the lottery for snowshoeing under the full moon is held at the center.
11.2 Sunrise at Observation Point at Dawn
Since you’re already awake to observe the night sky, you might as well observe the sunrise. You can observe the sunrise over a distant mountain in the east from Observation Point at Dawn.
Hoodoos begin the day as a deep blue but lighten to purple, pink, and eventually orange as the sun rises. Hoodoos along the Sunrise to Sunset Point Trail will be illuminated by the rising sun.
11.3 Bryce’s Scenic Drive
From the visitor centre to Rainbow Point, there is just one main route that travels through Bryce Canyon National Park.
The hike to Rainbow Point, the park’s highest point at 9,115 feet, is 18 miles long and involves an elevation gain of 1,220 feet over the course of about three hours. Along the scenic road, fifteen observation points of Bryce Amphitheater are located.
Rainbow Point and Bryce Point are my two favourite views from the fifteen available. However, you should visit all 15 to get a comprehensive look around the amphitheatre.
12: Bryce Canyon Travel Tips & Tricks:
Here are some tips to make your travel experience hassle free:
- Get up and about early. Bryce, like many other national parks, is congested from mid-morning through early afternoon. Midday parking at popular locations, such as the tourist centre or lodge, is exceedingly difficult.
- I suggest visiting prior to daybreak to view the hoodoos in the morning light.
- Start your hikes early in the day. Start popular trails like the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop early in the day to beat the throng. I recommend beginning the walk shortly after observing the sunrise.
- When you have toured the region surrounding Bryce Canyon Lodge, save the picturesque drive for the afternoon.
- The greatest time for photographing is around dawn. Alright, so this may be putting my opinion as a fact, but the amphitheater’s warm purples, pinks, and blazing oranges cannot be ignored.
- Moreover, photographing hoodoos at sunrise prevents shadowed shots during the afternoon and evening. I also prefer the morning because there are fewer people present.
- Bring abundant water. Bryce Canyon National Park is the park in Utah with the greatest elevation. In addition, you will gain more than 1,200 feet throughout the gorgeous route! At a greater altitude, dehydration occurs more rapidly; therefore, you must consume more water than usual. This is especially crucial to avoid altitude sickness if you are coming from a park with a lower height, such as Zion. The distance between Rainbow Point and the Zion National Park Visitor Center is 6,000 feet.
- Bring layers. Any seasoned hiker will tell you that layers are your greatest ally, particularly in Bryce Canyon National Park. As you may have already guessed, the park is at a high elevation. This indicates a cold night is expected. The morning temperature when I arrived in late May was 35 degrees. Have a pullover with you at all times for warmth.
- Prepare for possible thunderstorms. Summer in Utah is marked by thunderstorms accompanied by lightning. Bryce’s hikers are at risk from lightning. The sound of thunder indicates that lightning is within 10 miles. Hide out in a building or car.
13. Bryce Canyon National Park: Commonly Asked Questions
13.1 How do you recommend seeing the city of Bryce Canyon?
A picturesque drive is the finest way to experience Bryce Canyon National Park. This primary route through Bryce Canyon features over 15 views and picturesque pauses, ideal for viewing the park’s highlights.
13.2 How much time do you recommend spending at Bryce Canyon National Park?
Plan on spending at least one to two days at Bryce Canyon National Park. While you can see the highlights in a single day, spending two days at Bryce Canyon will allow you to explore the hiking routes further.
13.3 Is one day enough for Bryce Canyon City National Park?
If you are solely interested in Bryce Canyon’s features and the picturesque trip, one day is sufficient. If you also intend to walk, I would suggest spending two days at Bryce Canyon.
13.4 Do you need a guide for Bryce Can National Park?
There is no need for a private tour guide at Bryce Canyon City. For those not interested in hiking, the park is easily navigable and offers numerous magnificent vistas away from the main route. Also, visit the visitor centre if you’re looking for park-specific information.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a popular destination for both backpackers and automobiles. I recommend spending at least one to two days in Bryce to appreciate the area’s attractions. It is suggested that a trip to Bryce be combined with a trip to Zion National Park or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Also, don’t miss these highlights on your Bryce Canyon trip:
- The Starry Skies and Morning Dawn at Sunrise Point – Sunrise Point is the best place to view both the night sky and the sunrise over the hoodoos.
- Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail – This popular combo hike provides a close-up view of the hoodoos.
- Taking in the View from Rainbow Point – Explore the 15 vantage points of the amphitheatre along the main road in Bryce.
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