Located in Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park’s unique geology is unlike anything else in the world. The park is famous for having the world’s largest collection of hoodoos, rock columns that form when ice and rainwater wear down the limestone. As you explore the park’s trails and overlooks, you get up close and personal to these bright orange formations which fill the park’s landscape and provide awe-inspiring views around every corner. And with Bryce Canyon’s smaller size, you can easily see all of the major highlights in one day!
What’s the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park?
While Bryce Canyon is open year-round and is beautiful any time of the year, there are a few things to consider when deciding when to visit.
The most popular time of the year to visit is between May and September when the weather is the warmest. However, the crowds will be higher during this time and there are occasional thunderstorms in the afternoons, especially between July and August.
In the winter, the hoodoos get a dusting of snow, which is a stunning sight! While the majority of the park is open in the winter, a couple of trails and smaller roads are closed and the main park road sometimes closes to be plowed, so you may be a bit more limited if visiting during this time.
For a mix of nice weather and fewer crowds, the spring and fall, specifically October, November, and April are the perfect time to visit!
A few facts about Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is part of the “Mighty Five” in Utah, along with Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks. These national parks are all located in Southern Utah and offer incredible views of canyons, red rocks, arches, and more!
The area now known as Bryce Canyon National Park was originally occupied by Paiute Indians in 1200 A.D. In the 1700s and 1800s, European Americans and Mormons began to explore the area, and in 1928 it was established as a national park and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon settler that lived near the park.
Despite its name, Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, but rather a collection of natural amphitheaters, which sit along the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.
The park’s elevation ranges from 6,620 feet to 9,105 feet, which makes the temperatures fluctuate depending on where you’re exploring and also makes the trails a bit more challenging.
One Day in Bryce Canyon National Park Itinerary:
Due to its smaller size and easily accessible sights, you can see the majority of Bryce Canyon in just one day. Here are the top things to do in Bryce Canyon, including overlooks and hikes, to fill your one day in the park.
Watch the sunrise at Sunrise or Sunset Point
Sunrise at Bryce Canyon is magical! The park mostly faces east, so as the sun rises, the hoodoos light up and turn into their fiery, iconic orange color. The park has many easy-to-access overlooks along the rim to view the sunrise from, but the appropriately named Sunrise Point has great, expansive views of the hoodoos.
Hike some of the park’s popular trails
Bryce Canyon is home to over a dozen trails, many of which are connected. Here are a few of the best trails to choose from and depending on how many miles you want to hike, you could combine multiple for a long day of hiking, or take your time and just hike the two shorter trails.
Navajo & Queen’s Garden Loop
The Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden trails by themselves are amazing, but combine them into a 2.9-mile loop for one of the best hiking experiences in the park!
Both of these trails take you into the canyon to get up close and personal with the hoodoos, including a unique formation called Thor’s Hammer.
This is the most popular hike in the park, so plan to start early to beat the crowds. It’s also recommended to do the trail clockwise.
Fairyland Loop Trail
At 8 miles long, this is one of the longer and more challenging trails in the park, but is totally worth it for a less crowded experience! The trail takes you along the rim and into the canyon, with great views of the hoodoos, as well as other sights in the park, like Tower Bridge.
Peekaboo Loop Trail
This 5.5-mile trail is steep, as it drops into the canyon quickly, but will take you through the heart of the park, including to a spot called the Wall of Windows.
A popular way to explore this trail is to combine it with the Navajo and Queen’s Garden Loop for a 6.4-mile “figure 8” trail, which will take you through some of the park’s best scenery in one hike.
One important thing to know is that you are required to go clockwise for the Peekaboo Loop Trail.
For something a little different, check out the Mossy Cave! This one-mile hike is located about 15 minutes from the visitor center, so make sure to plan extra time to drive to and from the trailhead. It has also become very popular, so parking can be a challenge and it’s advised to not arrive between 10 AM and 6 PM.
But it’s popular for good reason. Unlike the other trails in the park, this trail features water, including a waterfall! The hike is located in a canyon called Water Canyon and includes an irrigation ditch that was created in the late 1800s by Mormon pioneers, which now supplies the cities of Tropic and Cannonville with irrigation water.
Check out the viewpoints
One of the best things about Bryce Canyon National Park is all of the viewpoints, which are easy to access without much, or any, hiking. Some of the best viewpoints in the park are Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point, which provide a variety of angles of the famous hoodoos.
All of these overlooks are located in the main area of the park and are easy to park and walk right up to, minus Inspiration Point and Bryce Point, which require a tiny walk from the parking lot.
If you’re looking to venture further into the park, Natural Bridge is another impressive stop worth checking out. You cannot walk out to the natural bridge, but there is a nice view of it from the parking area.
Eat dinner at Stone Hearth Grille
Located about 15 minutes outside of the park, Stone Hearth Grille is one of the nicest spots to grab dinner in the area. After a fun day of exploring, freshen up a bit and head to the restaurant before sunset for a delicious meal and views of the park.
Experience the night sky
Bryce Canyon has some of the darkest night skies in the United States, and the stargazing is extraordinary with thousands of stars being visible on a moonless night. The park has Astronomy Rangers that offer programs where you can learn about the constellations and stargaze with telescopes. The park even has an Annual Astronomy Festival every June!
Where to stay in Bryce Canyon National Park
The lodging options at Bryce Canyon National Park are a bit limited due to the remote nature of the park, but there are a handful of hotels, as well as campgrounds to choose from!
Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn
26 South Main Street, Bryce Canyon, UT 84764
Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn is just a mile from the park, and it has some very comfortable rooms that come with coffee machines and free toiletries. The best rooms in the inn also come with a hot tub or a spa bath. There is also a gift shop here and a collection of Native American works of art.
Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
30 North 100 East, Bryce Canyon, UT 84764
Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel comes with a fitness center and an outdoor swimming pool, plus you get to enjoy an excellent free breakfast. The rooms are very well equipped and come with hairdryers, coffee machines, and free toiletries, and there is an on-site, cowboy-themed restaurant here, too.
Sevier River Ranch & Cattle Company
216 South Sevier River Ranch Lane, Hatch, UT 84735
Sevier River Ranch & Cattle Company is an excellent place if you want to enjoy a nice farm stay surrounded by nature. You’re about 30 miles from the national park, and the rooms here are completely made of wood, with plenty of amenities. A great place if you just want to take a break and recharge your batteries.
Bryce Valley Lodging
120 North Main Street, Tropic, UT 84776
Bryce Valley Lodging is located in the nearby town of Tropic, and if you book a room here, you’ll be only 15 minutes away from the national park by car. The accommodation here is quite budget-friendly, and the rooms are very comfortable and well equipped (microwave, fridge, coffee machine…). So, if you’re traveling on a budget, this is a great place to book.
Day trips from Bryce Canyon National Park
There are so many other incredible places to see near Bryce Canyon National Park! If you have additional time to spend in the area, here are some suggestions of places to check out, all a 2.5 hour or less drive (one way) from Bryce Canyon .
Kodachrome Basin State Park (30 minutes)
This park is located just a short drive from Bryce Canyon and is home to 67 monolithic stone spires.
Willis Creek Slot Canyon (45 minutes)
This beautiful slot canyon is about a 5-mile round trip hike and takes you through a creek and narrow canyon walls.
Zion National Park (1 hour, 45 minutes)
Zion National Park is the most popular national park in Utah, and for good reason! The park’s gorgeous rock formations and unique hikes make it a stunning place to explore.
Kanarra Creek (1 hour, 45 minutes)
This 5.5-mile canyon trail requires a $12 permit to access, but is worth the cost! The trail includes canyons, waterfalls, and a ladder you have to climb down.
Toadstool Hoodoos (2 hours)
If you want to see even more hoodoos, the Toadstool Hoodoos, which are located in Kanab, Utah, offer a different experience than Bryce Canyon.
Capitol Reef National Park (2.5 hours)
The Fruita area of Capitol Reef National Park is around 2.5 hours from Bryce Canyon and offers quite a few trail options, as well as orchards where you can pick fruit in the summertime!
Page, Arizona (2.5 hours)
With famous slot canyons like Antelope Canyon, the iconic Horseshoe Bend, and the beautiful Lake Powell, there are tons of things to do in Page, Arizona.
Extra tips for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
– The park costs $35 to visit, which covers 7 days in the park. If you plan to visit other national parks or national monuments in the area, America the Beautiful Pass, which costs $80/year and gets you into all national parks and federal lands, is worth purchasing.
– Traveling with a dog? Pets are only allowed where cars can go, including paved trails and viewpoints, roads, campsites, and picnic areas.
– Las Vegas and Salt Lake City are both 4 hours from Bryce Canyon National Park and are the best larger cities to fly into. However, St. George, Utah also has a small airport with a handful of flights from Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Denver.
– Get to the park early to not only avoid crowds but to witness the colors change on the hoodoos as the sun rises. It’s worth the early wake-up call!
– The park has a free shuttle to get around. If you’re visiting during peak season, the shuttle will help reduce parking headaches as you explore different areas of the park.
– There is one restaurant inside the park called Valhalla Pizza, but if you want to make the most of your time exploring the scenery, pack meals and snacks to enjoy on your hikes.
– Bryce Canyon ranges in elevation, so make sure to pack layers, as the mornings can be very cold and the afternoons can be warm, especially as you hike down into the hoodoos.
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Logistical Tips and Tricks
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