Planning a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah? Popular among Utah’s Mighty 5, Bryce Canyon is known for its colorful rock formations and spectacular landscapes. Read our guide to explore the park’s best attractions including the Bryce amphitheater, scenic drive, Sunset Point, Rim Trail, and Rainbow Point. You might also like our post on Zion Bryce Grand Canyon Road Trip Itinerary.
Located in Southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its massive collection of natural spire-shaped rock formations known as hoodoos.
The park preserves the biggest concentration of these interesting eroded columns in the world. But the hoodoos are not the only attraction in the park.
Years of continuous erosion have shaped the red sandstone landscape into many geological structures and formations; most of which you can see at the area known as the Bryce Amphitheater.
Covering an area of almost 36,000 acres, Bryce Canyon National Park is certainly worth the visit. You can enjoy outstanding vistas painted in vibrant shades of yellow, red, and brown at the park.
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Tips for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
Planning a trip to Bryce? Keep reading this post to learn more about the park, check our tips on visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, and explore our recommendations on the top things to do during your visit.
Location, Direction & Accomodations
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah. While the nearest airport is located just 10 miles away from the park, it is a small regional one and the best way to visit the park is on a road trip.
Most visitors see Bryce Canyon on a road trip from Las Vegas; with a stop in Springdale to see Zion National Park. We recommend the same and even have a detailed itinerary post, Zion Bryce Grand Canyon Road Trip.
The full address of the park is Bryce Canyon National Park, UT-63, Bryce, Utah 84764. You can also use the GPS coordinates to the Visitor Center: N 37° 38′ 24″ W 112° 10′ 12″
For accommodations, you can stay in nearby Bryce Canyon City which has a number of hotels, motels, and inns such as Ruby’s Inn and Bryce View Lodge. Some of these also offer free shuttle service directly to the park’s entrance.
Park Entry Fees
As with most of the American National Parks, visitors are required to pay an entrance fee to access the park.
For visitors arriving by car, entry costs $35 per vehicle; individual tickets for pedestrians, hikers, or bikers are also available. Camping costs are extra.
Or you can opt for the National Parks Pass which is valid for all parks in the country for one whole year.
Bryce Canyon National Park has a wide variety of park amenities. The park offers a shuttle service for all visitors. If arriving in peak season, we recommend using it to minimize traffic in the park, avoid full parking lots, and reduce the carbon footprint.
From May to September, the shuttle is operational from 8 am until 8 pm, whereas during the rest of the year it runs between 8 am to 6 pm. The shuttle departs every 15 minutes.
For those who would like to stay overnight in the park, there are two available campgrounds – North and Sunset. The North site is a first-come, first-serve while the Sunset campsite accepts reservations during the peak season.
You can also stay at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon located inside the park. The lodge gets booked well in advance so you need to plan/book your trip early on.
The lodge also has a restaurant and a general store where you can get food or buy supplies. The Visitor Center has souvenirs, maps, and water.
What to bring
We recommend packing the below items while visiting Bryce Canyon.
● Lots of Water – Reusable Water Bottles
● Snack Food
● Sunscreen, Hats, Sunglasses
● First Aid Kit
● Hiking Gear – Trekking Poles
● Clothing Layers – RainCoan Additional pair of sock
● Insect Repellent
You can add additional items in your backpack, but the above list contains the basics that you will need for a great and safe hiking day in the National Park.
Best Time to Visit & Climate
The most popular season to visit Bryce Canyon National Park is from May to September. The temperatures are pleasant for hiking and enjoying the scenery. However, summer is the rainy season in the park, so you need waterproof jackets.
October is another great time to visit. It has great weather, you can see fall colors, and may experience an occasional snowfall towards the end of the month.
Winter in Bryce is not really popular. The hoodoos look beautiful dusted with snow but the temperatures get well below freezing and roads are often closed due to snowstorms.
Things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is a fascinating place. There are many things to do in the park including seeing the various rock formations, photographing them, hiking amongst them, going on scenic drives, and camping. Here’s an essential guide to attractions within the park.
Bryce Canyon Visitor Center
Start exploring the national park at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center. Here you can ask the park rangers for hiking recommendations, weather conditions, and wildlife sightings.
You can also see exhibits and learn about the history and geography of Bryce Canyon. The center also has books, souvenirs, and products for purchase.
Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive
A great way to explore the highlights of the park in a short amount of time is to drive the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. On the route, you get to experience impressive park scenery and the colorful hoodoo formations.
The route has 13 different observation points with pullouts. The 38-mile scenic drive takes around 3 hours and is easily accessible from the Visitor Center.
Inspiration Point has some of the best views of Bryce Canyon National Park. Located at an altitude of 8,143 feet, the point has three different levels so you can admire the landscape from different elevations.
The view from here is majestic and awe-inspiring – the hoodoos in the main amphitheater go on for miles and come in every shape and size. You can see bristlecone pine trees and different formations including the Claron Formation.
If you can arrive at dawn or are camping in the park, then you must enjoy the truly spectacular sunrise at Bryce Point. When the first rays of the sun fall over the top of the rock formations, the entire landscape looks flaming red and is extremely photogenic.
Even if you can’t arrive that early, it’s alright. The view from here looks spectacular no matter the time of the day. The Peek-A-Book Loop Trail that starts at Bryce Point is worth hiking and takes you deep within the canyon.
Peekaboo Loop Trail
Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail is a difficult and strenuous trail that begins at Bryce Point. The trail is very steep and descends 1555 feet to the bottom of the canyon. The views once you descend into the canyon are stunning.
The trail is also open to mules and horse riders. The entire loop is 5.2 miles long and hikers need to carry plenty of water in the summer months. The trail can be often closed in winter due to snow accumulation.
Sunrise Point is located half a mile away from Bryce Canyon Visitor Center and is easily accessible, making it one of the most popular overlooks in the park. As you can guess from its name, this is another great place to catch beautiful early morning views of the canyon.
From here, you can see some of the most popular rock formations including the Silent City and Thor’s Hammer. You have clear views of over 8,000 feet tall summits of Boat Mesa and Sinking Ship in the distance.
Queen’s Garden Trail
Queen’s Garden Trail is one of the easiest trails that enter the canyon and hence, very popular with visitors. The trail starts at Sunrise Point and descends 320 feet from the ridge into the amphitheater. The trail is 1.8 miles round trip.
Visitors can hike down the trail from April to November and fully experience the massive hoodoos towering above. At the end of the trail is the viewpoint known as the Queen’s Garden.
From here you can see spectacular rock formations in a variety of colors ranging from brown, orange, red, and even yellow rising upwards from the canyon’s basin. The trail is named after one of the formations, known to resemble Queen Victoria.
Navajo Loop Trail
The Navajo Loop Trail is 1.5 miles round trip and also descends down into the amphitheater. The popular trail begins at Sunset Point and can be hiked as an addition to Queen’s Graden Trail for a longer hike.
The initial route of Navajo Loop Trail overlaps with the Queen’s Garden Trail; then it diverges to provide different perspectives and scenic views. Navajo Loop Trail is best to hike between June and October.
During the winter months, the trail gets partially closed due to freezing temperatures and visitors need to return instead of completing the loop. The trail offers stunning views of the popular Thor’s Hammer formation.
Despite its name, Sunset Point is worth visiting throughout the day! Similar to Sunrise Point, this viewpoint is located along the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive just a mile away from the Visitor Center.
Located at an elevation of 8,000 feet, the overlook offers a stunning perspective of the canyon’s unique geological features. You can see the unusual maze of hoodoos, Silent City, Thor’s Hammer, and many other formations from the Sunset Point.
The Thor’s Hammer formation stands to the northern side far away from the others and photographs really well from the overlook.
The Rim Trail goes around the amphitheater and is a great way to see the area from above. While the entire trail is 11 miles round trip, visitors can choose how much they want to walk along the route.
The trail begins at Fairyland Point and ends at Bryce Point. The trail has two main sections. The most popular one is a half a mile long easy hike along a flat paved road between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. This can be easily done by families and offers stunning views of the hoodoos from the top.
The other section is unpaved and has several steep elevation changes. It is more for experienced hikers but the unique views are worth it.
Few visitors know that in addition to the hoodoos, there are numerous natural arches within the park. One of the most famous is the Natural Bridge arch formation. To access Natural Bridge, drive down the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. The formation is located 12 miles south from the Visitor Center and there’s a small parking lot on the roadside to view it.
Natural Bridge is formed in the vivid orange-red Claron formation and is truly spectacular due to the interesting color combinations. Under the bridge, far in the distance, you can see the dark green colors of the ponderosa pine trees contrasting with the arch’s red and orange shades. This is one of the most popular photo spots in the park.
Mossy Cave Trail
While most attractions in Bryce are beyond the Visitor Center and accessible after paying the park entrance fee, the Mossy Cave Trail is located before and hence, free to visit. Consequently, it is also overlooked by many visitors.
However, this easy 0.8 miles round trip trail in the park’s northern end is small but fun and should be on your list. The trail follows a small river stream and takes hikers up close to the hoodoos. In the end, you will find a small waterfall and the Mossy Cave. The trail is great for families with small children.
Fairyland Loop Trail
Also located outside the park entrance station, the Fairyland Loop Trail is 8 miles round trip strenuous hike. The trail route has several changes in elevation and better for experienced hikers. The trailhead is at Fairyland Point. Along with the hike, you can also admire views from the Fairyland Point located on the rim.
The path overlaps with the Rim Trail between Fairyland Point and Sunset Point; then it diverges to less visited areas of the canyon. This is a great trail to enjoy the dramatic scenery of the hoodoos. There is not much shade along the way, so bring lots of water, sunscreen, and a hat while hiking. The entire loop takes 4 to 5 hours to complete so plan accordingly.
Rainbow Point, located at the southern end of the park, is at the very end of the 17 miles long Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. The vistas from here are simply breathtaking. You can see thousands and thousands of hoodoos spread out before you. Rainbow Point is located at an elevation of 9,100 feet and is one of the best places to photograph the vast expanse of the unique rock formations.
Also located at the southern end of the scenic drive, Yovimpa Point can be reached by a short 0.3-mile hike from Rainbow Point. This point is worth visiting for a couple of reasons. From here, can see Utah’s Grand Staircase rock formation – preserved as a part of the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument – spread out before you.
You can easily see distinguishable rock layers of different colors including Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, and Vermillion Cliffs. You yourself are standing on top of the Pink Cliffs, the topmost step. You can also see the northern rim of the Grand Canyon National Park far into the distance.
You can also wildlife and birds at the point. As Rainbow Point is more popular and accessible, Yovimpa Point often gets overlooked by tourists. However, to fully experience the peace and quiet of Bryce Canyon as well as see the Grand Staircase, we would recommend not to skip Yovimpa Point.
Camping at Bryce Canyon
To enjoy the park outside of normal hours, you should camp here for a few nights. There is nothing more refreshing than waking up to the vivid colors and crisp mountain air of Bryce Canyon. You can indulge in sunrise or sunset views and even attempt night photography. The two campgrounds are the North campground and Sunset campground. Backcountry camping is also permitted inside the park, to get the details, talk to a park ranger.
We hope you liked our post on things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park. Are you reading to experience the outstanding beauty of the park for yourself? Get your things ready and head to Utah for a fantastic summer getaway!