Camping

National Parks – Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park

This post is a special one for me because Bryce Canyon National Park is my favorite park in the United States.  There is something incredibly magical about this park.  When you first lay your eyes upon the canyon, filled with an endless number of rock spires called hoodoos, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the beauty.

Bryce Canyon National Park-3301

The picture of beautiful Bryce Canyon taken from Inspiration Point.

While Bryce Canyon may not be as big and vast as the Grand Canyon, it is every bit as beautiful.  The contrast of the red sandstone hoodoos against the green trees and blue sky is breathtaking.  As someone who loves photography, this park is undoubtedly my favorite park to photograph.

Bryce Canyon National Park also offers a lot of fun things to do for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.  The park has some great hiking paths, ample biking paths, and plenty of opportunities for horseback riding.  And for those who aren’t up for hiking or biking, the park offers a number of amazing viewpoints that give you postcard worthy views of the canyon.

How to Get There

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in the center of Southern Utah.  This is my favorite area of the United States because I believe it is the most beautiful area of the United States.  There are five national parks, in addition to national monuments and national recreation areas, all within the bottom third of the state.

Southern Utah Parks Map

Southern Utah contains a wealth of national parks and other public lands.

Southern Utah has one of the largest areas of wilderness in the continental United States, so there aren’t any large cities or even many big towns in the area.  If you are going to visit the Bryce Canyon area from outside the United States, or aren’t interested in a cross country road trip within the United States, there are a few recommendations I can give on how to best reach the park.

Fly into Salt Lake City and then Drive to Bryce Canyon

One option would be to fly into Salt Lake City, Utah and then drive South to Bryce Canyon.  It is roughly a 4 hour drive from Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon, so it isn’t that far of a drive.  Although the area you will drive thru is very scenic, there aren’t very many other stops I would recommend along the way.

Fly into Las Vegas and then Drive to Bryce Canyon

In my opinion, the ideal way to visit Bryce Canyon would be to fly into Las Vegas, Nevada and then drive North to Bryce Canyon.  Like the drive from Salt Lake City, the drive from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon is a very scenic 4 hour drive.  However, there are far more stops along the way that I would recommend.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing a post on my recommended itinerary for a trip to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.  These areas are absolutely loaded with amazing things to see, and all are in pretty close proximity to one another.

Bryce Canyon Area Map.png

There are plenty of things to do in the Bryce Canyon area of Southern Utah.

If you are visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, there are a few other parks and public lands that I would absolutely recommend checking out while you are in the immediate area (within around a hour drive).

Zion National Park

One hour and 20 minutes to the Southwest, accessible by taking highway 89 South, is Zion National Park.  Zion is one of the most visited parks in the US national park system because of its beauty and iconic hiking trails.  This park is on the way if you are flying into Las Vegas and heading to Bryce Canyon.

Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

The Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument is something that I have written about quite a bit in recent weeks.  Below are some of the articles I have written on places to see within the national monument.

This large national monument contains some of the best hiking and back-country areas in the country.  There are three visitor centers for Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, and all three are easy drives from Bryce Canyon National Park.

Navigating within Bryce Canyon National Park is very easy as highway 63 takes you all the way thru the park.  Along the drive down thru the park, there are several different viewpoints where you can stop, get out of your car, and view the canyon.  If you would like to do some hiking within the park, these viewpoints offer ample parking.

Shuttle Bus Service

There is also a shuttle bus service that will take you into and throughout the park if you don’t want to worry about the hassle of parking.  In addition to saving you the hassle of finding parking, this service also minimizes the traffic congestion within the park, so we highly recommend it.

Bryce Canyon National Park Map.png

Map overview of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Best Time to Visit

Bryce Canyon National Park-6918

Bryce Canyon sits at over 8,000 feet of elevation, so it gets its fair share of snow.  The canyon is absolutely beautiful after a fresh snowfall.

Bryce Canyon National Park is open 24 hours a day, year-round.  However, during the winter months certain roads, campgrounds, and visitor facilities are closed or operate on reduced hours.

In our opinion, the best months to visit the park are during the Spring (March thru May) and Fall (September thru November).  The park is less crowded than it is during the summer months and it isn’t as cold as it can get during the winter.  Keep in mind, Bryce Canyon is at high elevation (8,000+ feet), so the temperature can vary greatly and snow is possible even in late spring or early fall.  Regardless of when visit though, the park is always beautiful and a blast.

Average Temperature (°F)

Bryce Canyon Temperature.png

Average Precipitation (Inches)

Bryce Canyon Rainfall.png

Top Things to See and Do

Bryce Canyon National Park-6892

One of my favorite visits ever was this Spring.  It snowed the morning we visited and the canyon was covered with a beautiful blanket of fresh snow.

Bryce Canyon is an amazing park with a lot of things to do.  Make sure you plan ahead so that you get the most out of your visit.  I have included links to some great resources for planning a visit below.

Sunrise and Sunset Viewpoint

Bryce Canyon National Park-6874

The Sunrise Point offers some spectacular views of the canyon.

Sunrise and Sunset viewpoints are two of the more popular viewpoints in Bryce Canyon National Park because they offer fantastic views of the canyon.  These viewpoints are also where the trail heads for the Navajo and Queen’s Garden loop trails.  If you aren’t interested in a lengthy hike, a nice stroll along the rim of the canyon between the Sunrise and Sunset viewpoints is one of the shortest and most popular hikes in the park.

Go Hiking

Bryce Canyon National Park-6842

Bryce Canyon has some amazing hiking trails.

In addition to offering some of Southern Utah’s most beautiful vistas, Bryce Canyon National Park also has some of the areas best hiking trails.  There are hikes with a wide range of distances and difficulty levels in the park, so hikers of all skill levels will be able to find a trail that works for them.  I have outlined some of my favorite hikes in the park for you below.

Sunset Point to Sunrise Point

Bryce Canyon National Park-3220

The Rim Trail is a great way to explore Bryce Canyon.

  • Distance:  1 (out-and-back)
  • Elevation Change:  0 feet
  • Difficulty:  Easy

If you are looking for a short and easy hike that will allow you to see some of the prettiest parts of Bryce Canyon, this is the hike for you.  The Rim Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park is a 5.5 mile (one way) trail that follows the rim of the canyon from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point.  It is a half mile hike along the Rim Trail between Sunrise and Sunset Points, so a round trip between the viewpoints is just an easy and scenic mile.

Sunrise to Sunset Point Trail.png

Map of the Rim Trail from Sunrise to Sunset Points.

Navajo Loop Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park-6967

The Navajo Loop Trail includes Bryce Canyon’s most famous trail switchbacks.

  • Distance:  1.3 miles
  • Elevation Change:  550 feet
  • Difficulty:  Moderate

The Navajo Loop Trail isn’t an extraordinarily long hike, but it is a moderately strenuous one.  This short 1.3 mile hike includes 550 feet of elevation change.  And at over 8,000 feet, climbing that much elevation, even in a short hike, can be taxing.

The hike features some of the park’s most iconic switch backs, like the one pictured above.  From Sunset Point, you descend into the canyon, loop thru some of the canyon’s prettiest hoodoos, and then make your way back up to the rim trail.  It is a great hike for those who want to get a close-up view of the canyon’s hoodoos without having to hike a great distance.

Navajo Loop Trail

Map of the Navajo Loop Trail.

Navajo and Queen’s Garden Combo Loop

Bryce Canyon National Park-6992

The Navajo and Queen’s Garden Loops can be combined to make one of Bryce Canyon’s most popular hikes.

  • Distance:  2.9 miles
  • Elevation Change:  600 feet
  • Difficulty:  Moderate

The Navajo and Queen’s Garden Combo Loop combines parts of the Navajo Loop trail with the Queen’s Garden Loop trail.  This 2.9 mile hike features around 600 feet of elevation change, which makes this trail moderately difficult at over 8,000 feet of elevation.

You can start this hike at either Sunrise Point or Sunset Point, which gives you a lot of flexibility in how you can do this hike.  Either way, you will descend steeply into Bryce Canyon by way of switch-backs, and then meander thru the canyon’s hoodoos before climbing back out of the canyon.

Queen's Garden Loop

Map of the Navajo and Queen’s Garden Combo loop hike.

Fairyland Loop Trail

Fairyland Point.jpg

A view from the Fairyland Loop Trail.

  • Distance:  8 miles
  • Elevation Change:  2.300 feet
  • Difficulty:  Difficult

If you are interested in a longer, more difficult hike at Bryce Canyon National Park, then the Fairyland Loop trail is the perfect hike for you.  It is not a really technical hike, but the hike is fairly difficult because of the distance and elevation change.  The 2,300 foot elevation change on this trail is no joke, and is the primary reason why this hike is listed as “strenuous” by the park.  However, if you are up to the task, the trail takes you thru some truly breathtaking parts of the park and is well worth the effort.

Fairyland Loop Trail

A map of the Fairyland Loop Trail.

Inspiration Point Viewpoint

Bryce Canyon-3355.jpg

The path leading from one level to the next at Inspiration Point.

Inspiration Viewpoint is undoubtedly my favorite viewpoint in Bryce Canyon national Park.  This viewpoint is comprised of three different levels of viewing platforms that give visitors extraordinary views of the canyon.  From these viewpoints you can see some of the areas of Bryce Canyon with the most dense concentrations of hoodoos.

Bryce Canyon National Park-3301

A fantastic view of Bryce Canyon from Inspiration Point.

Bryce Point Viewpoint

Bryce Canyon National Park-2883

Bryce Point may be one of Bryce Canyon’s most popular hikes because of the elevation and vast views of the canyon.

Bryce Viewpoint offers a different perspective of the hoodoo filled canyon then you get from Sunrise and Sunset points.  This perspective also makes it one of the best viewpoints at Bryce Canyon for viewing a sunrise.  At 8,300 feet of elevation, Bryce Point offers some of the most sweeping views of Bryce Canyon.  This also makes it one of the most popular viewpoints at Bryce Canyon.

Natural Bridge and Thor’s Hammer

Natural Bridge.jpg

A view of the Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon National Park.

There are a lot of really cool rock structures in Bryce Canyon National Park.  Two of the more famous formations are the Natural Bridge and Thor’s Hammer.   The Natural Bridge is one of many natural stone arches found within Bryce Canyon National Park, and creates a beautiful window in which to view the canyon beyond.  Thor’s Hammer, which gets its name from its shape that resembles a war hammer, is one of the more prominent sandstone hoodoos in Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon-6957.jpg

A view of Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Wildlife Viewing

Bryce Canyon National Park-3061

Pronghorn Antelope graze inside Bryce Canyon National Park.

In addition to some of Southern Utah’s most fantastic rock formations, Bryce Canyon is also home to a large amount of wildlife.  A wide variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects can be found within the park’s borders.  These include, but are not limited to, such animals as Pronghorn antelope, coyotes, mountain lions, and chipmunks.  So if you are a wildlife enthusiast, make sure you keep your eyes peel while hiking within the park.

Horseback Riding

Bryce Canyon National Park-7051

Horseback rides are a great alternative to hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park.

If you want to get a closer look at the hoodoos and other rock formations within Bryce Canyon, but aren’t really interested in taking a hike, a horseback ride might be an option that you enjoy.  There are two different outfits in the Bryce Canyon area that offer horseback rides into Bryce Canyon.  Information on these companies can be found at the links below.

Where to Stay

Ruby's-3203

A view of the famous Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Speaking of Ruby’s, the Best Western Ruby’s Inn is my favorite place to stay near Bryce Canyon National Park.  If you aren’t familiar with the history behind the famous Ruby’s Inn, I strongly suggest you take a moment to read up on the inn’s fun history.  Sitting just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park, Ruby’s Inn is the closest hotel to the park (aside from the lodging inside the park itself).  Ruby’s inn includes the following amenities that make it the perfect place for a family to stay:

  • Ample Lodging
  • Wonderful Western Theme
  • Huge General Store
  • Indoor pool and whirlpool
  • Incredible buffet restaurant

Photo Gallery

Bryce Canyon is an amazing place with plenty of opportunities to get some remarkable photographs.  Below is a gallery of some of my favorite pictures I have taken at Bryce Canyon during my numerous visits over the years.

 

 

 

6 replies »