Bryce Canyon National Park was the second stop on our epic Southwest U.S. road trip, following Zion National Park. We spent just one day here, allowing for ample time to visit Utah’s other national parks.
Situated on a high plateau at the top of the Grand Staircase, Bryce Canyon has the highest elevation of the “Mighty 5” Utah national parks and is home to the greatest concentration of hoodoos in the world.
Hoodoos, also called tent rocks, earth pyramids and fairy chimneys, are tall, thin, irregular columns of rock that protrude from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland; they can range in size from the height of an average human to that of a ten-story building.
Where is Bryce Canyon National Park?
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwest Utah near the town of Tropic. It’s around a two hour drive from both Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.
How Much Does Bryce Canyon Cost?
Bryce Canyon National Park entry fees vary depending on vehicle type and pass duration. The National Park Service website has information on current rates, but to give you an idea, the cost at the time of our visit was $35 for private vehicles for a seven-day pass.
A Broad Recommendation: we’d actually recommend that you forego individual national park entrance fees altogether and instead invest in the U.S. Park Pass. This pass is valid for one year and covers your entry to thousands of National Parks and other federally managed lands.
When’s the Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon?
Most people visit Bryce Canyon between March and early October, so we decided to visit in late October to avoid the crowds. In our opinion, this is the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, followed by winter and early spring.
The weather is dependent on the season. Temperatures can reach 100 degrees or more in the summer, spring and fall boast warm days and cool nights, and temperatures fall below freezing in the winter. Winter also poses the chance for potential snowstorms.
The weather was perfect during our visit. Temperatures dropped to the 20s at night and rose to mid-60s during the day. With all the hiking we did, we can’t even imagine visiting in the summer with all that heat! We started our day wearing winter jackets, scarves, hats and gloves, but I ended up in a tank top by the end of the day.
Check here for Bryce Canyon National Park’s current conditions.
How to Get to Bryce Canyon
Cedar City Regional Airport is the closest airport to Bryce Canyon National Park. However, we visited Bryce Canyon as a part of a larger trip. We started our trip from Las Vegas and flew into the McCarran International Airport. The drive from Las Vegas to Zion is just under three hours. Then, the drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon is just under two hours.
Leaving from Zion, you’ll follow the steep switchbacks up to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel – a historic landmark completed in 1930 – then onto the scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. From there, you’ll follow the road to US-89 N, then to UT-12 E to get to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Along the way, you can stop at Checkerboard Mesa, a sandstone hill with an unusual crack pattern that resembles a checkerboard-like grid.
Flying into Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah is also a viable option. If you’re driving directly to Bryce Canyon from either Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, it’s just around a four-hour drive.
It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll lose an hour due to the time difference when you drive from Las Vegas to either Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park. If you fly into Salt Lake City, there’s no time difference.
A Broad Recommendation: due to the lack of cell service throughout this area, you’ll want to make sure you’ve downloaded Google offline maps, packed extra water, snacks and warm clothes in case of an emergency.
Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon has two campgrounds, one of which operates in the winter. There’s also lodging available at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon.
We stayed at Red Ledges Inn, which is less than 15 minutes away from the park.
Check-in begins after 4 PM local time, but we arrived late in the evening, so they left our keys outside the office door. There’s not much to say about this place, since we basically only slept there, but the room was nice enough. We had a tv, a fridge, a microwave and a comfy bed.
They also have a continental breakfast from April through October and free coffee year-round, but we left too early the next morning to take advantage of either of these.
We used hotels.com to book our stay, and it was less than $60 for the night.
A Broad Recommendation: I love booking stays through hotels.com and have used them throughout Asia and the United States. They help me snag great deals, and they give you one free night for every ten nights you complete or a discounted night if your eleventh stay is more expensive than the average cost of your first ten. Who doesn’t love free stuff? I also used Rakuten, formerly eBates, at the time of my purchase to get cash back – how neat! For this trip, I got just under $10 back.
Bryce Canyon & COVID Response
Consistent with CDC guidance, all visitors, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask inside park buildings, crowded outdoor spaces and enclosed public transportation. This was strictly enforced when we visited.
Suggested 1-Day Itinerary for Bryce Canyon
Here’s our suggested itinerary for one day in Bryce Canyon National Park:
- Drive from your hotel to Bryce Canyon National Park before sunrise
- Park at Sunrise Point
- Hike to Sunset Point in the dark (it’s only a 15- or 20-minute walk; bring a flashlight or use the one on your phone)
- Watch the sunrise at Sunset Point
- Hike the Figure 8 Combination Trail from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point (this will take the bulk of your day)
- Have a picnic lunch at your car or eat at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon
- Drive to Capitol Reef National Park (~2 hour drive; try to do this while it’s still daylight)
What to Do in Bryce Canyon
Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon
The main thing we did in Bryce Canyon National Park was hiking!
There are lots of hiking trails in Bryce Canyon; the full list can be found on the National Park Service website. That being said, our list is not comprehensive; it’s simply our recommendation based on the hikes we’ve done in this area.
Map sourced from https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/conditions.htm
Sunrise to Sunset
This is a paved portion of the 11-mile Rim Trail starting at either Sunrise Point and ending at Sunset Point or vice versa. The hike is 1 mile round trip and takes about an hour to complete. There’s nearly no change in elevation, making it the park’s easiest hike.
We parked at Sunrise Point just before sunrise and hiked the 0.5 miles to Sunset Point (yes, we watched the sunrise at Sunset Point, haha – we heard it was one of the best spots to do so!).
The Navajo Loop is 1.3 miles round trip, starting at Sunset Point, and has about 550 feet of elevation change. On this trail, you’ll get to see Thor’s Hammer, Two Bridges and the bottom of Wall Street.
During the winter, the Wall Street side of this loop closes, making it an out and back trail; this was the case during our visit in October. However, this trail can be combined with the Queen’s Garden Trail, leading you from Sunset Point all the way back to Sunrise Point.
The Navajo Loop Trail alone will take you between one and two hours. Remember to give yourself plenty of time to take pictures too!
The Queen’s Garden Trail is one of the easiest trails and takes you to Queen Victoria.
The trail can be accessed via Sunrise Point. It’s 1.8 miles out and back, and as previously mentioned, it can be combined with the Navajo Trail.
You’ll experience more than 350 feet in elevation change, and you’ll want to allot about one to two hours for this hike.
Queen’s/Navajo Combination Loop
Combining the Queen’s Garden Trail and the Navajo Loop Trail is the most popular hiking route in the park. You’ll need about two or three hours to hike the 2.9 miles, and you’ll experience about 600 feet elevation change during your trek.
A Broad Recommendation: Get here early (and watch the sunrise like we did!), especially if you’re visiting in the summer. In season, this loop can get extremely crowded, and some folks end up circling the Sunset Point parking lot all day looking for a space.
The Peekaboo Loop is typically accessed via Bryce Point, leading you through the heart of the park to witness the incredible Wall of Windows.
It’s 5.5 miles round trip with more than 1,500 feet elevation change. During our visit, the Bryce Point Peekaboo Loop Connecting Trail was closed due to trail damage.
Luckily, we were able to connect to the trail via the Navajo Loop Trail – more on that later. Note that you must hike in a clockwise direction on the Peekaboo Loop. Give yourself around three to four hours for this hike.
Navajo/Peekaboo Combination Loop
As previously mentioned, you can combine the Navajo Loop Trail with the Peekaboo Loop Trail for a 4.9-mile hike by creating a mini figure-8. Note that, again, you must hike in a clockwise direction on the Peekaboo Loop. This combination will also take around three to four hours total.
The Figure 8 Combination Loop
If you’re looking for a full day hike, you can combine the Queen’s Garden Trail, the Peekaboo Loop, and the Navajo Loop into one epic hike. This is what we chose to do!
We began at Sunset Point, hiked along the Navajo Loop, connected to the Peekaboo Loop, connected from there to the Queen’s Garden Trail, and ended up back at our car, which we parked at Sunrise Point earlier in the day (remember, we hiked from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point in the dark to catch the sunrise!).
We felt this was an awesome way to explore much of what Bryce Canyon has to offer. The views were incredible, and we didn’t feel like the hike was too challenging.
A Broad Recommendation: If you plan to do any of the combination loops, you’ll likely be hiking for several hours at a time. Remember to pack lots of water, snacks, sunblock and clothes to layer to account for the drastic temperature changes (due to both elevation change and time of day).
If we had more time here, we would’ve considered hiking more of the Rim Trail, which takes you along the rim of the scenic Bryce Amphitheater and provides a view of the hoodoos from above. We did part of this trail from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point, but there are several other viewpoints we would’ve loved to see.
Visit the Popular Viewpoints
Bryce Canyon’s main road, Southern Scenic Drive, runs north to south through the park, offering views of the Bryce Amphitheater along the first 3 miles. The four most popular overlooks, Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point and Sunrise Point, are along this short stretch. These overlooks also serve as trailheads for some of the most popular hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Other viewpoints are located further down Southern Scenic Drive, to include Rainbow Point, Natural Bridge, Yovimpa Point, etc. The road is 18 miles long, and it’s best to drive all the way to the end, then stop at the viewpoints on your way back.
Note: we didn’t get to do this during our visit, since we wanted to make our way to Capitol Reef National Park earlier in the day after a late night of driving the previous evening. We’ll have to see these next time!
More on what to do at Bryce Canyon National Park can be found on the National Park Service website.
Best Sunrise & Sunset Spots
Sunrise and sunset are the best times to witness the magic of Bryce Canyon.
Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point are all great spots to watch a sunrise or sunset. We read that Sunset Point is the best for sunrise, since most people will be heading to Sunrise Point and vice versa for sunset.
Again, we parked at Sunrise Point early in the morning, walked to Sunset Point in the dark, and watched the sunrise from there. Unfortunately, we left before sunset, but I bet that would be a spectacular sight!
Where to Eat in Bryce Canyon
We decided to pack our lunch to save time and ate out of the trunk of our rental car. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat within the park, The Lodge at Bryce Canyon is your main option. In season (April-October), the dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There’s also a General Store near Sunrise Point where you can grab food such as sandwiches, pizza and soup. There are also restrooms and showers here. Note: the General Store is usually closed between January and March.
There are other dining options in Bryce Canyon City, which is just right outside the park.
Getting from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef
The next stop on our Southwest U.S. road trip was Capitol Reef National Park. We explored the Escalante area, specifically Lower Calf Creek Falls, on our way to Capitol Reef by taking UT-12 E. Note: there’s another route along UT-24 E, which will take you to Capitol Reef, but you won’t go through Escalante.
A Broad Recommendation: Again, due to the lack of cell service throughout this area, you’ll want to make sure you’ve downloaded Google offline maps, packed extra water, snacks and warm clothes in case of an emergency.
Have you visited Bryce Canyon National Park yet? If not, have we convinced you to go? Leave us a comment below, and don’t forget to pin it!
XOXO Travel A-Broads
Great post! I’ve been to Bryce many times and you nailed it with this guide!
Thanks so much! We loved our visit to Bryce and would definitely go back and explore more!
We visited Bryce for a day after visiting Zion too! You were able to see so much more than we did though. There’s a really spectacular photo of me at rainbow point – I’m wilted over the fence by the sign at 9,115 ft barely able to exist as I die of altitude sickness 😂
I loved visiting Zion then Bryce! I feel like it was the best way to loop through the Utah national parks (we did Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands after this). Oh my gosh – I need to see this photo! We didn’t do Rainbow Point, but it sounds like maybe we should skip it again next time too, haha.
Your photos of Bryce Canyon National Park are absolutely stunning. What a fabulous day this would be!
Thank you so much! We actually stumbled upon the Peekaboo Loop but would totally recommend it to anyone visiting now! We had a lot of fun 😊.
Bryce Canyon National Park looks absolutely magical! The landscape is stunning! I’d love to visit it and admire the views and enjoy the hikes. Thanks for the great guide!
It’s my pleasure! I hope you’ll get to visit soon; we were blown away by Bryce Canyon’s beauty. This park isn’t talked about as much as some of the others in this area, but it was probably one of our favorites!
As a sunset lover I think this canyon would definitely be something to visit! It looks amazing. Also, you put so many tips and advices in your posts that I think are so useful it is incredible! Thank you 😊
I would love to go back for sunset; that’s my one regret from visiting here – we just didn’t have enough time to watch the sunset and to make it to Capitol Reef before dark. And, thank you so much, Francesca! I really appreciate that and am so happy you find these posts to be beneficial! More like this to come soon 😊.
Wow the colours of the rock here are amazing, at sunset it must glow so beautifully. It’s nice you’ve included spots to witness the sunrise/sunset!
Totally agree! I wish we could’ve watched a sunset here too, but there’s always next time!
Incredible photos! I am just blown away by the colours of those hoodoos and rock formations with the oranges, pinks and yellows against the blue sky. Gorgeous!!
I would love to hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and visit some of those fantastic viewpoints. 😀
Thanks so much! We were really impressed with all of those colors as well! Hope you’ll get to visit here soon – it was one of our favorites of the national parks we visited, but then again, it’s just so hard to choose 🙂.
Bryce Canyon is so beautiful. We did the viewpoints and some hiking when we visited, but neither saw a sunrise or sunset. Something for the next time.
Definitely! I’d love to hike to more of the viewpoints; sounds like we need to switch itineraries next time 😉.
I always make the mistake of not saving my google maps and then go for hikes with no service. Thanks for including the tip!
Definitely essential when visiting the Utah Mighty Five and driving from park to park. I actually didn’t even think about using them for hiking; great idea, haha. You taught me something new 🙂.
Good to know about the lack of cell service! I’ve found out the hard way at some parks and had to guess my way back to a place where I could access maps. LOL Hope to visit this Bryce Canyon soon! It’s gorgeous!!!
Oh my gosh – that sounds really stressful! I learned this trick from our road trip around Iceland, and it really came in handy here. We had some service inside Bryce Canyon National Park specifically, but no service inside Zion or on most of the roads between all of the national parks we visited (we did the Mighty 5). Definitely download Google Maps beforehand!
The stunning Bryce Canyon natural beauty at sunrise and sunset has left me speechless. I am so excited to visit this place soon with my family!
I hope you will and that you’ll have such a great time! I think the Navajo/Queen’s Garden Loop would be perfect for a family hike.
Bryce Canyon looks like an amazing place to visit especially for sunrise & sunset. Your pics are beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing!
Thank you! Sunrise and sunset are definitely the best times to visit here; we only were able to do sunrise this visit, but I’d love to go back for a sunset.
This is such a helpful, thorough guide! I am hoping I’ll make it to Bryce Canyon and Zion one of these days haha, so I’ll definitely be using this guide when I go. Thanks for sharing!
Ooh I can’t wait to see and hear about your adventures! We had such a blast exploring both of those national parks. Utah is just incredible! Feel free to reach out if you need any additional tips or have any questions while planning 🙂.
Your trip looks amazing! I would love to do this trip. I am saving your itinerary and plan to use your tips when I book my trip! Thank you.
Yay! Please let me know if you have any questions or need any additional tips. I’m more than happy to help however I can 🙂.
Wow! You must be in great shape with all that hiking. Great guide and tips!
Haha, thank you! We had some practice at Zion National Park right before this; that park sure has a lot of hiking!
That’s just the type of unique landscape that makes me want to go hiking again! Some of those views you had are incredible.
It was simply amazing! We loved exploring and hiking here!
Looks like a great place to visit. It would be a nice break from the city. Love the detailed post with pictures.
Definitely a great break from all of the hustle and bustle! Thanks so much 🙂.
Bryce Canyon was such a gorgeous national park! I went over the summer but definitely can see how it’d be nicer (crowd + temperature-wise) in the fall — we drank a lotttt of water while we were there, hehe. Your photos are beautiful!
Thank you so much 🙂. I’m glad to hear it was equally amazing in the summer! I was definitely concerned about the heat with going that time of year; I prefer cooler weather for hiking, which is why we landed on late October.
I want to visit Utah so badly. It looks like it has so much incredible nature! Bryce Canyon looks particularly cool, so adding it to my list for when I can finally make the trip to Utah.
I hope you’ll get to go soon! We loved this one and everything else we did in Utah. I’m happy to provide any advice when you start planning your trip!
Take me there! What an incredible landscape! I loved all the info you shared, so helpful for first timers who want to go there.
It’s my pleasure to share. Bryce Canyon is so beautiful! I hope you’ll get to visit soon!
This looks like such a beautiful place, a National Park that I’ve wanted to visit for a while now. I love how red everything is, it looks so magical especially when the sun hits it just right
Same here! I can’t even imagine how gorgeous it is here at sunset too. We had to head out before then, unfortunately.
Bryce Canyon looks so surreal! I’d love to visit. And I agree about just getting the national parks pass. Ours has already paid itself off, plus it’s great motivation to get out more!
Absolutely! Just with our southwest road trip this year (which included Bryce Canyon), the pass more than paid for itself. Hope you’ll be able to visit Bryce Canyon soon 🙂.
After reading your blog post, I’m definitely interested in visiting Bryce Canyon. The views are absolutely gorgeous! I also learned something new, I had no idea those rock formations were called Hoodoos.
Yay! That was totally my goal 😉. I feel like Bryce Canyon is one of the most underrated national parks but also so incredibly unique and impressive. I hope you’ll get to go soon, and so happy I’ve taught you something new too!
Utah keeps calling my name! Love the tips on how to spend one day in Bryce Canyon National Park. Your photos are stunning!
You HAVE to go! I know you’re going to love it so much! And, thanks for your thoughtful words! Definitely let me know if you need any additional info or tips for your future visit 🙂.
Perfect timing — we’re going to Bryce Canyon in March. Your post and gorgeous photos of the national park made me even more excited! Thank you!
Oh my gosh! That’s wonderful. I will have to check back in to see all of your photos too 🙂. Have such a fun trip!
I always recommend getting a yearly pass to the National Parks. Not only are they beautiful, having the pass inspires you to plan more trips to more parks.
Absolutely agree! And, they typically more than pay for themselves after visiting a couple of parks.
Bryce Canyon looks so incredibly beautiful, I would love to visit one day!!
I hope you will! I feel that it’s one of the U.S.’s most underrated national parks, but it’s simply beautiful and easy to visit in just one day!
Bryce is such an amazing park and these are such great tips thanks!
Couldn’t agree more! My pleasure; I hope you’ll find them useful for your next visit 🙂.
Visited as a kid. Would love to take my family back as an adult. Beautiful pictures. Great suggestions.
That sounds wonderful! Thanks, Christina!
I visited Bryce Canyon once a couple of years ago, and I have been wanting to go back ever since! It is kind of funny you can go to the Sunrise and Sunset points for the opposite occasion. Will keep that in mind!
I’m glad you loved Bryce Canyon as much as we did! We would definitely go back too. And, all of our research led us to watching the sunrise at Sunset Point – we thought that was pretty funny too, haha.
Thanks for sharing all of the best things to do at Bryce Canyon National Park. Great coloring on your photos. It was so fun to look at your pictures.
Thank you so much, Ashlee! I took WAY too many photos, haha, but I’m glad I had lots of options. I hope you found it to be a valuable guide as well 😊.
What a great post! I visited Bryce Canyon just over a month ago, and you covered all of my favorite spots! One thing I wish I did now that I’ve read your guide was wake myself up early enough to see the sunrise, it makes the color of the red rocks pop even more!! Looks awesome.
Thanks so much, Jill! I think we may have been there at the same time – I was there right before Halloween. I hope you’ll get to see the sunrise here one day; I would love to go back for a sunset too! We didn’t want stick around that late this time, since we were headed to Capitol Reef next and were afraid to drive in the dark again (we drove in the dark from Zion to Bryce, and it was quite scary! I don’t recommend, haha).