Bryce Canyon National Park had long been on my list of places to see on a road trip through the southwest. With so many parks to choose from in Utah, Bryce Canyon must not be skipped. I got to enjoy this beautiful park as girls trip with my sister and cousin and we left loving our experience.
This park is primarily made up of beautiful, tall-standing hoodoos. Hoodoos are tall pole-like structures made of rock sandstone and limestone that make this park unique. In fact, Bryce Canyon has been nick named “Land of the Hoodoos.”
Despite the name, Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon. It’s a collection of amphitheaters that were formed by erosion of the sandstorm cliffs by wind, water, and time.
We thought the hoodoos resembled characters that were staring back at us and we really enjoyed trying to figure out what they looked like. I had no creativity whatsoever, but it was fun watching my sister and cousin get excited every time they figured out a person or animal staring back at them. Some hoodoos also formed shapes of churches, castles, and other random things.
The hoodoos actually hold mythical stories as to how they came about. The Paiute Indians who once inhabited the area have a legend that the stones are ancient “Legend People” who were turned into stone as punishment for bad deeds. Now, the hoodoos cast their spells on people who visit the panoramic views.
Some popular formations include, Thor’s Hammer, Wall of Windows, 3 Wise Men, Tower Bridge, Queen Victoria, and more.
How to Get Around Bryce Canyon in One Day
Because Bryce Canyon is relatively small in comparison to other national parks in Utah, it’s fairly easy to cover the majority of the park in one day. The best way to do so is by car.
We recommend driving the 18 miles to the end of the park and start your way back to the front while stopping at most scenic spots. This is probably the best thing we did because the pull outs for the scenic views are to the right hand side, which you’ll be driving on. Once you enjoy each stop, you’ll finally arrive to the most popular stop at the end near the entrance of the park, Sunset Point.
Stops to make at Bryce Canyon
When starting the scenic drive through Bryce Canyon, you definitely have time to stop at each point to enjoy the view. We even had time to go out to eat half way through our time there. If you plan to hike, allow a little more time depending on the length of the trail. If you arrive early, you have time to stop at each scenic point. But, if half day is all you have, the following spots we loved most can be your stopping points.
Rainbow and Yovimpa Points
This is the first stop at the end of the park. This stop includes both scenic views. Here, you have a have a panoramic view of the hoodoos and the forest down below. Bristlecone Loop Trail is a short nature walk that can be hiked if you want to warm up to the park.
Bryce Canyon doesn’t only have hoodoos, it also has natural arches that magnify the beauty of the park. This is one of the most popular stops at the park.
Bryce Point & Inspiration Point
Both points are near each other and are accessible by car or from the Rim Trail. Inspiration Point is popular for photography, especially during sunset. Here, one has a dramatic view of the park’s amphitheater of hoodoos. It’s known as a great place to catch the sunrise too.
Sunset & Sunrise Point
Don’t let the names fool you. Both points have beautiful scenic and panoramic views of the hoodoos at any time of the day. We missed sunrise, but both view points had an incredible sunset glow. These points are both popular for photography as well.
At sunset point, you can hike down to Wall Street and you can see Thor’s Hammer. It’s also the beginning of the Navajo Loop Trail. At Sunrise Point, you can view the queen’s fortress and beautiful arches along the way.
4 Trails to Hike at Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon can easily be seen from above at the scenic view spots. However, if you really want to experience the canyon, we recommend venturing down to hike its trails. This is the best way to take in the beauty and come face to face with the hoodoos. On our trip there, we enjoyed the following hikes:
1. Navajo Loop Trail-Moderate
The Navajo Loop Trail is the most popular trail found at Bryce Canyon and it starts at Sunset Point. We recommend starting the loop by going to the right (counterclockwise) so that you descend the steep trail instead of ascending it if you start (clockwise) to the left.
You will be glad to do this because from the rim down to the switchbacks is a steep descent. The trail will be easier going down than up. The way back up will still be tough, but less steep. When hiking Navajo Loop Trail, you will approach a narrow slot canyon with a lone pine, this part is known as “Wall Street.” It is one of the most popular attractions at Bryce Canyon.
Once you have entered Wall Street and exit, you will be surrounded by hoodoos. At this point, my sister and cousin let their imagination run wild! They started seeing more people, animals, and buildings. The hoodos were playing tricks with their minds all while I tried hard to see what they saw. I was horrible at it.
Halfway between the 1.3 miles, you will see a sign to Queen’s Garden Trail and the sign to continue Navajo Loop trail back up to Sunset Point. We suggest you continue on to Queen Garden’s Trail so you can head towards Sunrise Point.
2. Queen’s Garden Trail-Easy
A much easier hike, Queen’s Garden Trail is fairly flat and breathtaking. It’s a 1.8 mile hike but shorter if it is combined with the Navajo Loop Trail. We found this trail to be quite stunning. First, we followed a path that led us through trees and was more forest-like but with hoodoos in view. We even spotted a deer on our path.
Once we got to the “Queen VIctoria” hoodoo, we kept heading counterclockwise leading up to Sunrise Point. On Queen’s Garden Trail we got to enjoy a large collection of hoodoos and a few beautiful arches on the trail. The way back up is less steep and can be tiring, but it’s easy to complete.
We completed this trail exactly when the sun was setting, and the view was incredible from Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. We highly recommend you plan to do both Navajo Loop Trail and Queen’s Garden Trail about two hours before sunset. If so, you will catch the sun’s beautiful shine on the hoodoos that will seem to be glowing. The panoramic views from here were stunning and I couldn’t stop taking pictures!
3. The Rim Trail-Easy
An alternate option from driving and stopping at the scenic views, is to hike the entire rim. The Rim Trail extends nearly 6 miles. The hike is paved and flat so it should be fairly easy. Since our hike ended at Sunrise Point, we walked the rim over to Sunset Point where we started Navajo Loop Trail and had parked our car.
This easy 1 mile hike from one point to the other had benches where we could admire the view and snap many photos. Between the Navajo Loop Trail, Queen’s Garden Trail, and the Rim Trail, you will have walked nearly 4 miles. Definitely do this hike before sunset and allow up to 3 hours to complete.
4. Bristlecone Loop Trail-Easy
Bristecone Loop Trail is located at the first stop at the end of the park, at Rainbow and Yovimpa Points. It’s a short one mile loop. You won’t have any close ups with hoodoos on this trail, but you will have access to the southern end of the park where you will be atop the highest point.
The elevation here is over 9,100 feet and you will be surrounded by bristlecone pines that are up to 1,800 years old. This trail is a forest filled with Douglas Fir, White Fir, and Blue Spruce trees. Therefore, you will most likely see squirrels, chipmunks, ravens, stellar’s jays, and many more birds species. It’s a nice warm up!
Astronomy Nights for Stargazing at Bryce Canyon
The best part of our experience at Bryce Canyon was our stargazing night. Though it had been a long day, we decided to stay for the astronomy night and we were so glad we did! Bryce Canyon is known as one of the ultimate places to stargaze because of its natural darkness and low pollution. Actually, it’s known as one of the best places in the world for this.
The sky is so dark that you can see the Milky Way even on a day with a lighted moon. Park Rangers and volunteer astronomers come and set up telescopes outside the Visitors Center for visitors to enjoy on certain nights at 10PM. No reservation is necessary but we do recommend arriving half hour early to grab a spot and wait for the astronomers. The best way to find out if there will be an astronomy night is to check with the park beforehand.
This experience was so incredible that we were the last ones to leave for the night well past midnight. While there were crowds, the astronomers set up the telescope for visitors to look at popular sightings, such as Jupiter, the Moon, and Mars. People lined up at one telescope and jumped around until they saw each one.
Once the crowds left, the visitors that stayed behind got access to one-one-one time with the astronomers. The astronomers were really enthusiastic to show us many different stars and explained to us a load of scientific things that I completely forgot. I simply remember seeing a black hole, a nova, clusters, nebula, and constellations. I was most excited when I saw four of Jupiter’s moon, rings on Saturn, and clear views of the Moon.
Though I don’t remember practically anything that I learned that night, the experience was memorable and the images we saw are forever planted in my mind! A night I’ll never forget! I had longed to see the Milky Way since I was a child living in the outskirts of a small town, with views of the Milky Way on a daily basis. So this was definitely exciting! Star gazing is my number one suggestion of what to do at Bryce Canyon!
What to Take to Bryce Canyon
There is not much shade or any at most scenic points. Therefore, sunscreen is a good idea since you’ll be in direct sunlight most of the day. If you’ll be doing some hiking, bring plenty of water and snacks and wear comfortable shoes. A small comfortable backpack can carry all your items. We also highly recommend a light sweater for when the temperature drops during summer nights. In the winter, dress warm.
Location, Area, and Weather
Bryce Canyon in only 50 miles northeast of Zion National Park and receives about 2 million visitors each year. It’s quite easy to get around since the park is mostly a scenic drive. Since the amphitheater sits at 9,000 feet, the weather may get cool on summer nights but hot during the day. In the winter, it can be quite cold and the park gets precipitation and snow. We’ve seen pictures of Bryce Canyon with snow and the hoodoos look even more beautiful!
Bryce Canyon is open all year for camping and tours. Entrance to this park is included in the “America the Beautiful” pass for $80. This pass gives you entrance to all National Parks in the U.S. Alternatively, you can enter by car at $30 per vehicle or by feet at $15 per person. There is a free shuttle included with your entrance which stops at the visitor center, campground, scenic points, and Ruby’s Inn and Highway 63 & 12. Camping is $20 a night. Pets must be on a leash.
Ebenezer Bryce, who the park is named after once said that this park is ” A hell of a place to lose a cow.” I say, this is “a hell of place to lose thyself!” Hike it, enjoy it, and get lost in its beauty.
Are you thinking of seeing Bryce Canyon in one day? What has been your favorite national park? Share with us in the comments. And if you liked this post, please share it with others so they can plan their trip to Bryce Canyon.