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Best Things to Do at Bryce Canyon National Park

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View overlooking Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is a natural wonder and one of my favorite National Parks. I normally prefer to be near a large mass of water, but for southern Utah I will always make an exception due to the five breathtaking National Parks that are located there. The word "desert" accurately describes this area, and you would think they would be fairly similar. However, each one is very different, has something unique to offer and is worth the time and sweat to investigate.

Bryce Canyon National Park, established in 1928, has some of the Earth's most colorful rocks that have been sculpted by erosion into pillars called "hoodoos." Water has helped carve Bryce's rugged landscape for millions of years and is still at work. Bryce is not a true canyon but a series of horse shaped amphitheaters; the largest and most striking is Bryce Amphitheater at the heart of the park.

The park is open all year and hiking, sightseeing and photography are the three main activities.

When to Go

The best time is between May and October, although the park is open all year.

How to Get There

GPS of visitor center: Latitude: N 37° 38' 24" / Longitude: W 112° 10' 12"

The park is 26 miles south east of Panguitch via US 89 and SRs 12 and 63.

Nearest major airports are Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, both around 270 miles from the park. Nearest local airports are Cedar City (80 miles) and St. George (125 miles)

From the North: Take I-15 south to UT-20 (exit 95). Travel east on UT-20 to US-89. Follow US-89 south to UT-12. Travel east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park.

From the South through Zion National Park: Take I-15 north to UT-9 (exit 16). Follow UT-9 east through Zion National Park to US-89. Travel north on US-89 to UT-12. Go east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park

What to See and Do

For most people one day's visit is sufficient. But if you have more time and like backpacking consider doing the 2-day Under-the-Rim trail.

One-Day Visit

  1. Visit Bryce Point. If you can start the day early, then a must-see is the sunrise at Bryce Point. Even if you cannot start before sunrise this should still be your first stop after the visitor center. Drive about four miles south and then walk a short distance to the view point. This is one of the highest overlooks along the rim of the amphitheater and the view is filled with pointy colorful hoodoos. At dawn, as the sunlight catches the pillars, they glow beautiful shades of orange.
  2. Your next stop should be Inspiration Point. From the parking lot walk up a short but steep trail to upper Inspiration point. This vantage provides beautiful all round views of the amphitheater
  3. Continue on to Sunset Point. Follow the Navajo Loop trail and make sure you have your camera with you as there are many amazing photos to take as the trail drops into a narrow steep-walled gorge called Wall Street. Without doubt this is one of my all time favorite trails as you are so closely surrounded by the rock formations it makes you feel part of the scenery. At the bottom you'll find some tall douglas fir trees growing between the towering cliffs. Continue down the trail and then follow the Queen's Garden Trail. It winds its way along the bottom of the amphitheater and you'll pass many fantastic rock formations and trees on your way. The trail ends at Sunrise Point from where you can follow the rim trail a half mile walk back to your car at Sunset Point.
  4. Drive south towards Rainbow Point. Pull-off at the Natural Bridge stop where you can have a close-up view of a natural arch 85 feet long by 125 feet high.
  5. Next up is Agua Canyon with one of the best views in the park. In the foreground you see the hoodoos, behind them the Pink Cliffs and on the far horizon the Navajo Mountain.
  6. Last stop at the end of the road is Rainbow Point. It offers expansive views of Southern Utah.
  7. If you still have some energy left, consider doing a ranger program such as the astronomy or full moon hike (see below for a list of my favorites programs)

Two-Three Day Visit

On your first day complete the one-day visit outlined above. On days two and three complete the Under-the-Rim trail, a one-way 23-mile two-day trek that takes you through the heart of the amphitheater in amongst all the hoodoos and other rock formations. You'll need to obtain a backcountry permit from the visitor's center first and register for the primitive campsites you intend to use. The best way to do the trail is from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point. Don't forget to arrange for someone to collect you as the shuttle service does not run to Rainbow Point.

Main Activities

Backpacking, bird watching, camping, cross-country skiing, hiking, horseback tours, photography, snow shoeing.

Ranger Progams

Check the ranger program board in the visitor center for the latest information. They run several programs throughout the season, my favorites are (in no particular order):

    Description: Hike into the amphitheater
    When: Summer and fall, once or twice a week
    Where: Sunset or Sunrise Point
    Duration: 2 hours
    Distance: 2 miles
    Description: Fun things to do for parents and kids
    When: Summer, multiple times a week
    Where: North Campground Picnic Area
    Duration: 1 hour
    Description: Multimedia show and then you get to gaze at stars and planets through telescopes
    When: Year round, schedule varies
    Where: Varies
    Duration: 1-2 hours
    Description: Multimedia show and then you get to gaze at stars and planets through telescopes
    When: Summer
    Where: Varies
    Duration: 1.5-2.5 hrs
    Distance: 1-3 miles

Park Map

Park Map Park Map

Visitor and Information Center

The visitor center is located 4.5 miles south of the intersection of Hwy. 12 & Hwy. 63 or 1.5 miles inside Bryce Canyon National Park's northern boundary.

Its hours are:

  • Spring (April) 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Summer (May - September) 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Fall (October) 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Winter (November to March) 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Phone (435) 834-5322

Go there first to get maps and details on the park. It has a museum with displays on local geology, wildlife, star gazing, historic and prehistoric culture. Use the restrooms, bookstore and speak to the rangers with any questions you have.

Entrance Fees

$25 per private vehicle and $12.00 per person if the individual is entering by foot, bicycle, or motorcycle. Admission is for seven days and includes unlimited use of the Shuttle.

Bryce Canyon National Park Annual Pass is $30, is valid for twelve months from the date of purchase and provides unlimited number of visits.

Entry is free if you own a valid National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

Getting Around the Park

Your best bet is to drive around in your car. However, there is a free shuttle service that takes visitors to the most popular view points, trails and facilities. It runs from May 22nd through September 13th.


Pets are permitted in the park only if they are on a leash.

Health Tips

Bryce Canyon is at an elevation of around 8,000 to 9,000 ft. The high altitude sun can burn in any season so hats and sunscreen and sunglasses are recommended all year. Layered clothing is also good preparation for the plateau's temperature extremes and frequent strong winds. We recommend boots with good tread and ankle support for hikes into the canyons. Remember to take plenty of water with you, too!


Bryce Canyon National Park has two campgrounds, North and Sunset, located in close proximity to the visitor center. Both have restrooms with flush toilets, and drinking water. During the summer months coin-operated laundry and shower facilities are available at the general store nearby. There are no hook-ups in the campgrounds, but a fee-for-use dump station is available for RV users at the south end of North Campground.

One final point when you go to Bryce Canyon National Park be sure to leave reviews and upload photos to our web site to help other campers and RVers understand what your experience was like and whether it would be the right choice for them.

Copyright ©2009 Camping Road Trip, LLC

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Bryce Point at sunrise
Bryce Point
Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point
Wall St Navajo Trail
Wall Street, Navajo Trail
Douglas Fir Trees Wall St Navajo Trail
Douglas Fir Trees at the bottom of Wall Street, Navajo Trail
Queen's Garden Trail
Queen's Garden Trail
Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge
Agua Canyon
Agua Canyon
Rainbow Point
Rainbow Point

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1 comment(s) so far...

You see many more spectacular features of the Bryce Amphitheater from viewpoints just off, of the main park road. The road also continues south of the amphitheater to other sights within the park, including a natural bridge, Fair-view Point, Rainbow Point and a small collection of canyons. The Bryce Canyon National Park actually is a series of natural amphitheaters rather than a canyon, below which stands an array of white, pink, and orange limestone and sandstone columns, spires and walls sculpted by erosion.

By Ponting on 1/29/2011 3:30:51 AM
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