There are hoodoos in many parts of the world, but Bryce Canon has the most and offers one of the most beautiful views, hands down. Since it is one of the smallest parks in Utah, it can be fully explored in a few days. However, while you can see the highlights in a day, you need 2-4 days or up to a week to explore the entirety of Bryce Canyon in detail.
This article will explore the numerous fun activities and things to see at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon
Some parts of the Canyon, including roads, trails, and camping sites, may be closed at different times of the year. Most closures happen during late fall and throughout winter to allow for road plowing. Also, there may be temporary closures during the summer due to flash floods and thunderstorms.
You do not need to pre-book or make a reservation before visiting this national park. You can walk or drive-in on the day of your trip, pay the required fees, buy a pass at the entrance booth, and then proceed to explore the Canyon. Park passes are also available online on recreation.gov.
Bryce Canyon National Park weather
Bryce Canyon National Park is open throughout the year, 24/7 a day. It receives most visitors during the summer, as well as between the months of May and September. The temperatures this time of year reach highs of between 70° and 80°F. The park is usually its busiest between 10 am and 4 pm.
To avoid crowds and dodge high temperatures, it is best to visit the Canyon in the fall, winter, and spring. However, keep in mind that temperatures may fall below freezing, particularly at night, between October and May. The weather is coldest between December and February. Late spring and early fall would be a great time to visit as the weather is relatively warm and there are no crowds.
Getting To and Around Bryce Canyon
You can get around Bryce Canyon by foot, vehicle, bicycle, or horse. The Bryce Canyon Shuttle service offers a convenient way to tour the park without worrying about parking.
Things to Do in Bryce Canyon
Visit the Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center
Visitors are advised to first go to the visitor center when they arrive at Bryce Canyon. The visitor center is usually open every day between 8 am and 6 pm.
There is a park ranger help desk where you get all the preliminary information about visiting the park. For instance, you can find maps of the park, learn real-time updates on trail and road closures, and read through more detailed safety guidelines you should know about when touring the Bryce Canyon country. You can also check the park ranger program for guided hikes and tours available.
Take an Aerial Tour of Bryce Canyon National Park
An aerial tour gives you a bird’s eye view of scenic Bryce Canyon National Park from the height of a plane or helicopter. Bryce Canyon Airlines offers scenic flights across Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, and Zion.
The airline is based at Bryce Canyon Airport. The “Encounter” flight is the most common tour that offers a bird’s overlook of Rainbow Point and Natural Bridge.
Visit Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point is one of the highest points of Bryce Canyon. It consists of three viewpoints that give you a great view of the hoodoo formations. Each viewpoint is more elevated than the other, and as you ascend, you get a more spectacular view of the red and white rock formations. You do not have to go up all the viewpoints if you want. Even the lowest point offers you a breathtaking view to behold.
Inspiration Point can be accessed easily via roadways or trails. It is accessible even for people with mobility issues as there is a ramp available. If you are using the Bryce Canyon shuttle, Inspiration Point is stop No.9. There are no hiking trails inside Inspiration Point as the cliffs are made of crumbly rocks and extremely steep slopes, making it dangerous to hike. However, you can see Inspiration Point when hiking Rim Trail. Visitors are required to remain behind the rails at the viewpoints.
Visit Sunrise Point
Sunrise Point offers another great overlook of Bryce Canyon country. It is only a mile away from Inspiration Point, 1.8 miles away from the Queen’s Garden Trail, and at the endpoint of the Navajo Loop and Queen Victoria trails. It is shuttle stop No.13.
Sunrise Point gives a great view of various rock formations, including Boat Mesa and Sinking Ship. It gets its name from the exemplary view at sunrise as the sun rays shine onto the multicolored rocks. Don’t worry if you can’t get to Sunrise Point at the break of dawn. It offers an excellent view throughout the day too.
Visit Sunset Point
Sunset Point stands out as it is home to some of the most famous hoodoo formations. It overlooks Silent City, Thor Hammer, and a maze of concentrated fins and hoodoos in a tight formation. The bright red, orange, and yellow colors stand out throughout the day and even more so at sunset.
You can get to Sunset Point by vehicle or by hiking. If hiking, take the Navajo Loop Trail that leads you down the Wall Street Canyon. It then joins the Queen’s Garden Trail and ends at Sunset Point.
Bryce Canyon Hikes
There are several hiking trails to explore at Bryce Canyon. Some hiking trails are beginner-friendly, while others are quite challenging. You can explore them on foot or by bike. Below is an overview of the most popular trails.
Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail
If you are an intermediate or advanced hiker, the Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail will give you the challenge you are looking for. It is a strenuous 5.5-mile trail that also provides stellar views. The trail begins with a steep 1,555-foot drop into the Canyon.
This Bryce Canyon hike is mostly uphill with direct sunlight. Therefore, wear hiking shoes and bring along sunscreen. You also want to be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks for your journey. Horseback riders also use the trail.
The most outstanding feature along this Bryce Canyon hiking trail is the famous Wall of Windows, a sandstone formation of arches and hoodoos. You walk among the hoodoos and come up close with the outstanding arches and formations.
If you wish to shorten your hike, hook into the Navajo Loop Trail. It shortens the total distance covered by 5-miles. The hike takes 2 ½ hours up to half a day to complete, depending on your pace and how often and how long you stop for sightseeing.
Rim trail is relatively easy and offers access to some of the most outstanding views as it winds along the top of the amphitheater. It is a 5.5 miles paved pathway between the Sunrise and Sunset Points. You also get easy access to Fairyland Point, Bryce Point, and Inspiration Point.
Queen’s Garden Trail and Navajo Loop Trails
Queen’s Garden Trail is 1.8 miles long. It starts at Sunrise Point and takes you 320 feet down the Canyon among the hoodoos. You can deviate slightly onto Spur Trail for a good view of the Queen Victoria hoodoo that looks like the famous British Queen.
On the other hand, the Navajo Loop Trail is a 1.3-mile trail that starts at Sunset Point. It winds down into the Canyon and offers a good view of Thor’s Hammer, Wall Street, and Douglas First. Both trails offer easy-to-intermediate hiking challenges.
Mossy Cave Trail
The Mossy Cave Trail is an easy and short 0.8-mile trail that leads you to the oasis of the Bryce Canyon desert. It winds along a sparkling river into a cave with dripping water, then into a waterfall. This trail is family-friendly, although pets are not allowed. Note that the waterfall only flows between May and October.
Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive
Taking a Bryce Canyon scenic drive offers approximately 38 miles of spectacular views and sites. On the park’s northern side, you will experience numerous hoodoos, while the southern side offers expansive views.
There are several picnic areas and viewpoints where you can stop by to stretch your legs and get a closer look at the view. This Bryce Canyon scenic drive takes a minimum of 3 hours, but it can take longer depending on how often you stop.
Sign Up for the Rangers Program
The Rangers program offers a wide range of free activities throughout the year. However, some activities require advanced signup. The main activities in the ranger program include:
- Hoodoo Geology Talks. These are geological talks that discuss the geological history and current explanations for Bryce Canyon. The 20-minute talks are done daily all year round, between 11 am and 2 pm at Sunset Point.
- Constellation Tours. The rangers use lasers to point out visible constellations in the night sky and educate visitors on the science and history of astronomy and the park’s dark sky status. Check the visitors center for the availability of constellation tours.
- Full Moon Hikes. This program accepts only a limited number of people who are chosen via lottery. The highly popular tour is offered only when there is a full moon. Visitors looking to participate are required to buy a same-day lottery ticket before 4 pm. It is only open to visitors who are 8 years of age and older. You should wear lug traction footwear for this nocturnal adventure.
- Snowshoe Hikes. If you are visiting Bryce Canyon over the winter, consider signing up for the snowshoe hike program. You will accompany a park ranger for a snowshoe hike and get a view of the sparkling hoodoos under the crisp, blue sky. The park provides snowshoes, so you don’t have to worry about acquiring a pair. These hikes are usually quiet as only a few people visit the park during winter.
- Evening Programs. These are 45-minute talks carried out daily within a specified period. They discuss compelling stories of Bryce Canyon and the resources the park protects. Check the park’s calendar for when the evening program runs.
- Grand Staircase Geology Talks. The Grand Staircase area covers Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. In a select period determined by the park, the park rangers talk about the Grand Staircase at the Yovimpa Point. Yovimpa Point in Bryce Canyon offers one of the best views of the Grand Staircase.
- Kids Programs. There are various family-friendly activities offered in the Rangers program throughout the year. Check-in with the visitor center for programs and times available. Children must be accompanied by adults for the activities.
Park management notes the availability of these activities is dependent on weather conditions. They may have to cancel a given activity without notice if the weather conditions are not favorable. For instance, they may cancel an activity due to lightning and thunderstorms in the summer or extremely low temperatures in the winter.
Take a Horse Ride Into the Canyon
Bryce Canyon Lodge offers half-day and full-day Bryce Canyon Trail Rides. It is an exhilarating experience as the horses and mules walk down the Canyon. The park ranger stops at different scenic points along the trail so you can take in the scenic views and take photos.
Bryce Canyon Camping
Bryce Canyon camping at Utah’s National Park has two camping sites – the North Campground and Sunset Campground. The North Campground has 99 camping sites on a first-come, first-serve basis. It is open between spring and fall each year. Sunset Campground has 100 sites and is open between April and October. You are required to make a reservation during the peak season.
Bryce Canyon National Park
There is indeed a lot to see and do at Bryce Canyon. You may plan a trip for several hours or a few days. The range of activities includes hiking, horseback riding, scenic drives, camping, and sightseeing at various viewpoints. Always visit the visitors center once you arrive at the park for correct updates and safety guidelines.
Also, if you are already embarking on a tour of Bryce Canyon, make sure to include the Grand Canyon in your itinerary. It is just under four hours between the Grand Canyon North Rim to Bryce Canyon National Park. So, this provides you the best opportunity to see two national parks in just one visit.
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