As if the word hoodoo isn’t cool enough, the park where you can find these towering geologic creations is even cooler. Hoodoo means “to bewitch,“ which is the exact effect that Bryce Canyon’s whimsical rock formations and winding trails will have on you. Bryce Canyon National Park is a treasure trove for those who like to explore the US national parks by foot, car, snowshoe and horse. While relatively small as far as national parks go (and much smaller than neighboring Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park), Bryce Canyon is among one of the best the US has to offer.
Take a scenic drive, visit the park’s 13 overlooks, hike down into hoodoo amphitheaters, catch a sunset, or stargaze at the impressive night sky; whether you’re an avid hiker or prefer checking out viewpoints, Bryce Canyon National Park has plenty of activities for everyone who visits the park.
Where is Bryce Canyon?
Where the heck is Bryce Canyon? Bryce Canyon National Park is situated on the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in south-central Utah. Along with Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park, it’s a part of Utah’s famous “Mighty 5 National Parks.” With a central location that can’t be beat, Bryce Canyon is an easy stop as you explore the rest of Utah’s national parks.
Facts About Bryce Canyon
In 1924, this stretch of land was officially recognized as a Utah National Park. It was renamed Bryce Canyon National Park shortly after that in 1928. The park currently encompasses 35,835 acres of incredible geologic formations. The highest point of the park is Rainbow Point, standing at 9,105 feet, and is located at the end of the popular scenic drive through the park. Bryce Canyon is a stunningly picturesque landscape, comprising over 60 documented color variations of the rock. This is also an ideal place to breath in deep. Really deep because the park boasts some of the nation’s cleanest air. On days with the best air-quality, you can look over the Grand Canyon to Humphrey’s Peak — 150 miles away!
Want more facts? Here are some more of our favorites:
- Bryce Canyon is home to the largest collection of hoodoos in the world. Hoodoos are irregularly eroded spires of rock ranging in colors of white, yellow, orange, pink, and red, reaching up to 200 feet tall.
- Located on the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, Bryce Canyon is comprised of giant natural amphitheaters extending more than 20 miles north to south. The longest is Bryce Amphitheater at 12 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 800 feet deep.
- With varying elevations throughout the park, Bryce Canyon is home to 3 vegetation zones; the Spruce/Fir forest at the highest elevations, the Ponderosa Pine forest at mid-elevations, and the Pinyon Pine/Juniper forest at the lowest elevations.
- The Fremont and Anasazi people inhabited the area around the Bryce Canyon from 200 AD to 1200 AD. More recently, the Paiute Native Americans started occupying Bryce Canyon around 1200 AD.
- Due to its accessible scenic viewpoints and family-friendly tours, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best national parks for beginners.
Bryce Canyon National Weather
The weather varies throughout fall, winter, and spring because of the park’s high elevations. From October to May, most temperatures reach below freezing at night. While the park is snowiest from December to February, there are occasionally early fall storms and late spring snow storms. Check online before you visit to find the most up-to-date weather information including road and trail closures.
Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon
Late spring to early fall is the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. Located at an overall higher elevation than other Utah National Parks, more than 8,000 feet above sea level, even summer mornings can be chilly. If you’re looking to beat the crowds, Bryce Canyon’s off-season promises less people and seasonal changes like wildflower blooms and winter snow that transforms the park into a completely new experience. Just dress accordingly!
Getting to Bryce Canyon National Park
Driving from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon
Planning a trip to Sin City? Bryce Canyon is a straight four-hour drive from Las Vegas, leaving you plenty of time to leave your Sin City hotel at checkout and still get settled into your campsite in time for dinner. Take I-15 N to exit 95, turn right onto UT-20E. Turn right onto US-89S, left to stay on US-89S/Center Street in Panguitch, left onto UT-12E, right onto UT-63S and into the park! The visitor center will be on your right.
Driving from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon
Zion National Park is a quick 1.5-hour drive northeast. Take Zion Mount Carmel highway east out of the park, then route 89 north until you get to route 12. Follow route 12 until you touchdown in Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon Hours of Operation
The park is open 24 hours a day year-round with the Bryce Canyon National Park visitor’s center open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Bryce Canyon National Park is under limited operations due to COVID-19. For current status and frequent updates, check out the park’s current conditions.
Bryce Canyon Entrance Fee
Visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park are required to purchase a pass in order to enter the park. The best pass for you will be determined by your age, vehicle type, and how often you plan to visit national parks in the next year. For current and detailed information, check their website. A 7-day pass for one car plus all passengers is $35.
If you plan on visiting a few national parks this year, the best deal for most people is the Interagency Annual Pass, affectionately called the America the Beautiful pass. This allows unlimited access to all Federal fee areas for one year from the date of purchase. The standard fee for this is $80, but is discounted for seniors and free for active duty military, those with disabilities, and kids in the 4th grade.
Bryce Canyon National Park Hikes
In Bryce Canyon, skies are blue and beautiful hikes are plentiful. If you’re ready to stretch your legs (but not sure where to start), here’s a list of 10 of our favorite hiking trails in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Easy, perfect for families
- Sunrise to Sunset Point (1 mi out and back; flat)
- Bristlecone Loop (1 mi; 200 ft gain)
- Mossy Cave (0.8 mi; 200 ft gain)
- Bryce Point Trail (0.2 mi; 26 ft gain)
- Lower, Mid, and Upper Inspiration Points (0.6 mi; 130 ft gain)
Moderate, fairly strenuous
- Queen’s Garden (1.8 mi; 357 ft gain)
- Navajo Loop (1.3 mi; 550 ft gain)
- Navajo and Queen’s Garden Loop 2.9 mi; 600 ft gain)
- Sheep Creek and Swamp Canyon Loop (4.5 mi; 892 ft gain)
- Tower Bridge Trail (3.4 mi; 826 ft gain)
Difficult, experience recommended
- Fairyland Loop (8 mi; 1716 ft gain)
- Peekaboo Loop (5.5 mi; 1571 ft gain)
- Bryce Amphitheater Traverse (4.7 mi; 1010 ft gain)
- Under the Rim Trail: Bryce Point to Whiteman Bench (13 mi; 3,103 ft gain)
- Riggs Spring Loop Trail (8.6 mi; 1,853 ft gain)
Lodging Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon Camping
Planning a night under the stars? Here are some of the best campgrounds and campsites inside and outside of Bryce Canyon National Park:
- North Campground (In Park)
- Sunset Campground (In Park)
- Yellow Creek
- Kings Creek Campground
- Cannonville / Bryce Valley KOA Holiday
- Ruby’s Inn RV Park & Campground
- Bryce Canyon Pines Campground
- Bryce Canyon Dispersed Campsite
- Red Canyon Campground
- Bryce View Campground
- Right Fork Swam Campground
- Bryce Village RV Park
- Basin Campground
Bryce Canyon Hotels
If camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of resorts, hotels, hostels, inns, cabins and B&Bs within a quick drive of Bryce Canyon National Park. Here are some of our favorites:
- Stone Canyon Inn
- Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
- Ruby’s Inn
- Bryce Canyon Log Cabins
- Bryce Canyon Resort
- Bryce Canyon Villas
- Bryce Valley Lodging
- Grand Staircase Inn
- Bryce Country Cabins
- Bybee’s Steppingstone Motel
Bryce Canyon National Park Airbnb
With a lakefront view and a huge deck for BBQs, the Lake House at Bryce Canyon is great Bryce Canyon Airbnb rental. Room to sleep 10 and walking distance to restaurants and shops, this is the quintessential meaning of convenience. It’s a one-mile drive to the park entrance so you can go straight from hiking to BBQing in no time.
For more options, look to the nearby town of Tropic which includes the adorable River Stone Inn and Gallery. Here you’ll stay in a studio that features a dreamy reading loft and plants galore. Breakfast is served daily by the hosts and your shower features soap they made on site.
Tours in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon offers a huge variety of ranger-led tours for you to get to know the park. Most offerings are during the high season of Labor Day through Memorial Day, but the park offers a reasonable number of options year-round. Some of our favorites are the spectacular two to three hour long full-moon night hikes held each full moon, and the half-mile ranger-led rim hike, perfect for getting acquainted with the local geology, flora and fauna. A great primer for enriching the rest of your time in the park and sounding really smart to anyone around you who hears you spilling all your knowledge. Check the official park website for the up to date schedule of offerings.
Best Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park
These two viewpoints (Sunrise Point and Sunset Point) are a half-mile from each other on a paved path above the rim of the hoodoos. They offer spectacular views of the hoodoo amphitheaters and are oriented at perfect positions for the best lighting at sunrise or sunset.
For a few days each June, the annual Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival is packed full of the coolest nerd info about everything related to the sky we all live under. This festival is much more than stargazing. It’s building and launching model rockets, guided walks with experts, solar scope viewings, and talks from a panel of experts. If anyone in your family is slightly interested in astronomy, this is your golden ticket for Bryce Canyon enjoyment.
Rainbow Point is an 18-mile out and back road running through Bryce Canyon has 13 viewpoints along the way. Spend a few hours driving out and stopping at all the beautiful sites. During the busy season take the park bus to these viewpoints to avoid searching for parking all day.
Combine the two trails, Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Loop to enjoy the most popular trail in the park. The trail is a 2.9-mile loop gaining 600 feet of elevation. You’ll have impressive views of sandstone bridges, the canyon, and of course, plenty of hoodoos.
Bryce Canyon’s remote location allows for some incredible stargazing with a good chance of seeing the milky way. Stargazing is best around a new moon when stars are most visible. Natural Bridge offers more than just a view of the hoodoo amphitheaters, the natural sandstone bridge is a unique addition to the shot!
Located at 8,300 feet in elevation, Bryce Point offers some of the most impressive views of the Bryce Amphitheater with incredible mountain views in the distance.
In the winter Bryce Canyon gets a lot of snow. Any of the regular trails are snowshoe accessible, but check-in at the visitor center to see what’s appropriate for your skill level; or join a ranger-led snowshoe tour.
Don’t tell your parents, but you’re gonna need to sneak out after dark for the ranger-led Full Moon Hike at Bryce Canyon National Park. No flashlights allowed! This hike is all about utilizing the bring moonlight to guide the way. But if you’re not totally sold on that, there’s a ranger with you too. Wear proper hiking boots for this one and due to popularity, spots for this hike are done in a lottery style at the visitor center.
If you’re looking for a strenuous, less crowded trail check out the Fairyland Loop. This trail is an 8-mile loop gaining just over 1,700 feet in elevation. You’ll have amazing views of the large amphitheaters and walk amongst tall hoodoos towering over the trail in colors of pink, red, orange, and white.
For a different perspective of the park, book a Bryce Canyon Trail Ride down into an amphitheater. Join a guided trail between April to October to get the best experience.
Check out a unique part of the park at Mossy Canyon. During the winter this area is filled with icicles and during the summer it’s filled with mosses. The 0.8-mile out and back trail gains 300 feet in elevation. It is a popular trail so arrive early to beat the crowds.
Bryce Canyon National Park is home to 175 documented bird species. This trail offers common sitings of peregrine falcons, Green-tailed towhees, dusky grouses, Clark’s nutcrackers, pine siskins, and Cassin’s finches to name a few.
Under-the-Rim is a 23-mile trail runs from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point with many trails intersecting it. If you really want to dive into the park, spend 2-3 days backpacking this trail to see countless hoodoos and many scenic vistas.
Stop by the Bryce Canyon visitor center just past the main entrance to learn about park history, geology, wildlife, and more. Find information about ranger-guided tours and other park events including stargazing, guided hikes, and educational walks.
Located right off of Scenic Byway 12, if you enter Bryce from the west side, you’ll drive through Red Canyon. It’s located 12 miles outside of Bryce. Take a little break here and get up close to the red rock formations on one of the short trails, or pull off for a viewpoint of the Red Canyon Arch.
Enjoy some All-American Barbecue at i.d.k BBQ in the small town of Tropic, located just east on Scenic Byway 12. On the drive, you’ll catch some addition sites of Bryce Canyon and get to check out the cute town just a few minutes over.
Located at Ruby’s Inn just a few minutes outside of the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance, enjoy your dinner at Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill with some family-friendly music entertainment by local musicians.