Bryce Canyon National Park is a must-see destination in the USA and we’ve highlighted the best hikes, viewpoints, places to stay on your visit, and more in this blog.
This past month, May 2020, was our third visit to Bryce Canyon National Park. The first time we were here was way back in 2015 when we had just sold off most of our stuff and moved into a 30 foot RV. We were national park newbies at the time and I distinctly remember thinking that Bryce Canyon couldn’t possibly be that amazing. After all, it’s just a big hot canyon, right? Wrong! Bryce Canyon National Park is absolutely a must see for everyone!
What makes Bryce Canyon National Park so amazing is that it is filled with these beautiful hoodoos, which are rock spires that stick out from the canyon floor. In fact, Bryce Canyon has the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world.
But it’s not just the orange hoodoos that make it so gorgeous. It’s also the contrast of white sandy hills and green forest floor that really make it so beautiful. Most of the hoodoos are condensed into the area referred to as “the amphitheater” and there are numerous viewpoints from which you can see the hoodoos.
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How Long Do You Need In Bryce Canyon?
You don’t need a lot of time to visit Bryce Canyon, but it is a place everyone needs to see at least once in their life.
Since there are so many great places to see in Utah, I recommend 2-3 days in Bryce, but if you only have a half-day, it’s still worth the detour to see the hoodoos from the viewpoints and possibly do a hike.
Visiting Bryce Canyon for the Weekend
The first time we went to Bryce we stayed 3 nights. This was perfect because it gave us one day to do some easy hikes and explore the viewpoints, one day to the more strenuous Fairyland Loop, and a day to chill in our campsite and enjoy a ranger talk.
Visiting Bryce Canyon in Winter
We have also visited Bryce Canyon once in the winter to enjoy the orange hoodoos emerging from a blanket of snow. This was a quick in and out trip but I highly recommend doing it if you have the chance because seeing Bryce Canyon in snow is something you’ll never forget.
If you know how to snowshoe, I highly recommend visiting Bryce Canyon in the winter. I wish we had planned ahead to snowshoe one of the trails but didn’t so we’ll have to add it to the bucket list for now.
Bonus: The Bryce Canyon Visitor Center offers free 1-mile snowshoe tours. There are even full moon guided snowshoe treks from November through March, conditions permitting. Get all the snowshoeing details here.
Half Day in Bryce Canyon
This last trip was only a half day since it was right when the park re-opened after the COVID-19 shut down and the campgrounds weren’t open, but we managed to re-do our favorite hike, the Fairyland Loop.
Trying to hit Zion and Bryce Canyon in 1 day? Check out this related blog on visiting Zion National Park
Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon
For the best hiking weather, fall is probably your best bet. Spring has nice temperatures too but you might get rain and the trails will often still have snow on them early in spring. If you visit in early spring be sure to have ice spikes if you plan on hiking.
Summer is a great time to camp at Bryce Canyon, but it can get really hot and crowded too. As I mentioned, winter is a great time for a pit stop at the viewpoints and if you are adventurous, it’s the best time for snowshoeing. will most trails.
Typical highs and lows in Bryce Canyon NP are:
- Fall and Spring high’s range from mid 40’s to mid 60’s; lows in the 30’s
- Summer highs in the 70’s to 80’s; lows in the 50’s
- Winter high’s in the 30’s; lows in the 20’s and teens
What To Do in 1 Day in Bryce Canyon
1 | Stop by the Visitor Center
If you’ve been to a national park before you know how informative the visitor centers can be. We always stop by first so the younger kids can grab a Junior Ranger book. The visitor centers also are a good place to grab a hiking map, stamp your national parks passport, and pick up a souvenier.
2 | Go to the Viewpoints
There are 5 main viewpoints in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater area- Paria, Inspiration, Bryce Point, Sunrise, and Sunset. There are also 9 more if you choose to drive the entire scenic drive.
Surprisingly, Paria, not Sunset, is the best place to watch the sunset, however, Sunset Point is where you get the best views of the amphitheater. It’s here at Sunset viewpoint that you get great views of the Silent City and Thor’s Hammer, which features a huge boulder precariously balanced on top of a hoodoo.
3 | Do a Hike
Bryce Canyon is filled with great hikes that I’ve outlined below.
4 | Drive the Scenic Drive
Most people, myself included, only explore the amphitheater area of Bryce (which is only the first 3 miles of the park). If you have time, drive the entire 18 miles, stopping at Natural Bridge and Agua Canyon viewpoints and hiking the short and easy 1 mile Bristlecone Loop.
5 | Stay For Stargazing
The first year we were at Bryce for their annual astronomy festival and it was an amazing display by the galaxy. Bryce Canyon also hosts an annual geology festival as well as a prairie dog festival.
Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon
1 | Fairyland Loop
Distance: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
This is our favorite hike to do in Bryce. It’s a bit longer than the other ones and depending on the time of year, we’ve done it in May and June, it can get really hot. Be sure to carry a lot of water, sunscreen, and light layers of clothes. The best part of this hike though is that since it is a little harder, it’s way less crowded, plus It takes you to some pretty epic viewpoints! If you plan on doing this hike, camping at North Campground puts you right at the trailhead.
2 | Queens Garden to Navajo Loop
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
This hike descends into the canyon and is the most popular trail to do in Bryce Canyon. For a great experience of Bryce’s beauty, add the Peekaboo Loop to this Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop. This is a combined mileage of 6.4 miles and 1600 feet of elevation change, but then you really get to see the best of Bryce.
3 | Peekaboo Loop
Distance: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1570 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
This hike takes you through the Bryce Canyon amphitheater to the famous Wall of Windows. I personally prefer Fairyland Loop but if you are short on time or have time for both, go for it.
4 | Sunrise to Sunset
Distance: 1 mile
Elevation Gain: 34 feet
Difficulty: Easy Peasy
This mostly paved trail is the best way to take in the views of the amphitheater from above. It’s an easy hike with views of the hoodoos and beyond.
5 | Mossy Cave
Distance: 0.9 mile
Elevation Gain: 177 feet
Difficulty: Easy Peasy
I haven’t actually done this one but would love to on our next visit. It goes to two geological formations, turret arch and little windows. The trailhead to Mossy Cave isn’t in the main part of the park. To get here, you have to leave the national park and drive towards Escalante. About miles down the road you’ll see signs for it along with obvious parking.
Backcountry Hikes In Bryce Canyon
Another thing we would love to do on a return trip to Bryce is a backcountry hike. The 23 mile Under-the-Rim Trail from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point looks awesome, but if you want a shorter backcountry hike, the Riggs Spring Loop is only 8.8 miles round trip.
Remember, you need a permit for any of the 12 backcountry campgrounds at Bryce Canyon, which you can get in person at the Visitor Center. Click here for the beta on permits.
Tips for Visiting Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon is open 24 hours. The entrance fee is $30 per vehicle. We always buy an America the Beautiful pass, which gives you unlimited entry to all the National Parks for 1 year and is only $80.
Normally the Bryce Canyon free shuttle runs from Apirl through October. I highly recommend using the shuttle system especially during busy times of the year because then you don’t have to worry about parking. Also, if you travel in an RV, vehicles larger than 20′ can’t park in most of the viewpoint and visitor center parking lots. However, there is a huge aprking lot for RV’s just across the street from the visitor cdnter making it easy to park, check out the visitor center, and then hop on the shuttle to the viewpoints and trailheads.
Where To Stay in or near Bryce Canyon
We love to camp inside national parks and Bryce Canyon is no different. In fact, the only way to stay inside the park is by camping at either North Campground or Sunset Campground. My preference is North Campground becasue it is closest to the Bryce Canyon rim and also sits at the trailhead for my favorite hike, fairyland loop. There is a general store, which has laundry and showers, and is close to both campgrounds.
Read here to discover the BEST UTAH CAMPGROUNDS
While we normally travel in our 30 foot class C and can easily fit in the campgrounds in the park, if we were traveling with our monster sized fifth wheel, we would stay at the RV park attached to Ruby’s Inn instead. It is easy to get in and out of and has full hookups.
There is a smallish town right outside of Bryce Canyon that has a few hotel options. The biggest and most popular is the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn, which has family suites that sleep up to 6. Be sure to check out their superior rooms which feature a spa bath or a hot tub.
Escalante also makes for a great home base and is close to another one of our favorite hikes, Zebra Slot Canyon (blog coming soon). Check out the highly rated Canyons Bed & Breakfast, which serves gluten-free and dairy-free menu options, or stay in the rustic, centrally located, and family-friendly cabins at Escalante Cabins & RV Park.
Activities To Do In Bryce Canyon
There are a few fun activities and excursions you can sign up to participate in such as horseback riding, guided ATV tours, and multi-day tours. Click here for a complete list of activities.
Don’t Miss Zion National Park
If you are heading to Bryce Canyon, be sure to also visit Zion National Park. It is one of our favorite US national parks and we have a Complete Guide To Zion National Park that you can read here.
We also have a Guide to Visiting the National Parks in 2021 that might help you plan your trip.
Make Bryce Canyon one of many stops on an EPIC UTAH ROAD TRIP
The Southwest was one of our very first family road trips. We visited Zion, Bryce, Arches, and the Grand Canyon national parks, plus spent an amazing 2 days camping and boating Lake Powell and a few days exploring Flagstaff and Sedona. Click here to read our Southwest National Parks Road Trip Guide.
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