Updated on September 9, 2020
Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah has worldly unique geology. The erosional force shaped the colorful limestone rock into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, and spires called “hoodoos.” These incredible structures are formed over millions of years due to erosion, freezing and thawing, and water movement. Red, orange and white rocks create spectacular views. Bryce Canyon amphiteater looks like on fire. Hoodoos formations are extremely photogenic and breathtaking. In this article, we help you plan your visit to Brice Canyon. We share our experience and recommend things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park, where to stay, how to get there, which vistas are the best for photos, and much more.
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What is Bryce Canyon Famous For?
Bryce Canyon National Park, located in Southwestern, Utah, is famous for its beautiful hoodoos. The word “hoodoo” means to bewitch. Hoodoos are geological structures formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The hoodoos are tall skinny shafts of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins. What creates these unique rock structures you see in Bryce Canyon’s photos? The erosion process begins with rainwater seeping into cracks in the rock. Due to its high elevation, the nights are cold at Bryce Canyon. The water freezes, expand, and break the rock apart.
The primary feature of the park is Bryce Canyon, which despite its name, is not a canyon but a collection of giant natural amphitheaters along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau with its hoodoos. The best viewpoints in the Bryce Canyon are Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. Above all, it’s good to know that most of these fantastic Bryce Canyon sites can be seen without strenuous hiking, which is excellent news for those with mobility issues and families with children. Finally, if you have limited time, all day will be enough to visit Bryce Canyon.
TRIP TIP: If you are planning a Utah road trip, check our detailed Utah Photography & Travel Guide, where you can find the most exciting & must-see places in Utah, the best hikes in Utah and useful hints for trip planning.
Where is Bryce Canyon National Park?
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in Southern Utah near the city of Bryce. The Park is accessible by air or car from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, St. George and from neighboring Zion National Park. On February 25, 1928, Bryce Canyon officially became a national park. The park covers 35,835 acres (55.992 sq mi; 14,502 ha; 145.02 km2). The number of visitors Bryce Canyon in 2018 was 2.679.478 which gives the park 12 place in rank of popularity among U.S. national parks.
How To Get To Bryce Canyon National Park?
The most convenient airports to get to Bryce Canyon National Park are Las Vegas International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport, and St. George Regional Airport. So, you can find the best flights and prices on TripAdvisor or skyscanner.com
Car is the best option to get to Bryce Canyon National Park. If you plan to rent a car, we recommend Alamo. We have been using this company for many years, and it is our favorite one. Bryce Canyon’s viewpoints are located all along the park’s 18-mile main road. It takes you from park’s only entrance in the north along the plateau rim to its highest elevations in the south (over 9,000 feet / 2,743 m). In most cases, you will not need 4WD to get to Bryce Canyon National Park. 4WD might be necessary if you are planning your visit during the winter season. During one of our visits, we were in Bryce Canyon in the second half of November. Bryce was covered by snow, and only thanks to 4WD, we were able to drive. So check the weather conditions before making a decision.
Bryce Canyon Park Shuttle
Between April and October, you can take a free shuttle bus which is operated in the park to reduce traffic. With the exception of vehicles measuring 20 feet/6 meters or longer, which are restricted from the Bryce Amphitheater during shuttle hours, riding the shuttle is not mandatory. However, it’s a great idea to take shuttle during peak season, because parking along the road has limited spaces. So don’t waste your time waiting for a parking space. Shuttle bus takes you to each area of interest, viewpoints, and trailheads within the Bryce Amphitheater area of the park. On NPS website you will find detailed information about shuttle.
How to get from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon?
From Las Vegas, Nevada it is around 260 miles to Bryce Canyon, which takes 4 hours driving. From Las Vegas, take I-15 North (direction: Salt Lake City) to UT-20 East. After 205 miles, take exit 95 from I-15 N (direction US-89 / Panguitch / Circleville). Take UT-20 E, US-89 S and UT-12 E to UT-63 S in Garfield County.
How to get from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon?
It is easy to connect, visit to Zion National Park with Bryce Canyon National Park because they are neighboring. Please find detailed directions below.
Via The Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel
From Canyon Junction point in Zion National Park, you can take Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to East Entrance to 8 and 89 to Mt. Carmel Junction, Grand Canyon National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park. There is a tunnel on this road. Furthermore, no bikes or pedestrians allowed.
Vehicles 11’4” tall or taller, or 7’10” wide or more full, require one-lane traffic control through the tunnel. Visitors requiring traffic control through the tunnel must pay a $15 fee per vehicle in addition to the entrance fee.
Vehicles not permitted in the tunnel include the following: Vehicles over 13’1” tall; Semi-trucks and commercial vehicles; Vehicles carrying hazardous materials; Vehicles weighting more than 50,000 lb; Combined vehicles or buses over 50 ft.
It is around 73 miles and will take about 1 hour 20 minutes to drive scenic road.
Via I-15 North
If your car exceeds the allowed size, you must leave the Zion National Park by Springfield and Touquerville and take I-15 North in Andersen Junction (direction: Salt Lake City) to UT-20 East. After 20 miles, take exit 95 from I-15 N (direction US-89 / Panguitch / Circleville). Take UT-20 E, US-89 S, and UT-12 E to UT-63 S in Garfield County.
It is around 146 miles and 2 hours 30 minutes driving.
Bryce Canyon Weather
The Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah, about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of and 1,000 feet (300 m) higher than Zion National Park, so the Bryce Canyon weather is cooler than the weather in Zion. Bryce Canyon National Park has a warm summer humid continental climate. It means that average temperature is below 71.6 °F (22 °C), at least four months are with an average temperature above 50 °F (10 °C), and the coldest month is having an average mean temperature below 32°F (−0°C). Yearly temperatures vary from an average minimum of 9 °F (−13 °C) in January to an average maximum of 83 °F (28 °C) in July. From October to May temperatures fall below freezing nearly every night.
Best time to visit Bryce Canyon
So, what time of year is the best to visit Bryce Canyon?
In our opinion, the best time to visit Bryce National Park is from late April through November. Autumn (September – mid November) is the most photogenic, for us, and the weather is the best. It’s not so hot, so hiking is much nicer. And it’s a great idea to connect visiting Bryce Canyon with visit to Zion National Park, which is stunning during autumn. However, in late November might be much cooler, and might be snow in Bryce Canyon, too. But Bryce Canyon hoodoos covered by snow look like from fairytales. It’s a breathtaking view. First of all, you have to be prepared for winter conditions, if you want to go during the winter season. Furthermore, part of the accommodation and most campgrounds are closed from mid-October, so book accommodation before you go.
Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon?
RV & Tent Campgrounds near Bryce Canyon
In peak season, it can be challenging to find a place at a National Park Campings. That’s why we recommend booking a campground in advance. The beautiful Bryce Canyon Pines Store & Campground & RV Park with all amenities, like hook-ups making your stay a great vacation, is located ten minutes to Bryce Canyon Visitor Centre .
In Hatch, you can find The Riverside Ranch RV Park Motel & Campground, which is also the right choice.
In Panguitch, which is also close to Bryce Canyon, there is Red Canyon Village RV Park. It is a good place to stay, too.
Bryce Canyon Camping
Bryce Canyon National Park has only two campgrounds, North and Sunset, located in close proximity to the Visitor Center, Bryce Canyon Lodge and the main Bryce Amphitheater. North Campground is first-come, first-served and Sunset Campground accepts reservations.
North Campground is located in close proximity to the Visitor Center, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and the Bryce Amphitheater. All 99 sites are first-come, first-served and are surrounded by Ponderosa Pine forest with equal amounts of shade and sun. During the winter season, one loop is open for all camping types, but no hook-ups are available. You will find more information on NPS website.
Sunset Campground is located west of Sunset Point, approximately 1.5 miles south of the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center, and is comprised of 100 sites. There are no water or electrical hook-ups available. You will find more information on NPS website.
|Bryce Canyon National Park |
Trails Illustrated Map
|Utah National Parks|
Trails Illustrated Map
|Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks|
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Bryce Canyon Lodge inside the Park
Inside the Park, there is only one lodging option. The Lodge at Bryce Canyon is one of the park’s most iconic historic structures. It offers 114 rooms including lodge suites, motel rooms, and cabins. Reservations are highly recommended because the place is very popular.
Bryce Canyon Accomodation outside the Park
Outside the park, you have a large selection of accommodation. However, we recommend booking them earlier because Bryce Canyon is at the forefront of the most visited parks due to its unique rock formations. So, below are some suggestions for accommodation with the highest customer reviews.
Luxury Hotels ($$$)
Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel is located next to the park entrance. It offers spectacular rooms, great facilities and service, and has excellent guest reviews.
Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn is located in Bryce Canyon City, only 3 miles to the park. It offers charming and clean rooms, amenities and great service. It is our choice.
If you prefer cabins, a great choice will be to stay in Bryce Canyon Inn Cabins. It is only 15 minutes’ drive from Bryce Canyon National Park. All rooms feature mountain views, and offering a restaurant on site.
Mid-Range Hotels ($$)
Bryce Canyon Resort. Bryce Canyon National Park is 20 minutes’ drive away. Rooms include a seating area and an private bathroom at Bryce Canyon Resort. Rooms are styled in wood furnishings and light colored linens. It offers seasonal outdoor swimming pool.
Bryce View Lodge. This hotel is within a 5-minute drive of Bryce Canyon National Park. Rooms are equipped with a coffee maker and cable TV. Rooms also have air conditioning.
Bryce Canyon Pines offering a seasonal outdoor pool and a hot tub. This motel is 5 minutes’ drive from Bryce Canyon National Park.
Budget Hotels ($)
Rodeway Inn Bryce Canyon provides free WiFi and clean rooms with air conditioning in Panguitch. Bryce Canyon is 18 miles from the hotel. We stayed in it during one of our visit in Bryce Canyon, and we like it.
Bryce Canyon Villas is located in Cannonville. This motel is 20 minutes’ drive from Bryce Canyon National Park. Each room features a patio with mountain views.
Bryce UpTop Lodge offers accommodations just 5.6 mi from the park. All rooms come with a microwave and a refrigerator.
Bryce Canyon National Park Entrance Fee
Private vehicle is $35 per week. Person entering by foot or bicycle: $20 (under 15 is free of charge). But if you plan to visit more than two parks the best idea is to buy America the Beautiful – National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, for the reason that it costs only $80 per year, and you have access to more than 2,000 National Parks and federal recreation sites in the United States.
The Best Bryce Canyon Viewpoints & Photo Spots
Bryce Canyon is not a canyon, but rather a series of amphitheaters. There are parking lots at each of the major spots, but might be crowded during peak season. There are only short and easy walks from the parking to the edge of the amphitheater. It’s difficult to decide what Bryce Canyon’s viewpoints are the best, but after several visits to Bryce, we have our ranking of the best vistas. So, it might help plan your visit to get you the absolute best overlook of the Bryce Canyon National Park. So below is our list of vistas you can capture amazing photos of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Our favourites books:
|Grand Canyon, Bryce, & Zion: A Photographic Travel Guide||Moon Southwest Road Trip: Las Vegas, Zion & Bryce||Smart Travel Guide to 13 National Parks in the Mountain West|
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Sunrise Point is one of the most popular viewpoint in Bryce Canyon. It offers incredible views of the Bryce hoodoos, and it’s a close point to the visitor center, so it’s easy to get to this point. So, the best idea is to start your morning at Sunrise Point for one of the most breathtaking views of Bryce Canyon hoodoos. From Sunrise Point you can see the the Boat Mesa and Sinking Ship, Limber Pine with exposed roots, and Fairyland Canyon.
From Sunrise Point you can take a hike to Queen’s Garden and Fairyland Loop trails. A short hike changes the perspective of the views, so it’s a great idea to take one. You can descend the Queen’s Garden Trail 320 feet into the main Bryce Canyon amphitheater. On the 1.7-mile trail, you can admire royal formations such as Queen Victoria and Queen’s Castle. It connects with the Navajo Loop Trail, which leads to Sunset Point.
Finally, along the rim, you have just a half-mile walk to Sunset Point and 0.7 miles to Inspiration Point.
With an elevation of 8.000 feet, Sunset Point offers dramatic views of Bryce Canyon amphitheater, too. The hoodoos are stunning any time of day, but the best light is before sunset. Sunset Point is the focal point of the Bryce Canyon National Park. Aside from great views of the Silent City, this point is known for Thor’s Hammer Bryce Canyon, which is formation has a huge boulder precariously balanced on top of a hoodoo.
You can also admire Ancient Douglas fir trees, which makes this vista a popular spot even for birds watching.
From Sunset Point, the Navajo Loop Trail starts descending 550 feet into Bryce Canyon.
Inspiration Point sits lower than Bryce Point. It offers pretty much the same view as Bryce Point. However, because it sits lower, the hoodoos seem to be much closer, and you can focus on their details. Inspiration Point looks stunning all day, the light is beautiful on the hoodoos formations. Green pine trees between red rock cliffs and slopes gives a nice contrast.
Looking down over Bryce Point gives you breathtaking and an unbeatable vista of the Bryce amphitheater. It’s a wonder of nature you can admire from Bryce Point. It’s a fantastic point for sunrise.
You see the countless rock formations with red, orange and white layers of rock, which make this landscape like from a fairytale. It looks great in the morning light. You will get a great view of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, too. Bryce Point is also a popular birding spot.
The Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail descends from this point. It is a strenuous 5.5-mile trail which winds among the majestic red rock hoodoos such as the Wall of the Windows and Three Wise Men formations. The Under-the-Rim 23-mile backcountry trail extends from Bryce Point in the park’s northern end to Rainbow Point on the southern, passing hoodoos, and scenic ridgelines. If you want to take the whole hike, you will need a permit (it’s three to four days hike with a backcountry permit). But you can take only few miles hike during one day without a permit.
Natural Bridge looks like a masterpiece of sculpture. You will see one of the most beautiful Bryce Canyon’s rock arches at this viewpoint. Erosion from ice, rain, and gravity sculptured the deep red arch.
Rainbow & Yovimpa Point
The viewpoints at Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point are located at the very end of the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. From staggering heights of 9,100 feet, you can see over the edge of Rainbow Point and see an incredible array of rock formations and plants. The rock formations vary in color based on their depth into the amphitheater. Reds, oranges, and whites Bryce Canyon hoodoos look like challenging puzzles consisting of a million pieces. From Yovimpa Point you will get the beautiful views of forested slopes. Above all, you have a chance to see even Grand Canyon.
Bryce Canyon Hikes
Bryce Canyon offers several day-hiking trails. Hikes give you different perspectives and vistas for spectaculars hoodoos. So, it’s worth considering several Bryce Canyon trails or one hike if you have little time. Below you will find a list of best hikes in Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon hikes are divided into easy, moderate and strenuous.However, even if you are going on a short and easy trail, you should prepare for it. So, check our hiking tips before you go. Furthermore, check the list of essential things that you should take on a day hike.
All of Bryce Canyon hikes offer outstanding views and are worth the effort.
Our favourites guidebooks:
|Fodor's Utah||Moon Zion & Bryce||A Complete Guide to the Grand Circle National Parks|
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Easy Bryce Canyon Hikes
Queens Garden, distance: 1.8 mi / 2.9 km round trip, time: 1-2 hrs, elevation change: 357 feet/109 m
This trail starts at Sunrise Point. It is the least difficult trail into the Bryce Canyon. Use your imagination to see hoodoos formations looking like a Queen Victoria sitting on her throne. It’s an easy hike, so it’s worth to take it if you have limited time. Views in each direction are entirely different, so it feels more like a loop trail. Impressive hoodoos rise all around you. They look spectacular from the bottom perspective.
Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, distance: 1 mi / 1.6 km round trip, time: 1 hr, elevation change: 34 feet/10 m
If you have limited time in the park this paved walking trail is for you. It is a part of the Rim Trail, runs along the top of the canyon and looks out over the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and one of the most impressive vistas in Utah. Hoodoo rocks look like from a fairytale. They are shining in the sun with reds and oranges.
Rim Trail, distance: 11 mi / 17.7 km round trip, time: 1-7.5 hrs, elevation change: 1177 feet/359 m
If you have time, instead of driving, take the trail along the rim. Then you have the chance to observe the amphitheater and its hoodoos along the rim. You can visit all four main viewpoints during this hike. It’s an easy hike, too.
Moderate Bryce Canyon Hikes
Navajo Loop Trail, distance: 1.3 mi / 2.2 km round trip, time: 1-2 hrs, elevation change: 550 feet/168 m
It is short but steep trail with a fantastic views. You can admire Thor’s Hammer Bryce Canyon formation, Two Bridges, and the bottom of Wall Street. The most spectacular part is Wall Street, which is a slot canyon. You are between reddish walls with amazing light. It is our favorite hike in Bryce.
Queen’s/Navajo Combination Loop, distance: 2.9 mi / 4.6 km, time: 2-3 hrs, elevation change: 600 feet/183 m
It is the most popular trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, so it might be crowded during peak season. It’s combination of Queens Garden with Navajo Loop, which gives you the opportunity to see in a short time the most exciting and beautiful hoodoos formations in Bryce Canyon. Clockwise direction recommended.
Tower Bridge, distance: 3.0 mi /4.8 km, time: 2-3 hrs, elevation change: 802 feet/245 m
The trailhead is at Sunrise Point. During this hike, you can admire Bristlecone pines and the Chinese Wall. A shady 1/4-mile spur trail leads to the bridge.
Strenuous Bryce Canyon Hikes
Peekaboo Loop, distance: 5.5 mi / 8.8 km, time: 3-4 hrs, elevation change: 1571 feet/479 m
The trailhead is at Bryce point. Clockwise direction is required. It is a steep but spectacular hike through the heart of the park. So, it’s worth considering if you have time and you are prepared.
Fairyland Loop, distance: 8.0 mi / 12.9 km, time: 4-5 hrs, elevation change: 1716 feet/ 523 m
You can start this hike from Fairyland Point or north of Sunrise Point. You can admire Chinese Wall, Tower Bridge, and ather hoodoos from this trail. This path takes you on a wonderful hoodoos and along ridges that provide awesome views and close-up looks at the strange formations.
Bryce Canyon Tours
Do you like organized trips with a guide who knows the place very well, will show it to you and tell you about the area in an exciting way? Or maybe you like to explore beautiful places genuinely? So, you can choose one of the many trips around Bryce Canyon.
3-Hour Sightseeing Tour is one of options to explore Bryce Canyon National Park with a local guide. You will discover must-see sites while learning about the flora, fauna, history, and geology of this uniquely beautiful landscapes in the world.
If you like adventure and adrenaline you can take 1-Hour Guided ATV Adventure. You will experience the thrill of the off-road ride as you admire the breathtaking views of the Bryce Canyon Rim.
Another suggestion is Horseback Ride in the Dixie National Forest. You will enjoy the majestic natural formation of Bryce Amphitheater and admire the stunning landscapes during this 1.5-hour tour. You can take also 3-hour horseback ride if you like.
Finally, if you would like to combine a tour of Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park and you have little time, consider booking a trip to these two parks. You can take two days tour from Las Vegas or an intensive one day trip from Las Vegas.
Photographing Bryce Canyon
Our favorite photo viewpoints in Bryce Canyon are Sunset Point, Sunrise Point, and Inspiration Point. If you have little time, focus on them to take good Bryce Canyon photos. It is worth going on a short hike to change the perspective and take pictures of hoodoos from the bottom. The best solution is to combine the two short trails Queen’s / Navajo Combination Loop. It’s a combination of Queens Garden with Navajo Loop. You will see the best Bryce Canyon hoodoos on this hike. It takes you about 2-3 hours with taking pictures.
The appropriate gear would include a wide angle zoom for panorama shots of the Bryce Canyon amphitheaters, as well as more normal zoom in the 24-70mm range. In our opinion, the telephoto lens is perfect for photographing Bryce Canyon, too. And we highly recommend taking telephoto lens to Bryce.
So it’s worth to take a minimum of two lenses. One is a wide-angle, and the second is a telephoto lens. A polarizing filter will help saturate the beautiful reds and oranges on the rocks formations.
|Tripod for photographing Bryce Canyon is crucial if you want to take sunrise or sunset photos. We recommended a reliable and heavy tripod. We use these model of Sirui for years, and it's a high quality, and reliable tripod. Our second choice, the cheaper ones, is this model used by Agnes. It is also fantastic.|
|Take remote shutter release, too. A remote shutter release allows you to control the shutter through a remote control, which ensures you won’t have to touch your camera. As a result, you will eliminate any unwanted blur on your subject.|
|Chris uses Canon EOS R , it is very light and modern mirrorless camera.|
|Agnes loves Nikon D750, it is light camera with excellent quality sensor and very ergonomic.|
|So, in the case of Canon, we recommend EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM or EF 16-35mm f/2.8L or cheaper 17-40mm f/4L EF Ultra Wide Angle.|
|In Nikon system, it’s good to have Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED (which Agnes uses) or Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR.|
|Use the polarizer filter to reduce reflections on surfaces. Some filter may warm up your scene a little bit. So, we recommend Circular polarizing filter, ND grad filters (minimum Lee soft edge 0.9, Lee reverse ND grad and a holder) and full ND (Lee Big Stopper or Little Stopper).|
|Another important lens in photographing Bryce Canyon is telephoto lens. The telephoto lens is perfect for focusing on hoodoos' details, for catching their different and magical structures. So in case of Nikon we use AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens.|
|In Canon system our choice is Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. Chris has been using it for years, and it works great in landscape and wildlife photography.|