Best Things to do at Bryce Canyon National Park
At Bryce Canyon National Park you can explore the world’s largest collection of hoodoos - odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion, and "frost-wedging", which over time shatters and pries rock apart.
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most breathtaking sites that Utah has to offer! Visitors often drive through the 20 mile long park to explore the viewpoints, but there are also ample opportunities for those wishing to explore the park further. Hiking, camping, photography, and stargazing are some of the most popular activities, but there is also fishing, mountain biking and horseback rides, making it a great place to visit with the whole family.
My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s National Parks! Bryce Canyon is one of my all-time favorites and well worth the visit. So if this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some things you should know about Bryce Canyon National Park!
Hiking is one of the most popular ways visitors explore Bryce Canyon and there are trails throughout the park for hikers of all skill levels. Some of the trails are shorter and stay mainly on the upper areas of the canyon, while some trails dive deeper into the canyon offering hikers more of a challenge.
The Rim Trail
If you are a first time visitor, this trail is a great place to start. One of the most popular hiking trails in the park, this easy, level trail provides an incredible viewpoint overlooking the national park. The whole trail is about 11 miles long, but you can easily pick and choose parts of the trail to explore. There is also a half-mile section between Sunrise and Sunset Point that is paved, making it a great option for those seeking wheelchair accessibility. This trail also offers hikers a view of the iconic “Thor’s Hammer” rock formation.
Queens Garden Trail
This is another great trail to start with for first time visitors or new hikers. This trail is one of the easiest ways to descend into the canyon and is 1.8 miles round trip. Keep in mind that although this trail is on the easier side for Bryce Canyon, as you hike down, there is a dramatic change in elevation as well as some steep drop offs. On this trail, you will see a hoodoo with a striking resemblance to Queen Victoria overseeing a garden of many other hoodoos around her.
Mossy Cave Trail
This trail is very family friendly, however the real star of this trail is the waterfall that awaits you at the end of the river near the cave. Keep in mind that the waterfall doesn’t flow all year, but usually flows May-October. This trail is 0.8 miles and makes a great addition to any trip to Bryce Canyon!
Navajo Loop Trail
If you’re planning to hike at Bryce Canyon, this trail may be the highlight of your trip! On this trail, you’ll get to hike through the Wall Street slot trail as well as immerse yourself in the stunning rock cliffs within Bryce Canyon. This trail also has the best perspective of Bryce Amphitheater, as you descend into the canyon, but be aware that this trail is not for the faint hearted. Although just about 2 miles miles long, the descent of this trail is steep, so take your time and be sure to drink lots of water along the way.
Staying overnight in the park is one of the best ways to catch the incredible views of Bryce Canyon, especially during sunset and sunrise. If you’re looking to stay in the park, there are two campground sites (only one during winter) and one lodge (only available during the summer). Located in the park, the Sunset Hotel is also available for those seeking a camping alternative during the winter. If you do plan on lodging, keep in mind that these fill up fast, so be sure to book in advance. If camping is more your thing, note that the campsites are first-come first-served, so you need to snag a spot early in the morning during the summer.
Best Spots for Photography
Bryce Canyon offers some of the world’s most incredible viewpoints and depending on your preference, there are many spots that you can get to on foot or by car. Sunrise is the best time for photography in Bryce Canyon as you’ll find the landscape is engulfed in a warm, soft light. Later in the day, the sun casts long shadows, making it challenging to capture that perfect shot.
This is a great option for anyone looking for an easily accessible viewpoint overlooking the Bryce Amphitheater. This viewpoint is easily accessible for those with mobility issues or for anyone seeking a breathtaking view. At Inspiration Point, there are three different viewpoints, each one with an incredible view. I recommend hiking the very top if you can!
The neat feature of Bryce Point is that it offers different viewpoints, each one giving you a drastically different view of the landscape. This spot is also about 200 feet higher in elevation from Inspiration Point, providing an incredible bird’s eye view of the park. It's good to note that Bryce Point does require a short hike from the parking lot in order to access the viewpoint.
This spot is another must see for any photographer visiting Bryce Canyon. The natural stone arch contrasted with the deep greens of the ponderosa forest make for an incredible view. There are also many other viewpoints on the trail along the way, so you’re sure to find many other photo opportunities as you make your way toward the arch.
Bryce Canyon is incredibly beautiful during the day, but is a completely different experience at night! With over 7,500 visible stars and a view of the Milky Way, there are many reasons to include a stargazing opportunity in your trip to Bryce Canyon. Between May and September, on Wednesday and Friday evenings, trained park rangers and volunteers provide detailed astronomy presentations. There are also opportunities for guided night hikes and telescope tours, but spots fill up quickly so be sure to book in advance if you’re interested.
Best Time to Visit
Bryce Canyon is magnificent all year round, so there really isn’t a bad time to visit. During the winter, the hoodoos can be dusted with snow, creating a magical effect amongst the vast landscape. During the fall and spring, there are typically smaller crowds and generally good weather. Even during the summer months, the park stays rather cool due to its high elevation (over 8,000 feet).
Some Important Things to Know Before Your Visit
Be sure to wear proper footwear at Bryce Canyon. The rock at the park forms crumbly cliffs and can be slippery, so it is recommended that visitors wear hiking footwear. Temperatures can also greatly fluctuate during the day (the difference between the daily high and low to be as much as 50° F / 27° C), so make sure you are prepared for extreme differences in weather conditions. Elevations in Bryce Canyon can reach 9115 ft (2778 m) subjecting you to 70% of the oxygen you might be used to. Bryce's trails start at the top which means all returns will be uphill. If you have never experienced altitude sickness, it can really sneak up on you, so make sure you know your physical limitations and do not wait too long to turn around if needed.
Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist with a single passion for America's National Parks. Now he's on a journey to visit, photograph and create iconic WPA-style artwork for each of America's national parks.
Click here to learn more about Rob.
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