If you plan to visit Bryce Canyon, kudos on starting your research now – knowing where exactly to go in this stunning national park makes a big difference. This guide will help you find the best spots to see the sunrise, hike uncrowded trails and marvel at the famous hoodoos from the perfect angle.
Make no mistake about it. You can cruise through Bryce Canyon National Park along the scenic drive and snap photos of landmarks like Thor’s Hammer or Inspiration Point without much effort, much like many of the 2 million visitors each year.
But you’re reading this feature for a reason. I’m guessing you’re looking for more.
What’s out there that you can’t afford to miss? How do you see the most iconic landmarks? Where are the overlooked hiking trails, secret vistas, and can’t-miss tours? I got you covered.
I’ll help you find hidden gems like the waterfall hike along Mossy Cave Trail, explain why driving all the way up to Rainbow Point is a must, and give you the most complete list of things to do in Bryce Canyon you’ll find anywhere.
Ready to make the most of your trip? Buckle up.
Best Things to Do in Bryce Canyon
Take the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive
Taking a good old-fashioned road trip is always fun. One of the most mesmerising routes in the USA is the scenic drive along Highway 63 through the national park. It’s 29 km (18 miles) of lookout points climbing up to 2,773 km (9,100 feet) and a perfect way to see much of the one-of-a-kind scenery from above.
The drive starts off with getting up-close views of the hoodoos that make this park famous in Bryce Amphitheater. You’ve probably seen the slightly surreal rock formations like Thor’s Hammer that make Bryce Canyon a favourite destination for travellers near and far on IG. That photo was likely shot here.
But there’s a lot more to this drive. In fact, it goes on for another 24 km (15 miles) with viewpoint after viewpoint tugging at your heartstrings.
My favourite views? The towering Natural Bridge and the stunning views above Rainbow Point near the end of the drive are hard to beat.
If you’re staying in Bryce Canyon City, drive just over 1.6 km (1 mile) to the park entrance and stay on Highway 63 heading South.
Photograph Thor’s Hammer From Sunset Point
Spoiler alert: you can’t really see the sunsetting from Sunset Point. But don’t let that get you down.
The kaleidoscope of colours still takes on a unique glow, making the iconic Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Amphitheater look especially memorable as the sun fades away late each afternoon and evening.
So, what exactly are you photographing here? Thor’s Hammer is a 46-metre (150-foot) sedimentary rock structure chiselled over thousands of years by erosion to resemble the hammer of Norse god Mjölnir. It won’t disappoint.
Winter is my favourite time to photograph Thor’s Hammer when the snow-capped hoodoos add another layer of drama to the scenery.
Watch the Sunrise Over Sunrise Point
Okay, this one might seem a bit obvious, but hear me out. I was pleasantly surprised by the viewpoint just off of the Rim Trail, living up to its name (and then some).
The collection of hoodoos is always awe-inspiring, but seeing them light up in a polychromatic chorus of yellow, orange, red, and white is why I consider it a must-do when you visit Utah.
You’ll want to get to the viewing point early. I mean really early. I suggest getting a campsite at North Campground, which is open all year.
Stargazing in Bryce Canyon
If you’ve followed my travels, you know that stargazing is something I literally can’t get enough of. I’ve camped in deserts and survived freezing cold temperatures in hostels and tents, all in the good spirit of getting familiar with what’s really out there.
But stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park is something everyone needs to try at least once. I promise.
Not only will you get incredible views of the galaxies and constellations painting the International Dark Sky Park skies, but seeing it from within the canyon or along the rim provides the perfect backdrop to your otherworldly discoveries.
Want to learn more? If you plan your holiday for the summer, check out the Astronomy Festival in June for demonstrations and educational sessions by trained professionals.
Learn More About the Park From an Expert Guide
I love taking solo hikes and experiencing hidden gems, and Bryce Canyon is full of them (I’ll fill you in on some of my favourites in a bit). But I also think it’s important to learn more about what exactly you’re looking at before you start breaking a sweat along the trails in the park.
Hiking with an expert gives you a glimpse into the Native American history in Bryce Canyon and how the stunning hoodoos were formed after thousands of years of wind, rain, and frigid temperatures.
Take a Hike Along the Navajo Loop
No hike is more famous here than the Navajo Loop Trail. The trail is only 2.2 km (1.37 miles) long, but trust me, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds.
I don’t mean to scare you off. The trail is entirely doable if you wear a reliable pair of trainers and carry hiking poles if you need them. You’ll get some of the absolute best views of the chimney-like hoodoos and structures like Thor’s Hammer from several sections along the trail.
What’s the best route to see Thor’s Hammer? Hike down from Sunrise Point clockwise for the most chances to capture the magic of this legendary landmark along the Navajo Loop.
The Wall Street section closes during the winter because of potential hazards. But you can still see Thor’s Hammer from the Two Bridges side.
You already know I’ll pack my camping gear any excuse I get. And when that involves some of the darkest skies anywhere in the world… When are we going?
Bryce Canyon National Park is home to a pair of campgrounds; one is open all year long. Head to the North Campground if you visit in the winter, where you’ll find tent and RV camping.
Sunset and North are both open with reservations in the spring through fall, and it’s the best way to see the stars when visiting.
Visit Mossy Cave
I didn’t know I was in for such a treat when I first hiked the Mossy Cave loop. Squeezing in a 1-mile hike might not sound like it will become a highlight of your trip, but I assure you it will.
The easy hike is the perfect balance to some of the park’s more challenging terrain, and you can still catch a few hoodoos along the way. It’s a beautiful trail with a waterfall at the end – which you’ll want to check out after rainfall or when icicles form in the winter.
You’ll find the Mossy Cave Trailhead along Highway 12, just 8 km (5 miles) from Bryce Canyon City.
Take in the Beauty of Inspiration Point
Is there a better viewpoint anywhere in Bryce? It’s splitting hairs because the park is full of them, but looking down at the seemingly endless hoodoos from this section along the scenic drive left me speechless.
What many travellers don’t know is that there’s a short hike that allows you to see Bryce Amphitheater and the surrounding cliffs and valleys from 3 different levels.
Make your way down a nearby trail for a view of limestone and claron formations (limestone blended with sandstone), giving you a look at the park’s geology like no other trail.
Walk Along the Rim Trail
Sometimes a good hike feels a bit more like a leisurely stroll. The Rim Trail is one of the best activities for all ages and abilities when figuring out what to do in Bryce Canyon. Why? Although it’s around 8 km (5 miles) long, it’s a well-manicured route with some seriously epic pay-offs.
The best part is, you can check out the most popular lookout spots, like Inspiration Point and Sunrise Point, without battling for a parking spot at each one.
Save some energy for the Fairyland Loop. It’s one of my favourite sections in the park.
If you’re trying to cover more ground in the park, take this scenic route through the canyon’s forests, valleys, and rim trail.
Not only will you see a surprising amount of the park, but you will also get to access areas you might not otherwise see with expert guides, like the forests and valleys.
Hike Fairyland Loop Trail
If you’re looking for that one hike that you haven’t heard of, or maybe you have but are on the fence – Fairyland Loop Trail is my number one pick.
It’s longer than some of the more famous trails at around 12.9 km (8 miles), but it’s also a perfect place to see the different plant life and rock formations in the park.
One of the highlights is hiking on the Boat Mesa (one of the most recent geological features in Bryce) while taking in the beautiful hoodoos and bristlecone pines with fewer crowds to share it with.
You can park at the trailhead at Fairyland Point along the scenic drive in the warmer months, but you’ll need to hike in from the Rim Trail during the winter.
See the Wall of Windows
The Wall of Windows is one of the most unique rock formations in the park, and you won’t have to stand elbow to elbow with tourists trying to snap a photo.
But as in life, great things don’t always come easy. The 8.8 km (5.3 mile) Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail was no uncomplicated feat. I found myself working really hard to make it all the way to the main event, but it was worth the trek.
The collection of hoodoos and arches is one of the more photogenic attractions in Bryce Canyon. Give this a try, but train ahead of time.
Admire the Views From Rainbow Point
If you drive the full Bryce Canyon Scenic Route, you’ll be happy you did. Your reward? A peak down at a valley of dark green pines and multi-coloured spires from one of the highest points in the park.
Rainbow Point sits at 2,778 metres (9,115 ft), offering a unique perspective you won’t find in the more populated sections like Bryce Point.
This section is great for birdwatching. You may see grouse, owls, and other elusive wildlife.
Visit Bryce Canyon in the Winter
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Winter is one of the best possible times to visit this small but mighty national park. You’ll be able to find parking, hike to the most popular hoodoos, and get better hotel rates than in the summer or fall.
It also opens up a new world of things to do in Bryce Canyon, like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and taking some adorable holiday photos.
Some sections of the scenic drive and hiking trails are closed, but you can still see most of the main attractions in the winter.
Swamp Canyon Loop
Finding uncrowded sections of this national park is getting more difficult every year. But Swamp Canyon Loop still manages to mostly fly under the radar.
Explore some lesser-visited trails on this 4.5-mile loop, which offers great practice for orienteering and getting out into the wilderness without the crowds.
Most hikers will tell you that taking the trail counterclockwise is the most scenic and safest way to hike.
Ride an E-Bike
Another great way to see the great outdoors and learn the ins and outs from a local is to hire an E-Bike on this guided tour.
Not only will you have a great time breathing in some fresh air while hitting the open roads, but the guides do a great job mapping out some local hidden hoodoos like The Lizard and Snoopy while zipping along the canyon trails.
Hike the Queen’s Garden Trail
One of my favourite hikes in the park, the Queen’s Garden Trail, is actually named due to the surprising similarities the hoodoo has to a portrait of Queen Victoria.
It’s one of the more photogenic sections of the park and a great way to get some exercise along the way down from Sunrise Point.
You can access it from either side of the Navajo Loop, but I like the Two Bridges Side because it’s open year-round and offers beautiful views of Thor’s Hammer.
Go Horseback Riding
It’s hard not to imagine being in the Wild West when walking around the edges of the canyon gazing out at the sedimentary rock formations in the amphitheatres and canyons at Bryce.
If you head to Losee Canyon in nearby Dixie National Forest on horseback, you can actually recreate the footsteps of outlaws like Butch Cassidy through the Ponderosa pine-laden red rock canyon on a guided tour.
Chat With a Ranger
If you’re keen to learn more about the history, geology, and future of this national park, don’t hesitate to stop by the visitor centre.
You can sign up for guided hikes, educational seminars, and seasonal events like the Annual Christmas Bird Count, where you can help scientists study migratory patterns by identifying wildlife from near and far.
Practical Tips for Your Bryce Canyon Trip
Visiting Bryce Canyon is a unique experience because you can see many of the well known attractions in a day or two. But plan carefully before booking your trip to be sure you’re making the most of your time.
For starters, I recommend staying in Bryce Canyon City, where you can catch a shuttle directly into the park. How do you get there? Fly into Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, hire a car, and either drive first thing in the morning or take the shuttle into the park.
There are plenty of hotels in Bryce Canyon City, but they do fill up in the summer. The good news is, you can also find accommodations in Escalante, Kanab, and other cities within an hour or two of the park.
Other Top Tips for Your Visit
- If you only have one day, you can knock out the 13 lookout points along the scenic drive in about 3 hours.
- That said, if you’re able to do any hiking, I wouldn’t leave Bryce Canyon without walking at least a couple of the trails.
- Make the most of the scenic drive by reaching Yovimpa Point before leaving your vehicle. If you start early, you can beat the traffic to the viewpoint, and it’s a lot easier to pull over for vistas.
- Bring a daypack with plenty of water, sunscreen, and layers, even on shorter hikes.
- Camping in Bryce Canyon is a blast, but pack your bear canister for food and bring bear spray just in case.
How Long to Visit in Bryce Canyon?
A lot of visitors add Bryce as a day trip from Zion or as an overnight trip. If you have to do this, it’s fine. You’ll tick many of the best things to see in Bryce Canyon over 8-12 hours.
But staying for a long weekend allows you to tackle a few more of my favourite hikes, explore hidden gems, and see the sunrise before gazing at the stars from more than one vantage point.
Best Time to Visit
September and October are the best months to visit for temperate weather, fewer crowds, and more options for where to stay near the best Bryce Canyon activities.
Where Should I Stay in Bryce Canyon?
Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn (Mid-Range)
Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn didn’t wow me with its views, service, or amenities. But it did offer clean rooms at reasonable rates, and it’s only a mile from the park.
I have heard that Christmas is a special time at this hotel, where the log cabin-style lobby gets decked out in holiday cheer.
Bryce Canyon Pines (Luxury)
Rooms at Bryce Canyon Pines are perfectly comfortable and have all the basic amenities you need, like WiFi, AC, and free parking.
It might not win any international awards or acclaim, but the seasonal hot tub, on-site restaurant, and friendly staff are all appreciated in the relatively remote area just minutes from the park.
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