We take pride in providing authentic travel recommendations based on our own experiences. We may earn a commission when you purchase a product or book a reservation. Learn more ›
Bryce Canyon National Park is the perfect destination to escape when wanting to reconnect with the beauty of nature. With its awe-inspiring natural scenery and abundant outdoor activities, it’s great for relaxing, getting in touch with all of your senses, and exploring one of the unsung natural wonders of the West.
As one of the best Utah national parks, you can find exceptional hiking in Bryce Canyon by following the trails around impressive vistas or into stunning desert backdrops. You can explore Byrce on a long day trip from St. George (a common base camp for Zion National Park), but most people prefer to stay local at a Bryce Canyon lodge.
Only in Bryce Canyon can you see the largest collection of hoodoos in the world, hundreds of thousands of pillars that reach the sky. Their naturally striped bodies reveal how “looking at rocks” is one of the best things in Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a magical place and is one of the key cornerstones of Utah’s national parks. The scent of spruce and juniper forest will encase you, and you’ll witness migratory hummingbirds and prairie dogs. Below, you’ll find our favorite ways to experience this Utah natural wonder.
- Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park
- 1. Trek the Slot Canyons at the Peekaboo Loop Trail
- 2. Ride a Horse in Bryce Canyon
- 3. Hike Under the Night Sky
- 4. Learn from an Expert Ranger on a Guided Tour
- 5. Take in the Scenery When Camping
- 6. See Thor’s Hammer in Sunset Colors
- 7. Step Back in Time with a Covered Wagon Tour
- 8. Trace the Amphitheater on the Rim Trail
- 9. Discover Returning Colors at Sunrise Point
- 10. Find Hoodoos on the Fairyland Loop Trail
- 11. Witness the Fading Colors of Sunset Point
- 12. Take In Bryce Canyon National Park on a Scenic Drive
- 13. Wind the Switchbacks of the Navajo Loop Trail
- 14. Stargazing Under Utah’s Dark Skies
- 15. Discover Hoodoos on the Queens Garden Trail
- 16. Travel the Contrasting Colors of Red Canyon
- 17. Find Your Way Out of the Maze at Wall Street
- 18. Step Off the Beaten Path at Swamp Canyon Trail
- 19. Meet the Natural Bridge
- 20. Discover Diverse Winter activities
- Tips for Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
- Best Time To Visit
- Getting To Bryce Canyon
- Desert and Canyon Safety
- Best Places To Stay In and Around Bryce Canyon National Park
- Bryce Canyon City
- How long does it take to drive through Bryce Canyon National Park?
- Where can I ride a horse in Bryce Canyon National Park?
- What is the best time of year to visit Bryce Canyon National Park?
- Most Significant Landmark – Thor’s Hammer
- Activity for kids – Ranger Guided Tour
- Activity for adults – Stargazing
- Best Scenic Drive – 18-mile Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive
- Best Place to Get Off the Beaten Path – Tower Bridge and Swamp Canyon Trails
- Best Tour Experience – Full Moon Hike
Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park
With its incredible views, hiking trails, and campgrounds, it’s easy to spend at least a full day exploring the park. It’s also why so many who have visited Bryce Canyon share their stories, eager to return.
1. Trek the Slot Canyons at the Peekaboo Loop Trail
Let’s start off with a challenge. The Peekaboo Loop Trail is a demanding roundtrip of over five miles that takes you into the amphitheater and then back up again, with an added loop trail through narrow and secluded slot canyons.
Descend into the heart of the canyon for a mesmerizing display of sculpted rock formations, the canyon floor, and walls sculpted over millions of years. The trail winds through narrow slots, giving credence to the name “Peek-a-Boo.” You can also reach the Grand Staircase from the trail.
2. Ride a Horse in Bryce Canyon
When visiting Bryce Canyon, horseback riding is essential for an authentic Western experience. Horseback rides through the rugged terrain allow you to enjoy the park’s natural beauty while connecting with the Old West spirit.
The guided rides take you deep into the heart of the canyon and neighboring vistas. The rhythmic hoofbeats break up the quiet of the desert.
Whether you’re an experienced rider or a beginner, skilled wranglers ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. This adventure in Bryce Canyon is timeless and fosters a new perspective on the park’s geological wonders.
3. Hike Under the Night Sky
Bryce Canyon is honestly a place of wonder, and when the timing is right, you can step into the cool night air for full moon walks led by park rangers. The hikes usually run for one to two miles around the amphitheater rim, but strenuous hikes are available if enough rangers are present.
In order to embark on one, you must win your spot in the Full Moon Lottery. The lottery helps accommodate the number of visitors in relation to parking spots and staff.
Hiking under the full moon in Bryce Canyon allows you to connect with your senses, view the landscape in a new (lack of) light, and spot active wildlife in the cooler temperatures.
4. Learn from an Expert Ranger on a Guided Tour
Ranger-guided tours are offered throughout the day and provide visitors with an in-depth look at the history and geology of the area. Travel the rugged trails as rangers share their insight into the park’s geology, flora, fauna, and history.
Along the way, the ranger may point out iconic landmarks such as Thor’s Hammer or take you to Rainbow Point. They weave in Indigenous history and insight into the park’s conservation efforts.
As the sun sets, the tour concludes with a profound sense of connection to Bryce’s extraordinary landscape, making it an extraordinary trip etched into your memory forever. It can quickly show you why Bryce Canyon is a gem on the crown of national parks.
5. Take in the Scenery When Camping
Camping is one of the best ways to experience national parks. Two campgrounds are in Bryce Canyon National Park – Sunset and North Campgrounds. Sunset Campground is near Bryce Amphitheater, and North Campground is closer to the visitor center.
Both campgrounds have restrooms, picnic tables, and fire grates, but neither have showers. Sunset Campground is first-come, first-serve, while North Campground can be reserved in advance. A dump station is also available for those who prefer to bring an RV.
Camping in Bryce Canton allows you to enjoy the park after the crowds have gone home, and before they arrive in the morning.
6. See Thor’s Hammer in Sunset Colors
Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Canyon is a striking and iconic rock formation that resembles the mythical hammer of the Norse god Thor. This incredible hoodoo stands proudly amid the breathtaking amphitheater of the park, and you can see the forces of nature on a sightseeing tour.
Its towering height and intriguing shape make it a must-see attraction in Bryce Canyon. Witnessing Thor’s Hammer during sunrise or sunset is particularly hypnotic, as the changing light shifts among the reddish, pink, and orange hues.
7. Step Back in Time with a Covered Wagon Tour
It’s clear Bryce Canyon is a gorgeous natural wonder, but what’s less obvious is that one of the best ways to see it all is on a covered wagon tour. A horse-drawn carriage will pull you through the forest and into Bryce Canyon – talk about traveling back in time.
To make the experience even better, your tour guide will regale you with cowboy stories and old West tales. It’s a scenic tour with a historic adventure without the fears of dysentery or wagon-train raids that plagued travelers in the Old West.
You can relax and take in all that Bryce Canyon has to offer as you circle the rim for fantastic panoramic views or travel through the neighboring trees of Dixie National Forest. Reservations for covered wagon tours can be made online in advance. So don’t wait, book your tour today
See Related: Sites for Booking Tours & Excursions
8. Trace the Amphitheater on the Rim Trail
The Rim Trail is an easy, paved trail that follows the edge of the amphitheater and provides stunning views of all the hoodoos. The trail can be crowded in places, but it’s still a great way to see the park without having to hike for miles.
With the Rim Trail, you’ll get to see Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. Several other trails branch off, so you can explore even more of the Amphitheater.
Even though it’s nearly four miles long, the consistent topography makes walking easy for a natural way to view the scenery. If you don’t feel like walking the trail, an ATV tour can give you similar views on an off-road adventure.
9. Discover Returning Colors at Sunrise Point
Sunrise Point is one of the most popular destinations in Bryce Canyon National Park. From this viewpoint, visitors can see some noteworthy hoodoos of the park.
The view from Sunrise Point is best early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is low. These are the times that give you the best color and solidify the park’s beauty.
Visiting Sunrise Point in Bryce National Park is an unforgettable experience that can leave you captivated by the surreal beauty of nature. As the first light of dawn creeps over the horizon, the ancient hoodoos come to life, casting elongated shadows on the rust-colored amphitheaters below.
The crisp morning air and serene surroundings create a sense of tranquility, making it a perfect spot for reflection and meditation. Photographers and nature enthusiasts find themselves enraptured by the ever-changing play of light and shadows.
10. Find Hoodoos on the Fairyland Loop Trail
The Fairyland Loop Trail is an eight-mile loop that takes you through some of the less-visited parts of Bryce Canyon leading to Fairyland Point. The trail includes several steep sections, but the views are well worth the effort.
You’ll see towering hoodoos, colorful rock formations, and maybe even some wildlife along the way. You still have a great view of the park’s main attractions but also have the added crown of Fairyland Point. It’s popular for exploring the local area but not crowded so you can soak in the long and wide views of the amphitheater without feeling rushed or impacted.
The trail can be challenging depending on your fitness level, and its distance requires a good amount of energy. Be sure to bring plenty of water, and reconsider if it’s going to be a particularly hot day.
See Related: Things to Do in Zion National Park
11. Witness the Fading Colors of Sunset Point
Sunset Point contends with Sunrise Point as one of the best things to do in Bryce Canyon. From this viewpoint, you can see the park’s incredible hoodoos and rock formations but with a variation in the light, colors, and shadows.
The view from Sunset Point is best late in the evening when the sun is low. It creates a mesmerizing space that can captivate you with unparalleled beauty from the combination of awe-inspiring vistas and aromas of dry soil.
As the sun dips below the horizon, the landscape transforms into a canvas of colorful hues, showcasing an exquisite play of intermingling light and shadow. Nature enthusiasts, photographers, and adventurers alike are drawn to this spot, seeking to be immersed in the otherworldly allure of Bryce Canyon.
12. Take In Bryce Canyon National Park on a Scenic Drive
If you don’t feel like hiking or are short on time, taking one of the scenic drives in Bryce Canyon is a great way to see the park’s highlights.
The 18-mile Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive takes you through all of the main viewpoints in the park. The drive can be done in about 2 hours without stopping, but you’ll want plenty of time to stop at the viewpoints and take in the scenery.
If you are short on time or don’t want to do the entire drive, you can also do the eight-mile section from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point. The drive between Sunrise and Sunset Points can be done in about 1 hour without stopping, but you’ll want to see lots of sights along the way.
A scenic drive also gives you the chance to visit both Bryce Canyon and Red Canyon. It will quickly show you why the colors, scenic vistas, and intimate interactions can rival even the experiences of the Grand Canyon.
For something more challenging, try the Navajo Loop Trail is only one-and-a-half miles long but but descends into the heart of Bryce Amphitheater for an extra emphasis on climbing.
This is a great option to see many hoodoos up close without hiking the entire amphitheater. It’s also one of the best places to see wildlife like mule deer when following the trail. Douglas-fir trees make the hike aromatic and it’s one of the best ways to view Thor’s Hammer.
Heavy rainfall and snowmelt can affect the Navajo Loop trails. Check with the visitor center or the park rangers during your visit to make sure it’s open.
14. Stargazing Under Utah’s Dark Skies
Bryce is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. The clear, dark skies offer amazing views of the Milky Way and countless other stars and planets.
There are several great spots for stargazing in the park, but the best place is probably Bryce Point. This overlook has amazing canyon views and is a great place to watch the sunset or wait for the stars to come out.
Bryce Canyon National Park is also home to an annual astronomy festival called the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival. This festival is held each year in June and offers a variety of activities for those interested in learning more about astronomy.
If you’re going to Bryce Canyon, visit the Visitor Center first, where you can also get a park map. Here you can get a map of the area and learn about future excursions.
The area is recognized for its starry night sky, and the Visitor Center is a fantastic resource for learning more about it. The Ranger program offers lectures on astrophysics in the evening, and you can view the blanket of stars and far-off planets through large telescopes after the program.
15. Discover Hoodoos on the Queens Garden Trail
The easiest trail is the Queens Garden Trail, which is less than two miles roundtrip. This easy hike can be a short walk through a hoodoo-filled landscape to a beautiful garden of hoodoos at the end. By descending into the canyon, you can follow the bends and search for the striking hoodoo that resembles Queen Victoria.
The trail passes by some of the most popular rock formations, including Thor’s Hammer. When exploring the Queens Garden, you can feel like a bug wandering through a wonderland of giants for one extra special experience.
The colorful natural sculptures act like ornaments in the queen’s larger-than-life garden but the steep grades make some areas more challenging to hike than others.
16. Travel the Contrasting Colors of Red Canyon
When visiting Bryce National Park, a trip to Red Canyon is necessary for nature lovers seeking an extraordinary experience. Just a short drive away, Red Canyon offers a distinct charm, complementing Bryce’s beauty.
The vibrant red rock formations and towering pink cliffs contrast sharply against the blue skies, making it a photographer’s dream.
You can also find ancient petroglyphs carved into the rock, a fantastic representation of community history and storytelling that has survived thousands of years etched into stone. Find pictures of buffalo, deer, and pronghorn antelope.
17. Find Your Way Out of the Maze at Wall Street
The Wall Street section of the park is named after the towering, narrow canyon walls that resemble skyscrapers. This breathtaking slot canyon showcases a maze of crimson hoodoos rising on both sides.
The surreal formations make it a photographer’s paradise, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when the light accentuates the bright colors and the striations on the rock.
To experience Wall Street, you can take the Queen’s Garden Trail on the extended route for a nearly three-mile hike. It’s not particularly challenging, and the views are well worth it.
18. Step Off the Beaten Path at Swamp Canyon Trail
The Swamp Canyon Trail is a less-traveled five-mile loop. At first, Swamp Canyon can seem small but once inside, you find fins and hoodoos hidden from the initial overlook.
Grasses, willows, tiger salamanders, and Missouri irises sit among the rocky landscape. Pay attention to the quiet; you may hear the buzzing wings of a broad-tailed hummingbird or the calls of a violet-green swallow.
19. Meet the Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge is a geological marvel. Carved by the relentless forces of erosion, the stunning natural arch gracefully rises above the landscape as a testament to the patient but relentless work of wind, water, and time.
The bridge’s colors range from rich reds to soft pinks for a vivid showcase of Bryce’s famed hoodoos. The scent of bristlecone pines mixes with the aroma of the hot rock faces in summer and the cool smell of crips snow in winter. You can quickly learn to appreciate the marvels of the arch and the effect millions of years of geological evolution have on the scenery.
20. Discover Diverse Winter activities
Winter is a great time to visit the national park, and if you’re hanging in the mountains for a ski trip, take some time and enjoy one of the best weekend getaways in Utah. The snow creates a whole new landscape to explore. If you’re up for cross-country skiing, Ruby’s Inn offers ski rentals.
There are ski trails between Ruby’s Inn and Bryce, as well as some lookout sites where roads have not been cleared out. It becomes a magical and unparalleled adventure, a snowy wonderland shaped by the canyon walls and hoodoos.
The park’s striking red-rock formations peek through the snow. The serene ambiance and fewer crowds during winter also give you a more intimate connection with local nature.
As one of the lucky visitors in winter, you can stay close to the winter action and even witness the phenomenon of ice forming one of the famous hoodoos, transforming the landscape from stripes of color to one of icicles dangling above the blanketing snow.
Tips for Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park is in the spring or fall when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller. Bryce Canyon National Park is open all year round, although winter weather can make some roads and trails impassable.
Getting To Bryce Canyon
The closest major airports to Bryce Canyon are in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Salt Lake City, Utah, approximately 200 miles away.
There are four main visitor centers in the Bryce Canyon region. Two are located near the Grand Staircase, one in Dixie National Forest and one in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Make the visitor center one of your first stops to help you plan your activities and how you wish to explore. Look for the park’s history, meet with rangers, and get deeper insight with books from the bookstore.
If you are looking for day trips from Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon isn’t recommended. It’s a scenic but long drive that may leave you little time to circle the national park before returning to the city.
Desert and Canyon Safety
Utah is home to some of the most beautiful National Parks in the country. Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park are all within a short drive of each other and offer different landscapes to explore.
In all the parks, high elevation, desert conditions, and flash floods mean you need to pay attention to many factors to stay safe. Consider protecting yourself, your trip, and those traveling with you by purchasing travel insurance.
Part of the joys of visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is exploring the slot canyons. But never tour the canyons on a rainy day. Water accumulates and rises quickly, turning into flash floods.
Combine common sense and awareness of the weather to keep yourself safe on the trails. Make sure you have the proper permit, safety equipment, and must-bring gear that includes:
- UV protection
- Lightweight pants
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Water pouch or water bottle
- GPS device
- Hiking shoes
- First-aid kit
Best Places To Stay In and Around Bryce Canyon National Park
Finding where to stay in Bryce Canyon isn’t particularly difficult, but you do need to figure out what sort of trip you’re after. For the serious adventurer, Bryce Canyon offers backpacking campsites. You can hike the Under-the-Rim trail for 23 miles with eight different campsites along the way.
The Riggs trail is nine miles long and has four campsites. No matter which you stay at, the views will be spectacular, and the trails are significantly less busy than the easy hiking paths.
If you aren’t looking to hike and want to be more comfortable, consider a front-country campground or accommodations inside the park like staying in a Bryce Canyon lodge
Shuttle services travel around the amphitheater and help limit the amount of tourist traffic that goes through the park to keep the narrow roadways from clogging. This means staying in the park is often your best bet for accessing the trails easily and quickly.
Beyond the backcountry, you can also hike in the North Campground or Sunset Campground. These grounds book up early, so make your reservations as soon as you can. Most visitors to Bryce Canyon stay in a nearby lodge, rather than in a tent. If you’re visiting multiple national parks, you may want to read our full guide on where to stay when visiting Utah’s National Parks.
See Related: Breathtaking Camping Spots in the World
Bryce Canyon City
Stay in Bryce Canyon City for seamless access to the national park. The city sits at the gateway to Bryce Canyon, making it the perfect place to blend outdoor adventure and comfort with ease.
The Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel is only minutes from the park’s entrance. Great for business, adventuring, or traveling with family, each room offers convenience and comfort with a location within easy reach of Bryce Canyon’s gates. It’s one of the highest-rated hotels in the area, giving you a comfortable place to rest after a long day on the trails.
Escalante is alluringly rugged. The town sits at the heart of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Escalante Yurts Luxury Glamping is a special and comfortable home base from which you can explore the countless trails, narrow slot canyons, and colorful rock formations. It’s another way Escalante gives you access to off-the-grid experiences easily coupled with Bryce Canyon National Park.
How long does it take to drive through Bryce Canyon National Park?
The average time it takes to drive through the park is about 1-2 hours. However, we suggest giving yourself plenty of time to explore all the different viewpoints and trails. A scenic drive is a great way to see the panoramic highlights but don’t limit yourself to the view from the window.
Where can I ride a horse in Bryce Canyon National Park?
Several companies offer horseback riding tours in the park. For more information, please visit the official website.
What is the best time of year to visit Bryce Canyon National Park?
The best time of year to visit Bryce Canyon National Park is from late spring to early fall. However, the park is open year-round, and each season has its unique beauty.
- Grand Circle Road Trip Itinerary
- Best Places to Visit in Southern California
- Things to Do in Arizona
- Best Hotels in Zion National Park
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Douglas Weissman is an acclaimed travel writer, known for his gripping storytelling and uncanny ability to transport readers to the places he explores. Hailing from Simi Valley, CA, Douglas has journeyed through continents and cultures, from the lush landscapes of South Africa to the bustling streets of India. He offers readers an intimate view of the world, built upon his extensive experience in luxury travel, adventure tours, family vacations, and more.
His contributions to the field of travel literature have been widely recognized. He finished second in the Imustbeoff Travel writing competition and was featured as a storyteller on the Fit For Joy Podcast. His expertise was also utilized in BestLife’s article on preserving travel memories, revealing his commitment to not just experiencing the world, but encouraging others to immortalize their adventures.