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20 Best Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

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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 spectacular natural attractions of the West.

As one of the best Utah national parks, Bryce Canyon offers exceptional hiking. The trails wind 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.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
lucky-photo / Adobe Stock

Here, you can see the largest collection of hoodoos worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of pillars reaching the sky. Their naturally striped bodies reveal why “looking at rocks” is one of the best things in Bryce Canyon.

This magical place 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 natural wonder of Utah.

With its incredible views, hiking trails, and campgrounds, it’s easy to spend at least a full day exploring. Bryce Canyon National Park is a haven for travelers looking to explore the natural beauty of southern Utah. The number of colors cast across the stone features throughout the day is surprising.

TL;DR

  • Most Significant Landmark – Thor’s Hammer
  • Activity for kids – Ranger Guided Tour
  • Activity for adults – Stargazing
  • Most Scenic Road – 18-mile Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive
  • Place to Get Off the Beaten Path – Tower Bridge and Swamp Canyon Trails
  • Tour Experience – Full Moon Hike

Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park

1. Trek the Slot Canyons at the Peekaboo Loop Trail

Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon

Let’s start 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 “Peek-a-Boo.” You can also reach the Grand Staircase from the trail.

2. Go horseback riding

Horseback riding is essential for an authentic Western experience when visiting Bryce Canyon. 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.

Horseback rides through the rugged terrain are a great way to enjoy the natural beauty while connecting with the Old West spirit. Several companies offer horseback riding tours in the park, such as this 3-hour journey through Red Canyon offered on GetYourGuide.

For more information on options, schedules, and permitting, visit the National Park Service website.

3. Hike Under the Night Sky

Bryce Canyon National Park under the stars on the Navajo Trail
AnthonyTPope / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Bryce Canyon is a place of wonder, and when the timing is right, you can step into the cool night air for full moon walks led by rangers. The hikes usually run for one to two miles along 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 about parking spots and staff.

Hiking under the full moon in Bryce Canyon is a great way 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

Park Ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park

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.

5. Take in the Scenery When Camping

Bryce Canyon National Park Camping
Devin Stein / Flickr; CC BY 2.0

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 Canyon allows you to enjoy the incredible landscapes after the crowds have gone home and before they arrive in the morning.

6. See Thor’s Hammer in Sunset Colors

Thor's Hammer from the Navajo Loop in Bryce Canyon
David Fulmer / Flickr; CC BY 2.0

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 theater, and you can see the forces of nature on a sightseeing tour or if you plan to hike the Navajo Loop Trail.

Its towering height and intriguing shape make it a must-visit 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

Covered Wagon Tour in Bryce Canyon National Park

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 improve the experience, 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

Sign for Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park

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 hiking for miles.

Along Rim Trail, you’ll 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

Panorama of Sunrise Point at Sunrise

Sunrise Point is one of the most popular destinations since, 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, providing a beautiful hue of color and solidifying the natural beauty.

Visiting Sunrise Point 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 Sunrise Point a perfect spot for reflection and meditation. The ever-changing play of light and shadows enraptures photographers and nature enthusiasts.

10. Find Hoodoos on the Fairyland Loop Trail

Fairyland Trail Sign, Bryce Canyon National Park

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 worth the effort.

You’ll see towering hoodoos, colorful rock formations, and some wildlife. You still have a great view of the most popular tourist attractions and 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 lot of energy. Be sure to bring plenty of water, and reconsider if it will be a particularly hot day.

See Related: Things to Do in Zion National Park

11. Witness the Fading Colors of Sunset Point

Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunset Point contends with Sunrise Point as one of the best things to do in Bryce Canyon. From this viewpoint, you can see the 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. Drive the Southern Scenic Drive

Driving Bryce Canyon National Park

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 most popular attractions and highlights.

The average time it takes to drive through is about 1-2 hours. However, give yourself plenty of time to explore all the different viewpoints and trails, so allocate a half day during your visit. A scenic drive is a great way to see the panoramic highlights, but don’t limit yourself to the view from the road. 

We don’t typically recommend only driving through national parks. Still, if you’re on a road trip to other spots in Utah, this can be an excellent opportunity to understand how beautiful this place is.

The 18-mile Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive takes you through all of the main viewpoints, and 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 so plan to make it into a half day to see all the sites.

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 Point and Sunset Point can be done in about 1 hour without stopping, but you’ll want to see many sights along the way.

A scenic drive also allows you 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.

13. Wind the Switchbacks of the Navajo Loop Trail

Navajo Loop Trail Sign at Bryce Canyon

For something more challenging, hike the Navajo Loop Trail, which is only one-and-a-half miles long but descends into the heart of Bryce Amphitheater for an extra emphasis on climbing.

Along the trail, you’ll get the chance to see several iconic 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 is 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 ensure it’s open and safe to hike.

14. Stargazing Under Utah’s Dark Skies

Stargazing at Bryce Canyon National Park

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, but the best place is 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 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 and the Milky Way.

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 to see the Milky Way in its glory, making for some incredible photos if you love the night sky.

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

Queen's Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon

The easiest trail is 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 Queens Garden Trail, 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.

16. Travel the Contrasting Colors of Red Canyon

Red Canyon outside of Bryce Canyon National Park
Tony Alter / Flickr

When you visit Bryce, a day 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 incredible 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. You’ll find pictures of buffalo, deer, and pronghorn antelope here.

17. Find Your Way Out of the Maze at Wall Street

Wall Street in Bryce Canyon National Park
Annish33 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Wall Street section 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

Tower Bridge, Bryce Canyon National Park

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 a broad-tailed hummingbird’s buzzing wings or a violet-green swallow’s calls.

19. Meet the Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon National Park
Kristina D.C. Hoeppner / Flickr; CC BY-SA 2.0

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, vividly showcasing 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

Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter

Winter can be a great time to visit Bryce, 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 and some lookout sites where roads have not been cleared. 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.

Read More: Our Favorite National Monuments in the US

Essential Tips for Visiting

Best Time to Visit

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos
Wirestock / Adobe Stock

Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is most enjoyable during the spring or autumn due to the pleasant climate and fewer visitors. However, Bryce welcomes guests throughout the entire year, though the winter season may render certain routes and pathways inaccessible.

Spring through early autumn is considered the prime time to visit Bryce Canyon. Nonetheless, the distinct seasonal charms offer unique experiences whenever you choose to go.

How to Get to Bryce

Bryce Canyon National Park at Sunset
PiConsti / Flickr

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 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, get deeper insight with books from the bookstore, and discover Ranger programs for further exploration opportunities.

Bryce Canyon isn’t recommended if you are looking for day trips from Salt Lake City. 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

Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center in Utah
Adam Kliczek / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Utah is home to some of the country’s most beautiful National Parks, including Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park, all within a short drive of each other and offer different landscapes to explore. 

In all national parks, high elevation, desert conditions, and flash floods mean you must consider many factors to stay safe. Never tour the canyons on a rainy day. Water accumulates and rises quickly, which can turn into flash floods.

Consider protecting yourself, your trip, and those traveling with you by purchasing travel insurance. We recommend using VisitorsCoverage to find and compare policies from multiple travel insurance providers to get a tailored plan that fits your travel needs.

What to Pack

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:

Places To Stay In and Near Bryce Canyon, Utah

Camping Tent at Bryce Canyon National Park

Finding where to stay in Bryce Canyon isn’t difficult, but you must figure out what 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, which allows you to go deeper and experience Bryce Point during sunrise without the crowds.

The Riggs Trail is nine miles long and has four campsites. The views will be spectacular no matter where you stay, 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 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 are booked early, so make your reservations as soon as possible.

Most visitors to Bryce Canyon stay in a nearby lodge rather than 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 park entrance. The city sits at the gateway to Bryce Canyon, making it the perfect spot 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

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.

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