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Bryce Canyon National Park is simply amazing! When you will first see Bryce Canyon Main Amphitheatre, it will take your breath away. There is no place like Bryce Canyon anywhere else in the world.
Here are 14 practical Bryce Canyon tips to know before you head out. Not only, you will have a more enjoyable experience, but also, you will make the most of your first visit to Bryce Canyon!
- 1. What is Bryce Canyon Known For
- 2. Where is Bryce Canyon National Park
- 3. How to Get to Bryce Canyon National Park
- 4. What Is the Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
- 5. Where Should You Stay on Your First Visit to Bryce Canyon
- 6. What You Need to Know About Bryce Canyon National Park (Cool Facts)
- 7. 14 Must-Read Tips for First Visit in Bryce Canyon National Park
- 7.1. Make Reservations for Your Accommodations Way in Advance
- 7.2. Buy America the Beautiful Pass Instead of a Single Entrance Ticket
- 7.3. Use Bryce Canyon Shuttle Service
- 7.4. Reserve Rainbow Point Shuttle Tour (Free)
- 7.5. Take Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive Along Epic Viewpoints
- 7.6. Hike Below the Rim to See Hoodoos Up-Close
- 7.7. Go Horseback Riding in Bryce Canyon
- 7.8. Go Stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park
- 7.9. Check Out Bryce Canyon Ranger Programs
- 7.10. Watch Sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park
- 7.11. Start Your Day As Early As Possible in Bryce Canyon
- 7.12. Dress in Layers When You are Visiting Bryce Canyon
- 7.13. Be Aware of High Elevations in Bryce Canyon
- 7.14. Get Crampons and Hiking Poles If You are Hiking in Winter
- 8. Intrepid Scout's Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon National Park
What is Bryce Canyon Known For
What makes Bryce Canyon National Park famous are geological formations called hoodoos.
Hoodoos are thin spires of rock protruding from the bottom of Bryce Canyon. And, you have to see these rock formations for yourself to understand how nature can be so incredibly fantastic.
All I can tell you is that when you look at the fascinating landscape of Bryce Canyon, you see thousands of chiseled pinnacles, delicate spires, and intricately carved rock formations molded by the endless cycles of rain, freeze, and thaw, by the capriciousness of wind and water.
Main Amphitheatre in Bryce Canyon National Park / Bryce Canyon Tips
Where is Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah, USA.
Specifically, it is situated about midway between Zion National Park (Bryce Canyon to Zion distance is about 50 miles) to the southwest and Capital Reef National Park to the northwest.
The closest city to Bryce Canyon National Park is Tropic (14 miles, 21 min). Also, I need to mention Panguitch (27 miles, 34 min).
How to Get to Bryce Canyon National Park
The closest major airports to Bryce Canyon National Park are in Las Vegas (LAS), Nevada, and Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah.
There are smaller airports in Cedar City (CDC), Utah, and St. George (SGU), Utah.
If you fly into any of the airports around Bryce Canyon National Park, you will have to rent a car and then drive.
- Driving from Las Vegas, Nevada – 260 miles, 4 h 30 min
- Driving from Salt Lake City, Utah – 270 miles, 4 h 14 min
- Driving from Cedar City, Utah – 75 miles, 1 h 30 min
- Driving from St. George, Utah – 141 miles, 2 h 15 min
What Is the Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
Hands down, Bryce Canyon National Park is a great destination to visit at any time of the year.
I have visited Bryce Canyon so many times at different times of the year and I have to honestly say that it is an awesome place to see no matter what month you visit!
What you need to keep in mind is that Bryce Canyon National Park sits at a high elevation of 8,000 to 9.000 feet. With this being the case, the temperatures are much lower compared to any other National Park in Utah.
So, no matter when you are visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, pack some warm clothes and dress in layers. Even in the summer, the evenings can be chilly.
- Summer (May through September)is the high season. Needless to say, expect a lot of companionship on the trails and everywhere throughout the park. However, summer temperatures are pleasant and mild, ranging from 65F to 80F.
- Spring (April) and Fall (October) are two of my favorite months to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. Temperatures are cooler at about 55F, so it is perfect for some hiking. By the same token, you will see fewer crowds and have some serene experiences.
- Winter (November through March) is the coldest time with plenty of snowfall. The temperatures range from about 36F to 44F. Likewise, winter is a magical time in Bryce Canyon National Park with snow covering the hoodoos. If you can visit Bryce Canyon National Park in winter, you will be amazed at how beautiful the hoodoos are covered up in the snow.
Hoodoos covered in snow in Bryce Canyon National Park / Bryce Canyon Tips
Where Should You Stay on Your First Visit to Bryce Canyon
- The Lodge at Bryce Canyon
Hands down, nothing beats staying inside the park! However, accommodations are very limited and you should make reservations well ahead of your visit.
There is only one lodge, The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, available inside the park.
Reservations must be made well in advance.
It is a great place to stay since it is situated just steps from the rim. You will be able to access most of the trails without driving. And, what a perfect location to just go out and watch the sunrise or sunset.
Several different types of accommodations are offered at the lodge. My recommendation is to rent one of the Western Cabins. They are super cozy with gas fireplaces and cute rustic decor.
- Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn
I have stayed at Best Western Ruby’s Inn numerous times and it is comfortable and convenient located only 1 mile from the entrance to the park. Also, if you are heading to Escalante National Monument, then this is a good place to spend the night since it is next to Scenic Byway 12. If you are flying into Bryce Canyon Airport, then the hotel offers a free transfer service from the airport to the property.
- Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
Another place that I am recommending is Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. It is also conveniently located right next to the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. The rooms are spacious, clean, and comfortable. What you might like is that the hotel offers free breakfast and there is an outdoor swimming pool as well. Also, there is a restaurant next to the hotel which makes it convenient to grab a bite to eat while you are traveling. it’s Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill, offering a cowboy-themed atmosphere and meals.
- Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge
If you are traveling from Zion to Bryce Canyon, then my recommendation is to check out Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge. It is conveniently located between Zion and Bryce in Mount Carmel. The rooms are a good size with comfy beds!
Western Cabin at the Lodge in Bryce Canyon National Park / Bryce Canyon Tips
Inside the Western Cabin at the Lodge in Bryce Canyon National Park / Bryce Canyon Tips
- North Campground is first-come, first-served. It has 99 sites open from Spring through Fall and 30 sites in Loop A are open year-round.
- Sunset Campground accepts reservations on a 6-month rolling basis during peak season. It has 100 sites and it is open from April through October.
What You Need to Know About Bryce Canyon National Park (Cool Facts)
- Bryce Canyon National Park is compact compared to other national parks. It encompasses and protects 36,000 acres (56 sq mi) of the high Colorado Plateau.
- The area around Bryce Canyon became a National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a National Park in 1928.
- A single paved road, built by the CCC in the 1930s runs 17 miles through the heart of the park and provides access to most of the major natural attractions and wonders.
- The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874.
- Rainbow Point is the highest part of the park at 9,105 feet and Yellow Creek is the lowest part of the park at 6,620 feet.
- Bryce Canyon offers world-class stargazing due to its exceptionally high air quality and long distance from sources of light pollution.
14 Must-Read Tips for First Visit in Bryce Canyon National Park
Make Reservations for Your Accommodations Way in Advance
I think that this is one of the most important tips for visiting Bryce Canyon!
If you would like to stay at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon, then you need to make reservations 6 months to one year in advance.
The same situation is with the campgrounds. They are booked solid months in advance.
Ok, so if everything is booked up in Bryce Canyon National Park, then you need to start looking at some places that are near Bryce Canyon National Park.
If you are visiting during the summer months, then make your reservations fast, because these places will be booked up as well.
Buy America the Beautiful Pass Instead of a Single Entrance Ticket
I don’t even know how many America the Beautiful Passes I bought over the years! Hands down, it is a great deal!
If you are visiting several national parks during your vacation (or during the entire year), you should need to buy an annual pass and save some money.
The cost of the annual pass is $80. However, the annual pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, such as national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and grasslands.
You can purchase the pass online at America the Beautiful – National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass
If you are just visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, then what you need to know is that all visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park need to purchase a recreational use pass.
You can purchase the pass at the entrance to Bryce Canyon Park or you can buy it online. It costs $35 per vehicle.
Use Bryce Canyon Shuttle Service
If you are visiting Bryce Canyon National Park during the high season (summer), then the best way to get around the park is by using Bryce Canyon Shuttle System.
All in all, whenever I visited during the winter months, I have to honestly say, that I never had any problems driving in the park (no traffic jams) or finding a parking spot. However, summertime is a different story altogether!
Now, the shuttle is not mandatory, however, it is highly recommended especially during the summer months, since finding a parking spot could be very challenging.
The bottom line! Bryce Canyon Shuttle System is great and easy to use. You can hop on (with proof of park admission) and hop off at any of the shuttles stops.
In the spring and fall, the shuttle runs from 8 am to 6 pm. During the summer months (May through September), shuttle service is available from 8 am to 8 pm. Buses typically come by each stop every 15 minutes. You can time the next bus with Shuttle Tracker.
Bryce Canyon Map of the Shuttle System / Bryce Canyon Tips
Reserve Rainbow Point Shuttle Tour (Free)
Beginning around April 13, and occurring twice daily at 9 am and 1:30 pm, Bryce Canyon National Park offers Rainbow Point Shuttle Tour.
It is a guided and free-of-charge tour that lasts about 3.5 hours and covers 40 miles of scenic vistas in the park.
Reservations for this tour are required and can be made in person at the shuttle office at Ruby’s Inn, Ruby’s Inn Campground, the Shuttle Parking and Boarding Area, or by calling 435-834-5290.
Reservations should be made well in advance as buses only hold 40 passengers.
Take Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive Along Epic Viewpoints
Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive winds south for 17 miles and roughly parallels the canyon rim, climbing from 7,894 feet at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center to 9,115 feet at Rainbow Point, the plateau’s southern tip at the end of the road.
If you have only one day in Bryce Canyon National Park, and you have never experienced the hoodoos protruding from this vast landscape, then my recommendation is to start at the end of the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive and work your way back.
You will gradually get to appreciate the scenery and eventually get to the ‘WOW’ viewpoints in Bryce Canyon. So, drive to the end of Bryce Canyon Scenic Road and then, start gradually making your way back.
So, hands down, make sure to add Scenic Drive to your Bryce Canyon day itinerary.
Map of Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive / Bryce Canyon Tips
My favorite stop along Scenic Drive in Bryce Canyon National Park is Natural Bridge. It is one of the best-known natural arches in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Natural Bridge is a massive formation of eroded, deep red-hued limestone jutting from the edge of the overlook.
I have to say that it looks absolutely amazing during wintertime!
Natural Bridge along Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive / Bryce Canyon Tips
Hike Below the Rim to See Hoodoos Up-Close
Here is another one of my Bryce Canyon tips for your first visit!
So the bottom line is that you simply cannot leave Bryce Canyon National Park if you do not hike below the rim and see hoodoos up close.
There are many easy, short, moderate, long, or challenging trails in Bryce Canyon National Park. Simply put, Bryce Canyon National Park is a hiker’s paradise.
In my opinion, for your first visit to Bryce Canyon Park, I would suggest one of Bryce Canyon’s classic hikes which are the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queens Garden Trail.
It is one of my favorite trails in Bryce Canyon!
Navajo Loop Trail and Queens Garden Trail will take you 550 feet below the rim and you will get to see some of the most famous hoodoo formations in Bryce Canyon: Wall Street, Thor’s Hammer, and Queens Garden. But, no matter which trails you select, hiking is one of the top things to do in Bryce Canyon.
Navajo Loop Trail / Bryce Canyon Tips
Go Horseback Riding in Bryce Canyon
Go horseback riding in Bryce Canyon National Park. I promise you that you will love it!
The concessionary horseback ride provider in Bryce Canyon National Park is Canyon Trail Rides.
Once you arrive at Bryce Canyon go to the lobby of the Bryce Canyon Lodge and locate the trail ride desk. They will give you all the information and instructions and direct you to their corral located at Bryce Canyon Sunrise Point.
Canyon Trail Rides offers a 2-hour ride to the floor of the canyon and back as well as a 3-hour ride along Peek-A-Boo Trail.
By the way, they operate from March through October.
Do not miss it! You will love it! Add horseback riding to your Bryce Canyon National Park itinerary.
Horseback riding in Bryce Canyon / Bryce Canyon Tips
Go Stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is the ultimate place to learn about and enjoy the views of the night sky. Because Bryce Canyon is far from the light pollution of civilization, it is a sanctuary for natural darkness.
The night sky at Bryce is so dark that you will be able to see thousands of stars on a moonless night!
Bryce Canyon is the ultimate place to learn about and enjoy the views of the night sky / Bryce Canyon Tips
Check Out Bryce Canyon Ranger Programs
No visit to Bryce Canyon is complete without joining the Astronomy Rangers for one of their educational and entertaining celebrations of natural darkness.
Check out Ranger Programs or go to the Visitor Center to find out when and how you can join.
Hands down, the Full Moon Hikes Program is one of the best Ranger Programs that I have attended.
Tickets for the Full Moon Hike are distributed via lottery on the day of the hike. Visit the Full Moon Hike page for details. I know that it is not easy to get the tickets, but my recommendation is to give it a try. It will be a great addition to your Bryce Canyon itinerary.
Full Moon Hike is one of the best Ranger Programs / Bryce Canyon Tips
Watch Sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park
If you want to see an awesome sunrise in Bryce Canyon, then make sure to head to Sunset Point. Yes! You are reading this correctly. I think you can catch the best sunrises from Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon.
Sunset Point sits at 8,000 feet and offers the most dramatic views of Bryce Canyon’s main amphitheater. Plus, you get a fantastic view of Thor’s Hammer, which towers over Silent City from Sunset Point’s vista.
Make sure to arrive well before sunrise, because the light is warmer and softer during that time. It is known as the Golden Hour.
Next, wait for the first sun rays to appear on the horizon and make the hoodoos glow.
During this time use a tripod and remote shutter release. However, be quick because the rising sun will make the light too intense to take pictures.
Also, a reminder! Since you will be arriving well before sunrise, make sure to have a headlamp or a flashlight to help you navigate from the parking lot to Sunset Point.
Another great location for sunrise is Inspiration Point Bryce Canyon. The views are off the charts!
Sunset Point sits at 8,000 feet and offers the most dramatic views of Bryce Canyon’s main amphitheater / Bryce Canyon Tips
Start Your Day As Early As Possible in Bryce Canyon
You will see people start arriving at the park around 10 am. I recommend that you get to Bryce Canyon way before 10 am.
First, you will be able to find some solitude on the trails and at viewpoints.
Second, there is only one scenic drive and it gets very congested during the high season. Getting there early ensures that you have the road to yourself.
Next, there is limited parking, so needless to say, if you are at the park early you do not have to waste precious time waiting for a vacant parking spot.
Dress in Layers When You are Visiting Bryce Canyon
Being that Bryce Canyon National Park sits at a high elevation of 8,000 to 9.000 feet, the temperatures are much lower compared to any other National Park in Utah.
No matter when you are visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, pack warm clothes and dress in layers. Even in the summer, the evenings can be very chilly.
Since Bryce Canyon National Park sits at higher elevations than any other national park in Utah / Bryce Canyon Tips
Be Aware of High Elevations in Bryce Canyon
Elevations in Bryce Canyon National Park Park reach over 9,000 feet. Even mild exertion may leave you feeling completely out of breath, light-headed and nauseated.
When you are hiking, take your time and take frequent breaks. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Get Crampons and Hiking Poles If You are Hiking in Winter
Most of the trails will be covered with ice and packed snow. It is very hard to get sufficient traction if you are only wearing hiking boots. With crampons, you will be able to safely and securely transverse through Bryce Canyon trails.