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Here are my 14 useful tips for first visit to Bryce Canyon National Park, so you can make the most of every moment.

Bryce Canyon National Park is simply amazing. When you will first see Bryce Canyon Main Amphitheatre, it will make your jaw drop! There is not a place like Bryce Canyon anywhere else in the world.

Find out!

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 the Bryce Canyon. And, you really 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.

Tips for First Trip to Bryce Canyon

Main Amphitheatre in Bryce Canyon National Park 

Bryce Canyon National Park

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 Month 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)i s 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 less crowds and have some serene experiences.
  • Winter (November through March) are the coldest months 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 how beautiful the hoodoos are covered up in snow.
Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon

Hoodoos covered in snow in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Where Should You Stay on Your First Visit to 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 definitely 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 sunrise or sunset.

Several different types of accommodations are offered at the lodge. Western Cabins at $231 per night, Sunrise and Sunset Lodge Room at $131 per night, Guest Suites at $271 per night, and Guest Studios at $176 per night.

My recommendation is to rent one of the Western Cabins. They are super cozy with gas fireplaces and cute rustic decor.

Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon

Western Cabin at the Lodge in Bryce Canyon National Park 

Bryce Canyon National Park

Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon

Inside the Western Cabin at the Lodge in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park has two campgrounds, North and Sunset, located in close proximity to the Visitor Center, Bryce Canyon Lodge and the main Bryce Amphitheater.

  • 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 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 1930’s 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.

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Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon National Park
Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon National Park

14 Must-Read Tips for First Visit in Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 1

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 from 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 summer months, then make your reservations fast, because these places will be booked up as well.

The two places that I stayed at near Bryce Canyon National Park are: Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn (starting at $171 per night) and Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel (starting at $305 per night).

In addition, I stayed at Bryce Canyon Inn Cabins in the town of Tropic, UT located about 15 minutes from the park (starting at $144 per night).

NUMBER 2

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 refugees, national forests and grasslands.

You can purchase the pass online at America the Beautiful – National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass

Annual Pass to National Parks

America the Beautiful Pass is a great deal if you are visiting several national parks during the year.

Bryce Canyon National Park

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.

Tips for First Time Visit to Bryce Canyon

If you are visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, you need to purchase a Recreational Use Pass.  

Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 3

Use Bryce Canyon Shuttle Service

If you are visiting Bryce Canyon National Park during 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 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, shuttle is not mandatory, however it is highly recommended especially during 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 shuttle stops.

In the spring and fall, shuttle runs from 8 am till 6 pm. During summer months (May through September), shuttle service is available from 8 am till 8 pm. Buses typically come by each stop every 15 minutes. You can time the next bus with Shuttle Tracker.

Bryce Canyon Shuttle Service

Bryce Canyon Map of the Shuttle System

Bryce Canyon NP

NUMBER 4

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.

NUMBER 5

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 I my recommendation is to start at the end of the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive and work your way back.

Why?

You will gradually get to appreciate the scenery and eventually get to the ‘WOW’ viewpoints in Bryce Canyon. So, drive all the way 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.

Scenic Drive in Bryce Canyon Along Viewpoints

Map of Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive

Bryce Canyon NP

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 in Bryce

Natural Bridge along Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive

Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 6

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 hikers paradise.

First of all, check out my two posts. The first one is all about easy hikes in Bryce Canyon, the second one pretty much lists all the best hikes in Bryce Canyon.

In my opinion, for your first visit to Bryce Canyon Park, I would suggest one of Bryce Canyon classic hikes which is Navajo Loop Trail and 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 trail you select, hiking is one of the top things to do in Bryce Canyon.

Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon

Hikers at the top of Navajo Loop Trail.

By the way, one of the top tips for first visit to Bryce Canyon is to make sure that you hike below the rim and see hoodoos up-close. 

Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 7

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 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.

Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon

Canyon Trail Rides In Bryce Canyon National Park 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.

Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 8

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 stars on a moonless night!

Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is the ultimate place to learn about and enjoy the views of the night sky.

Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 9

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.

Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon

Hands down, the Full Moon Hike is one of the best Ranger Programs that I have attended.

Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 10

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 fantastic view of Thor’s Hammer, which towers over the 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 literally 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!

Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunset Point sits at 8,000 feet and offers the most dramatic views of Bryce Canyon’s main amphitheater. Plus, you get fantastic view of Thor’s Hammer, which towers over the Silent City from Sunset Point’s vista.

Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 11

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.

NUMBER 12

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.

Hiking below the rim in Bryce Canyon

Since Bryce Canyon National Park sits at higher elevations than any other national park in Utah, the temperatures are much lower. It can get very cold even during summer months. 

Bryce Canyon National Park

NUMBER 13

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.

NUMBER 14

Get Crampons and Hiking Poles If You are Hiking in Winter

If you are planning on doing some hiking in winter, then I highly recommend that you get crampons and hiking poles for extra support.

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.

Intrepid Scout's Tips for First Visit to Bryce Canyon National Park

  • What you need to know is that the two roads that are closed to vehicle traffic for the entire winter season are the 1-mile road leading to Fairyland Point and the 0.3-mile road leading to Paria View. However, they remain accessible for hikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers.
  • Following snowstorms, the main park road closes temporarily at mile marker 3 to allow snow plow crews to clear snow. Closures typically last a day or more, depending on snowstorm durations.
  • However, along the first three miles of the main road, the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater area (which includes Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point Bryce Canyon) is the first area to be plowed, so it remains accessible even during temporary closures of the scenic southern drive.
  • In addition, two trails are closed for the entire winter season: the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop Trail and the Rim Trail between Inspiration and Bryce Points.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center is open daily from 8 am till 8 pm during summer (May through September); 8 am till 6 pm during spring and fall (April and October); and 8 am till 4:30 pm in winter (November through March). It is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. All in all, make sure to stop by the Visitor Center and pick up some maps and Bryce Canyon visitor guide.

A trip to Bryce Canyon is perfect paired with a road trip to Zion National Park, Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, or Canyonlands, Capitol Reef National Parks.

Check out my post: Zion to Bryce Canyon: 3-Day Adventure (with Maps and Photos)

Did you know that Utah has five national parks known as ‘The Mighty 5‘. Have you visited any of them? Which is your favorite Utah National Park? Arches National Park, Bryce National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Zion National Park.

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