Bryce Canyon National Park is always a favorite out of the Utah Big Five National Parks and one of my favorite in the US. The park is developed around Bryce Canyon, the perfect travel destination for outdoor recreation and stunning canyon overlooks. Go to Bryce Canyon for views that rival those of the Grand Canyon.
It’s a park you don’t want to miss, but how long is enough time to enjoy all that it has to offer?
Let’s take a look at a few sample day itineraries. Whether you have one day in Bryce Canyon or an entire week, there’s something new to discover every day.
Day One – Scenic Drive and Horseback Riding
The best thing to do on your first day in the park is to get an overview of the landscape. You’ll get a chance to explore from above the canyon before heading down below. The first day is always easiest – you’ll be riding for most of the day – either in your car or on a horse.
Wake up in the morning to get a picturesque sunrise. It will be one of your first views of famous hoodoos with the sun rising above them. Get to the park around 6 am and head to one of the scenic overlooks along the rim trail. The best places to watch the sunrise are Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Sunrise Point, or Sunset Point. These are all accessible from a scenic drive near the entrance.
After the sunrise, jump in your car and go on the 18-miles drive. Utah’s Highway 12 runs the length of the park, which passes by all of the major viewpoints. Take your time to stop off at the sites to see Bryce Canyon amphitheater’s towering hoodoos and the Dixie National Forest. The last stop is at Yovimpa Point.
You can also include horseback riding on your first day in Bryce National Park. Make reservations in advance to have plenty of time to complete the drive and get to the horse site.
Canyon Trail Rides provides seasonal guided tours for visitors. You can choose a two- or three-hour ride on a horse. You’ll follow an expert guide to learn more about the park’s history and features.
Day Two – Navajo Loop Trail and Queens Garden Trail
The first day is to get an overview of Bryce National Park. The second day starts the real exploration by foot. The Navajo Loop Trail and the Queens Garden Trail are two separate loop trails that most visitors combine into one experience. The trek takes you from the rim to the canyon floor to get an up-close look at the unique rock formations.
You can pick one trail or the other if you’re short on time and energy, but it’s recommended to do them both together. The Navajo Loop Trail is 1.5-miles long, and the Queens Garden Trail is 1.8-miles long. Combined, the entire journey is 3.5-miles and takes a few hours to complete.
Arrive early to beat the crowds because it’s the most popular hike in the park. You can drive or take the shuttle bus to the starting point at Sunset Point to begin the trek. The first part of the trail is on the rim, giving you great views of the Bryce Amphitheater. You’ll descend 320-ft into the canyon via switchbacks. Be sure to turn around as you make your way down for a beautiful perspective of the zig-zagged route.
The route includes some of the park’s most famous natural landmarks. Have your camera ready to snap photos of Thor’s Hammer and Two Bridges. You’ll also walk through Wall Street, a narrow slot canyon with towering walls. There are natural tunnels that you’ll navigate through.
The trails are great for all ages, and you’ll see lots of families with kids on the trails.
Day Three – Bryce Canyon Rim Trail
The third day in Bryce National Park gives your body a break from elevation changes while hiking.
The Bryce Canyon Rim Trail gives another chance to take in the views of the canyon from the top. The trail extends along the crescent canyon ledge overlooking the Bryce Amphitheater for the entire journey.
Bryce Canyon Rim Trail is one of the longest hikes in the park, with a 10.7-mile loop trail. Although long, it’s an easy hike since you’ll have relatedly flat ground the entire time.
The trail extends from Fairyland Canyon to Bryce Point. You’ll see some cool landmarks and viewpoints, including Fairyland Point, Inspiration Point, Queens Garden, and the Cathedral Hoodoo. It’s also a great route to take for nature walks and bird watching.
The colorful red rock formations reaching up from the canyon floor make it one of the most scenic hikes in the park.
The best times to do the Bryce Canyon Rim Trail is during the morning or the evening. You’ll get to stop off at the best viewpoints to watch the sunrise (or sunset). Also, there isn’t as much shade on the rim during the mid-day heat.
It can take between 2-3 hours to hike one leg of the trail before turning around to return, so time your visit to get the best lighting for the day.
Day Four-Five – Under the Rim Trail
The first portion of your visit to Bryce National Park gives you the iconic views of the hoodoos. But don’t overlook the other sections of the park. Go on a hike along the Under the Rim Trail to discover the park’s wilderness region. It’s excellent for backcountry hiking.
The Under the Rim Trail is the park’s longest trail extending approximately 22-miles between Bryce Point to Rainbow Point. Most visitors break up the load into a two-day excursion and camp overnight. It’s possible to fit it all in one day, but it’s very strenuous, and you might miss out on some of the sights along the way.
You can begin the hike from either starting point. Most of the trail is nestled between the Paunsaugant Plateau base and the Dixie National Forest. You trade in the hoodoos for massive trees towering overhead. The good news is that you’ll have plenty of shade as you make your way. It’s well-marked to stay on the path, and there are also biking trails.
Take your time on the hike to encounter wildlife like deer, squirrels, and birds. There are lots of photo opportunities for the natural scenery. You have views of the hoodoos in the distance as you approach Bryce Point.
If you’re planning for two days on the hike, there are several designated campsites the entire stretch. The recommended sites are Swamp Canyon, Yellow Creek, or Natural Bridge campgrounds that provide water facilities. The park requires permits to stay overnight.
Tips For Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park has some incredible visitor experiences to see the unique rock formations and outdoor recreations. There are tips to keep in mind during your visit of things everybody wishes they knew before visiting.
Arrive early. The popularity of national parks means that you’ll typically see lots of people hiking the trails. Getting to a trail early is the best way to beat the crowd and have it to yourself. It’s also the best time for photos.
Follow trail markers. It’s easy to get lost on any hiking trail. Many of the trails are marked in the park. It’s tricky when you combine multiple routes into one trip, but look out for the corresponding trail markers as you change courses.
Don’t approach wildlife. When you’re hiking along the Under-the-rim trail, you’ll encounter lots of wildlife. While the animals are relatively peaceful for visitors at a distance, remember that they are still wild. It can be dangerous approaching any animals.
Use the Visitor Center. The park visitor center is located near the entrance. Take advantage of the resources available in the center. You can find maps, access to park information, and reservations.
Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is a year-round destination that gives a new experience every season. Plan your trip around the activities that you want to do since some activities are seasonal.
The busiest season is during the summer when there are tons of visitors for overnight camping, hikes, and enjoying the different park programs. Visit between May and September for the best weather and conditions for enjoying the outdoors. Keep in mind that temperatures cool off at night during the spring and fall, so bring layers.
You can also take a trip to Bryce Canyon during the winter. The views of the snow-covered hoodoos attract lots of people to the park despite the weather. Since the campgrounds are closed during the winter, people visiting during the season tend to spend less time in the park.
How Long to Stay in Bryce Canyon National Park?
You now have a few ideas of what you can do each day while visiting Bryce Canyon National
Park. The biggest question to ask yourself is how long you should stay in the park. Even though you can’t see all the landmarks in Bryce Canyon in one day, there’s plenty to fit in for a short or long visit.
There are a lot of other destinations near Bryce Canyon like Zion National Park or the Dead Horse Point State Park. Many people make itinerary plans to visit more than one park during a road trip through Utah. Bryce Canyon National Park isn’t the largest of the Big Five parks in Utah, so you’ll spend more time in other areas.
It’s possible to fit many hikes and viewpoints within your Bryce Canyon one day itinerary, but it’s best to take your time and enjoy the scenery. It’s recommended to spend two or three days in the park. Two is perfect for leisure travelers that want to explore the best hikes and views in the canyon. Travelers planning to camp overnight or attempt the longer treks like the Under-the-Rim Trail would benefit from an extra day.
If you’re ready to book your trip, check out the resources below. Make sure to shop around between the different platform to compare prices and find the deal
- Airbnb – I’ve always had a great experience with airbnb. Make sure to check the reviews and the final price before booking.