Visit to Bryce Canyon: good to know
- Bryce Canyon National Park has one access point, on the north side
- The park is open 24 hours a day
- Free shuttle buses run between May and September. These are not mandatory. You can go anywhere in the park with your own transport. The national park indicates on their website that it can be difficult to find a parking space with your own transport, but I have not had any problems with this myself.
- Bryce Canyon is relatively high, so it is colder here than in other parks in the area. During our visit in May, the maximum daytime temperature was 15 – 20 degrees. I had a thick coat in the car and I really needed it especially in the morning. In the evening gloves and a scarf came in handy.
- If you are going to hike into the canyon, please wear dark clothing. After walking you are probably covered by a layer of white / pink sand dust
Rim road Bryce Canyon: car route along viewpoints
There is one road that runs from north to south through the park: the Rim Road. This route roughly follows the gorge rim. The Rim Road is 29 km long (one way). The road starts at the parking entrance and ends at Rainbow Point/Yovimpa Point 366 meters higher. The maximum speed is 35 miles per hour.
All viewpoints are on the same side of the road. Tip: first drive all the way to the end of the Rim Road, to the highest viewpoint. Turn around there and only stop at the viewpoints on the way back. You always park on the right side of the road and that is the side along which all the viewpoints are located. An added benefit of ‘starting at the back’ is that the nicest part of Bryce is in front of the Rim Road (at the part called the amphitheater). By starting at the back, the view points become more and more beautiful.
Viewpoints in Bryce Canyon
The most beautiful viewpoints in my opinion (described from ‘at the back’ of the Rim Road to the parking entrance):
Rainbow Point & Yovimpa Point: This is the highest point of the park. The view is beautiful and you can see far. It can be cold and windy here.
Agua Canyon: This is one of the more beautiful viewpoints. There is a lot of contrast in light and color.
Natural Bridge: You really should stop here. Here you will see a 29 meter high stone arch, one of the most beautiful sights of the park. The red arch is a nice contrast to the green forest behind it.
Fairview Point & Piracy Point: At Fairview Point you have beautiful views over the plateaus and the mountains. Piracy Point can only be reached via a short walk from the parking lot at Fairview Point.
Paria View: Look out over the ‘hoodoos’ (stone pillars) in the part of Bryce Canyon known as the amphitheater.
Bryce Point: Fantastic view over the amphitheater. From this point you can see the various colors in the stone layers very well. This was one of my favorite viewpoints. Bryce Point is said to be the best place to watch the sunrise, as the hoodoos are perfect for the morning light.
Inspiration Point: from here you have one of the best views over the amphitheater. Inspiration Point is also a nice place for the sunrise/morning light.
Sunset Point: this viewpoint offers an alternative view of the amphitheater. You have good views of the hoodoos, including a rock formation called ‘Thor’s Hammer’. The name suggests that the sunset here is amazing, but it isn’t. Especially the sunrise here is worth the effort. Sunset Point is the starting point of the Navajo Loop Trail.
Wandelen in Bryce Canyon
The Rim Trail is a hiking trail that runs along the rim of the gorge. I walked part of this trail and although the views are nice, they are not very different from what you see from the viewpoints. It only really becomes fun to hike when you descend into the canyon. Without walking a bit into the canyon, you haven’t really experienced Bryce Canyon.
Combination Navajo Loop Trail and Queen’s Garden Trail
I decided to combine two hiking trails: the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queen’s Garden Trail. This gives you a varied walking route (approx. 5 km, 2-3 hours). You descend at Sunset Point (the hiking trail starts just after the parking lot). The walk is immediately fun, because you walk directly along steep rock walls and between large rock pillars.
With this combination you have to choose between the two parts of the Navajo Loop: ‘Wall Street’ or ‘Thor’s Hammer’. Wall Street is the nickname of a narrow canyon with a number of large Douglas firs. Thor’s Hammer is a beautiful rock formation. In my case, the choice was easy. Wall Street was closed. This happens more often in the winter and spring, because of icing and the risk of falling rocks.
A walk through the ‘inner canyon’ is very varied. The width of the path changes regularly. Sometimes you walk through a wide valley, then again through narrow corridors between the rock walls. The views are fantastic everywhere, which will keep you taking pictures. Finally, at Sunrise Point, you’ll come back to the top of the canyon rim. Via the Rim Trail you then walk back a bit to Sunset Point.
Zonsondergang in Bryce Canyon
During the sunset, Bryce Canyon takes on very beautiful colors. We watched the sunset from Fairyland Point. This viewpoint is located just after the parking entrance. So it’s easy to get to if you drive back to the park in the evening for the sunset. Besides, we were there all alone.
At Fairyland Point you can easily walk a bit into the canyon. It is in fact the starting point of the Fairyland Loop Hike (13 km, closed in the winter season). By walking down, you get different views every time. Keep in mind that you can easily underestimate the distance when walking down. Of course you also have to walk back up, and you don’t want to do that in the dark.
If you can, be sure to catch a sunset in Bryce Canyon. Tip: wear warm clothes. Due to the high location, it cools down considerably in the evening. I had gloves and a scarf with me and that was no superfluous luxury.
My visit to Bryce Canyon
– Drive from Hurricane (our base for Zion National Park) to Bryce Canyon (2.5 hours drive). You drive via Zion and the beautiful Zion-Mount Carmel road
– Visit to the viewpoints along the Rim Road
– Walk in the canyon
– Sunset in Bryce Canyon
– Overnight in Bryce Canyon
– Drive from Bryce Canyon to Page (2.5 hours drive)
If you stop at all the viewpoints along the Rim Road but don’t go hiking, you can see Bryce Canyon in half a day. If you also want to take a walk in the canyon, add half a day to that. The lookout points are beautiful, but you only really experience the park during a descent into the canyon. You then see how big the stone pillars are, which you would otherwise only see from above and in the distance. As you can see from my itinerary, it is possible to do this in one (full) day. If you want to take a longer walk and possibly catch a sunrise (or just travel a little more slowly), you can of course plan an extra day and night.
Where to sleep
The small town of Bryce Canyon is right next to the entrance to the national park. The location is the biggest plus of the town, because there is little else to do. Because it is so close to the parking entrance, it is an ideal place to spend the night (especially if, like me, you only sleep one night). I slept in the Bryce View Lodge. This is a basic motel, but it does have en-suite rooms, WiFi and free parking. There is no breakfast facility (as with many accommodations in America), but you can find it further in the village.
Where to eat?
In the village of Bryce Canyon there are a few restaurants (both fast food and à la carte). I haven’t found any real recommendations. There are no facilities in the park. So make sure you bring your own packed lunch if you want to spend the whole day in the park.
How do you get there?
Bryce Canyon was my next stop after Zion National Park. The route from Zion to Bryce is via the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. This is a very nice route to drive, where you also drive a bit through Zion National Park. From the town of Hurricane (our base for Zion) we drove to Zion in 2.5 hours. Finally, you’ll drive on UT-12 past Red Canyon, where you’ll take the exit onto UT-63. After 3 miles (5 km) you will come to the parking entrance. After Bryce Canyon we visited Page, known for the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend viewpoint. Page is a 2.5-hour drive from Bryce Canyon.