Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, USA isn’t a canyon, but a series of carved out natural amphitheaters.
People come from around the world to see the amazing Bryce Canyon views of these formations and to take exquisite photos of Bryce Canyon.
What creates these unique rock structures? The erosion process begins with rain water seeping into cracks in the rock. Due to its high elevation, the nights are cold at Bryce Canyon. The water freezes, expands and breaks the rock apart.
The deep, narrow walls called ‘fins’ result from rain and snow melt running down the slopes from the rim of the canyon. Holes or ‘windows’ continue to erode into the fins, and when they grow large enough they collapse and create the hoodoo towers.
The section of Bryce Canyon known as The Amphitheater has the most concentrated grouping of hoodoos and is one of the most iconic, Bryce Canyon photo spots in the park.
We have visited Bryce Canyon many times at various times of the year and feel there are 12 locations to capture amazing photos of Bryce Canyon.
The viewpoints can be found at overlooks along the Scenic Drive, at spots along the rim trail in The Amphitheater and along some Bryce Canyon hikes where you get a close-up view of the stone structures.
BRYCE CANYON VIEWS & TOP BRYCE CANYON PHOTO SPOTS
When visiting Bryce Canyon, we recommend you begin by driving 18 miles to Rainbow Point at the end of the Scenic Drive.
All the scenic overlooks are on the east side. If you start at Rainbow Point, you can avoid left turns on the busy road. You can instead stop at each pullout on your right.
Rainbow Point is a good introduction to Bryce Canyon. The scenery and geological formations dramatically change as you drive north. Completing the scenic drive at the Amphitheater viewpoints is a spectacular sight!
Rainbow & Yovimpa Points
The park road ends when it reaches the combined parking area for Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point.
From this vista you look down on a colorful scene of hoodoos in Rainbow Canyon. You see the Table Cliff Plateau to the northeast that rises to over 10,000 feet at its southern end, Powell Point. The Sevier Plateau to the north is topped by 11,041 foot Mount Dutton.
The short Bristlecone Loop Trail leads to an 1,800-year-old bristlecone pine, believed to be one of the oldest living things at Bryce Canyon.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: The light in the southern end of the park around Rainbow Point is wonderful from mid afternoon through sunset.
Yovimpa Point: access this trail from the Rainbow Point parking lot.
A short, paved walkway takes you past the picnic area to a magnificent viewpoint that allows visitors to look south and west over the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and take awe-inspiring Bryce Canyon Photos. It is one of the best spots to see the “steps” which give the Grand Staircase its name.
One of the many amazing Bryce Canyon views is from Agua Canyon. You’ll see stark color contrasts and two prominent hoodoos at this overlook.
Look for ‘The Hunter” and “The Rabbit”. The Hunter has a hat of evergreens and is easily seen just in front of the viewpoint. To the right is a smaller hoodoo commonly referred to as The Rabbit (the The Hunter’s prey).
One of our favorite Bryce Canyon photos is capturing the glow on the hoodoos at Agua Canyon in the morning.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: The hoodoos and fins at Agua Canyon are especially dramatic in early morning light.
Known as the Natural Bridge, this natural arch is one of our favorite Bryce Canyon photos.
The structure called Natural Bridge is technically an arch. Formed originally as a small ice window in a large prominent fin, the forces of erosion have made Natural Bridge one of the most popular Bryce Canyon views along the scenic drive. You will see similar features within the park as you go on various Bryce Canyon hikes, but none as impressive at nearly 125 feet tall.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: Natural Bridge is best photographed mid-morning when the sun is high enough in the sky that it nicely illuminates the features around the arch and bounces ample light onto the underside.
From many vantage points, being careful to stay behind the railing, you can frame rich green Ponderosa pine trees through the arch.
Bryce Point gives visitors fantastic panoramic views and photo opportunities.
This Bryce Canyon viewpoint is named for Ebenezer Bryce, who settled the area in 1870. Due to its elevation at 8,300 feet, Bryce Point offers one of the most scenic vistas of the hoodoo-filled red rock amphitheater.
It is famous for the extraordinary sunrises where the tops of the hoodoos glow with a brilliant burst of light. It is also beautiful throughout the day.
With views looking mostly to the north and east, you can see Boat Mesa and the rich colors of the Claron Formation.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: Photographing the sunrise at Bryce Point provides an amazing view to capture the light sweeping across the amphitheater.
Taking pictures of Bryce Canyon at sunset can be disappointing. The hoodoos in the amphitheater area are in total shade as the sun sets.
Paria View is the one exception. The hoodoos here face the west and catch the golden light during sunset.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: Our best sunset photography tip: keep taking pictures after the sun sets. You can capture the glow of the hoodoos during the soft light of blue hour.
We enjoyed our time at this location by ourselves after sunset. Some of our favorite Bryce Canyon photos are taken at Paria View with the moon and layered colors in the sky.
The view from Inspiration Point is spectacular. This is one of our favorite Bryce Canyon views and a perfect Bryce Canyon photo spot.
The light creates glowing reds, oranges and pinks around the fins, spires and hoodoos.
Inspiration Point is a good location to take photos of Bryce Canyon at sunrise and during the early morning.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: Panoramic view are everywhere, but zoom in an photograph smaller sections of the hoodoos to create an image with immediate impact.
Don’t limit yourself to the designated overlook. Be sure to walk along the Rim Trail to find other views to photograph. BUT please use caution when walking along the Bryce Canyon trails.
The cliffs of Inspiration Point are exceptionally dangerous as they are formed of crumbly rock, slippery slopes and sheer drop-offs. All visitors are strongly cautioned to remain on trails and behind railings.
The name Sunset Point is deceptive since this area is NOT good for sunset photography. At this viewpoint, the light on the hoodoos as the sun rises creates the best Bryce Canyon photos.
Sunset Point is also home to some of Bryce Canyon’s most famous Hoodoos. The Silent City is a maze of hoodoos and fins packed in close proximity directly below the point and to the south.
Just below the overlook you’ll see the Navajo Loop trail descending into the famous Wall Street. You’ll also see the iconic Thor’s Hammer.
Every Bryce Canyon photography guide will include Thor’s Hammer, one of the most well-known formations in the park.
You can see why this famous hoodoo is one of the most spectacular Bryce Canyon views and is an amazing photo spot too. It can be found just below the Sunset Point overlook on the northern edge.
Thor’s Hammer is a wonderful Bryce Canyon photo spot because it’s isolated from other hoodoos and provides a striking contrast to the natural landscape.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: The best vantage point to photograph Thor’s Hammer is along the Navajo Loop trail.
We recommend walking down the trail far enough to get that up-close view and photo of Thor’s Hammer.
Sunrise Point offers incredibly colorful vistas at sunrise as the sun casts an early morning glow on the red rock hoodoos. The early morning light makes it the ideal location for photography.
It is also one of the better spots for Bryce Canyon photos at sunset. The view to the northeast captures Boat Mesa and the Sinking Ship, incredible rock formations set against the stark Pink Cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: Hike down the Queen’s Garden Trail a bit to see and photograph a unique landscape. The trees here seem like a scene from a Dr. Seuss book.
We also recommend you walk along the Rim Trail near the viewpoint to get different views of the amphitheater and hoodoos.
Fairyland Point is the first viewpoint as you enter the park, but it can be easily overlooked. Many people drive past without knowing it’s there.
We like to take close-up photos of the hoodoos at Fairyland Point. The hoodoos glow in the morning light and really stand out, creating an amazing photo of Bryce Canyon.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO TIP: Walk along the Fairyland Trail a bit to get various perspectives of the hoodoos here.
Morning is a good time to visit Fairlyand Point. You’ll have good parking, and the hoodoos glow in morning light.
Mossy Cave Trail
The Mossy Cave trail is part of Bryce Canyon, but it’s outside the park’s entrance along Highway 12.
You’ll see interesting things along this trail like a cool alcove that’s sheltered where ice from the winter remains intact well into June.
There’s also a small waterfall along the stream that’s called the Tropic Ditch. Usually the stream has clear water, but we were lucky to visit during a rainy spring to capture a unique photo of muddy falls at Bryce Canyon.
BRYCE CANYON PHOTO GUIDE & GEAR
For the best sunrise shots, you want to arrive at your designated location along the Amphitheater Rim well before the sun rises. Most of the time this means total darkness. Use a flashlight or headlamp to light your way from the parking lot to your spot.
Wearing a headlamp allows you to set up your equipment without having to hold a flashlight. Remember to use the red light setting and keep the beam pointed on the ground in front of you to avoid disrupting other photographers in the area taking long exposure shots.
Stay Warm & Hydrated
Due to the elevation, Bryce Canyon gets cold at night even during the summer. The cold can drain camera batteries fast. Cover the camera when you are not using it or keep a spare set of batteries close to your body. Hand warmers and clothing layers are important to help keep you warm too.
The Bryce Amphitheater is a very dramatic place to watch the sunrise. There is a deep silence before dawn. Anywhere along the rim between Sunrise Point and Bryce Point is a wonderful view.
Most of these overlooks and canyons face east. You will be shooting into the sun at sunrise, but the formations in the canyon help produce a soft, warm glow of reflected light at this time.
As the sun rises higher in the sky, the broader vistas become washed out. The reflected light continues through late-morning making it perfect to focus on the hoodoos, fins, windows and trees in the canyon.
Be creative with composition by taking pictures through rock holes, tunnels, windows and between cliffs. Unusually shaped frames can add drama to the shot.
Afternoon and Sunset are Difficult
Long shadows are cast into the canyon beginning late afternoon as the sun sets and light is only apparent on the tops of the hoodoos. Concentrate on any side-lighting of the hoodoos that aren’t in shadow.
If there are clouds in the sky, they may bounce light into the canyon to help reduce the shadows. Otherwise, the big vistas provide wonderful telephoto shots from any viewpoint in the amphitheater during sunset.
The ‘golden hour’ after sunset may produce a pastel pink and blue sky above the canyon. Take advantage of the late dusk glow.
The hoodoos reflect light not seen by the human eye, but easily picked up by the camera’s sensor. Exposure times will need to be longer, but the images will capture the warm colors of the formations and the blue sky.