Things to Do at Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah isn’t a canyon, but a series of carved out natural amphitheaters. It’s known for the colorful formations of hoodoos, fins and natural bridges. Visitors find numerous things to do at Bryce Canyon like viewing the vast landscape from the overlooks along the Scenic Drive, photographing the stunning scenery and hiking the trails to get a close-up view of the stone structures.

Here’s a quick geology lesson about Bryce Canyon. The creation of the formations begins with rain water seeping into cracks in the rock. The nights are cold at Bryce Canyon due to the high elevation. The water that found its way into the stone cracks freezes, expands and breaks the rock apart. The narrow ‘fins’ in the canyon are created by rain and snow melt running down the slopes from the rim of the canyon. Further erosion in the fins creates holes or ‘windows’, and as they grow large they collapse and create the hoodoo towers.

PLAN YOUR TRIP TO BRYCE CANYON 

To avoid lines at the entrance gate and congestion at the parking lots, arrive before 8 am or after 3 pm. Enjoy the overlooks and trails during the early morning and evening with less crowds and when the light is best for photography.

Busy Times to Avoid

During the summer, there is only one parking space for every four cars. Use the free shuttle so you don’t waste time waiting in lines or fighting traffic. The following holidays and weekends are very busy:

Easter week (date varies: in late March or April)
Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
Labor Day (first Monday in September)
Utah Education Association break (dates vary: usually mid-October)

Don’t forget to purchase the US National Park Pass – it’s a good deal!

THINGS TO DO AT BRYCE CANYON

Scenic Drive

We recommend you begin your visit with the Scenic Drive viewpoints then visit the Amphitheater Viewpoints. Start at Rainbow Point at the southern end of the road. When you begin at Rainbow Point, all overlook stops will be on your right so you avoid left turns on a busy and winding road.

  • Use the park brochure you receive at the entrance.
  • Allow 1 to 2 hours to stop at all viewpoints OR
  • Give yourself 3 to 4 hours for serious photography at each stop

The Scenic Drive main road is 18 miles one way. The scenery and geological formations dramatically change as you drive from Rainbow Point to the Amphitheater.

At the visitors center the elevation is about 8,000 feet. The elevation at Rainbow Point is 1,100 feet higher. Along the drive you may notice the trees change from ponderosa pine to spruce, fir, and aspen. On a clear day, you can see 100 miles in all directions from the viewpoints.

Rainbow Point

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

The combined parking area for Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point is where the Scenic Drive ends. Look down into Rainbow Canyon and see a colorful scene of hoodoos.

The Bristlecone Loop Trail takes you to an 1,800-year-old bristlecone pine. This tree is believed to be one of the oldest living things at Bryce Canyon.

PHOTO TIP: The light around Rainbow Point at the southern end of the park is best from mid afternoon through sunset.

Yovimpa Point

We didn’t realize you access the Yovimpa Point trail from the Rainbow Point parking lot. Learn from our mistake.

A short, paved walkway takes you past the picnic area to one of the best spots to see the “steps” which give the Grand Staircase its name.The top step is where you are standing, the Pink Cliffs. The next step is the Gray Cliffs then the White Cliffs. On a clear day, you can see 85 miles to the south, the Kaibab Plateau which is part of the Grand Canyon.

PHOTO TIP: Sunset at Yovimpa Point is serene and calm, making you feel you are the last person on Earth.

Black Birch Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

The first stop after Rainbow/Yovimpa point is an unnamed viewpoint a short distance to the north.

Black Birch Canyon overlook is a roadside pullout. From here, look to your right and you can see Rainbow Point where you just were.

There will be another unnamed viewpoint after Black Birch before you reach the next official stop.

Ponderosa Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

From the Ponderosa Canyon overlook you can see views to the north and south, some hoodoos and huge Ponderosa Pines on the canyon floor. Some of the trees in the canyon are over 150 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter, which is hard to see from the top of the canyon.

Don’t be confused by the name. The trees along the overlook are Blue Spruce and Douglas-fir, but the name references the Ponderosa you can see down below.

Agua Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

The color contrasts in the earth at Agua Canyon are some of the best in the park. Be sure to look for the two prominent hoodoos named The Hunter (with a hat of evergreens) and The Rabbit, just to the right.

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!  Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

PHOTO TIP:  The hoodoos and fins along the right of the Agua Canyon overlook are best photographed during early morning light.

Natural Bridge

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Technically, Natural Bridge is an arch. It is one of the most popular stops on the scenic drive.

PHOTO TIP:  Mid-morning light is best when photographing Natural Bridge. The sun will illuminate the features around the arch and bounce light onto the underside. Stay behind the railing as you search for vantage points to photograph the arch. The green Ponderosa trees are a nice pop of color through the arch.

Farview and Piracy Point

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

From Farview Point you can see sweeping panoramas, which makes it the perfect name. Take the dirt path several hundred feet north to Piracy Point. At this point you can see two buttes that look like a pair of ships engaged in a battle at sea.

Swamp Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Drive carefully from Farview Point to Swamp Canyon as there are steep grades, sharp curves and mule deer in this area.

Ponderosa Pines line the forest between the walls of red rock in Swamp Canyon.

AMPHITHEATER VIEWPOINTS

The most concentrated grouping of hoodoos is found in The Amphitheater section of Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Point

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Bryce Point offers one of the most scenic vistas of the hoodoo-filled amphitheater. You can see the rich colors of the Boat Mesa to the north and east. This location is also a popular birding spot. 

PHOTO TIP: Bryce Point is known for extraordinary sunrise photos because the tops of the hoodoos glow with light. The light at this overlook is good throughout the day as well.

Inspiration Point

The view from Inspiration Point is awe-inspiring. The light creates glowing colors of reds, oranges, and pinks to illuminate the fins, spires and hoodoos. At sunrise you may have the overlook to yourself. This is another wonderful spot for wildlife and bird watching.

PHOTO TIP: Inspiration Point is the best location for panoramic photography. Be sure to explore beyond the designated overlook. Walk along the Rim Trail to find the perfect composition you imagine.

WARNING! The cliffs of Inspiration Point are exceptionally dangerous and it’s important that you remain on trails and behind railings.

Sunset Point

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Some of the most dramatic and breathtaking of Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos are found at Sunset Point.

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

The famous Silent City is a close grouping of hoodoos and fins directly below the point and to the south.

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Thor’s Hammer is one of the most well-known formations at Bryce Canyon. It’s just below the overlook on the northern edge, but it’s best viewed along the Navajo trail.

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

If you want to see the hoodoos up close, the Navajo-Queen’s Garden Trail is the best hike to do this. If you don’t want to do the complete loop trail, at least go down the Navajo trail far enough to see Thor’s Hammer and other interesting formations up close.

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

PHOTO TIPS:

  • Sunset Point is not ideal for sunset photography unless you’re lucky enough to have clouds bounce light into the canyon.
  • The Douglas fir trees provide a good location to photograph birds.
  • This point is ideal to capture panoramic landscapes.

Sunrise Point

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Sunrise Point offers a view to the northeast of Boat Mesa and the Sinking Ship. The easy to moderate Queen’s Garden Trail begins at this point and descends into the Queen’s Garden and the famous Queen Victoria hoodoo. This viewpoint is the end point for the Navajo-Queen’s Garden Trail, one of the most popular hikes in the Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

PHOTO TIPS:

  • At sunrise there is an early morning glow on the red rock hoodoos.
  • This is one of the better spots for sunset photography.
  • Photograph the Limber Pine’s exposed roots on the eroding rim.  We missed that shot, but have added it to our list for the next trip to Bryce Canyon.

Fairyland Canyon

Fairyland Canyon is geologically much younger than the main Bryce amphitheater area so the hoodoo clusters are fewer and more subtle. The 8 mile Fairyland Loop Trail takes you through hoodoos, a hoodoo graveyard of eroded clay mounds, a spur trail to Tower Bridge and offers the best chance to see wildlife such as mountain lions, fox and bobcat. This hike is considered strenuous due to the length and multiple elevation changes along the trail. 

Mossy Cave

The Mossy Cave trail is not accessible along the main road into the park. You must take Highway 12 past Bryce Canyon. Mossy Cave is not a cavern but a grotto created by an underground spring. You will either see a large overhang filled with moss, or filled with giant icicles depending on the season. Go back to the main trail to access the waterfall.

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

What!? A chocolate milk river and waterfall!?

We experienced a unique occurrence along the Mossy Cave trail one wet, rainy April where it seemed the water had turned to chocolate milk!

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

The muddy water was fun to photograph, but reminded us how important it is to understand the terrain and weather of the location you visit. Flash flooding in Southern Utah is a serious concern during rainy weather. (Dave learned the hard way in his story about the Flooded Patrol Car.)

BRYCE CANYON PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS & GEAR

Bryce Canyon National Park is huge and has so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip, but we have some tips to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We share our favorite 15 things to see in the park, our best travel tips, and photography tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Camera Gear

We rely on our Camera Gear Checklist to make sure that all necessary, and possibly needed, equipment is packed in our camera bag ready to go. We recommend the following items to photograph Bryce Canyon National Park:

  • Camera
  • Lens for landscape
  • Tripod
  • Camera Backpack
  • Circular Polarizer and Neutral Density Filter
  • Cleaning Kit
  • Remote Shutter Release
  • Memory Cards and Batteries

Headlamp – For the best sunrise shots, you must arrive at your designated location well before the sun rises, which usually means total darkness. Wearing a headlamp allows you to be hands free to set up your equipment. A red light headlamp is best. Be sure to keep the beam pointed on the ground in front of you so your light doesn’t disturb other photographers in the area taking long exposure shots.

Keep Body and Camera Warm – Due to the high elevation, Bryce Canyon gets very cold after the sun goes down, even during the summer. The cold can drain camera batteries fast so be sure to cover the camera when you are not using it. Also keep a spare set of batteries close to your body. Layers, hats, gloves and hand warmers are important to keep you warm as well.

Sunrise – Anywhere along the rim of the Bryce Amphitheater is a dramatic place to watch the sunrise. Most of these overlooks and canyons face east so you will be shooting into the sun at sunrise. Watch as the formations in the canyon produce a soft, warm glow of reflected light. Use a tripod and remote shutter release during this low light time in order to get a blur-free photo.

Focus on Details – As the sun rises, the distant vistas become washed out. But reflected light continues through late-morning. This is the best time to focus on the hoodoos, fins, windows and trees in the canyon. Be creative with framing and composition by utilizing the rock holes, tunnels, windows and between cliffs.

Afternoon and Sunset – Beginning late afternoon as the sun sets, shadows are cast into the canyon and light is only apparent on the tops of the hoodoos. If there are clouds in the sky, they may reflect light into the canyon and reduce the shadows. Otherwise, focus on telephoto shots of the vast landscape from any viewpoint in the amphitheater during sunset.

The Golden Hour – The late dusk glow after sunset may provide a pastel pink and blue sky above the canyon. Remember the hoodoos still reflect light not seen by the human eye. Use a longer exposure time for the camera to capture images during this ideal time.

TRAVEL TIPS

WHERE TO STAY NEAR BRYCE CANYON

Here are the best options for accommodations close to Bryce Canyon.

We utilize Pinterest to organize the information when researching travel locations. Photo Jeepers has a US National Parks and Bryce Canyon National Park board where we only pin things we have read and find worthwhile. Please feel free to use this board to help you in planning a trip to Bryce Canyon or any other US National Park. Don’t forget to save this Bryce Canyon National Park guide to your travel board!

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah is a beautiful national park in the U.S. It has vast landscape vistas, canyons, and colorful formations like fins, windows and hoodoos that will blow you away. Check out our favorite 15 things to see at Bryce Canyon National Park. We even share some tips on how to take the best pictures in Bryce Canyon National Park! You’ll definitely want to read the Bryce Canyon National Park guide and save it to your travel board before your Bryce Canyon National Park trip.   Bryce Canyon National Park has so many unique landscapes just waiting for you to photograph. We will tell you our secrets to get amazing pictures of the best points of interest in the park and when to visit each one. We give an in depth guide to each overlook in the park and tell you the best time of day for photography. This is one photography guide you do not want to miss! Don’t forget to save these photography tips for Bryce Canyon National Park to your photography board!

If you enjoyed this, please share and let us know your thoughts below.


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22 comments

Bryce Canyon looks so amazing! I’ve wanted to visit there for so long, but whenever we travel to the US, we’re never in the area! I hope one day we get to tick it off my list of NP’s to visit!
xo April | April Everyday

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I hope you get to visit one day – the rock formations and colors are breathtaking!

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This place looks perfect for photography. It reminds me Cappadocia though. Thanks for the info!!!

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I just looked up Cappadocia – very similar! And yes, a paradise for photography!

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Wow I wish I had this before I went to Bryce! I was there for only one day in November a couple years ago. I had a beautiful day and enjoyed it so much. Inspiration point is incredible. Your photography is gorgeous and brought back so many great memories.

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Inspiration Point is the one we didn’t do – silly us! We plan to go back soon to make sure we see that overlook and to hike the Fairyland Trail.

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I really need to get to Bryce Canyon. Your photos are fab and I love the photo tips for each place – very helpful. The rock formations are so interesting and I know our kids would love climbing all over them:)

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I hope you get to visit one day – your kids will love the park!

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Wow! So many canyons just in one area – all are gorgeous! This is a really detailed post and helpful for when we visit the US sometime soon! Great tips!

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Yes, so many overlooks/canyons and each one just a bit different. I hope the article helps people plan their visit.

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Woah what a great comprehensive post! I’ve always wanted to take a road trip to the US and do something like this. Your pics are awesome and the amount of tips and detail you’ve included is just fab – priveless!
Kristie – you.theworld.wandering

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Thank you. We really want to help people make the most of their visit so I’m glad the photos and tips we included are helpful.

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This is so beautiful! I love national parks so much.

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National Parks offer so much beauty and time to be in nature – we love them too!

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Bryce Canyon is stunning. I’ve been there a while ago and it’s still one of my favourite canyons. Thank you for this detailed article, it is really useful and would have helped us plan our trip better.

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I agree with you – stunning and one of our favorite parks! I hope the article will help others plan their trip – sorry it wasn’t written yet when you were planning yours 🙂

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Great tips Jamie! And there is so much to see. If only explored a tiny bit of the area, but looks like I’ll have to go back now 🙂

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We spent 3 days there and felt it wasn’t enough…so much to see!

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ahh I’ve always wanted to visit Bryce Canyon! Your pictures are gorgeous 🙂 and I love the the chocolate waterfall! so fun!

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The muddy waterfall was definitely unique. Spectacular National Park to visit, hope you can make it there one day.

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Great guide and I love the photography tips! Bryce Canyon looks really beautiful. I’d love to do the Navajo Trail and see Thor’s Hammer.

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The Navajo Trail was the highlight of the trip for me – amazing to walk up close to all the hoodoos.

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