Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is always a true delight since Dave and I love to explore the almost otherworldly, natural beauty that Bryce Canyon instantaneously offers visitors.
Filled with a fantastical assortment of hoodoos, or irregular columns of rock, Bryce Canyon sits on a high plateau that majestically sits atop the Grand Staircase. A Bryce Canyon vacation is a one-of-a-kind and should be added to your list of US National Park vacation destinations.
Embark on any one of the amazing Bryce Canyon hikes and you’ll become enchanted with the park’s unique geologic rock formations and enormous concentration of uniquely beautiful hoodoos. Plan to visit the park after dark to gaze at the endless stars you see in the sky.
If you plan on visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, then read our extensive Bryce Canyon guide filled with expert tips that will help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce Canyon.
VISITING BRYCE CANYON: THE BASICS
When to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
The best time to visit Bryce Canyon is during the off-season, between the months of October and May. Not only are there fewer people in the park, but the temperatures are cooler too. A fact that makes hiking Bryce Canyon much more pleasant.
Additionally, seasonal weather variations create dazzling fall foliage displays, awe-inspiring fields of wildflowers throughout spring, and heavy blankets of snow that are perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
Bryce Canyon Operating Hours
Bryce Canyon National Park is open 365 days a year, twenty-four hours a day. However, there can be temporary road closures due to heavy snowfall or other significant, inclement weather,
Check the Bryce Canyon National Park website for updated Visitor Center hours of operation.
Bryce Canyon National Park Fees
There are a variety of passes available to visit Bryce Canyon. Check the website for the most current fee prices and information.
If you’ll be visiting multiple national parks in Utah, we recommend you purchase the US National Parks Pass. You can get the America the Beautiful pass at the park, but we like to purchase the pass from REI since they donate 10% to the National Parks Foundation.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIP: If you plan on visiting nearby Zion or Capitol Reef, (or any other US National Park during the year), we always recommend getting the US National Park pass. (Did you know when you buy the National Parks Pass from REI, they donate 10% to the National Park Foundation?)
Bryce Canyon National Park Weather
Because Bryce Canyon has a high-elevation climate, weather conditions can be extremely variable throughout spring, fall and winter. Therefore, always check the daily weather forecast to see if the park is experiencing any weather-related closures.
Between October and May, temperatures at the park regularly fall below freezing at night, with the coldest and snowiest months between December and February (snowstorms are also not unusual in October). Heavy snowfalls are also common throughout March and April. We always pack our winter gear ‘just in case’ because you never know what weather you’ll get during these months in Bryce.
In contrast, the weather throughout the summer is quite pleasant, with June and September temperatures in the high 60s or low 70s (F), and July and August temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s (F).
However, July and August are the rainiest months at the park so visitors should expect daily, but brief, afternoon thunderstorms with heavy rain and lightning. If you do encounter lightning while visiting Bryce Canyon, remember to stop what you’re doing and quickly get indoors.
Pets at Bryce Canyon
If you choose to bring a pet to Bryce Canyon National Park, please note that pets are only allowed on paved surfaces like campgrounds, parking lots, roads, viewpoints, the paved area between Sunset and Sunrise Point, and on the paved Shared Use Path.
Accordingly, pets are not allowed on any unpaved surfaces or in public buildings and must always be on a leash that is less than six feet long. Similarly, owners can never leave pets unattended and must always pick up all waste that pet’s produce within the park. Owners must also ensure that pets do not make excessive amounts of noise that could disturb other park guests. Any visitors who do not comply with these regulations may be fined a minimum of $75.
Bryce Canyon National Park Services
Bryce Canyon National Park offers an assortment of services that guests can enjoy. There’s a free shuttle service available April through October.
The visitor center will have the latest information about park weather conditions, closures, and ranger-led Bryce Canyon tours. It also has a charming museum exhibit that details the area’s geologic history, as well as it’s Native American and Pioneer Heritage. Additional visitor center facilities include a restroom, bookstore, and ranger staffed information desk.
Guests can enjoy Bryce Canyon camping at both the North and Sunset Campgrounds. There is also the on-site Bryce Canyon Lodge, with a restaurant and gift shop that is a fantastic Bryce Canyon National Park lodging option.
Bryce Canyon National Park Map
Bryce Canyon Parking and Shuttle Tips
When parking, if you are not staying at a Bryce Canyon accommodation within the park, then leave your vehicle outside the park, near the Shuttle Station adjacent to Ruby’s Inn, on the left side of the road, just before the park entrance.
Once parked, guests can use the free, Bryce Canyon shuttle service to access some of the park’s most spectacular trails, rock formations, and viewpoints. And while using the shuttle isn’t mandatory, it does help reduce traffic congestion, keep parking lots open so that everyone can enjoy the park, and limit transportation related pollution.
Check the park’s website for the current shuttle schedule.
Shuttles depart every 15 minutes and can be accessed with proof of admission. The shuttle route starts at the Shuttle Station and brings visitors to some of the park’s most iconic viewpoints like Bryce, Inspiration, Sunset, and Sunrise Point.
Guests can also enjoy the Rainbow Bus, one of the many Bryce Canyon tours that are free of charge and that provide guests with a shuttle-based exploration of the park’s southern areas. This three and a half hour tour through Bryce Canyon is offered twice daily. Reservations are required since this is one of the most popular Bryce Canyon tours. You can reserve up to seven days in advance at Ruby’s Inn, Ruby’s Campground, the Shuttle Parking and Boarding Area, and by calling 435-834-5290.
Leave No Trace
As national park visitors, we need to enjoy nature responsibly and do our best to help preserve the natural areas that we love. To help park guests achieve this goal, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has developed a list of seven principles that help outdoor enthusiasts minimize the negative ecological impact that they have on the natural areas that they love to explore.
These principles can guide visitor actions while in the outdoors and include tenets like plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly. leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire), respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.
Safety at Bryce Canyon
The primary causes of injury at Bryce Canyon National Park include unsafe driving, climbing or sliding down unsafe cliffs, feeding wildlife (this makes animals aggressive), dehydration, lightning strikes, over-exertion, and leaving the marked trail.
Therefore, to prevent injury, we recommend:
- avoid climbing on park cliffs since the rock is quite crumbly
- refrain from speeding
- watch wildlife from afar
- check the weather forecast and heed weather warnings
- seek shelter if lightning is within 10 miles
- drink one quart of water every 1 or 2 hours
- stay on designated park trails
- wear proper hiking boots with ankle support
- always turn back before you get tired
- keep the park’s high elevation in mind when doing strenuous activities (the high elevation of the park means that you get 70% of the oxygen that you’re used to)
GETTING TO BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
From Salt Lake City, Utah take I-15 south then take Exit 95 for UT-20 toward US-89/Panguitch. Take UT-12 through Red Canyon to Bryce Canyon National Park. The whole journey should take 4 hours and cover 268 miles.
THINGS TO DO AT BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Bryce Canyon National Park is an exciting place that offers guests a variety of things to do and activities to try:
- day hiking
- ranger-led programs
- backcountry hiking
- Bryce Canyon camping
- exploring the visitor center
- horseback riding
- photographing Bryce Canyon
- snowshoeing, sledding, cross country skiing in the winter
Plus, Bryce Canyon even hosts a variety of festivals each year that guests of all ages will enjoy, events like the Geology Festival, the Prairie Dog Festival, and the Astronomy Festival.
Bryce Canyon Hiking Trails
Bryce Canyon has a variety of trails that are perfect for hikers of all abilities. With trails that are categorized as either easy, moderate, or strenuous, you’ll find a day hike to suit your abilities. Additionally, many of Bryce Canyon’s most popular hiking trails are interconnected with one another, making it easy for guests to combine several basic trails to create a more strenuous hike.
The top easy hikes in the park include Mossy Cave, Sunset to Sunrise, Rim Trail, Bristlecone Loop, and Queen’s Garden.
Some of the moderate hikes in the park include Navajo Loop, Queen’s Navajo Combination, Tower Bridge, Hat Shop, and Sheep Creek/Swamp Canyon.
While some of the most strenuous hikes through the park include Fairyland Point, Peekaboo Loop, Navajo/Peekaboo Combination, Figure 8 Combination, and Bryce Amphitheater Traverse.
Photography Spots at Bryce Canyon
Because of the unique geologic formations found throughout Bryce Canyon National Park, visitors will encounter a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors that make for fantastic photo opportunities.
To get the most exquisite photos of Bryce Canyon National Park, with up-close views of the park’s most iconic rock formations, we recommend stopping at the viewpoints and overlooks that are found along the Scenic Drive. We also love the photo opportunities that are found along the Rim Trail in the Amphitheater.
Our favorite photo spots include:
- Rainbow Point
- Agua Canyon
- Natural Bridge
- Bryce Point
- Paria View
- Inspiration Point
- Sunset Point
- Thor’s Hammer
- Navajo Loop Trail
- Sunrise Point
Ranger-led Programs at Bryce Canyon
A multitude of ranger guides, outdoor programs are available for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. To find out more, simply check the Ranger Program board in the Visitor Center. Some of the ranger-led programs currently offered at Bryce Canyon National Park include:
- Geology Talks – These programs are a half an hour long, discuss the geology of the park, and are offered year round.
- Rim Walk – Offered throughout the spring, summer, and fall, this program is an hour and a half long hike that takes you past some of the best views in the park, while educating guests about the various flora and fauna that can be found within the park.
- Kids Program – This hour long program is geared towards families and is fun for both kids and adults alike.
- Evening Program – This hour long program focuses on some of the compelling stories and amazing resources within Bryce Canyon National Park.
- Full Moon Hikes – Offered throughout the summer, these two to three hour hikes allow you to enjoy the beauty of the full moon and the park with a fun and interactive night walk.
- Astronomy Programs – Do an hour of stargazing and explore the park’s many constellations with the help of a local ranger.
- Snowshoe Hikes – These hour and a half to two hour and a half long programs are offered during the winter and allow you to snowshoe through the park (snowshoes provided) while learning about the park’s winter ecology and about how Hoodoos are actually formed.
Bryce Canyon Horseback Riding
Another fantastic way to explore Bryce Canyon’s magical landscape is during a guided horse or mule trail ride. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, the experts at Canyon Trail Rides lead 2 or 4-hour rides into Bryce Amphitheater and along either Peek-a-boo Trail or a specially designated horse trail.
WHAT TO PACK FOR BRYCE CANYON
Hiking Shoes & Socks
Did you know the #1 and #2 causes of injury at Bryce Canyon is bad choice of footwear. Be sure to wear hiking boots with good ankle support and ample traction. Sport-sandals & “trainers” are NOT safe hiking footwear. We use and always recommend our Merrell Moab hiking shoes or Oboz hiking shoes worn with Darn Tough socks.
Hydration and Food
The #5 cause of injury at Bryce is dehydration. Drink 1 quart / liter every 1-2 hours. Always carry water with you during all hiking activities. Refill stations at Bryce Canyon: Bryce Canyon Visitor Center, Sunset Point, Sunrise Point and Bryce Canyon Lodge. We use Camelbak hydration packs or carry Hydroflask bottles in our packs. Also eat plenty of healthy snacks and food.
Remember it’s just as easy to become dehydrated in the cold as it is in the heat so carry plenty of water during the winter, and not just during the summer.
Sunburns also lead t dehydration. Wear a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses to protect from the sun overhead and reflected UV light.
Bryce Canyon summers mean high temperatures, unrelenting sunlight, and low humidity. To keep cool, wear light colored, loose fitting clothing that does not absorb sunlight.
During the winter, be sure to wear the right clothing to stay dry and warm.
National Parks Pass
Before you visit Bryce Canyon National Park be sure to pack your The America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
Other items we recommend you pack for visiting Bryce:
WHERE TO STAY NEAR BRYCE CANYON
Accommodation Options near Bryce Canyon National Park include:
Backcountry Camping at Bryce
Experience the solitude of the backcountry trails. Know the guidelines for backcountry travel and camping by going to the National Park Service website for Bryce Canyon.
Campgrounds at Bryce Canyon
North and Sunset are the two campgrounds within the park. Both campgrounds are available to RV and tent travelers and have flush toilets and drinking water. Some sites are reservable, but most are first-come, first-served and fill up by the early afternoon during the busy summer months. And while there are no hook-ups at either campground, there is a dump station at the North Campgrounds that can be used for a small fee.
Only the North Campground is open throughout the year (one loop is open during the winter). The Sunset Campground is only open between late-spring and early-fall, with a single group site that campers can use.
Indoor lodging at Bryce Canyon
The Bryce Canyon Lodge, located a short walk from several trails and lookouts, is a national historic landmark and the last remaining of the original park buildings constructed in the 1920s. It’s a no-smoking facility and, to maintain its authentic rustic feel, there are no televisions. The lodge does have a gift shop and restaurant. Rooms fill up fast so be sure to make your reservations well in advance.
Accommodations Near Bryce
Bryce Canyon City is adjacent to the park and has many hotel options. The city also has restaurants and shopping.
We also enjoyed our stay here through Airbnb:
We hope these Bryce Canyon travel tips will help you plan a memorable vacation to one of the most picturesque national parks in the US.