Bryce Canyon Travel Guide: practical tips to plan your first visit to this stunning and unique Utah National Park.
Bryce Canyon is a beautiful National Park in Southern Utah, famous for a unique landscape made of a natural amphitheater filled with red rock spires (hoodoos).
It is a place like no other.
Entering the park from the main entrance, you quickly reach the Rim of the Canyon, from which you can admire the large cavea of the amphitheater and the incredible hoodoos that fill it.
If you are more adventurous, you can even descend into the amphitheater and see the rod spires from up close!
Visiting Bryce is easy and enjoyable for both hikers and nonhikers and families.
We were lucky to be able to visit Bryce Canyon with the children during our last trip to Utah and we fell in love with the place.
We consider it one of the most beautiful places in the United States and one of the destinations we most dearly recommend to any traveler to the area.
These are our tips for first time visitors.
Planning a trip to the US South West?
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Bryce Canyon National Park quick info
Where it is: Southern Utah, USA, along Utah Road 63, south of Utah Route 12 National Scenic Byway
National Park since: 1928
Recommended to: Anyone interested in beautiful natural landscapes and outdoor pursuits. Non hikers can also enjoy the park since many view points are served by roads / shuttle and require not hiking.
How long to spend at the park: half a day will allow you to see the main view points. Most visitors spend one full day. A few days are needed if planning on taking several of the hikes.
Visitors center: yes, at the Park Entrance, with restrooms, gift shop, post office, Wi-fi.
Cars allowed in / Shuttle service: Yes
Entrance Fee: 35$ per car at the time of writing
Need to know! Make sure you check park opening times / road conditions and warnings that may be in place before heading to the park. The official park alerts page is here.
Wildlife: among others: chipmunks, squirrels, swallows, pronghorns, mountain lions!
The best things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
There are several activities you can do in Bryce Canyon, all connected to enjoying the natural landscape of the park and learn about its birth.
At Bryce Canyon, you can:
Catch a view: best viewing spots in Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon is beautiful so if you do nothing else here, you need to make sure you at least catch some views!
The best views of the Canyon can be seen from Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point and Sunrise Point.
They are all along the rim trail and can be easily reached by car or shuttle.
If you only have a few hours or one day in Bryce and want to get a sense of what it is all about, these are the best places to go!
This is the activity of choice, with option suitable for all ages and level of activities.
The main hikes in Bryce are:
- Rim Trail (Easy), can be done in parts
- Mossy Cave Trail (Easy)
- Sunset to Sunrise Point (Easy, this is the paved part of the Rim Trail)
- Bristlecone Loop (Easy)
- Queen’s Garden (Easy/Moderate)
- Navajo Loop (Moderate)
- Hat Shop (Strenuous)
- Fairyland Loop (Strenuous)
- Peekaboo Loop (Strenuous)
Important! Always talk to a ranger before starting a hike, to make sure it is suitable for your skills/party and that the weather forecast is in your favor.
Go horseback riding
In certain seasons, you can go horse riding in the canyon, with organized rides lasting 1h to 3h.
The best way to organize these is to contact Bryce Canyon Lodge at least a few days before your intended visit.
Bryce Canyon is an area pretty secluded from housing and street lighting and this means you get wonderful dark skies at night perfect for stargazing!
The park regularly organized ranger-led astronomy nights and in June they also offer the Astronomy Festival’ with night tours, astronomy talks and stargazing nights for the whole family.
On winter nights with a full moon, they instead offer full moon hikes however, they operate on a lottery system so participation is not guaranteed.
Participate in a ranger talk
Rangers host regular talks throughout the park teaching about the birth of the parks, its animals, history, peculiar geology and more.
These talks are usually very informative and fun and done in such a way the whole family can enjoy them – we have seen several with our primary school age kids and we all got something out of them, this is an activity I highly recommend!
Get your kids to do the Junior Ranger Program
The Park offers a special program for kids called the “junior Ranger program’.
It is free to join, great fun and educational: at the start of your day, you collect the Junior Ranger Booklet at the visitors center and you follow the recommended activities in the book.
They are a mix of plant/animal bingo activities, observation and sensory activities, drawing prompts that you can do in your own time and can help you engage with the park and the environment around you.
Once you are done, you hand your booklet to a ranger, they have a chat with you to answer questions and make sure your parents didn’t do the activities for you and then they swear you in as a junior ranger and give you a badge.
It is great fun, very educational and the kids have a lovely badge with the name of the park on it that gives them great pride but also operated as a wonderful souvenir!
If you are planning on visiting Bryce Canyon with kids, I recommend you read our articles below about the best family hikes in Bryce and the guide to Mossy Cave Trail with kids to get a sense of what the park has to offer to families
Participate in ‘I hiked the hoodos’
I hiked the hoodoos is a fun challenge perfect to motivate you and the kids to get hiking.
Across the park, there are several benchmarks with ‘rubbing’ stations.
Every time you see one, you get a pencil rubbing of it (or a selfie) and once you have hikes at least 3 miles or got three different rubbings, you can bring them to the visitors center and you will get a reward!
This is a very popular activity in Bryce in the winter and you can rent snowshoes in Bryce Canyon City.
The best way to enjoy snowshoeing in Bryce is joining a snowshoeing hike with the rangers – this is the safest way to tackle the park and, I believe, the best one for first time visitors.
Have a picnic
Bryce Canyon has several picnic spots that are great to rest after a hike or can even be a destination on their own if you just want to spend some quiet time in nature.
You can bring your own supplies or get food and snacks at the General Store in the park – they have a god variety of stuff including snacks, hot and cold food, drinks, fruit and hiking snacks.
Where to eat at Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon has several food options ranging from restaurants to designated picnic areas.
You can get food at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon (breakfast to dinner), the General Store (hot and cold food), Valhalla (pizza).
Where to stay in and near Bryce Canyon
To visit Bryce Canyon you can stay at the:
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, park historical landmark with rooms and restaurant
Outside the park, there are very many options in Garfield County that are easy to reach and often easier to book.
Accommodation inside the park is in huge demand and you are unlikely to get a booking unless you book month in advance (and luck is on your side!).
How to get around the park
You can visit the park with your own car or using the excellent Bryce Canyon Shuttle System.
The use of the shuttle is included in your park entrance fee and it is a quick and efficient way to get to all the park’s main viewpoints.
What to pack for Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon experiences different seasons so what to pack is dependent on the time of the year you intend to visit.
At all times, you will need:
- Proper hiking shoes
- Athletic wear
- Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen etc)
- Day pack with hiking essentials
- First aid kit
- Flashlight if staying in the park at night
- Lightweight, breathable clothing for summer, warm jacket and thermal layer for winter
- Binocular and kids binoculars
- Portable telescope
- Trash bags
- Hiking snacks/ money
- Pen and pencil for the Junior Ranger program
I hope you fond this quick travel guide to Bryce Canyon useful and it helped you start planning your stay. Safe travels!
Planning a trip to the US South West?