Bryce Canyon National Park is the land of the hoodoos! Around every corner, you can find the thin, tall spires of rocks, and they are beautiful! They make Bryce Canyon very different from other national parks in Utah!
Time needed to explore: I would allocate 1-2 days in Bryce Canyon National Park depending on what you want to do. If you are looking just to drive and view the overlooks, only 1 day is needed. If you want to do a few hikes, I would allocate 1-2 days. We did a few hikes and viewed every overlooks all in 1 day and did not feel rushed! Although we were in the park from dawn to dusk!
Where to stay: If you plan on spending a night near Bryce Canyon, I would recommend staying in Bryce! This is the small town right outside the park entrance and offers many accommodation options. There is a grocery store and restaurants, so you don’t need to travel far. However, Alex and I did not like the grocery store in Bryce… It was pretty big, but it did not have some of the things we needed, such as almond milk. We drove 10 minutes down the road to the town of Tropic to visit their grocery store which had more of a variety. Tropic also has a few restaurants!
Things to know before you go: The weather in Bryce Canyon can vary greatly in one day. The drive into Bryce Canyon gains a lot of elevation with the endpoint being over 9,000 feet high, so you can expect a temperature drop. Also, the hoodoos are really cool features here, however, the views will eventually start to look the same. I’m not saying they are any less beautiful because of this, but we were kind of over it towards the end of the day.
Tips and Tricks: As I said above, the weather in Bryce Canyon can vary, so I would recommend bringing a few layers of clothes to accommodate the temperature drop! Also, the parking lots are relatively small, so I recommend heading into the park early. We saw all of the overlooks in a half day because we were in the park before most people. This gave us plenty of time to hike during the other half of the day!
OH - If the park is way too packed and you are up for some hiking, I would recommend hiking the Under-the-Rim Trail. It is a 22-mile trail that brings you to every single viewpoint.
Things to See:
1. Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point is one of the first overlooks after the park entrance. Inspiration Point is on the same road as Bryce Point and is less popular than Bryce Point. Both are absolutely beautiful, however, Alex and I LOVED Inspiration Point.
Inspiration Point is only a small walk from the parking lot. If you want to hike, you could easily hike to Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Bryce Point from here. Those other viewpoints are more crowded than Inspiration Point, so if you are looking for a more peaceful spot, this is it!
This was our first hoodoo experience, and we were in awe! Inspiration Point gives you a beautiful view of the Bryce Amphitheater and mountains in the east. The view goes on for miles and is really incredible! This is a great place for sunset, too. We walked along the Under-the-Rim Trail for a bit to find a secluded spot to watch the sunset. It was amazing!
2. Navajo Loop
If you want to truly experience Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos up close and personal, the Navajo Loop is for you! It is one of the most popular hikes in Bryce Canyon, and for a good reason! The 1.4-mile loop begins at Sunset Point and hikes down to the floor of the hoodoos passing by some of the most well-known hoodoos, such as Thor’s Hammer, Wall Street, and Twin Bridges.
From Sunset Point, the Navajo Loop immediately descends into the canyon. It is a relatively steep decline, but there are switchbacks that help. After the switchbacks end, the trail has a gradual decline to the canyon floor. This is where you get to really experience the beauty of the hoodoos! Once you pass by Wall Street, Twin Bridges, and Thor’s Hammer, the ascent begins back to the rim. Luckily, the switchbacks make the elevation gain easier on the legs.
Unfortunately, Alex and I were not able to hike the Navajo Loop. There was trail damage from the winter, so the loop was closed. Next time we travel to Bryce Canyon National Park, this will be the first thing we do!
3. Fairyland Loop
Similar to the Navajo Loop, the Fairyland Loop is an awesome hike if you want to be up close and personal with Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos. However, this trail is much longer than the Navajo Loop. The Fairyland Loop is a difficult 8.3-mile trail that loses and gains over 900 feet of elevation. Because of its mileage, it is not as crowded as other trails in Bryce Canyon which is a nice change of pace.
If you are one of the hiking souls who wish to complete the Fairyland Loop, all you need is 3-4 hours. The hike starts at Fairyland Point which is before the park entrance. The trail follows the rim before beginning to snake down into the canyon. Once you hike onto the canyon floor, there will eventually be a junction to Tower Bridge. I recommend taking a few minutes to hike to Tower Bridge since it’s only 200 yards off the trail. Once you are back on the trail, it follows the floor before beginning to climb back to the rim of the canyon. The hike overall isn’t super difficult, but because of the mileage and elevation loss/gain, it is more difficult than other trails in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Something to note is that you can also start this hike at Sunrise Point. If you are planning to take the Bryce Canyon shuttle, I would suggest starting this hike at Sunrise Point instead of Fairyland Point. The shuttle does not stop at Fairyland Point since it is before the park entrance. Either way, the views on the hike are amazing and are well worth the few hours to hike it if you have the time!
4. Yovimpa Point and Rainbow Point
Yovimpa Point and Rainbow Point are two adjacent overlooks at the end of Bryce Canyon and offer incredible views. Each point is over 9,000 feet high, so this is where the temps will drop. Because the viewpoints are the highest points in the park, they offer drool-worthy views. This is also a great place to see Bryce Canyon’s “Grand Staircase” rock layers! Make sure to read the information points at each viewpoint to appreciate how beautiful and awesome our Earth is!
If you are looking for a short but sweet hike, the Bristlecone Loop is for you! The short 1-mile loop stays above the rim and connects Yovimpa Point and Rainbow Point. If you are looking for a more strenuous hike, the Riggs Spring Loop Trail is for you! The 8.8-mile loop also connects both points but offers a more scenic trail.
5. Mossy Cave
The Mossy Cave is technically in Bryce Canyon National Park, however, it is located in Tropic, UT. It is only a 10-minute drive from the park entrance, so I recommend allocating time to hike this trail!
Mossy Cave Trail is an easy 1-mile roundtrip hike that allows you to get up close and personal to hoodoos without much difficulty! The trail starts off following a stream through a canyon. It soon comes to a fork where you can decide if you want to continue left to the Mossy Cave or right to a waterfall. I recommend hiking to both since it is a short hike! The Mossy Cave is a short distance from the junction up a short hill. It’s a pretty cool site, but nothing to drool over. The waterfall, however, is very beautiful. Once you head back to the junction, continue straight to head uphill to a viewpoint overlooking the waterfall. Even though it’s on the smaller side, the blue waters against the tan rock are beautiful!
While hiking back from the waterfall, we saw a few people swimming in the river. Alex immediately told me he wanted to follow suit, so I sat stream-side while Alex bathed in the cold waters. It was very refreshing even to put my feet in because it was a hot day!
Is Bryce Canyon National Park on your bucket list? What park of Bryce Canyon excites you the most to visit?
I highly recommend visiting Zion National Park with Bryce Canyon since they are only a few hours away from each other!