Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce canyon national park

Hidden in the remote expanse of southern Utah lies a geological wonderland waiting to be explored – Bryce Canyon National Park. As the second most popular park in Utah, Bryce Canyon is proof of nature’s artistry, offering uncountable towering rock formations, labyrinthine canyons, and expansive vistas that leave visitors in awe. This park offers unparalleled views of the Utah desert and plenty of activities to entertain everyone. Read on to learn more about what makes this national park a must-visit destination.

Established on September 15, 1928, Bryce Canyon National Park spans 35,835 acres, making it the smallest National Park in Utah. Contrary to its name, Bryce Canyon is not technically a canyon but a series of natural amphitheaters carved into the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Its unique geological formations, known as hoodoos, are sculpted by erosion over millions of years, creating mesmerizing landscapes.

While the park is open year-round, the best time to visit is from May through September. During these months, visitors can enjoy pleasant weather and a plethora of outdoor activities. However, even in the winter months, the park’s snow-covered hoodoos offer a breathtakingly beautiful sight. Travel during this time is more challenging however due to the harsh weather conditions.  

Events and Activities at Bryce

Bryce Canyon holds several fascinating secrets within its rugged terrain. It boasts some of the darkest night skies in the United States, making it a haven for stargazers. Bryce also contains the infamous rock formations hoodoos, also known as goblins, fairy chimneys, earth pyramids, and tent rocks. Here is a list of the best activities and things to do in Bryce Canyon. 

Bryce canyon national park stars start to come out at night
Bryce hoodoos under the night sky

Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival

The park’s elevation (8,000 feet!), clean air, and remote location contribute to unparalleled stargazing experiences, with clear nights revealing over 7,500 stars (try counting!) and vistas extending 2.2 million light years into space. Held annually every June, the Astronomy Festival offers visitors the chance to delve into the mysteries of the universe. Ranger-led programs and activities provide insights into celestial phenomena, making it an unforgettable experience for amateur and experienced astronomers alike. 

Thousands flock to this Dark Sky Sanctuary for this event, so plan ahead. The top spots to view the stars are Fairview Point, Inspiration Point, and Fairyland Point. 

Utah Prairie Dog Day

Utah prairie dog in Bryce canyon national park
Utah prairie dog

If celebrating cute furry animals is up your alley this is the perfect event for you. Join in celebrating Utah’s only endemic animal, the Utah Prairie Dog. Held each May to celebrate and raise awareness about the park’s prairie dog population, the festival features a variety of activities, guided tours, educational programs, and interactive exhibits. Visitors also have a chance to observe prairie dogs in their natural habitat and learn about their significance in the wild. 

Equestrian Excursions 

Fun for the entire family, try exploring the canyon by horseback. These tours offer a special perspective from which to view the park and allow you to go farther and faster than on foot. Adding to the experience, expert guides share the geologic and human history of Bryce. Check out the visitor center for more information.

Sunrise or Sunset

Close down or start your day at Bryce by experiencing the magical moments of sunrise or sunset. The expansive beauty of the amphitheater is magnified during these moments, offering incredible photography opportunities as the light plays across a landscape of hoodoos. Top spots for sunrise and sunset include Bryce Point, and of course, Sunrise and Sunset Points. 

Bryce canyon amphitheater at sunrise
Bryce Canyon amphitheater at sunrise

Things to do at Bryce

Explore the Hoodoos

Stories of the indigenous Paiute people who first inhabited the area hold that the hoodoos were once humans, or Legend People. Punished for misdeeds by Coyote, the god of mischief, they were turned into rocks. These hoodoos range anywhere from 6 feet to 200 feet tall. The word hoodoo means to bewitch, so watch out, otherwise, you might be turned into a towering limestone formation! 

These rock spires, which have formed due to erosion caused by rain and ice, are the park’s geological claim to fame, as it hosts the world’s largest collection of them. Get lost as you make your way through a labyrinth of steep limestone towers and fairy chimneys. Come along with us as we hike our way through the park, discovering the best activities and things to do in Bryce.

Bryce canyon natural bridge red rock formation
Bryce Natural Bridge

Visit the Landmarks

Bryce Canyon has an impressive list of famous landmarks, and exploring them is essential to getting the best out of the park. Here are our favorites:

  • Thor’s Hammer – A massive rock formation standing 150 feet tall. Shaped by the elements and time, this rock resembles the Norse God Thor’s weapon, a hammer. 
  • Agua Canyon, the Hunter, and the Rabbit – Agua Canyon is an overlook along the southern portion of the scenic drive. While taking in this incredible view, visitors can experience a hoodoo that resembles a hunter, given a little imagination. Near Agua Canyon, visitors can also take in The Rabbit, a natural rock feature that takes the shape of a crouching rabbit when viewed from the right angle. Can’t see it? Keep trying! 
  • Bryce Amphitheater – One of, if not the most iconic landmarks in the park, this section features an extraordinary assembly of vibrant red, orange, and pink-hued hoodoos standing in rows and arranged in a way to create a natural amphitheater. The hoodoos were once sedimentary rocks from an ancient lake, and Bryce Canyon offers an opportunity to see the largest concentration of them anywhere in the world. The amphitheater can be seen from Bryce, Inspiration, Sunrise, and Sunset Points. 
  • Bryce Natural Bridge – Not true to its name, Bryce Natural Bridge is actually an arch. Sculpted from the iron-oxid-rich Claron Formation, the bridge is some of the reddest rock in the park and provides a beautiful contrast to the dark green foliage peeking through from the canyon underneath. The bridge can be seen off the scenic drive between Agua Canyon and Fairview Point
A hiker with a daypack on sits looking out at the bryce canyon hoodoos
Hiking at Bryce

Go for a Hike

Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails to experience these magnificent rock formations up close. From gentle strolls to strenuous uphill battles, Bryce has something for everyone. Our top recommendations:

  • Bristlecone Loop Trail – This easy, mostly forested, mile-long path, stays even on the elevation and gives the legs a nice break from the scenic drive. Bristlecone pine trees are one of the oldest living things in the world and are known to be spotted hanging onto the cliff edges along this trail. 
  • Tower Bridge Trail – This moderate three-mile out and back gains 950 feet in elevation and leads to the gigantic Tower Bridge formation, closely resembling London Bridge. You can find it on the southern portion of the Fairyland Loop Trail. Along this trail other landmarks to look out for include the Chinese Wall and Crescent Castles, two phenomenal concentrations of hoodoos.
  • Peek-a-boo Loop Trail – For those looking for a strenuous hike, the Peek-a-boo loop is a five-mile out-and-back trail gaining 1500 feet of elevation, that offers a taste of all this glorious park has to offer. Intrepid hikers will be immersed in towering hoodoos, endless switchbacks, narrow corridors, plentiful pine forests, and vibrantly colored rocks. One of our top choices! 
Tower bridge sandstone landmark at bryce canyon national park
Tower Bridge rock formation, Bryce Canyon

Scenic Drives & Viewpoints

The scenic drive in Bryce is a 38-mile, roundtrip vehicle excursion, rising 1,200 feet from the park entrance to its terminus at Rainbow Point. Known as one of the highest drives in the National Park System, its highest elevation is over 9,000ft! Along the way, there are 13 viewpoints including the incredible Rainbow Point, Yovimpa Point, Agua Canyon, and the Natural Bridge. During the summer months, a free shuttle runs every 15 minutes from the visitor center, stopping at every viewpoint along the way. A must-do!

Zion and Bryce Hiking TOUR

Visit Bryce

Bryce is a monument to the awe-inspiring beauty of nature, and continues to captivate visitors with its soaring hoodoos, colorful rock formations, weaving canyons, and expansive vistas. There are endless activities and things to do. Exploring the park’s landmarks, trails, geology and ecology is endlessly captivating. Plan your visit today, or join us on one of our unforgettable guided journeys into the heart of this astounding landscape.

About Shelby Lynn

Shelby Lynn Wildland blog contributor

Shelby is a whimsical writer, and wanderer. Her curiosity constantly introduces her to new and inspiring escapades. Her passion for rock climbing fields adventures near and far. And rarely is she without a small library in tow. She currently resides in Salt Lake City but will forever call the Pacific Northwest home.

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