Diversity and deceptive scenes is what you can expect while exploring the magnificent vistas and trails of Bryce Canyon National Park. The landscape is always changing. It is described as ‘Poetry in Stone’ according to the information brochure that illustrates and explains the history behind this strange and spectacular countryside. You will see all this in my guide to exploring Bryce Canyon National Park in a nutshell.
Road Trip To Utah
We recently returned to Utah on another fantastic road trip to explore one more bucket list national Park. One we have not yet visited in this beautiful state. The journey alone to Bryce Canyon is a story in itself. Roadway paths gliding through and in between the layered red rock formations and hills. Cruising up and down the elevations with distracting scenery to your right and left makes it difficult to pay attention to the road.
The drive from Southern California specifically the San Diego area takes about 6 hours to reach St. George, Utah, which is where we stayed. St. George is a beautiful town with all the dining and lodging that you could want. Take a look at our fancy GPS system we use to travel on road trips.
The drive to reach Bryce takes a little more than 2 hours from St. George and is a pleasant ride. Let’s do this and now its time for the exploration to begin!
What are the Hoodoos? See them in Bryce Canyon
First, let’s dig into a little bit of history about what this magnificent park is all about. The geology of Bryce Canyon is quite extraordinary and almost carries on a life of its own. The most iconic things that stand out in this park are these strangely shaped rock formations called hoodoos.
Millions of years ago the entire area of Bryce Canyon was covered by water, and up until today, played only a minor role in its story. The combination of the climate conditions such as snow, ice and freezing which expands and cracks the rocks is a common occurrence at Bryce. As well as the heating during the afternoon can create something known as soil creep, which causes the stone material to move downward, then more erosion happens when the thunderstorms dissolve the limestone material further.
Bryce Canyon Primary Features
The primary features of Bryce are canyon walls or fins, windows and hoodoos. The hoodoos are actually formed from the canyon cliffs and walls as a result of erosion; the thin walls are called fins. The dynamic weather of freezing and frost wedging enlarges cracks in the fins, which then create the windows. As these windows grow larger, they will then collapse of which a column is formed. More erosion and dissolving as a result of rain carving these limestone pillars into what we see today throughout Bryce, the hoodoos.
Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
Our day began with an early morning rise and a nutritious breakfast with our lunches made and packed, water, and other adventures essentials. We hit the road around 8:30 A.M. and arrived into the Bryce Canyon area about 11:00 A.M. Prior to reaching the front entry gate to the park, you enter Red Canyon. Be sure to stop here and capture a few photos of these exquisite red rock formations and canyons.
There are two drive through red rock tunnels and surrounding natural landscape!
Notes: There is a free shuttle service to take you through the park during heavy traffic times and runs from April – October.
Bryce Canyon Guide
As you enter the front gate you can stop at the Visitor Center and pick up a guide and brochure to the park. Note: The Visitor Center parking lot is under construction but the other large parking lot is open across the main road. This as of October 2019. You begin this amazing journey by riding along the scenic drive through the park, which is about 18 miles and ends at the parks highest elevations. It is suggested to take this scenic road all the way to the end then start to make your stops at the points of interest. This way all the stops will be on your right side as you return on this drive.
Top Bryce Canyon Scenic Points of Interest
Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point are the highest elevation points at 9100 feet and offers incredible views back on the grand staircase and other features. Including the uppermost Pink cliffs and red Vermilion cliffs in the canyon.
Black Birch Canyon
Sunrise and Sunset Point
Bryce Canyon Hiking Trails
Rim trail is an easy scenic 2.5 mile path that takes you up and over to Inspiration Point where you have a front row seat to Bryce Amphitheater. There are several gorgeous view points all along this trail as you make your way up to Inspiration Point.
Navajo Loop trail is an amazing 1.3-mile loop path through the hoodoos including the infamous Thor’s Hammer and Two Bridges! Although short and well paved, this trail can get your heart pumping especially with the altitude so be prepared. I love this trail as it leads down via switchbacks and tall pine trees.
Sunset to Sunrise walk path is an easy paved portion of the Rim trail and there are views of Bryce Amphitheater.
Exploring other hiking trails in Bryce Canyon:
- Bristle Cone Loop 1.0 mi.
- Queen’s Garden 1.8 mi.
- Tower Bridge 3.0 mi.
- Hat Shop 4.0 mi.
- Sheep Creek/Swamp Canyon 4.0 mi.
- Fairyland Loop 8.0 mi.
- Peekaboo Loop (Bryce Point) 5.5 mi.
- The Figure 8 Combination (Sunrise/Sunset Point) 6,4 mi.
- Bryce Amphitheater Travers (Bryce Point) 4.7 mi.
Wildlife in Bryce Canyon National Park
In addition to all the outdoor activities, there are also other special features of the park. There is an abundance of wildlife that call Bryce Canyon home. These residents include the Steller’s Jay, Great Basin rattlesnake, golden-mantled ground squirrel, uinta chipmunk, Utah prairie dog, and mountain lions.
More Recreation Fun
There is so much more to see and do in Bryce Canyon including bicycling, back country camping, horseback riding, and of course hiking adventures! Other services include disable and wheelchair accessible and a free access guide at the Visitor Center. Lodging is available at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon from Spring through Fall and the Sunset Motel is open for Winter lodging. You can make reservations at 435-834-8700. There are restaurants and a general store, gift shops, picnic and grill areas, as well as laundry facilities. For more information visit Bryce Canyon Country.
There is a small town community shortly before you reach Bryce Canyon called Bryce Canyon City. Here you will find gas stations, restaurants and lodging as well.
Plan your trip today! For more information
Bryce Canyon National Park
PO Box 640201
Bryce, UT 84764
Frequently asked questions on Bryce Canyon
Can you just drive through Bryce Canyon?
Yes, you can drive along the 38 mile scenic route and stop at all 13 main viewpoint stops! It typically takes about three hours to complete. It is beautiful!
What is the best time of year to hike in Bryce Canyon?
If you wish to avoid traffic, crowds, and hot temperatures, the fall and winter seasons are nice. The fall is especially beautiful with unique golden hour sunshine and sunsets.