Bryce Canyon National Park is often overshadowed by the nearby Zion and Arches National Parks. But if you’re on a Utah road trip I highly encourage you not to overlook Bryce Canyon! It is my favorite Southwest National Park and spending one day in Bryce Canyon will add memorable experiences to your trip.
The park is most popularly known for its large concentration of eroded rock spires referred to as ‘hoodoos’. It is actually the largest concentration in the world! You’re able to walk among the tall spire-like hoodoos and through arches carved out of the orange rock. The orange hues glow during sunrise and sunset, painting a photographers dream playground.
If you’re not convinced yet I am confident we’ll get you there. And if you’re already convinced then I am excited because I am thrilled to help you plan your perfect one day in Bryce Canyon!
One Day In Bryce Canyon Overview
In this post I’ll guide you through all the details you need to know in order to have an epic day. It doesn’t matter what your abilities are for there is something for everyone- hiking included or not. I’ll be sure to include plenty of options so you can pick and choose what best suites you!
Below are the main points we will cover:
- The best Bryce Canyon viewpoints worth seeing
- Best day hikes in Bryce Canyon
- Where to stay near Bryce Canyon
- Two sample itineraries at the end!
Bryce Canyon National Park Facts
The current entry fee is $35 per vehicle for 7 days. You can pay the fee at the park entrance. If you plan on visiting 3 or more National Parks it is very cost effective to purchase the America The Beautiful Pass. It is a one time purchase that is good for a year and gets you entry into all U.S. National Parks!
Hours Of Operation
Bryce Canyon National Park is open 24/7 and year round! You currently do not need advance reservations to visit.
The restaurants and conveniences just outside of the park do generally close early and may have different operating seasons. Be sure to research these ahead of time. One winter the Subway closed at 6pm and I missed it for dinner!
Free Park Shuttle
To get around the park you can either drive yourself and chance parking at the viewpoints, or take the free park shuttle. You can park at the Visitor Center additional parking lot across the street or in Bryce Canyon City and hop on the shuttle.
The one downfall of utilizing the park shuttle is that it doesn’t travel to the end of the park’s Scenic Drive and viewpoints along it. The shuttle also does not run during winter so you’ll have to drive yourself.
For shuttle times and routes visit this website.
Is Bryce Canyon National Park Dog Friendly?
Trust me I get it- our fur babies are our children and we want to take them everywhere. Truth is most Southern Utah National Parks aren’t that dog friendly. While Bryce Canyon National Park allows dogs to enter the park they are restricted to paved paths only.
They are not able to enter the Visitor Center, park shuttle, or accompany you on any of the trails. They are, however, able to visit the viewpoints! If you want to visit Bryce Canyon in one day with your dog you absolutely can- just stick to the viewpoints and paved paths.
It is illegal to leave your pet in vehicles inside National Parks. The interior of vehicles heat up fast and can be 20-30 degrees warmer than outside. This can happen in just 10-15 minutes. Please do not leave your pet in your car and attempt to hike any of the trails without them.
Is One Day In Bryce Canyon Enough?
It is possible to see Bryce Canyon in one day and have an amazing time. What makes this National Park extremely friendly is the fact they have several beautiful view points you can drive to, short trails that give you a bang for your buck, and no permits or reservations are required.
Of course two days allows more time to explore but you can see a lot in one day. I always say it is worth visiting and getting what you can out of it rather than passing it by and missing the chance!
Best Time To Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
I have had the pleasure of visiting the park during every season, some multiple times. I guess you could call me obsessed. But luckily for you that means I can provide a valuable first hand experience. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each season below.
- Spring and Fall are the most comfortable times to visit Bryce Canyon due to lower temperatures. Spring happens to be my least favorite season because the temperature are slowly rising and the trails can be extremely muddy due to melting snow and rainfall. However fall is one of my favorite times to visit! The weather always seems to be perfect and the trails in pristine condition. Both seasons are peak times for visiting the National Park so expect crowds.
- Summer is one of the best seasons for visiting Bryce Canyon. I had the opportunity of working with a local tourism board and they informed me that it is their slowest season! Because Bryce sits at a higher elevation the temperatures rarely get dangerously high. You will want to begin your day hikes early because the sun is very harsh, but hikes are still do-able during this time.
- Winter is another favorite season of mine. There is just something about the hoodoos dusted with snow that inSPIRES me. I’m not the only one either- winter actually happens to be busy especially between Christmas and New Years. If you visit during winter there is a chance the main park road will be closed beyond the first couple viewpoints and some hikes in-accessible. But don’t worry because there is still plenty to do!
If you’re visiting during winter I highly suggest reading my 8 Best Bryce Canyon Winter Hikes And Things To Do
One Day In Bryce Canyon: Must See & Do
First let’s go over what the highlights and ‘must do’s’ are within Bryce Canyon. Then we will put it all together into a sample itinerary near the end of this guide.
Since you only have one day I feel like this limits us to viewpoints and day hikes. Bryce Canyon has other awesome activities like horseback riding and backpacking, however if you want the most bang for your buck this is what I highly suggest seeing.
- Visitor Center- During your time in Bryce you should make it a point to stop by the Visitor Center and get yourself a souvenir. They have a gift shop full of trinkets, shirts and sweatshirts, stickers, magnets, and more. I’m a sucker for a National Park T-shirt! Also inside the building there is an interesting museum exhibit which allows you to learn about Bryce’s history.
- Viewpoints- Bryce Canyon has a lot of viewpoints and while all are beautiful, I think there are a handful that are most impressive. If you plan on hiking you won’t have time for every viewpoint, but if you don’t plan on hiking and the viewpoints are your main itinerary then definitely stop by them all!
- Day Hike- You don’t have to hike far to witness Bryce’s beauty from within the amphitheater! Walking among the spire like hoodoos is a must-do while you’re here. We’ll get to planning your hike later in this guide.
Regardless, below are the top 4 Best Bryce Canyon viewpoints I suggest visiting.
Bryce Canyon’s Scenic Drive is the main road through the park. It is 18 miles long and takes you past all of the viewpoints. No matter if you plan on driving the entire length or not, I highly suggest driving to the very end (or your farthest destination) first and then working your way back to the park entrance. This is because all of the viewpoints are one side of the road and if you do this you won’t have to turn left each time!
Best Bryce Canyon Viewpoints
1. Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge is unique and different than other viewpoints in Bryce Canyon. Most viewpoints in the park provide vast views into the amphitheater and beyond, whereas Natural Bridge hosts an impressive natural arch. It almost doesn’t feel real that you’re able to park in a lot and walk a few feet to peer down at it!
It takes thousands of years of erosion to create the natural arches you see throughout Bryce. Even today erosion is at work, slowly wearing away the rock. No other viewpoint in the park is like this that is why I believe it is a must see.
2. Inspiration Point
For the best overall view of the hoodoos within Bryce Canyon you’ll want to visit Inspiration Point. But not just at any time of the day. The best times to view and photograph the glowing hoodoos is during sunrise or sunset, the latter being my favorite. As the sun sets it highlights some of the hoodoos and casts a glow on others.
Inspiration Point has three levels with different perspectives so if you’re feeling adventurous you can visit all three. The walk up to the upper viewpoint is a little steep but just a short walk. Truly a beautiful spot! You don’t need to see all three to feel inSPIRED, though. Anywhere around Inspiration Point is beautiful and will give you a great view of the hoodoos down in the amphitheater.
3. Sunset Point
Sunset Point is one of the most popular viewpoints in Bryce Canyon. It is located close to the park entrance and one of the most scenic trails in the park embark from here. A lot of visitors think that Sunset Point is the best for watching sunset due to the name, however it is actually opposite. Sunset point is known for great sunrises!
The Rim Trail connects Inspiration Point and Sunset Point. The distance between the two is 0.5 miles and flat, so you could easily walk from one to the other.
4. Sunrise Point
Just like how Sunset Point is best for Sunrise Point…you guessed it- Sunrise point is best for sunset! Clearly someone became confused during the naming process. Sunrise point is the closest viewpoint to the park entrance and hosts a trailhead that leads you down a different stunning trail than at Sunset Point.
You can walk the Rim Trail between Sunrise and Sunset Points if you wish since they are only 0.5 miles apart. If you’re wanting to see both I highly suggest walking between the two versus driving because finding parking at the lots can sometimes be a doozy.
Bryce Canyon Must Do Day Hikes
It is hard to choose a favorite trail in Bryce Canyon because all of them are scenic and beautiful in their own way. What I love about this park is that there are varying trail lengths and difficulties for everyone, and in order to really appreciate the park I highly suggest hiking down into the amphitheater.
Below are the best hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park and hiking any one of them will make your visit memorable.
1. Navajo/Queen’s Garden Loop
Hiking Distance | 2.85 miles
Difficulty | Moderate
Elevation Gain | 550 feet
By far the most popular and scenic trails are the Navajo and Queen’s Garden trails which are often combined for a loop. This is a moderate loop hike and can be knocked out in as little as 1.5 hours, but if you want to take your time and capture lots of photos you’re looking at spending 2 hours.
If you begin at Sunset point and head down the Navajo Trail you’ll be rewarded with the iconic switchbacks you see photographed and shared across social media. Beginning your hike this way is nice because you’ll go down the switchbacks versus up.
Just below the switchbacks you’ll be able to see Two Bridges tucked off the trail. These natural bridges are stacked on top of one another and were formed from erosion thousands of years ago. It is a nice mini side excursion that may give you a minute or two of solitude.
The Navajo Trail intersects with the Queen’s Garden and Connector Trail. Turn left to loop onto the Queen’s Garden trail and from here on out things get really interesting. Queen’s Garden Trail leads you through the best sections of spire-like hoodoos and allows you to walk through archways.
You’ll end your hike at Sunrise Point and hike the 0.5 miles along the Rim Trail to loop back to Sunset Point where you started.
2. Peekaboo Loop
Hiking Distance | 5.5 miles
Difficulty | Difficult
Elevation Gain | 1,550 feet
While most visitors flock to Navajo/Queen’s Garden Loop, the few who do venture out to Peekaboo Loop are spoiled with solitude and other striking views.
To hike Peekaboo Loop you’ll drive and park at Bryce Point which is another great viewpoint within the park. From here there is a trail that leads you down to connect to the loop portion of the hike.
Peekaboo Loop itself is 3.0 miles but with the distance of the connector trail from Bryce Point it is more like 5.5 miles total. This connector trail is extremely steep and the most difficult part of this hike. But once on the loop you’ll find it easy-going with only the occasional incline.
I truly believe Peekaboo Loop is one of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon and most underrated. If you can’t choose between this hike or the Navajo/Queen’s Garden, good news is you don’t have to! You can connect them and experience both. It is called the Combination Loop or Figure 8.
3. Combination Loop: Navajo to Peekaboo Loop to Queen’s Garden
Hiking Distance | 6.1 miles
Difficulty | Moderate – Difficult
Elevation Gain | 1,251 feet
My absolute favorite hike in Bryce Canyon is the Combination Loop, also referred to as the Figure 8, which combines the Navajo/Queens Garden Loop with Peekaboo Loop. All of these trails are scenic and if you combine them you’ll get the ultimate experience. And it is possible to do this during your one day in Bryce Canyon!
To hike the combination loop you can begin from either Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, or Bryce Point. The way I suggest hiking is to begin from Sunrise Point and head down the Navajo Trial. Once the Navajo Trail intersects the Queen’s Garden and connector trail, turn right to hop on the connector trail which will take you to Peekaboo Loop.
After you hike the Peekaboo Loop you’ll hop back on the connector trail and continue straight to hike the Queen’s Garden Trail which leads you to end at Sunrise Point. From here just hike the 0.5 miles from Sunrise to Sunset Point and you’ve accomplished and amazing half day hike in Bryce Canyon!
Hiking Peekaboo Loop this way is actually easier than if you began from Bryce Point. This is because it doesn’t include the connector trail from the viewpoint which is the steepest and most difficult part of the hike.
4. Mossy Cave & Waterfall
Hiking Distance | 0.8 miles
Difficulty | Easy
Elevation Gain | 300 feet
Did you know that Bryce Canyon National Park has a waterfall? It took me years to realize this and finally stop by Mossy Cave and it’s waterfall. This short hike is packed full of beautiful views and fun for the family.
You’re able to hike to see the cave or ‘grotto’, but the highlight is really the waterfall which is man-made! The Tropic Ditch is 10 miles long and was dug out to provide irrigation to the small town of Tropic which sits below Bryce Canyon.
Mossy Cave is also stunning during winter because icicles hang in the opening and the waterfall freezes over! No matter which season you visit Mossy Cave is sure to impress you.
For more visit 6 Reasons Mossy Cave Waterfall Is Worth The Stop
5. Fairyland Loop
Hiking Distance | 7.7 miles
Difficulty | Moderate
Elevation Gain | 1,308 feet
For those looking for a longer day hike that draws you away from the crowds, Fairyland Loop may be the perfect hike for you. This moderate loop descends into the Bryce amphitheater, travels along part of the amphitheater floor, and back up to the Rim Trail. Along the way you’ll get to experience a very different and remote part of Bryce Canyon.
The beginning features giant hoodoos much like the other trails, but eventually those give way to pine trees, rock walls, and distant rolling hills of orange, white, and pink.
Along the way you’ll have the option to take a little detour to visit Tower Bridge. The trail is short and worth the extra effort for some views of the most impressive natural bridge in all of Bryce Canyon!
For the full trail guide visit Expert Guide To Hiking Fairyland Loop In Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon One Day Itinerary
Knowing what I know from my multiple trips to Bryce, this is how I’d plan an epic one day in Bryce Canyon.
Option 1: Hiking + Viewpoints
- Arrive for sunrise at Sunset Point. Spend some time at the viewpoint while you watch the sun rise behind the hoodoos and light up the amphitheater below.
- Once the sun has peaked over the distant mountain ridge, begin your Combination Loop Trail hike down the Navajo Trail. If you hike down into the amphitheater at this point you’ll literally be walking in the glowing orange rock and hoodoos! It is a magical experience and you can catch some amazing photos with the sun rays. Since the Combination Loop ends at Sunrise Point you’ll be able to witness this viewpoint and the 0.5 mile portion of Rim Trail to Sunset Point. Check and check!
- Before returning to Sunset Point you can walk over to the General Store nearby Sunrise Point for snacks or lunch. You’re able to sit on their front porch and enjoy the weather from one of the picnic tables. Once you’re done, head to back to Sunset Point.
- Bryce Canyon Lodge hosts a Gift Shop and is right near Sunset Point. Take some time to browse their inventory of souvenir items.
- Hop into your car and begin touring the viewpoints! I suggest starting at the Natural Bridge and working your way to Inspiration Point for sunset. If you find yourself with extra time then I suggest adding in Bryce Point too!
- After a sunset head to Ruby’s Inn Cowboy Buffet and Steak Room for a delicious dinner buffet.
- The next morning consider stopping by Mossy Cave quick before leaving Bryce Canyon.
Option 2: Viewpoints Only
- Arrive for Sunrise at Sunset Point and take some time to enjoy it. Feel free to bring a camping chair and set it right on the Rim for the ultimate experience!
- After sunrise store your chair back in your car and walk the 0.5 miles to Sunrise Point. Here you can grab a coffee from the General Store or wait for them to open up breakfast at 9 am.
- Walk back to Sunset Point and visit the Bryce Canyon Lodge Gift Shop to spoil you or someone you love with a little souvenir.
- Hop back in your car and drive the entire Scenic Drive. First, take your time and drive all the way to the end, enjoying the views along the way. Then as you drive back towards the park entrance, stop at all of the viewpoints that interest you along the way. I highly suggest Natural Bridge, Bryce Point, and Inspiration Point!
- If you still have daylight left and don’t want to wait for sunset at Inspiration Point, you can drive to Old Bryce Town just outside of the park entrance. Walk around, grab some ice cream, or shop the unique stores!
- For dinner I highly suggest visiting Ruby’s Inn Cowboy Buffet & Steak Room for an impressive dinner buffet.
Where To Stay Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Staying in or near Bryce Canyon National Park will help maximize your time. I highly suggest spending at least one night here!
There are plenty of lodging options and depending on which season you’re visiting some may work better than others. Regardless, below are my top three favorite places to stay near Bryce Canyon.
- Bryce Canyon Lodge is situated right inside the park and could not be more convenient! They are only open for certain months out of the year though, typically closed during winter.
- Bryce Canyon Campgrounds– there are two within close proximity to the park and you can’t go wrong with either. Be sure to check the website for reservation dates versus first come first serve dates.
- Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn is my favorite hotel lodging to stay at. They are located just outside of the park entrance and host a General Store, restaurant, laundry, and more!
Recap: One Day In Bryce Canyon National Park
We’ve covered a lot in this guide and I hope it has been valuable to you. As you can see, it is possible to spend one day in Bryce Canyon and experience a lot! There are plenty of things for the entire family to enjoy.
Every time I’m in Southern Utah I try to stop by Bryce Canyon. I just can’t help myself! The glowing orange rock never disappoints and I’m always trying out new ways to hike the trails or things to do nearby.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or questions! I’d love to be able to answer your questions and assist in enhancing your trip.
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