The Ultimate Bryce Canyon National Park Travel Guide
Since it became a national park in 1928, Bryce Canyon has been captivating thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike with its breathtaking beauty. Bryce Canyon National Park has one of the largest concentrations of unique rock formations - called hoodoos - in the world. But Bryce Canyon isn’t just a pretty face; there are hiking trails for every skill level, geological and nature programs, horseback rides, guided tours and much more.
Bryce Canyon National Park spans 35,835 acres of land and rises in elevation from 6,620 feet to 9,115 feet above sea level. It can get pretty chilly sometimes, but Bryce Canyon is open for business year-round. Even during the snowy winters, there is never a lack of interesting things to do and see. Bryce Canyon is conveniently located right in the middle of Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, and all three are connected by some of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country. Tourists often visit all three parks during their visit to southern Utah.
This guide will help you plan your trip to Bryce CanyonNational Park. Here’s what you’ll find:
- Getting to the Park
- Getting Around
- Where to Stay
- When to Visit
- Things to Do
- Where to Eat
Getting to Bryce Canyon National Park
Grafissimo from Getty Images
Bryce Canyon National Park is about 1.5 hours and 72 miles east of Zion National Park and 2.5 hours and 112 miles southwest of Capitol Reef National Park.
- If you come from the West, US Routes 14 and 9 will easily bring you to US 89 N and Scenic ByWay 12.
- If you come from the East, UT-24W and Scenic ByWay 12 are your best routes.
- If you come from the Las Vegas area, I-15 N will bring you to the Zion/Bryce area, where you’ll have several options for beautiful, scenic drives to Bryce.
- If you come from the Grand Canyon, it’s smooth sailing on US 89N all the way to Scenic ByWay 12!
- Cedar City Regional Airport, Cedar City, UT: 1.5 hours away - This is the closest airport to the park, but direct flights are limited.
- Salt Lake City International Airport, Salt Lake City, UT: 4.5 hours away - SLC offers connecting commuter flights to Cedar City Regional Airport
- St. George Regional Airport, St. George, UT: 2.5 hours away - St. George Regional is the closest airport to Zion National Park. If you’re planning on visiting Zion as well as Bryce, this would be your best and closest option.
- McCarren International Airport, Las Vegas, NV: About 4.5 hours away. If you’re planning on visiting the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and other major attractions, flying into McCarren and renting a car to get you here.
- Bryce Canyon Airport, Bryce Canyon City, about 5 miles away. This small airport caters to private, small-propeller planes and doesn’t offer public transportation. It does, however, offer aerial tours of Bryce Canyon National Park, so if a scenic flight sounds like your speed, check them out at brycecanyonairport.com
Getting Around Bryce Canyon National Park
Because it’s quite remote and there are no hired car options here (no Uber, no Lyft!). Driving to Bryce Canyon National Park is your best option. Fortunately, all of the surrounding airports offer most large-chain car rental services at reasonable prices, and most of them offer online discounts and coupons for first-time rentals.
When you get to the park itself, though, Bryce Canyon offers a shuttle service from April through October that’s completely free with park admission. The shuttle runs on a continuous loop (8 a.m. - 8 p.m.) around the Bryce Amphitheater, park campgrounds and the adjoining Ruby’s properties just outside the park gates. It can even be tracked in real time via a website! Learn more here.
Where to Stay, Bryce Canyon National Park
There are a variety of accommodation options in and around Bryce Canyon National Park including hotels, campgrounds and RV parks.
Hotels Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Located inside the gates of the Bryce Canyon National Park just feet away from the Rim Trail at Sunrise Point, the Bryce Lodge is probably the most convenient place to stay when visiting Bryce. This is the original lodge built in 1925, and it offers guest rooms, suites, and cabin rental options. The lodge is open during peak season (March-October) and then has limited availability throughout the winter season. Be sure to check their website for blackout dates if you’re planning on visiting during the off-season.
There are three properties under the Ruby’s brand: Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn, Bryce View Lodge and Bryce Grand Hotel. All properties share amenities including indoor pool, restaurants, a General Store, an “old town” style souvenir shop and more. Conveniently located within minutes of the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Additional Hotel Options Near Bryce Canyon
- The town of Panguitch is approximately 25 miles outside of the gate to Bryce Canyon and offers a few reasonably priced chain hotels/motels and several AirBnB options, too!
- The town of Tropic is a short 12 miles outside of the Bryce Canyon gates and offers some clean and unique family-friendly lodging options such as the Bryce Canyon Log Cabins https://brycecanyonlogcabins.com/
Campgrounds in Bryce Canyon National Park
Camping is a popular way to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, especially during the busy summer months. If you’re an avid camper, you may want to consider one of the two campgrounds within the park gates.
1. North Campground
- Located just across the road from the Visitor’s Center.
- 59 tent sites and 49 RV sites on a first come-first served basis during the summer season (April-October).
- RV sites: $30/night
- Tent sites: $20/night
2. Sunset Campground
- Located about 1.5 miles south of the Visitor’s Center
- 50 tent sites and 50 RV sites by reservation only during the summer season (April-October).
- Open mid-April to mid-May and the month of October on a first come, first served basis. Closed during winter months.
- RV sites: $30/night
- Tent sites: $20/night
- Offers group rates by reservation
There are no electric, sewer or water hookups on these sites, but there is a dump station, coin-operated laundry and shower services, potable water source and flushable toilets available during peak seasons.
Campsites inside the park itself are usually claimed by 10am. It’s also an unspoken rule among avid campers that you shouldn’t ask someone outright for their campsite, as it’s considered impolite.
Other Camping Options:
- Ruby’s Inn Campground and RV Park offers RV sites, group camping sites and teepees! All Ruby’s amenities including pool, laundry, restrooms and showers.
- Dispersed Camping: Dispersed Camping in the Dixie National Forest that borders Bryce Canyon National Park is permitted. Please visit the National Forestry Service here for more information and guidelines.
- Backcountry Camping: There are 7 campsites along the 23-mile Under-the-Rim Trail and 3 along the 9-mile Riggs Spring Loop Trail inside Bryce Canyon National Park. Camping on these sites is by permit only, and you must purchase the $5 permit in-person at the Visitor’s Center. When Backcountry camping, please remember to follow the guidelines listed here: https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/backcountryinfo.htm
When to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon Blewulis from Getty Images
Peak Season at Bryce Canyon National Park is May through September. The weather stays consistent in the 60s and 70s, and even though the summer months occasionally bring severe thunderstorms, conditions for hiking and hoodoo gazing are almost ideal. Obviously, this means that May through September are the busiest and most crowded months of the year. On the plus side, Bryce Canyon National Park is expansive and offers a vast array of activities for the whole family, so the park doesn’t necessarily feel crowded.
April and October are arguably the best months to visit. The weather is ideal for hiking, and the park is not overly crowded. And most of the amenities - like horseback riding, ATV rentals, and electric bikes - are still available. If you’re visiting at this time just be sure to wear layers when you’re exploring! Because of its high elevation, days are pleasantly warm but mornings and evenings at Bryce can be downright chilly! The rule of thumb is to always bring a layer warmer than you think you’ll need.
November through March is considered “winter” at Bryce Canyon National Park, and believe it or not, the park sees more snowfall per season than any of the surrounding Utah parks. Snow doesn’t deter tourism, though. There are plenty of winter hikes and sports happening at Bryce; seeing the snow-capped hoodoos is a truly magical experience. Be advised though; the Bryce Canyon Shuttle service does not run in winter months.
Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park
1. Shaka Guide's Self-Guided GPS Driving Tour
Our tour will not only take you through the 14 Bryce Canyon viewpoints, but we also take you on a journey through history! It starts in Bryce Canyon City. From there, we’ll travel through vast landscapes and small towns created over a hundred years ago. We’ll learn about the Native American tribe that originated here, the Mormon pioneers who settled here, and the cowboys that made this area famous. Then we’ll take a ride down Scenic ByWay 12, which is considered one of the most scenic drives in the entire country. We’ll learn about Bryce’s unique geology and the people who championed it to become a treasured national park.
2. Horseback Riding Tours
The Bryce Canyon Lodge inside the park gates and Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon City both offer guided tours of the Bryce Amphitheater on horseback. These tours range anywhere from one hour to several days, and rides are available at every skill level; even if you’ve never ridden a horse in your life!
3. ATV Tours
All-terrain vehicles are prohibited within the park itself, but Ruby’s Inn and several other private companies offer guided ATV tours on several surrounding trails in nearby Red Canyon and Dixie National Forest.
4. Bike Tours
Bryce Canyon is a popular destination for mountain biking! Ruby’s Inn offers mountain bike and electric bike rentals. Although riding is only permitted on paved roads inside Bryce Canyon, the Shared Use Path takes you along the rim of the Bryce Amphitheater! Check it out here: https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/shared-use-path.htm
FatCamera by Getty Images
Hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park is a truly magical experience! There are over 15 hiking trails through the hoodoos that range from easy to strenuous. You can check out a list of specific hikes here: https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/day-hikes.htm
There are a few things to keep in mind when hiking at Bryce Canyon:
- Wear sturdy hiking shoes with proper ankle support and tread.
- Bring plenty of water, even in winter months
- Do not feed wildlife
- Stay on marked trails and do not climb the hoodoos
- Pets (including service animals) are only permitted on paved surfaces
6. Sunsets and Stargazing
Bryce Sunset By Chalutorn
Bryce Canyon National Park has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Why? When the sun rises over the legendary hoodoo formations, the red, orange and yellow colors come alive for a once-in-a-lifetime photo op that will make your friends and family jealous. There is a viewpoint at Bryce called Sunrise Point, but the absolute best place to see a Bryce Sunrise is actually at Bryce Point. Bryce Point has the largest concentration of hoodoos in the park, and when the morning sun hits the tops of them, they light up like candles on a birthday cake.
Bryce Canyon National Park is also an International Dark Sky Park. Because of its high elevation and lack of light pollution from nearby cities, Bryce is an ideal place to see the stars. On clear nights, you may even be able to see the entire Milky Way! Park rangers host evening astronomy talks and full moon hikes; times vary based on the season. Check the park ranger station at the visitor center for more information.
Dark Ranger Telescope Tours also offers public and private guided dark sky tours at various locations. Check them out at: https://www.darkrangertelescopetours.com/
7. Bryce Canyon National Park's Visitor Center
The Bryce Canyon Visitor Center is located just inside the park’s main entrance. It’s hard to miss, easily accessible and offers plenty of parking. The Visitor Center has an amazing gift shop, but it’s so much more than just souvenirs. Here you will find a museum about the native and geological history of Bryce Canyon National Park, a ranger help desk where friendly park rangers can answer questions face-to-face, a first aid station, drinkable water and full-service restrooms, and a mini-movie theater where you can watch a 20-minute, award-winning video about the native history of Bryce Canyon, the people who settled here, and the wildlife that call it home.
8. Bryce Amphitheater and Scenic Drive
Amphitheater Bryce - JimVallee from Getty Images
Bryce Canyon National Park is unofficially divided into two sections: the Bryce Amphitheater and the Scenic Drive. Both are easy to navigate, and both are not to be missed if you’re looking for a complete Bryce experience. It’s just a question of which one to do first.
The “amphitheater” isn’t really an “amphitheater” in the traditional sense; it’s a large canyon-like area with the largest concentration of hoodoos in the park. There are five viewpoints that surround the Bryce Amphitheater: Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, Paria View and Bryce Point. These are the most popular viewpoints at Bryce Canyon National Park, as they feature some of the most photographed and iconic hoodoos, and they boast popular hiking trails that descend down into the canyon among them. Should you visit all of them? Absolutely. Each has its own unique perspective, and each hosts various species of flora and fauna.
The Scenic Drive
Just after the Bryce Amphitheater is an 18-mile stretch of road called the Scenic Drive. The other 9 viewpoints of Bryce Canyon National Park sit along this road, ending with Rainbow Point, which is a whopping 9,100 feet above sea level. From here and the adjoining Yovimpa Point, you may even be able to see the Southern rim of the Grand Canyon; that’s over 300 miles away! Some of the most unique geological features and phenomena in the country can be found at these viewpoints. They are wonderful places to see the geological story of Bryce Canyon. The Scenic Drive is most certainly worth your time.
Where to Eat in and around Bryce Canyon National Park
Inside the park:
- The Bryce Canyon Lodge - in-house dining room open seasonally (March-October) for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Valhalla Pizzeria and Coffee Shop - open seasonally (mid-May through mid-September) for lunch and dinner
In Bryce Canyon City (just outside the park gates):
- Ebenezer’s Bar and Grill - standard American fare dinner and a show featuring the Bryce Canyon Wranglers music group! Open nightly April through November at 7pm. Reservations are encouraged here.
- Ruby’s Cowboy Buffet - open year-round (including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years’ Eve!) and offers moderately priced breakfast and dinner buffets, full-service menu and take-out services. This buffet offers a wide selection of food for even the pickiest of eaters, and it’s one of our favorites here at Shaka Guide!
- Canyon Diner - Open year-round for lunch and dinner(reduced menu from October to April) and offers standard American fare (pizza, burgers, fries) at low prices.
Don’t feel like eating out? Ruby’s General Store offers a full-service grocery store complete with fresh produce, spices, baked goods and frozen foods! They also offer a terrific ice cream parlor!
Budgeting for Your Visit to Bryce Canyon National Park
Many people ask Can I do Bryce Canyon in a day? The answer is yes, you can. If your primary goal is to see the hoodoos, take a few pictures and maybe hike a trail or two, 5-6 hours is the perfect amount of time to budget at Bryce Canyon National Park, especially if you plan on visiting more than one national park while you’re in southern Utah. However, exploring Bryce Canyon can be a multi-day adventure. If you come during the summer season (May through September), the viewpoints (especially the Bryce Amphitheater viewpoints) can get crowded, and sometimes parking can be tricky. You may not be able to see everything you want to see at the time you’d like to see it, so you may want to plan for multiple days in the park. If you’re an avid hiker, you may want to spend several days exploring the legendary Bryce Canyon trails. And if you can, sunrises, sunsets and stargazing are can’t-miss opportunities!
The cost of a trip to Bryce Canyon varies depending on your itinerary. Here’s a breakdown of the basic in-park costs:
- Car rental: $70-$100 per day
- Lodging: $70-$200 per night in surrounding Bryce Canyon City (rates vary depending on season)
- Food: $10-50 per meal/per person
- Park admission: $35 per car (7 full days of unlimited admission to Bryce Canyon National Park)
Of course you may want to add some unforgettable experiences to your trip! Here’s the average cost of rentals and guided tours:
- Horseback rides: $80-250 (hours vary)
- ATV/UTV Rentals: starting at $80/hour on average
- Mountain Bike Rentals: $20-40 per day
- EBike Rentals: $40-85 per day
- Helicopter/aerial tours: starting at $150 (times vary)
- Telescope Tours: $20-$40 per evening
- Shaka Guide Bryce Canyon National Park Tour: $9.99
Will I have cell service at Bryce Canyon?
Some. Cell service is limited at Bryce Canyon National Park and varies depending on your carrier. However, free WiFi is available year-round at the Visitor Center.
What is the elevation at Bryce Canyon?
Bryce Canyon spans 6,620 feet to 9,115 feet above sea level.
Does it get cold at Bryce Canyon?
Yes! Even in the summer months, temperatures can change drastically as the sun goes down. It’s best to dress in layers, especially when hiking.
Are there bathrooms at Bryce Canyon?
Yes! There are full-service restrooms at the Visitor Center and Bryce Canyon Lodge. There are pit toilets at several of the viewpoints including Rainbow and Yovimpa Points.
Will I find parking at Bryce Canyon?
Yes! The most popular viewpoints are Sunrise and Sunset Points, and during peak season (May-September), their lots are usually full between 9am and 2pm. However, each viewpoint has a parking lot, and there are timed parking areas at the Visitor Center and the Bryce Lodge.
Is parking free at Bryce Canyon?
Should I use the shuttle at Bryce Canyon?
Bryce Canyon offers a free shuttle service during peak season (April-October) that runs from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. around the five viewpoints of the Bryce Amphitheater, the Visitor Center and Ruby’s Inn and General Store in Bryce Canyon City. However, there is no shuttle that runs the length of the Scenic Drive. If you’re interested in visiting the rest of the viewpoints along the Scenic Drive, renting a car and driving is your best option. Learn more about the shuttle service here.
Missing35mm from Getty Images
Planning ahead for your Bryce Canyon National Park adventure is always a good idea. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re exploring the hoodoos and hiking trails at Bryce Canyon National Park. Allow yourself plenty of time to explore, but don’t get caught up in schedules!
Ready to start planning your trip to Bryce Canyon National Park? Let us do the work for you. Download our Bryce Canyon National Park Tour. We’ll give you turn-by-turn directions to over a dozen stops in the park with stories and music along the way!