How to spend a perfect 24 hours in Bryce Canyon National Park
After writing various blogs about “big sister” Zion NP, I decided it was finally time to write a post about Bryce Canyon National Park. It was the last of four national parks for us to visit in Utah but definitely one of the most impressive. Well known for its bizarre rock formations, everyone should put visiting this place on their bucketlist. Here’s our tips and tricks on how to spend 24 hours in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Contrary to Zion National Park, you can enter Bryce with your own car, however if you prefer you may also take one of the shuttle buses. We heard that the 18 mile long park road can get fairly crowded so there for decided to divide our visit into two sections: one in the last afternoon of day 1 and one in the early morning of day 2. We heard that in the middle of the day it’s not only super hot, but parking lots near the sights tend to get jammed with not just cars but also with RV’s so it can be a nightmare to find a parking spot. As we wanted to avoid that, starting rather late sounded like a perfect option. Not that we had much choice though, since we hiked Angels Landing in Zion NP earlier that morning.
Someone suggested to us to drive all the way to the end of the park road and start working your way back from there, an excellent piece of advice if you ask me. Sure, it’s kind of hard not to stop when you see the most amazing rock formations all around you, but it proved to be well worth it. The drive to the end of the park road is about 45 minutes (or less, depending on how busy it is) and from there, you can take as much time as you need to get back to the entrance. First stop for us was all the way at the end, at Rainbow Point. When stepping out of the car there was only a handful of other people (despite the fact it was mid-June, pretty much high season) and we just let ourselves be amazed by the stunning views. Everybody knows the famous Bryce Canyon photos with the hoodoos but this was what you never see in pictures: hoodoos everywhere, surrounded by trees, trees and more trees. I was completely swept off my feet, I had never realized there would be so many trees here. And I just happen to love trees … see for yourself!
After taking the first bunch of photos, we decided that it would be impossible to stop at each viewpoint, if we wanted to make it back to our campsite before darkness would set in. So the next stop was Farview Point which treated us to another set of breathtaking views. We just couldn’t stop clicking away with our cameras, I just did a count and we have more than 150 pictures of just Bryce.
Working our way back down to the entrance of the park, we stopped various times for pictures and just before closing time popped into the Visitors Center to inquire about the time for sunrise the next morning. Because that’s what everyone wants to see … the sunrise at Sunrise Point.
After a very chilly night in our tent, we drove back to the park in the pitch dark, to be sure we wouldn’t miss the sunrise. Upon arrival at Sunrise Point, it turned out we were definitely not the only ones: quite a bunch of people had gathered at the viewpoint, all waiting for that one special moment. We were quite early (still had to wait for about 30 minutes) but that was good because it only got busier and busier. Eventually, people were not only standing next to us, but also behind us, it felt kind of oppressive.
And then the magical moment arrived: the first rays of sunshine lighting up the amphitheatre of hoodoos, slowly warming up the world with its magic. And everyone was quiet. And amazed. And clicking away. Words are impossible to describe this moment, so just look for yourself at the pictures below:
After the sunrise, the audience quickly disappeared, but to where, I have no idea. Maybe back to bed but before we knew it, we were almost by ourselves, enjoying a second breakfast at one of the picnic tables.
Our final aim for our visit to Bryce was to hike the famous Navajo Loop Trail. This trail is 4,75 km (at least, how we hiked it) and will take you anywhere between 1-3 hours, depending on your shape and how many pictures you will take. We started at Sunrise Point and walked down into the Amphitheatre on the Queens Garden Trail, eventually taking us back up to Sunset Point on the Navajo Loop Trail. From here you can walk along the Rim Trail back to Sunrise Point. The steepest part of the track is definitely Wall Street. If you want to avoid going up here (like we did) make sure to hike anti-clockwise, however park rangers will advise not to walk down here because of its steepness. Hiking this trail is definitely the best option after sunrise at Sunrise Point and if you are lucky, you may not even encounter that many tourists. As it was still early, we saw almost nobody until we reached the end of the trail at Wall Street and Thors Hammer.
We truly loved this hike, it’s definitely a one of a kind! Not only can it get pretty quiet (and hopefully you can see some wildlife) but you can get really up close and personal with the hoodoos. Some are even bigger than they seem from a distance and it’s just amazing how they just seem to erect from the ground. We finished the trail in about two hours and then it was time to say goodbye to Bryce and move on to Salt Lake City and from there, up to Yellowstone National Park.
Those 24 hours in Bryce were just perfect. The park is relatively small compared to some other Utah parks and unless you are hiking, an afternoon or morning may even be enough for you. I’ll end this blog with some tips and tricks that I haven’t mentioned earlier:
– There are various lodging options near the entrance. As we wanted to go for the cheaper option, we camped at Bryce Canyon Pines, just a couple of miles from the park entrance.
– It gets cold at night! The campsite was located at 7.700 ft (almost 3.000 m) above sealevel so that was fairly chilly.
– When you go to Sunrise Point, make sure to dress warm. It gets cold there and once the crowd comes in, there’s not a lot of opportunities anymore to walk back and forth to keep you warm.
– Make a stop at the Visitors Center for the last updates concerning the weather, exact sunrise moment and hiking trail conditions.
– Make sure to order your copy of Lonely Planet Utah here for further planning your trip.
The 24 hours in Bryce Canyon National Park was a special moment in our one month road trip through this part of the USA. It was our fourth national park in Utah yet it was once again so different than the ones we’d already seen. If you make it as far as Zion National Park, please don’t hesitate to make the extra effort to drive up to Bryce. I guarantee that you won’t be sorry!
Want to read more about our USA road trip and/or the other parks we visited? You may like these:
– The 5 best hikes in Zion National Park
– How to beat the crowds at the Grand Canyon and make the most out of your time
– The best of Arches National Park in a day
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