How to spend one day in Bryce Canyon National Park
Welcome to this article on how to spend one day in Bryce Canyon National Park. After writing various blogs about Zion National Park, I decided it was finally time to write a post about Bryce Canyon National Park. It was the last of four national parks for me 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 my tips and tricks on how to spend 24 hours in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Note this post was first published in 2015 and updated in 2021
Entry into 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. I heard that the 18 mile long park road can get fairly crowded so there for decided to divide my visit into two sections: one in the last afternoon of day one and one in the early morning of day two. However they make up a full one day itinerary for Bryce Canyon. I 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 I wanted to avoid that, starting rather late sounded like a perfect option. Not that I had much choice though, since I hiked Angels Landing in Zion NP earlier that morning.
How to start your one day at Bryce Canyon
Someone suggested to me 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 me 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 I just let myself 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, I decided that it would be impossible to stop at each viewpoint, if I wanted to make it back to my campsite before darkness would set in. So the next stop was Farview Point which treated us to another set of breathtaking views. I just couldn’t stop clicking away with my camera, I just did a count and I have more than 150 pictures of just Bryce Canyon National Park.
Working my way back down to the entrance of the park, I 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.
Sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park
After a very chilly night in my tent, I drove back to the park in the pitch dark, to be sure I wouldn’t miss the sunrise. Upon arrival at Sunrise Point, it turned out I was definitely not the only one: quite a bunch of people had gathered at the viewpoint, all waiting for that one special moment. I was 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 me, but also behind me, 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 I knew it, I was almost by myself afain, enjoying a second breakfast at one of the picnic tables.
The Navajo Look Trail
My final aim for my visit to Bryce was to hike the famous Navajo Loop Trail. This trail is 4,75 km (at least, how I hiked it) and will take you anywhere between 1-3 hours, depending on your shape and how many pictures you will take. I started at Sunrise Point and walked down into the Amphitheatre on the Queens Garden Trail, eventually taking me 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 I 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, I saw almost nobody until I reached the end of the trail at Wall Street and Thors Hammer.
I 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. I 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.
Final thoughts and 24 hour itinerary for Bryce Canyon
Those 24 hours in Bryce Canyon 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. Here’s our hourly schedule for Bryce Canyon National Park:
afternoon day 1: drive to end of the road, work your way back to the entrance
early morning day 2: sunrise at Bryce Canyon
late morning day 2: Navajo Loop Trail
I’ll end this blog about Bryce Canyon in one day with some tips and tricks that I haven’t mentioned earlier:
– There are various lodging options near the entrance. As I wanted to go for the cheaper option, I camped at Bryce Canyon Pines, just a couple of miles from the park entrance. Check all accommodation here and make sure to book well ahead as accommodation fills up quickly. I booked three months in advance.
– It gets cold at night! The campsite was located at 7.700 ft (almost 3.000 m) above sealevel so that was fairly chilly. However, have a look at the stars or take a Stargazing trip!
– 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 <Lonely Planet Bryce Canyon for further planning your trip.
Also make sure to check these amazing tour options below:
Conclusion and disclaimer
The 24 hours in Bryce Canyon National Park was a special moment in my one month road trip through this part of the USA. It was my 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!
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Want to read more Utah National Park post? You may enjoy these:
– Sunrise at Mesa Arch: here’s how to enjoy it
– The best hikes in Zion National Park
– One day in Arches National Park
Amazing photos, thanks for sharing all of your great tips! We hated the fact that you couldn’t drive in Zion yourself, so Bryce is definitely much more appealing in tis sense – shuttle buses are fine and all but we really love the freedom and flexibility of not being stuck with handfuls of other people. Makes it feel too touristy otherwise.
But sounds like you definitely had an amazingly authentic experience – will definitely follow your guide and aim to camp when we head back through Utah. Being able to catch both sunrise and sunset in the one 24 hour period is a brilliant idea!
Thanks Meg – I always enjoy reading your comments! Indeed, not being to drive yourself in Zion is a true pain, esp. for early birds like us. Hope you will make it back to Utah and Bryce one day!
omg, what a place! I’ve seen some pictures from Bryce online but yours are definitely the best! I don’t know how you managed not to stop at every viewpoint, I don’t think I would be that strong! and the sunrise is breathtaking, it’s really worth to wake up early sometimes!
You’d love Bryce Kami!
It looks like one giant game of Tetris! Will have to pencil it in for a future American road trip! Great to see you could squeeze so much into a short space of time, and seemingly have the whole place to yourselves as well!
Haha yes it kind of is … it’s pretty massive and great to explore. Hope you can make it there one day!
I must say I’ve never seen photos of Bryce Canyon quite as striking as these! Makes me want to reevaluate my plans when I come back for a visit at the end of the year.
Aww thanks Erica! Hope you will be able to make it at the end of the year!
such a great way to maximize time. Awesome photos too:)
WOW! You’ve been doing extreme activities! I looove the photos! All stunning <3
Thank Mary – we love extreme activities!
This is a part of the U.S. that I haven’t traveled in much. I’m really looking forward to exploring all the national parks in the West like Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Canyon before long. Your pictures are reminding me of this. The sunrise looks like it is amazing there.
I love Bryce Canyon, it is one of the beautiful, underrated national park. It’s amazing to see the rock formation here. Unfortunately, my friends and I were on tight schedule so we were only here for about an hour. I didn’t have the opportunity to hike or explore other areas. I would love to go back and do the hike to see how it looks like from the bottom. I will keep these tips in mind the next time I visit.
Ohh one hour is pretty short, but it sure gives you a great idea about the beauty of this place. I hope you will get to visit one day soon again!
I just had to bookmark this post. And yes, if I were here 150 photos won’t be enough. Its too pretty I feel like the camera doesn’t do justice.
Nope, not at all 🙂
A place to fall in love with!!
WOW. Stunning scenery. I’d want to spend WAY more than 24 hours there!
Haha yes – more than 24 hrs would be amazing anywhere – I could easily have stayed here much longer!
Seems like one of those places where it is impossible to take a bad photo! I’ve never been here but I feel your pain at seeing the place independently, campig, hikig alone, only to be joined by tons of baying tourists for the ‘sunrise shot’! Haha! Happens on mountains all over the world. ;D
Nic from Roaming Renegades
Wow this is amazing, I have never heard of it before but there seems to be so many national parks in the US, So many places we have to visit!
Yeah, there are so many indeed. In my humble opinion, the US has some of the greatest parks on earth, definitely worth exploring!
Anne | Girl Chasing Sunshine
Certainly, these are the kind of moments that are worth waking up so early for!
Julius @ Traveltipy
Amazing park! It would be useful to add a map here so that we all can see where this park is located!
Those are awesome suggestions and I am going to file them away for visiting some friends in Salt Lake in the spring. Your pictures are simply awesome. If you don’t mind my asking, what kind of camera do you use?
We use a Nikon D5000 with a Tamron 18/270 lense and also a smaller Panasonic one, that is great for quick shots. We’re aiming or a new lens for the Nikon though because the Tamron hasn’t been performing as well as we hoped it would…
Bryce Canyon looks stunning! Some of the rock face is actually a little reminiscent of Cappadocia’s Rock huts!
Yeah I can see the resemblence, only from pics though I’d love to visit Cappadocia one day!
I had no idea how beautiful this place was!! Amazing photos 🙂
This place looks spectacular. Amazing photos and very informative post for first timers to the park. Can’t wait go there some day.
Keep up the great work!
It is in fact pretty spectacular, hope that you will be able to see it with your own eyes one day Robb!
Great post! I love Bryce, I’m a little biased though, as I grew up with Zion and Bryce in my back yard. I love all your wonderful pictures. For any one looking for a great place to stay that is located between Zion and Bryce, check out Pinkie’s Place https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12918329 or https://www.vrbo.com/812122
Bryce Canyon’s Fairyland loop Trail is in our top 10 hikes in America. Nice website
Bryce Canyon’s Fairyland Loop Trail, is in our top 10 trails in America. Nice website.
Good to know, I’ll remember that one for next time!