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The Perfect One Day in Bryce Canyon National Park Itinerary

Last Updated on 4th May 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

You only need one day to explore this beautiful park—though you can stay for longer if you’d like. This one day in Bryce Canyon National Park itinerary will help you make the most of your time in this national park.

One of five national parks in Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is a gorgeous place to visit and discover all that nature has to offer. It has 35,835 acres of stunning scenery, and it boasts the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos. If you’re planning a longer Utah road trip, then check out our suggested Utah itinerary.

bryce canyon
Bryce Canyon/ Ekaterina Pokrovsky/ Shutterstock

The History of Bryce Canyon

The area was declared a national park in 1923, but archeological surveys show that people have been in the area for the last 10,000 years or more. One culture that lived in the area was the Paiute Native Americans. They believed the hoodoos were the Legend People turned to stone by the trickster coyote.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the first European Americans explored the area. John Wesley Powell led the first major scientific expedition in 1872. His team of mapmakers kept many of the Paiute names for places in the area.

Ebenezer and Mary Bryce were sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to settle the land. Not long after, more settlers came and the area was nicknamed “Bryce’s canyon,” which later became Bryce Canyon. Both the Paiutes and the settlers left the area because of a drought, overgrazing, and flooding.

Word of the scenic wonders spread, and visitation increased as tours and lodging were set up. Conservationists started a movement to protect the area. Eventually, President Warren G. Harding declared Bryce Canyon a national monument, and it was later upgraded to a national park.

Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon/ Pierre Leclerc/ Shutterstock

Hoodoo Voodoo

You may be thinking, what’s a hoodoo? Is there witchcraft in this national park?

Don’t you worry. When people talk about the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, they mean the tall, thin spires of rock formed by erosion. They usually have a column that is easily eroded while the top is more resistant. This odd occurrence gives them their names.

Hoodoos are also called fairy chimneys or goblins.

Thor’s Hammer at Bryce Canyon National Park/ Grace Wojciechowski/ Shutterstock

When to Visit

The weather is the nicest in this area from May to September, the average high being between 63 °F (17 °C) and 80 °F (27 °C). The park is most crowded during the summer, though I’ve never had that be a problem when I’ve visited. 

The park looks incredible in autumn with the fall colors, and it is majestic in the winter when the hoodoos are covered in snow.

If you want to be able to do lots of great hiking and adventuring, I would recommend going anytime from May to September.

Bryce Canyon voodoos/ Kimberly Shavender/ Shutterstock

How to Get There

The closest airport is in Cedar City (90 miles away), but this is just a regional airport, so you may have to fly in through Salt Lake City or Las Vegas.

If you’re coming from the Salt Lake area, you’ll take I-15 S until you reach UT 20 E. Take that road to US 89 S until you get to the town of Panguitch.

There, you’ll make a left turn on Center St which turns back into US 89 S. Turn left on UT-12 E, then right on UT-63 S, which will take you to the visitor center. The whole drive will take about 4 hours.

If you’re coming from Vegas, the drive also takes about 4 hours. This way you’ll take I-15 N until you reach UT 20 E, and then you’ll follow the same route.

bryce canyon
Bryce Canyon National Park at sunrise/ Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB/ Shutterstock

Where to Stay

You can stay either inside or outside of the park.

Inside, there is only one lodge, aptly named The Lodge at Bryce Canyon. It has easy access to the park, but you won’t have any TV, air-conditioning, or Wi-Fi. The Lodge aims to give its guests a rustic experience.

There are two campgrounds inside the park, the North and Sunset campgrounds, and they both have tent and RV camping with easy access to the park. Neither campground has sewer, water, or electrical hook-ups. During the summer, there is a dump station available included with the camping fee.

Outside the park, you can stay in Bryce, which is the town just a few minutes away from the canyon. The Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel is a comfortable and luxurious option with amenities and free breakfast.

The Bryce Canyon Inn, which is located in the nearby town of Tropic, has all the rusticness of the Lodge but with modern amenities. 

My family usually visits Bryce while we’re staying at Duck Creek Campground, but that’s about an hour away from the park. Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground is a good option for those wanting to camp in the town of Bryce.

1 Day in Bryce Canyon suggested itinerary

You want to get to the park as early as you can to get on the trails before they get too crowded. The park is open 24 hours a day, so you don’t have to wait to get in. The entrance fee is $35 per car and the pass is valid for 7 days. There is only one road, so it should be easy to find everything.

red sandstone natural bridge and asphalt road in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah
Red sandstone natural bridge and asphalt road in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah/ Ekaterina Pokrovsky/ Shutterstock

Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trails – Sunset and Sunrise Points

Start with the most popular hike in Bryce Canyon, the Queens Garden and Navajo combination. If you’re only going to do one hike, this is the one to do (and the one my family always does whenever we visit).

There’s a reason it is the most popular; it gives you great views and lets you walk among the hoodoos. It’s about 3 miles and it will take you 2-3 hours.

Start this hike at Sunrise Point. There’s a parking lot nearby with an easy path to the point. Take in the view for as long as you want, then start on the Queens Garden trail. This is the easiest of the trails that descend into the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. 

Bryce Canyon Amphitheater
Bryce Canyon Amphitheater/ dibrova/ Shutterstock

The Queens Garden Trail can end when you reach Queen Victoria’s hoodoo (so named because it resembles a statue of Queen Victoria in London). If you’ve had your fill when you reach this point, you can turn around and hike back up.

But I recommend continuing to combine this with the Navajo Loop Trail. Follow the signs for this trail. It will take you along a fairly flat stretch before you meet up with the Navajo trail. This trail ascends to Sunset Point.

You have two options for ascending, Two Bridges or Wall Street. The Two Bridges side is open year-round, but the Wall Street side is closed in months when precipitation combines with freezing overnight temperatures.

One famous hoodoo along this trail is Thor’s Hammer. It can be seen from the Rim Trail near Sunset Point, but if you want a closer look, you can see it from the Two Bridges side near the top.

Once you reach the top at Sunset Point, you can take the Rim Trail an easy 0.5 miles back to your car.

The largest spire is called Thor's Hammer
The largest spire is called Thor’s Hammer/ ozoptimist/ Shutterstock

Lunch at the Lodge 

You can either pack your own lunch or eat at the lodge. The dining room there is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or you can try Valhalla Pizzeria & Coffee Shop. Both of these are closed during parts of the winter, so be sure to check.

Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Rainbow Point, and Yovimpa Point

Now it is time to see some of the best views of the canyon. Drive the short trip to Inspiration Point, where you’ll have a birds-eye view of the hoodoos. There’s a viewpoint right next to the parking lot, but there are also two more levels that give you different perspectives that are well worth a look.

When you’re done here, drive to Bryce Point. This has a similar view to Inspiration Point, but it is worth checking out. It is perhaps the most iconic of Bryce Amphitheater’s four viewpoints.

Next drive to the two highest viewpoints in the park, Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point. These views are farther away than the others (about a 20-minute drive) and they allow you to see a whole new side of Bryce. There aren’t as many hoodoos, but it’s still a gorgeous area.

Yovimpa Point
Yovimpa Point/ M. Vinuesa/ Shutterstock

Visitor Center, Mossy Cave Trail, Horseback Riding, Old Bryce Town, and/or Stargazing

You have a few options for how you spend the rest of the day. You can head to the Visitors Center, where they sell snacks and souvenirs. 

You can hike the Mossy Cave Trail, an easy low-elevation hike that’s less than one mile. In one direction, it provides access to Water Canyon, and in the other, there is a sheltered overhang known as Mossy Cave. This area is filled with mosses in the summer and icicles in the winter.

Waterfalls in Mossy Cave Trail
Waterfalls in Mossy Cave Trail/ GagliardiPhotography/ Shutterstock

Or you can go horseback riding among the hoodoos. This is a great way to see even more of the area. You can choose between a two- or three-hour ride. Along the way, guides will tell you all about the history of the canyon and the geology of the area.

Head out of the park to visit Old Bryce Town. The Old West-themed touristy area is a good place to buy souvenirs, get food or ice cream, or go to a general store.

The combination of high elevation, clean air, and a remote location makes this area perfect for stargazing, one of the best places in the country. In fact, the national park gained International Dark Sky status in 2019. If you have clear skies when you visit, stargazing is the perfect way to end your Bryce Canyon trip.

A hoodoo with small windows
A hoodoo with small windows/ Colin D. Young/ Shutterstock

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The Perfect One Day in Bryce Canyon National Park Itinerary usa

About the author: Lexi Cooper is a freelance editor and writer. Her parents taught her a love for traveling, seeing new sights, and learning about the world. Along with her passion for travel, she loves stories and dreams of spending her days reading and writing books and wandering the globe.

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