Kris Maria Wanders
1.5 Days in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is really like no other in the USA. The landscapes are SO incredibly unique. There's no question that it's something you just have to see.
Planning a road trip in Southern Utah? That is no easy feat! So much to see, and there's never enough time. Luckily, I have some good news. I didn’t realize it before visiting, but Bryce is a pretty compact National Park- meaning the majority of sights are concentrated in one area. It doesn't look that way in photos, but you can actually see a lot in a short amount of time. If you really wanted to, you could pretty much see the whole park in one day. We only spent one night in the area and felt it was plenty to get the full experience.
Here's your itinerary:
Day 1: From Zion to Bryce
Due to their locations and proximity, most people head to Bryce after visiting Zion. We were no exception. From Springdale (West Zion), the drive to Bryce is roughly 2 hours. There are a few things I want to mention about this drive. First, there are plenty of stops along the way that are well worth your time (if you can spare it). Our favorites were Red Canyon and Kodachrome Basin State Park (among others, described in this post). Second, the higher elevation of Bryce National Park makes the weather much cooler than in Zion. Despite their close proximity, don't be surprised to experience a 20, 30, or even 40 degree (F) temperature difference, depending on the time of day! We drove through the craziest hail storm I've ever experienced, and the temp dropped by 40 degrees. Bring a warm layer or two!
Once you arrive in the Bryce Canyon area...
Hike Mossy Cave Trail outside of the main park entrance. The route is under 2 miles round trip and features a cave and a waterfall.
Check into Best Western Ruby’s Inn. This hotel is convenient because of its location right outside the park, but it also has plenty of rooms and a really good restaurant!
Eat dinner at Ruby’s Inn Restaurant. Don't worry if there's a line to be seated- it goes quickly. I highly recommend the coconut shrimp!
Head into Bryce for sunset. You can choose from many points along the Rim Trail, including Sunrise, Sunset and Inspiration Points. If you have portrait mode, the Rim Trail is perfect for some dreamy portrait shots!
Tip: There is a park shuttle that you can ride for free, but it is not currently required for entry into the park. If your desired parking lot is full, the shuttle is a good option to still get there.
Go back to Ruby’s Inn for breakfast. It's a buffet, but you can fuel up good before hitting the trails (read: guzzle down coffee)!
Hike the Queens Garden and Navajo loop trail combo. This route is about 4 miles and really gives you a taste of everything. It features Wall Street, ET Hoodoo, Thor’s Hammer and Two Bridges. The switchbacks will get your glutes burning, but they're scenic (a fantastic place for photos and videos)!
If you haven't gotten to it yet, take the Rim Trail to Inspiration Point (you can also try parking at Inspiration Point).
Tip: If you're up to it, some longer hikes you can check out are Fairyland loop trail and Peekaboo loop trail.
Another tip: There are signs posted throughout the park, but it's always a good idea to have a virtual or paper map of your planned hiking route with you!
Post-hike, grab some lunch. I won't lie and say we didn't go to Ruby's Inn a third time. The food was just too good! Their black-bean burger really hit the spot.
After lunch, we drove over to Kanab where we spent 3 days climbing sand dunes and exploring slot canyons. If you're interested in the rest of our trip itinerary, check it out here.
A Few More General Tips?
Start early to beat the crowds- just check what time the restrooms open if you anticipate needing one. There are usually restrooms at major outlooks/observation points. Make sure you’re in the park for sunrise or sunset (or both)! Golden hour in Bryce is pretty hard to beat!
Even though the temperatures may be cooler, don't underestimate how much water you'll need. Bring plenty of water and food with you for your hike(s). I always advocate for having the ten hiking essentials!
As always, please remember to leave our parks better than you found them and follow LNT principles. The desert environment is fragile, so it is extremely important to stay on trail to minimize human impact.