Where is Bryce Canyon National Park
In rugged southern Utah is a ruby treasure just waiting to be explored, Bryce Canyon National Park. The park is known for its crimson crested hoodoos and wild spire rock formations. Sunset and sunrise are otherworldly at Bryce Canyon. The park sits on the northwestern edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which resides next to gorgeous Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The Dixie National Forest lies west across Highway 89. St. George, Utah is just a little over 2 hours from Bryce Canyon National Park.
How Big is Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is just shy of 56 square miles, or 35,835 acres, all of which is located in Utah. The northeastern section of the park holds the lowest point in the park, which is Yellow Creek at 6,620 feet. Rainbow Point is the highest spot in the park at an elevation of 9,105 feet. It’s situated at the end of Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. On a clear day from the Rim, you can see an upwards of 100 miles away.
Bryce Canyon National Park Weather
The high elevation climate of Bryce Canyon makes things interesting, especially during fall, winter and spring, when the weather can be highly variable. Snowstorms can start as early as October. October through May are chilly. It drops below freezing almost every night. The coldest months are December, January and February. Snowstorms in March and April are not uncommon either. Summers in Bryce Canyon are warm and pleasant. In June and September, the temperatures peak around the low 70s. July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures generally reaching the low 80s. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer. Summer is also the most popular time to visit the park, with crowds at their thickest. Winter sees the least visitors.
When did Bryce Canyon become a National Park
Mormon pioneers originally settled the Bryce Canyon area in the early 1850s. They named the area after homesteader Ebenezer Bryce. The area was later designated a national monument in 1923 by President Warren G. Harding. On February 25, 1928, congress made the monument a national park. The park was expanded to its current size after two proclamations by President Hoover.
Things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is a place full of adventure and excitement with plenty to see and do. Here’s a list of some of the top attractions in the park.
You’re sure to have a stellar view no matter when you visit Sunrise Point. It offers a distant view of the canyon, showcasing the different landscapes within the park, including hoodoos, sand dunes, and pine forest. You’ll find the trailhead for Queen's Garden Trail here.
It doesn’t have to be sunset to enjoy this vantage point. Catch a glimpse of Thor’s Hammer, an iconic park formation. Directly below the overlook stretches Silent City. This area is great for hiking, the Navajo Loop Trail starts here. It’s also popular for birdwatching.
Queens Garden Trail
Hike along the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon to find a prominent red peak resembling royalty. There is a hoodoo that looks like Queen Victoria. This trail is the easiest way to descend into the canyon, though you should be mindful of its dramatic elevation changes.
Get the best view of the hoodoos from above at Inspiration Point. The point consists of three overlooks, each higher in elevation, offering stunning photo opportunities. You can do one, two, or all three. Trekking to any level of Inspiration Point requires a moderate hike.
Mossy Cave Trail
The Mossy Cave Trail will lead you to an oasis in the desert! Hike along the rippling river, past a cool cave, to a rushing waterfall. Plants thrive here, a burst of green among the red and white rocks. The waterfall flows May through October.
Natural Bridge is one of seven stone arches in the park. It’s a brilliant red, towering above the valley below, which is filled with a lush and mature pine forest. The Natural Bridge is a popular sight, so get there early to beat the crowds.
Animals in Bryce Canyon
There’s a unique and abundant wildlife population in Bryce Canyon. There are more than 285 different species! The Utah Prairie Dog, California Condor, and the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher are all Endangered and live here. You might also see elk, pronghorn, hawks, falcon, lizards and rattlesnakes.
The Bryce Amphitheater is home to some of the most famous formations in the park. It is also relatively easy to get to. There are multiple vistas offering unique vantage points overlooking the hoodoos. The amphitheater is close to the Bryce Lodge and General Store.
Navajo Loop Trail
The Navajo Loop Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park and with good reason! Though the trail is only 1.3 miles, the elevation changes are very steep. Walk along the canyon among the towering hoodoos and enjoy gorgeous desert views.
Though the visitor center is at the bottom of the list, it should really be your first stop. You can find maps or directions, weather forecasts, Ranger-led programs, guided tours, park films, a bookstore, museum and more! It’s open everyday except Christmas and Thanksgiving Day.
When to go to Bryce Canyon National Park
There’s no right or wrong time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park; it's open year-long, 24 hours a day. The US National Park is fully open May through September. This time of year is the warmest. Animal activity is high, making it an excellent time to do some hiking. Keep in mind that this is the busy season and there will be a lot of other guests. October through April is cooler. The leaves begin to change for fall in a spectacular display. Wildflowers also bloom. The park is less busy during this time, but some of the park closes for inclement weather October through May. Winter is a wonderland of adventure and tranquility. It’s the best time for skiing and snowshoeing.
Must-Have things to bring to Bryce Canyon
You’d better come prepared for Bryce Canyon National Park so you can have the best trip possible. Our National Park Visitors Guide put together a list of some must-have supplies for your suitcase.
When you’re hiking into the canyon, up cliffs and around hoodoos, you’ll want to have some protection from the rugged, rocky terrain. Sprains, cuts, bruises, or worse injuries are easy if you’re not wearing proper footgear. Bring sturdy boots that are already broken in.
The sun beats down hard at Bryce Canyon, especially at higher elevations. Beat the desert heat and hide from the sun’s rays with sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Be sure you apply sunscreen before going out and reapply often. Use SPF 35+ sunscreen or greater.
It is easy to get turned around among the hoodoos and spires. There are long stretches of desert road that you can get lost on. Do yourself a favor and grab a park map. Having a trail map and a compass are a good idea too.
Though most days at Bryce Canyon are clear and sunny, rain is always a possibility. During the rainy season, these storms can get pretty severe. Bring a waterproof rain jacket to stay dry. During winter, a heavy raincoat or waterproof winter coat are recommended.
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best places for stargazing. There’s very little light pollution at night, plus the surrounding land is wide and open for open skies. Bring a star chart or use an app to find constellations and other celestial bodies.
As mentioned, it gets dark at night in Bryce Canyon. If you’re staying the night in a campground or backcountry, you’ll want a headlamp. A flashlight works too. Save your shins; don’t stumble around the park in the dark. Bring a light!
Whether you’re stopping at a roadside picnic table or just somewhere along the trail, having a tablecloth to throw down first will make a big difference. You’ll have a layer of protection from dirt, bugs and splinters. It’ll turn your food break into a meal.
You must pack out what you pack in on the trail. This includes your trash. It’s also important to leave the campsite better than you found it. Bring trash bags to keep all your garbage together. You can also use grocery sacks or zipper bags.
While there are amazing restaurants in the park and the neighboring towns, you are probably going to get hungry when eating out isn’t an option. Bring a cooler for perishable items. Dry goods, like peanut butter, nuts, and granola are great for on the trail.
Water & Jug
Bryce Canyon National Park is hot and dry. You’ll quickly get dehydrated or worse without drinking water throughout the day. Bring along a refillable water bottle when you’re out exploring. It’s good to have a water filtration device and large jug of water for basecamp.
Where to stay in Bryce Canyon National Park
Spend the night at Bryce Canyon’s historic Lodge, near Bryce Amphitheater. The Lodge features full amenities. There are also cabins and motels rooms surrounding the Lodge. List of Parks recommends making reservations. The park boasts two picturesque campgrounds, North and Sunset. They’re not far from the Visitor Center. Sites fill up fast, especially during the summer - get there early. If you want to truly experience the wonder of nature, can get a permit and do some backcountry camping.
Food Nearby Bryce Canyon
The Bryce Canyon Lodge has a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s open seasonally. The Valhalla Pizzeria & Coffee Shop is open June through September. The General Store has prepackaged food and beverages like sandwiches, pizza, soda, and beer. The Visitor Center offers hiking snacks and beverages for sale. The communities around Bryce Canyon also offer food and dining.
Airports near Bryce Canyon National Park
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, NV is a popular choice among flyers. So is Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, UT. They are the closest international airports. Roughly, they’re about 270 miles from Bryce Canyon, a 4.5 hour drive. Denver International Airport is 570 miles away. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is 422 miles away.