Updated: Jan 14
Bryce Canyon National Park Aka The Magnificent Bryce Amphitheater
In the way we all recognize the Grand Canyon as “Grand”, Bryce should be prefaced as “Magnificent”.
Seeing the Hoodoos the first time is mind blowing. My brain immediately begged “who put this here? Surely these rock formations didn't create themselves”
Set up as an amphitheater, there is a low laying depression in which these red rock spires dance eloquently upwards.
Expansive spires ranging in size just bellow from the basin up, and form the park, which is at the highest point of the Grand Staircase. How odd that if you don’t drive right up to it, you could miss the whole thing. It’s safely nestled among the mountains and canyons of Southern Utah, it’s own little kingdom. From the Rim trail’s highest point, Bryce Point, there is over 9000 feet elevation!
Once you’ve decided to visit, let’s figure out what you want to do there.
For the cost of entry into a State Park, your entire car has access to this unique
*pricing info below.
Hoodoo means bewitched, and that is just what they do to the visitor, leaving you enthralled.
*Bikes, and pets are only allowed on the paved surfaces.
*Carry extra water
*Give more time for climbing than descending, not all trails are loops.
Easy Hikes: If you want o enjoy the view, the elevation, and the paved trails – the Rim Trails are a safe bet. We drove in by the Visitor’s Center, and parked by Sunrise Point. From there we followed the rim trail up to Sunset point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. At any time we could have turned back, I didn’t plan to hike so far but the walk was so stunning I wanted to keep going. This 3.1 mile hike was all up hill. The returning 3 miles down was much easier, although the hike incline was mostly gradual and didn’t seem strenuous at all. I knew when the sun went down that it would be pitch black, and I wanted to be back at Sunrise Point for the sun setting. We were able to run down, get some picnic sandwiches from the cooler in the car, and watch the beautiful show. As the sun lights and shodows moved over the hoodoos, the most dramatic colors emerged from the rocks. While we took photos to capture the moment, there is nothing quite like being there to experience the beauty.
The following morning we headed over to the Mossy Cave and Waterfall hike for another “easy” trail. As recommended, we were there very early, as the parking for this hike is a side of the road lot not actually inside of the park, but alongside State Road 12 in Tropic. This short walk up to the mossy cave is very satisfying. The end (.4 miles) is just as described, a mossy cave. In the summer, moss trickles off with running water like tears seeping through the rock – if you can catch a ranger’s walk they describe the interesting details of how the water permeates the rock. In the winter these mossy hangings are replaces with icicles, which form in the same manner, water seeping through the rock. Down below, and a short trail around is a rushing waterfall, which can be followed and, visitor’s can even climb behind it. The mushy wet sand surrounding this stream ruined my new hiking shoes, so come prepared if you want to get dirty!
There are no bathrooms at this stop, there is a pit toilet.
These two hikes at Bryce really help you to appreciate the uniqueness of the land.
If you are like me and want to get up close and personal, you will need a more moderate hike.
We opted to take the Queen’s Garden Trail, which is the east difficult descending trail. This begins at Sunrise Point. If you are expecting flowers, note this is a rock garden 😉 I was hoping to make it down to the “Queen Victoria” point at the bottom. However, you may go as deep as you wish, and turn around at any time. I knew we had a timing window, and that climbing up typically takes about double the time as descending, so I allotted 45 minutes to go down. Let me say I consider myself to be in good shape. I am physically fit. My sons are all very athletic and I am the least physically active in my group, but I didn’t think I’d have any problems climbing out.
Until the time came to climb up, and I couldn’t breathe!
Beautiful Bryce is not to be taken lightly; this land is no joke!!
While there are many warnings about how the elevation and change in altitude effects people, I must say I felt very challenged on the climb up and out. My daughter was already feeling light headed and opted not to climb down.
The Navajo Loop begins at Sunset Point and takes hikers by several of the most recognizable spires. “Thor’s hammer”, and “Two Bridges” are features along this shorter, but very steep trail.
Many people make a loop connecting both Queens Garden and Navajo trails together, combined this is a 2.9 mile hike. Please come mentally and physically prepared for this challenge with plenty of water. This is a very rewarding hike, but may be harder than it looks due to the altitude.
Fairyland Loop – Descends from Fairyland Point, 8 miles of hiking through elevation changes and amazing scenic hoodoos.
Peekaboo Loop - This trail takes you through the heart of the park, 5.5 miles long it descends from Bryce Point to the floor below.
Recently recognized as an International Dark Sky Park, this is one of the best places to view the Milky Way. Through out the year there are several astronomy events, and if you are lucky enough to catch one on your visit you don't want to miss it! Check out their Ranger Programs or stop in the Visitor Center to find out when and how you can participate. They also host Full moon hikes, short hikes in the darkness under the light of the full moon!
Starry Nights Telescope Viewing
Full Moon Hikes
Explore the park’s 4.5-miles of dedicated equestrian trails through Canyon Trail Rides. These guided tours typically run from April to October and take riders into the heart of the Bryce Amphitheater on the back of a mule or horse.
Don't Miss: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
The largest National Park in the Country, and so named for the series of plateaus and terraces descending from Bryce Canyon south toward the Grand Canyon, and east toward Capital Reef National Park. It's marked by vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs. This park spans 1.87 million acres of America's public lands. Due to its remote location and rugged landscape, the Grand Staircase Monument was one of the last places in the continental United States to be mapped. Numerous hikes, and trails are there for enjoying, but this park also contains the most extensive network of slot canyons in Utah.
Take the Scenic Route! The Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel
What ever you do, be sure to drive the most scenic byway in America, the road in-between Bryce and Zion National Parks. The Zion - Mount Carmel road was intended to cut 70 miles off the drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park; although it can now be quicker to drive those extra miles since this is a scenic section of road that often has a traffic backup. However, this is a road you want to enjoy. The switchbacks and drastic elevation changes provide jaw dropping views of the canyons and red rock cliffs, right as you drive into a 1.1 mile long tunnel cutting through a sandstone cliff. There are many pull offs and view points to pull over and enjoy the view, but most drastically the windows in the side of the tunnel will create rich views.– taking the scenic route to ensure you live your best life! No bikes or pedestrians are allowed to go through this tunnel and cars travel very slowly at 20 miles an hour or less. Any vehicle over 7‘10” must have a permit to enter, and larger vehicles not permitted at all. Many refer to this as the most scenic drive, and it is worth the temptation to pull over for pictures and nature appreciation.
There are so many ways to enjoy the beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park. Just go. Get there and immerse yourself in the magic of geology.
Where should I stay?
The town of Tropic is the closest to Bryce. There are many Bed and Breakfasts, Log Cabins, and Hotels. Tropic has certainly benefited from the tourism coming to the Magnificent Bryce Canyon. Unfortunately, this makes rates and availability a challenge. Tropic is a bit remote, and the next nearest area is Bryce Canyon City. A little farther out even is the town of Panguitch, which has more amenities and better rates. However, being a dark corner where the Milky Way is most visible, means this area is DARK after the sun goes down. Driving the area if you are not familiar with the roads is not recommended due to the wildlife. On that note, it is best to stay closer to the Park which will save time and travel at the most scenic times: sunrise and sunset.
Private Vehicle $35.00 Admits one private, non-commercial vehicle (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants.
Motorcycle $30 Per Person
Bicycle, Walk-in - $20.00 Per Person
Admits one individual with no car to the monument - typically used for bicyclists and walk-ins. Youth 15 and under are admitted free.
Bryce Canyon Annual Pass $70.00 Valid for entry into Bryce Canyon National Park for 12 months from purchase.
Annual 4th Grade Pass - FREE (good at most Federal Fee areas) Available to U.S. 4th graders with a valid Every Kid in the Outdoors paper voucher. America the Beautiful Parks Pass – Cost $80.00
Pays for itself twice on this trip! Many parks have a $30.00 or $35.00 car fee, this pass allows unlimited access for the year to all National Parks.
Beginning on Veterans Day, November 11, 2020, Gold Star Families and U.S. military veterans receive free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges and forests. The free program is a way to thank America’s veterans and Gold Star families for their support of our country, and to encourage them to explore recreational opportunities on their public lands and waters. For more information on the program and how to obtain free entrance, please visit https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/veterans-and-gold-star-families-free-access.htm.
Affordability meter: 8/10
On a scale of 1-10 how affordable is this trip?
When considering the value and quality of this trip vs the cost, travel must be a consideration.
While the hotel was a little more than I'd like, the day costs were relatively low. Our America The Beautiful Pass had so many uses, this was a "free" entry. Food was mostly affordable considering we had a lot of grocery store items, and ordered a pizza from a local tavern.
If you are already in the area, this Park is an easy YES!
When traveling, other considerations impact costs.
I do find Bryce a high-quality unique experience that can be realistically budgeted for and in the affordable range.
If you are already in the area, Zion is also a must see.
We also spent a night in Page, where we did an amazing slot canyon tour through Waterhole Canyon. Many people chose Antelope Canyon, however Waterhole because it is much less crowded, and actually a bit longer.
If you have time, the Grand Canyon is not out of reach, and I strongly recommend this awesome itinerary:
Wherever your road takes you, enjoy the moment, experience the history, and love your journey.
Bryce has a way of sparking wonder and curiosity in the marvel of life and the land itself.
The entire area has a vast landscape that can not be contained by the eyes, but its meant to be experienced.
Please share your favorite things to do and travels tips to the The Great South West with us!
I'd love to hear how you spent your time.
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~ Mz. Savvy ❤
A note from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.
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