Utah

The 12 Best Things To Do In Bryce Canyon National Park

things to do at bryce canyon national park
Photo: Getty Images

Tucked in the southwestern corner of Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is home to the largest concentration of hoodoos anywhere on Earth.

Hoodoos are narrow, tall pinnacles, shaped by weather and erosion. And those fantastic rock formations form the beautiful red and pink backdrop of Bryce Canyon National Park, one of Utah’s best places for unforgettable vistas.

Whether you’re soaking in the view of Bryce Amphitheater from the canyon’s rim, plunging into the canyon on foot, learning about geology at the visitor center, or camping out under some of the darkest night skies in the country, a trip to Bryce Canyon is sure to be a memorable experience. The park’s offerings are nearly limitless, especially during peak season, so it can be hard to figure out the best things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park during your trip. Here are a few ideas to make planning your trip a little easier.

1. Explore the Mossy Cave Trail

mossy cave bryce
Wintertime ice formations in the Mossy Cave. // Photo: Larry N. Young, Getty Images

This .8-mile out-and-back hike is one of the easiest and most popular hikes in the park. The short trail climbs to a fork with access to Water Canyon to the north and a view of the sheltered overhang known as Mossy Cave to the west. This area, thanks to an irrigation ditch dug by local pioneers in the early 1890s, is filled with moss in the summer and icicles in the winter. Note that this trail is very popular, and trailhead parking will fill early on busy days.

2. Snap a Pic at Iconic Sunset Point

sunset point bryce canyon
Late afternoon at Sunset Point. // Photo: Getty Images

Sunset Point offers views of some of the most distinct hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. From this viewpoint, you’ll overlook the breathtaking Silent City, and knowledgable travelers will be able to spot the lone spire of Thor’s Hammer. Sunset photography is one of the most popular things to do in Bryce Canyon in this area, so come during golden hour to take some truly spectacular shots. It’s a wheelchair-accessible half-mile walk from the parking area to reach the overlook with the best views.

3. Hike the Queens Garden Navajo Loop

queens garden bryce canyon
Juniper trees and giant hoodoos in Queens Garden. // Photo: Getty Images

This scenic 2.9-mile loop will take you from the canyon rim at Sunset Point to the canyon bottom and back up again. Along the way, you’ll descend through the marvelous hoodoos of Queens Garden. The climb on the Navajo Loop Trail winds through the rock formations of the Wall Street area. Save enough energy (and bring plenty of water) for the 580-foot climb back up to the rim. This popular hike is a great way to see the hoodoos from different angles, and you get a lot of reward for relatively little effort. This is another hike where you’ll definitely want to take a lot of photos.

4. Soak Up the Splendor of the Night Skies

milky way bryce canyon
Bryce Canyon’s dark skies make for spectacular viewing of the Milky Way. // Photo: Brian Sorg, Getty Images

In 2019, Bryce Canyon was officially recognized as an International Dark Sky Park. But the park has offered guests the chance to explore the night sky for more than 50 years. The park has over 100 astronomy programs each year, and you can get an up-close look at the night sky using the telescopes at the visitor center. For astronomy enthusiasts, the park offers a four-day Astronomy Festival every summer where amateur astronomers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society assist Bryce Canyon’s rangers and volunteers in hosting a world-class public stargazing event.

5. Backpack the Under-The-Rim Trail

sheep creek bryce canyon
Sheep Creek, one of a handful of semi-reliable water sources along the Under-The-Rim Trail. // Photo: Getty Images

For hikers who don’t mind a bit of logistical wrangling, hiking the 22-mile point-to-points of the Under-The-Rim Trail can be one of the best things to do in Bryce Canyon to explore the park’s less-crowded areas. This trail winds along the base of the forested Paunsaugunt Plateau, and you’ll have views of the hoodoos to the west as you hike through forests and meadow on the valley floor.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a stroll in the park, however: the trail has plenty of ups and downs with some steeper leg- and lung-burning sections. You’ll need a backcountry permit for an overnight stay at any of the seven campsites along the length of the trail, and if you plan appropriately, you can catch the park’s shuttle (April to October) to get back to your starting point.

6. Go on a Nocturnal Adventure

Walking under the hoodoos in the moonlight is a feeling like no other. // Photo: Andy Krakovski, Getty Images

If you think the hoodoos are spectacular by day, imagine exploring them by moonlight. And thanks to Bryce Canyon’s ranger-led full moon hikes, you can actually experience this otherworldly landscape once the sun goes down. These short hikes wind through the spooky and spectacular shadows of the hoodoos under the light of a full moon. Bring a warm jacket, shoes with good traction, and a spirit for adventure.

7. Join a Ranger-led Snowshoe Hike

bryce canyon trail snow
Bryce Canyon puts on its “best” face after a good snow. // Photo: Dana L. Clark, Getty Images

Winter in Bryce Canyon is an equally spectacular, if less popular, time to visit the park. Though there are reduced amenities, there are also fewer crowds. And if you’re lucky enough to catch a blue-sky day with the hoodoos freshly dusted with snow, you’ll have to agree that winter has its advantages. When the snow starts falling, guests can join in on one of the park’s free ranger-led snowshoe hikes. The park supplies the snowshoes, and all you have to do is enjoy a two-hour mosey through the canyon’s winter wonderland.

8. Saddle Up for a Ride

Horseback riding offers a different perspective of Bryce Canyon’s trails. // Photo: Getty Images

If you’re eager to slow down and see Bryce Canyon from a different perspective, consider booking a horseback ride 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 sure-footed mule or horse. If you happen to have your own horse, you’re welcome to trailer your riding partner in to explore the park’s 4.5-miles of dedicated equestrian trails.

9. Stay at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon

lodge bryce canyon
Duplex style cottages at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. // Photo: Flickr

If you’re looking to add a little luxury to your stay, plan to spend a few nights at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. You can reserve a suite at the lodge or book a motel room or private cabin. This historic building is a short walk from Bryce Amphitheater, making it a great jumping-off point for a few days exploring the park. And at the end of your day of adventuring, you can head back to the Lodge’s restaurant for a hearty meal before putting your feet up in your cozy room. Camping in Bryce Canyon is an unforgettable experience, but spending the night in a historic hotel is pretty special, too.

10. Learn Why Rocks Rock

Geology is at full-effect at Bryce Canyon, and this 85-foot-tall natural bridge is one of its finest geological attractions. // Photo: Diana Robinson, Getty Images

If you have even the slightest interest in rocks or geology, time your visit to participate in the annual Bryce Canyon Geology Festival. Lovingly called GeoFest, it features guided hikes, family-friendly geology programs, bus tours with a geologist, evening programs with special guest speakers, exhibits, and family-oriented activities at the visitor center. Whether you’re a rock hound or not, it’s hard to not be fascinated by the history of the hoodoos.

11. Bike, Board, Scoot, or Skate Through the Park

shared use path bryce canyon
Cruising through trees and past epic vistas on the shared-use path. // Photo: Getty Images

If you’re looking for other ways to explore Bryce Canyon, the park also has an 18-mile shared-use path. It’s open to pedestrians, leashed pets, cyclists, roller or in-line skaters, longboarders, non-motorized scooters, and wheelchairs. It connects the hoodoos of Red Canyon on the western edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau with Inspiration Point (in the heart center of the park), offering some truly outstanding scenery along the way. But don’t think it’s a summer-only option: cross-country skiing along the path is one of the best things to do in Bryce Canyon when the snow falls.

12. Camp Out at North Campground

bryce canyon camping
North Campground accommodates both tent and RV campers. // Photo: NPS

If you have more than a day to spend in the area, wake up early to snag a campsite at the North Campground, a great home base for an extended stay. All 99 sites in North Campground are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and the sites on Loop A are open year-round. The campground has sites for both RVs and tents. With seasonal amenities like a camp store and on-site firewood sales, you can make your stay as rustic or luxurious as you’d like. So pack the sleeping bags and the s’mores stuff, and get ready to spend some time under Bryce Canyon’s fabulous night skies.

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