One Day in Bryce Canyon National Park

Brandon Copeland Destinations, Traveling Atlas, United States 2 Comments

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Bryce Canyon: How to Spend One Epic Day

Erin walking on the Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in Southern Utah. The park, originally designated as a national monument in 1923 by President Harding and changed to a national park by Congress in 1928, consistently draws crowds of over a million visitors each year.

Bryce Canyon is famous for its Hoodoos which are rock formations formed in sedimentary rock with unusual shapes created by alternating erosional patterns. The most unique and famous Hoodoo in the park, Thor’s Hammer, is pictured in the title photo.

Being a relatively small park, it’s possible to get a good feel for Bryce Canyon in just one day. That being said, after spending just one day in the park you will surely want to spend many more. Enchanting and otherworldly, Bryce truly is an American treasure.

Accommodation in Bryce Canyon

North and Sunset Campground

Bryce Canyon has campgrounds that are run by the National Park Service that are very affordable. There are two campgrounds run by the NPS; North Campground and Sunset Campground. These campgrounds are a cheap option if you’re able to get a reservation, but with the park’s surging popularity it’s very difficult to book a spot.

Check the website for specifics, but it’s not uncommon for either campground to be first come, first serve which means you can’t make a reservation ahead of time. This is often caused due to construction and maintenance in the park, but if that’s the case it could be very difficult to land a reservation without waiting in line at 5 AM in the morning.

If the NPS campgrounds are full, there are still other options for lodging including more expensive options like The Lodge at Bryce Canyon and other hotels, but we will focus on more affordable options for budget travelers.

Ruby's Inn at Bryce Canyon

Ruby's Inn is a complex that includes an RV Park and Campground and also a Best Western Hotel. The rates for the campground are slightly more expensive than the NPS campgrounds, but they offer much nicer amenities like private showers and they even have a pool. It’s located a mile away from the park so they offer free shuttles to take you to and from the campsite.

Along with campsites, Ruby’s Inn offers cabins and tipis that you can reserve as well. If you have been roughing it in tents for a while, the cabin specifically could be a great option for the night. We stayed in a cabin for a night and it provided us a much needed break. It even had heat, a major perk if you’re traveling in the cold. I highly recommend checking out Ruby’s Inn for a slightly more expensive, quality experience.

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One Day Itinerary for Bryce Canyon

When visiting Bryce Canyon, you should be ready to walk considerable distances. While it’s not a huge park, you will be on your feet all day so make sure to bring comfortable shoes, bring plenty of water, and snacks to keep you energized throughout the day. The Hoodoos provide some shade, but I would recommend wearing sunscreen and bringing extra to re-apply throughout the day.

Sunrise Point

View from Sunrise Point at sunrise in Bryce Canyon

Begin your day at Sunrise Point, appropriately named due to the beautiful vantage point that is ideal for watching the sunrise. To try to beat the crowds and get a good spot, arrive at Sunrise Point at least 20 minutes before the sun rises and bring a camera! We arrived right as the sun was rising in the picture above, and even though we didn’t have the best vantage point, it was an unbelievable experience. However, I recommend you learn from our mistake and get there early enough to secure a spot.

The best part about starting the day at Sunrise Point bright and early is that you kick start the rest of your day and allow yourself the coolest temperatures to hike through the canyon. Not only that, the early morning hours provide the best light for photography so if you’re keen on snapping great photos, the early bird gets the worm.

Navajo Loop Trail

Walking on the Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon

The best trail that doesn’t require an immense amount of effort but offers the best views is the Navajo Loop Trail. This trail is the most popular in the park, so avoid the crowds by heading to the trail head right after sunrise. The hike is a little over a mile long and passes Thor’s Hammer and cuts through famous Wall Street, a narrow slot between two cliffs. In the fringe seasons when the temperature is freezing overnight or if rocks are in danger of falling, Wall Street is often closed.

The bend in the trail near Thor’s Hammer is perfect for taking pictures, and conveniently it’s pretty close to the trailhead. The entire hike offers incredible views that you won’t want to miss, taking you all the way down to the canyon floor in around 1-2 hours.

If you want a more challenging hike, you can break off onto Peekaboo Loop or Queens Garden Loop to extend your trek. If you take the Queens Garden Trail, it will take you back up to where you started at Sunrise Point. This loop would be logical if you parked in the lot closest to Sunrise Point. While this adds a few miles to the hike, I highly recommend it; the scenery continues to amaze you with it’s otherworldly beauty.

Afternoon Rest to Recharge Your Batteries

It’s a truly special day when you are able to witness the sunrise and sunset in the same day, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience to see both in the same day over one of the most beautiful canyons in the country.

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After you have rested and feel rejuvenated, head back to Bryce to catch the sunset. The most popular vantage point to catch the Sunset is at the aptly named Sunset Point. Similar to Sunrise Point, definitely arrive early so that you have time to enjoy the full range of the sun sliding down the horizon.

The hike takes you on the most trafficked path in the park, the Rim Trail. If you park in the lot next to Sunrise Point, it’s only about a mile hike to Sunset Point, but you’ll want to take many stops along the way to take pictures of the canyon from all different angles and just to soak in the natural beauty of the park.

If you keep hiking past Sunset Point, there is a trail that takes you about one more mile to Inspiration Point. If you are ready for a trek, continue on to Bryce Point, an overlook that has one of the best views in the park at 8,300 feet. If want an easier way to access Bryce Point, there is a parking area nearby with just a short hike to the point. Keep in mind that while you may be hiking in daylight or dusk, your hike back will be in the dark after the sun sets, so bring a flashlight or headlamp!

Thor's Hammer right after sunrise in Bryce Canyon.

Sunset Point

After waking up at the crack of dawn and hiking for miles, you’ll probably want to take a rest. This is a good chance to check into your campground if you haven’t already and set up your tents. You’ll be ready for lunch, and while there are a couple of restaurants, this may be a spot where making a quick campfire lunch may be your best option.

The hiking isn’t finished for the day though, so take a rest and maybe even catch a power nap, but then be ready to head out on a sunset hike.

The hike takes you on the most trafficked path in the park, the Rim Trail. If you park in the lot next to Sunrise Point, it’s only about a mile hike to Sunset Point, but you’ll want to take many stops along the way to take pictures of the canyon from all different angles and just to soak in the natural beauty of the park.

If you keep hiking past Sunset Point, there is a trail that takes you about one more mile to Inspiration Point. If you are ready for a trek, continue on to Bryce Point, an overlook that has one of the best views in the park at 8,300 feet. If want an easier way to access Bryce Point, there is a parking area nearby with just a short hike to the point. Keep in mind that while you may be hiking in daylight or dusk, your hike back will be in the dark after the sun sets, so bring a flashlight or headlamp!

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Make a Campfire

The best part about staying in a campground isn’t the affordability; it’s the ability to relax around a fire after a long day of hiking and just enjoy being in nature under the stars. You might not have service, but even if you do, put away your phone for a while and just enjoy being present with those around you.

In NPS campgrounds as well as Ruby’s Inn, you are required to buy wood from the store in order to make a fire. Bringing wood from elsewhere or burning sticks off the ground is strictly prohibited. Once you have bought wood, most campsites will have a fire pit with a grate over top so you can easily cook food on top.

If you’re planning to cook dinner, start the fire and cook before the sun goes down if at all possible. Trying to chop vegetables in the dark is an uncomfortable task. However, if you need to cook in the dark just make sure you have everything prepped ahead of time or have a headlamp.

If you are just looking to make a quick fire and don’t want to waste a lot of wood, consider investing in a camping stove. They are small, transportable and great for quick meals like scrambling a couple eggs in the morning.

Enjoy Your Day in Bryce Canyon

A shot taken near the Queens Garden Trailhead in Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s truly spectacular, and one day in the park will just make you yearn for more time to walk between the hoodoos and watch miraculous sunrises and sunsets behind the orange glow of the canyon. However, if you only have one day, this is a great way to see the highlights of the canyon.

Whether it’s Bryce Canyon or any other national park, get out in nature and disconnect; it’s therapeutic at its very core. Once you step foot in any of these natural wonders, you realize why people are fighting so hard to protect these areas.

If you're interested in taking a road trip from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon and neighboring national parks like Zion Canyon and the Grand Canyon, check out this guide and start planning now!

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One Day in Bryce Canyon National Park

Comments 2

  1. Very nice travel Guide, I have been there and it is lovely. This was put together very well good job!

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