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Bryce Canyon National Park One-Day Itinerary

Bryce Canyon National Park One Day Itinerary

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most mesmerizing parks in Utah.  And due to its smaller size, you can experience the best parts of the park in this Bryce Canyon National Park One-Day Itinerary.  If you are limited on time, these are the best attractions to pack into one amazing day.

The park is famous for its giant natural amphitheater filled with colorful sandstone hoodoos.  Hoodoos are tall thin spire-like rock formations created by erosion.  Bryce Canyon has one of the highest concentrations of hoodoos in the world.

Catch Sunrise From The Rim

Sunrise from Sunrise Point in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Sunrise from Sunrise Point in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Since Bryce Canyon faces east, it’s all about the sunrise here.  There are many epic viewpoints from the rim of the amphitheater to catch a sunrise.  There is of course “Sunrise Point”, but Inspiration Point and Sunset Point are equally good places to watch the sunrise (and potentially less busy).

Try to arrive at your chosen viewpoint about 30-40 minutes before sunrise, so you can park and walk out to the viewpoint.  Dress warmly, it can be really cold at this high elevation.  Once the sun rises above the horizon, the entire natural amphitheater is bathed in golden light.

Hike To The Most Iconic Locations In Bryce Canyon

Emily walking up the switchbacks on Two Bridges.
Emily walking up the switchbacks on Two Bridges.

Since you are up so early, you might as well get out on the trail before the rest of the crowds arrive.

The best trail in Bryce Canyon National Park to see most of the famous rock formations and iconic locations is Wall Street/Queens Garden Loop.  The loop trail is about 3.2 miles long, and can be modified to different lengths if you want to shorten it or add more.

Park at the parking lot for Sunset Point and begin the trail there.  It’s just a short walk out to Sunset Point, and then the trail descends into the amphitheater from there.

The first iconic hoodoo you will see is Thor’s Hammer.  It’s a giant sandstone tower that resembles, you guessed it, Thor’s Hammer.

Thor's Hammer is one of the most iconic hoodoos in Bryce Canyon NP.
Thor’s Hammer is one of the most iconic hoodoos in Bryce Canyon NP.

The trail splits very early and you can choose whether to go down Wall Street or Two Bridges.  Both trails have steep switchbacks that snake down between giant sandstone walls. Both are very commonly photographed locations, but I find that the switchbacks on Two Bridges frame up a little nicer into one photo.

This iconic photo is taken right from the top on the switchbacks on Two Bridges trail.
This iconic photo is taken right from the top on the switchbacks on Two Bridges trail.

The Two Bridges for which this trail is named are two natural rock bridges found on a short spur trail towards the bottom. Personally, while these natural bridges are geolocially interesting, I find the view of the bridges to be a bit underwhelming.

Two Bridges, Bryce Canyon NP.
Two Bridges, Bryce Canyon NP.

But no matter which way you choose, the trails meet at the same intersection for Queens Garden Trail and Peekaboo Loop Trail.  From there take the Queens Garden Trail to continue on the 3 mile-loop.  Some other notable rock formations you will encounter are Queen’s Garden, and ET Hoodoo. 

ET Hoodoo, named after the famous movie of the same name, Bryce Canyon National Park.
ET Hoodoo, named after the famous movie of the same name.

And then the trail climbs back up to the rim at Sunset Point.  This is the part that may be challenging if you are not in good shape because the trail is steep.  From Sunset Point, you walk the paved path along the rim back to Sunrise Point to finish.  It really is such an amazing short hike that passes a huge variety of the most impressive formations at Bryce Canyon.

If you want to make the hike longer,  I would suggest adding on the Peekaboo Loop Trail for a total length of 6 miles.  Peekaboo Loop is named after a rock archway over the trail.  And in addition has many beautiful rock formations to observe.  There is also a bathroom at the far southern end of the Peekaboo Loop.

If you want to shorten the hike, you could just do Navajo Loop which just connects Wall Street and Two Bridges into a 1.5 miles trail. It will include lots of steep switchbacks, but the scenery is more than enough to enjoy while you take many breaks.

After your morning hike, I would recommend a more relaxing afternoon of checking some of the best viewpoints in the park, and maybe mix in a short hike or two (if you are up for it).  As you make your way towards the southern end of the park the crowds tend to thin out a little bit.  Which provides a better chance for peaceful moments to enjoy the scenery, especially if you venture even just a short distance onto the trails.

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point is a must see location on a Bryce Canyon National Park One Day Itinerary.
Inspiration Point, Photo by Yang Song on Unsplash

This location sits at the southern point of the main amphitheater. I think it’s the most impressive single viewpoint in the whole park. The vantage point has great views of the densest population of hoodoos in the whole park. The tall dark channels of Wall Street are quite impressive from this viewpoint. Not to be missed for a Bryce Canyon National Park one-day itinerary.

Bryce Point

Just a little bit farther south than Inspiration Point, Bryce Point is another incredible place to take in the massive size of Bryce Canyon NP. Hoodoos and colorful layers as far as the eye can see.  Another great place to watch the sunrise.  Peekaboo Loop Trail can also be started from this point.

Paria View

Another great view within the park.  Not quite as grand as some of the previously mentioned locations.  However, it is uniquely situated to be good for sunset.  The canyon bends around to reveal some west-facing hoodoos (most of the park’s hoodoos face east).  So it’s a good place to catch a sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park, especially away from the crowds that will be swarming the park’s official “Sunset Point”. Which I don’t quite understand why it got that name, because it seems not too different from the rest of the east-facing rim.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon National Park.

This is an easy viewpoint you don’t want to miss.  This massive 85-foot natural rock arch is an impressive sight.  The viewpoint is right adjacent to the parking lot, so no hiking is necessary.

Rainbow Point

Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon National Park.
Rainbow Point, Photo by alex° on Unsplash

Drive the rest of the way to the southernmost and highest part of the park accessible by car.  Prepare for a little bit colder temperatures up here.  From this area, there a couple great viewpoints and some trails to explore.

The two main viewpoints are Rainbow Point, looking north over the park, and Yovimpa Point, looking south over the vast expanse to the south.  At the horizon, you can see the Kaibab Plateau which makes up the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

Yovimpa Point, Bryce Canyon National Park.
Yovimpa Point, Bryce Canyon National Park.

A short trail worth taking from here is Bristlecone Loop.  It’s only one mile and a great place to see ancient bristlecone pine trees (which are also scattered elsewhere within the park). They are some of the oldest known living things on earth, surpassing thousands of years.  They are hardy trees that are known for growing in harsh environments and bad soil.

Tips For Planning Your Visit To Bryce Canyon NP

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park is April-October. Due to the high elevation, the air temperature remains relatively comfortable for outdoor activities even in the peak of summer.

You can visit Bryce Canyon in the winter, and experience the beauty of this park with a fresh layer of snow. But be aware that trail, road, and campground closures are common in the winter months. And special preparation is needed for winter hiking.

Getting Around Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park has a great free shuttle service for taking visitors around the park. During the high season, from April to mid-October, the park shuttle takes visitors around to the most popular viewpoints, trailheads, and attractions. The Shuttle helps visitors avoid the stress of finding a parking spot at each stop. The best place to park your car is at the Shuttle Station in Bryce Canyon City or the Additional Parking lot across from the Visitor Center.

Food, Gas, Supplies

The town of Bryce Canyon City just outside the park has lodging, stores, gas stations, restaurants, and more. You can find most things you need there. Within the park, there is a “General Store located near Sunrise Point and North Campground. It serves grab-and-go hot and cold foods such as pizza, soup, ice cream, and sandwiches. Beverages such as soda, water, beer, and coffee are also available.

Visitors can also find restrooms, showers, camping supplies including firewood, and souveniers.” – NPS

Conclusion | Bryce Canyon National Park One-Day Itinerary

Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Emily and I think the Bryce Canyon amphitheater is one of the most impressive natural landscapes in the world. The colors, shapes, and textures of the hoodoos are simply mesmerizing. And set against green forests and blue skies, it’s quite the color palate.

The smaller size of the park makes it possible to see many of the most iconic locations with a Bryce Canyon National Park One-Day Itinerary. While we would always advise taking a little more time to explore the park if you can, sometimes you are pressed for time. Many people will stop by Bryce on their road trip to explore Utah’s other national parks. But we think Bryce Canyon is not to be missed.

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