Bryce Canyon National Park was our fourth stop on the Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip and we need to say it exceeded all of our expectations. Bryce made up for the fact that our two previous National Park visits at Canyonlands and Capitol Reef did not turn out as expected. Even though it had snowed recently at Bryce Canyon it was just enough snow to highlight the beauty of this park while still allowing us access to most of our planned trail routes.
Nothing prepared us for the absolute magnificence Mother Nature created in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Out of all the parks we visited on the Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip, Bryce Canyon might top the list for the most stunning vistas. We couldn’t walk more than a few feet without having to stop to enjoy the scenery and take it all in. The entire time at Bryce Canyon feels like you are in another world that is hard to describe or even capture in photos, but still we tried.
Even though the park had fresh snow and we only had one day to enjoy all of it, Bryce Canyon is a rather small park when compared to some of its sister parks like Zion and Canyonlands. We believe that in one day you would be able to visit all the must do hikes at Bryce Canyon and not miss a single thing.
Luckily if you are not up to hiking down into the canyon, there are plenty of accessible viewpoints and scenic pull outs on the main road. In addition to this, you are also able to drive to the highest point in the park at Rainbow Point sitting at 9,100 ft for some of the most amazing views on this trip.
One Day Bryce Canyon National Park Itinerary
- Stop at Visitor Center – Get a map, check out the store and ask the rangers questions
- Only real flush restroom in the park is at the visitor center!
- Ultimate Bryce One Day Hike – 2 to 3 hours
- Sunrise Point
- Queens Garden Trail
- Navajo Loop Trail
- Sunset Point
- Rim Trail
- Bonus – Peakaboo Trail – 1 to 2 hours extra
Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center
We always start our National Park hikes at the Visitor Center to check in with the rangers, make sure the hikes we want to do that day are accessible and of course check out the gift shop!
The most important reason for checking in at the visitor center with the park rangers is to check trail conditions as well as any surprise warnings that could change your plans and the trails you take. Depending on the time of year, some roads might be closed due to snow, some trails could have been washed away due to rainfall or construction could have shut down certain parts of the park. Rangers will always have the most up to date information and if you are lucky might have tips to make the most out of your day at the park!
During our talk with the rangers, we quickly learned that shoe traction devices like Yaktrax would be almost essential, that certain parts of the scenic drive where closed and that the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop was closed due to rock falls. Things like this are essential to make changes to your plan for the day so you can make the most of your one-day visit.
Lastly at Bryce Canyon the visitor center is one of the only places where you will find flush toilets so make sure to take advantage and use them before hitting the trail.
Ultimate Bryce One Day Hike
Our plan for a one-day visit to Bryce Canyon involved arguably the most popular loop option in the park. While the trail we took is not necessarily a loop, you are able to join a few different trails together in order to see the most variety without having to take a shuttle or move your car once!
We start our Ultimate One Day Hike at Bryce Canyon at Sunrise Point which offers decent parking options year-round and close proximity to the rim of the canyon. If you are not looking to hike this is still a great spot to park at and walk a short distance to the rim of the canyon for some spectacular views.
While there is plenty of parking at Sunrise Point, we must give a big warning to look out for no parking signs, since we saw plenty of ticketed cars for parking on the main scenic road.
Queens Garden Trail
Once you get all the views soaked in at Sunrise Point you will continue a short walk on the rim trail that will connect you the Queens Garden Trailhead. The area is a bit confusing since there is a horse trail that you DO NOT want to follow into the canyon.
The start of the Queens Garden Trail isn’t too steep but it will only take a few minutes before you truly feel like you are in another world!
We truly had to stop every few feet to just take photos and take in the amazing scenery we were hiking through. One of our favorite things was also the constant small tunnels you hiked through which added to the out of this world feeling in this hike.
Navajo Loop Trail
The connection point between Queens Garden and Navajo Loop is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat and get your energy levels up before you tackle the rest of your hike.
This section of the Ultimate Hike will be the most challenging part of your day and depending on your fitness level get ready to take quite a few breaks.
One of the interesting things about hiking in a place like Bryce Canyon is that while the first half of your hike is downhill the second half will be getting yourself back up to where you started. This is very different to most hiking adventures where the summit is the first half of your hike.
The first half of Navajo Trail does gain elevation, but it isn’t until the last quarter to half mile of the trail that the elevation gain gets REAL! We have to admit the switchbacks after the Two Bridges up to Thor’s Hammer knocked the wind out of us and photo ops really became breathing breaks.
It is all worth it though because you do get some really amazing photo opportunities through the switchbacks such as the Two Bridges section before the switchbacks begin and at the well-known Thor’s Hammer.
One piece of advice everyone must be aware of is that depending on the time of year that you visit Bryce, shoe traction devices like Yaktrax are ESSENTIAL to complete this section of the hike. We saw several people sliding down, falling, and some getting quite hurt.
Once you survive the switchbacks and the final elevation gain back onto the rim of Bryce Canyon, you will have arrived at Sunset Point!
Just like the rest of the park the views at Sunset Point will take your breath away but that can also be due to the altitude you just hiked up in. We highly recommend to take some time and relax at Sunset Point while you enjoy the views and gather your breath and thoughts after that hike.
The last part of our Ultimate Bryce One Day Hike will take us along the Rim Trail which, as the name implies, follows the rim of the canyon. You will follow this trail along the rim of the canyon back to Sunrise Point and to your car!
While the rim trail is not the most eye-catching trail in the park it is a nice and easy walk to connect these two points and allow you to avoid catching a shuttle.
Bonus – Peakaboo Trail
If you are feeling up too it and want to add some extra mileage to your hike, then the Peakaboo connection at the bottom of the canyon is a must. While we did not continue onto the Peakaboo Trail due to time constraints and our legs being shot from days of hiking we met plenty of people who did.
The Peakaboo Trail is accessible at the same turn off that you would take from Queens Garden to Navajo Loop. The same spot you would stop at for a picnic if following our itinerary is where you would turn and go down further into the canyon.
There is not a set mileage for this hike since you are able to turn back at any point or if you truly feel like adding the miles you are able to continue the hike out to Bryce Point. We would only recommend doing this if you have a ride or have looked at the active shuttle schedule to be able to get back to your car.
Bryce Canyon Shuttle System
The Bryce Canyon Shuttle system is arguably one of the best ways to get around in the park, especially during peak season. As mentioned earlier the shuttle system is also a great way to add more hikes to your day by skipping the loop and being able to just do hikes one way and taking the shuttle to the next point.
During peak season the shuttle system is a life saver for those trying to explore the park in one day. While the park is small compared to its sister Zion, that also means the parking lots at most scenic points and trailheads are small as well. Depending on the season you might not be able to even find parking inside the park and have to find a spot in one of the public lots in Bryce City. Luckily with the shuttle system this isn’t an issue and you are able to take the shuttle from the main city into the park and explore all day long!
One big thing to be aware of the shuttle system is that depending on the time of year they are not running full time or at all. Please make sure to check out the Bryce Canyon National Park website for the most up to date schedule.
Top Scenic Drive View Points
If you are short on time or just are not up to hiking into the canyon then you are in luck! Bryce Canyon offers some very short scenic drives that will give you breathtaking views that are definitely Insta Worthy.
There are two specific scenic points that we recommend, even if you are hiking into the canyon are worth your time before heading home.
The first stop from the Visitor Center will take you to Bryce Point, depending on if you hiked here while following the Peakaboo Trail, you might skip it. If you did not then the quick drive or shuttle ride are a must to get a different view of the canyon from a spectacular view point.
The second stop is also the highest point in the park at 9,100 feet, Rainbow Point!
This stop is a quick drive depending on the time of year and weather, when we drove to the top of the canyon it was semi covered in snow and ice after they had just plowed the road a few hours before.
If there is one stop you make in the park then we highly recommend this one. You will not only get spectacular views from the top of the canyon but you will also enjoy a scenic drive up the canyon rim. The final viewpoint offers a perfect area for a quick picnic, restrooms and of course a stunning view of Bryce Canyon and the lands beyond!
Our time at Bryce Canyon was arguably one of the best days of our entire Mighty 5 Road Trip and we cannot wait to go back one day. While Bryce Canyon can be visited year-round there truly is something magical about walking through the canyon with snow covered red canyon walls.
If you do decide to visit during the winter season, make sure to pack some hiking poles and snow traction devices since the snow and ice are no joke. On the other hand, if you visit during the summer water and sun protection are a must plus make sure to be on top of the shuttle schedule since the summer does bring record crowds.
Either way make sure to add Bryce Canyon National Park to your bucket list since it is one of the most amazing National Parks in the United States.