Top Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park
Considered one of Utah’s finest gems, Bryce Canyon National Park is a wonderful destination for a hiking trip. Hiking through the park is one of the best ways to see the breathtaking canyon views, the park’s famous crimson red hoodoos, and various other strange rock formations. A vast network of interconnected trails fork off from the park’s main road making exploring the wonders of Bryce Canyon National Park accessible to any adventurer.
Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
The park receives over 2.6 million visitors annually, with summertime (June - August) bringing the most crowds. By late September, the crowds start to thin out though weekends can still be busy through October. Quieter times at the park tend to be winter, early spring, and late fall.
Choosing the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park depends on what you are looking for. In terms of weather, from May until September, temperatures are usually mild between 63-80 degrees Fahrenheit (17-27 degrees Celsius). You can still experience comfortable weather in April and October, though with fewer crowds.
- Spring (March - May): You can still expect snow and the weather will not warm up until May. Visiting during these months you will experience snow melting from the higher elevation mountains, creating spectacular scenery. Note that trails may still be muddy and night temperatures will be chilly.
- Summer (June - August): The pleasant weather makes for great hiking on the trails, though crowds may congest some of the more accessible parts of the park. Rainfall comes by July when afternoon thunderstorms are more common.
- Fall (September - October): Visitors can still experience pleasant weather though snowfall begins to accumulate by mid-October. Nights tend to be cooler, so prepare accordingly for cold weather. Crowds lessen during this time of year.
- Winter (November - February): Visitors can expect the most snowfall during January and February, with the temperature dropping below freezing for most of the winter. Activities such as skiing and snowshoeing are popular, and the cold weather keeps the crowds away giving visitors more solitude.
Sitting at a relatively high elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,800 meters), Bryce Canyon National Park is colder than any other national park in Utah including Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands. No matter what time of year you visit Bryce, it’s a good idea to bring warm clothes!
Read our Camping Tips: A Beginners Guide to Their First Trip to get you ready for your next hiking and camping adventure.
Now that we have outlined the best times to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, here is our list of top hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Navajo Loop Trail
- Difficulty: Easy-moderate
- Distance: 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers)
One of the more popular trails in the park, it is often said that if you were to only hike one trail during your visit, the Navajo Loop Trail should be your choice. The trail makes an approximate 2-hour loop from the rim at Sunset Point to the floor of Bryce Canyon while traversing through impressive hoodoos and awesome rock formations.
From Sunset Point, the trail immediately begins to descend along a paved path. Just as the safety railings end, take the eastbound trail that heads to the left to begin the Navajo Loop. After turning left, the trail will descend down a series of switchbacks making its way to the canyon floor. Along the canyon floor, hikers will encounter Wall Street, a famous hoodoo where two Douglas firs have been growing for more than 750 years, and Twin Bridges, another famous hoodoo located about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) into the hike. After passing Twin Bridges, the trail begins to climb up another series of switchbacks towards the rim of the canyon. During this final stretch of the trail, be sure to keep an eye out for Thor’s Hammer, another majestic hoodoo formation.
Note: The Wall Street side of the loop is closed in months when precipitation combines with freezing overnight temperatures, increasing the risk of major rockfalls in the area. When this section is closed, it is common for hikers to combine the Twin Bridges section with Queens Garden Trail, making a delightful 3-mile (4.8 kilometers) hike.
Bryce Canyon Rim Trail
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometers) one-way; though many shorter options can be done
This popular path runs along the rim of Fairyland Canyon and Bryce Canyon, connecting Fairyland Point and Bryce Point and passing all the scenic overlooks in between. Walking along the Rim Trail offers incredible views of the multi-colored hoodoos, spires, and the canyon below. The half-mile (0.8 kilometers) section that connects Sunrise and Sunset Points is the most heavily trafficked and is paved all the way.
It is recommended to hike the Rim Trail from south (Bryce Point) to north (Fairyland Point) so that you will generally be walking downhill to Sunrise Point. The park’s shuttle bus serves all the trail's major access points except Fairyland Point. It is easy to shorten the hike by walking the Rim in sections and then using the shuttle point to return to your vehicle. There are steep drop-offs along the trail but the path is wide enough for most people to feel comfortable. If you have a fear of heights and sheer drop-offs you may want to avoid the section between Bryce Point and Inspiration Point.
Note: Please remember that the shuttle bus does NOT stop at Fairyland Point. You need to have a car positioned at the overlook if you plan to hike the entire trail and do not want to loop back, thus extending your distance.
Fairyland Loop Trail
- Difficulty: moderate to challenging
- Distance: 7.8 miles (12.5 kilometers)
This trail can be listed as an “if you were to only hike one trail, this is it” type of trail due to its spectacular viewpoints of grand rock formations.
This hike is most recommended as a clockwise loop (as described here) from Fairyland Point, allowing most of the elevation change to be in the first half of the hike. However, it can be hiked in either direction.
The trail begins from the parking lot of Sunrise Point and goes left away from the Sunrise Point viewpoint. The first portion of the trail follows the Rim Trail towards Fairyland Point. For the first 2.5 miles (4 kilometers), the trail ascends and descends along the rim opening up to fantastic views of the canyon and Boat Mesa, a dominant structure separating Fairyland Canyon from the rest of Bryce Canyon.
When you reach Fairyland Point, take the fork to the right following the signs for Fairyland Loop. The trail will then follow a series of switchbacks until it reaches the main valley floor. Here you will immediately be surrounded by stunning hoodoos and other amazing rock formations. The trail continues to round several corners with each one revealing incredible views.
At approximately 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) into the hike, you will reach a small spur trail to see Tower Bridge, a rock formation that resembles the iconic London landmark.
The main trail then begins to climb steeply along a crest passing several more hoodoos. For about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) the trail will traverse along a sub canyon for approximately one mile, contouring around the ridges and reliefs. Eventually, you will begin a challenging climb to the ridge, following another series of switchbacks up towards the rim. Upon reaching the Rim Trail, turn left, returning to Sunrise Point.
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- Difficulty: Moderate to challenging (due to the steep climb on the way back)
- Distance: 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) roundtrip
This trail is known to be one of the least traveled day hikes in the park, providing an escape from the crowds for those looking for it. The trail also leads to unique rock formations of bright orange hoodoos that have distinct grey rocks balanced on top of them, giving the appearance of “hats”.
The trail starts at Bryce Point, sharing the trail with Peek-a-boo Loop. After about a quarter-mile (0.4 kilometers) take the trail towards the right at the junction. Here the trail levels out for a short distance as it travels through a forested area of pine trees before descending down a ridge. As you descend down into the canyon, you will begin to see a more extensive area of hoodoos and varied pinnacles.
At around the 2-mile (3.2 kilometers) mark, hikers will come to the viewpoint of the Hat Shop hoodoos, located off the ridge’s south side. At this viewpoint, the ground drops off steeply below, so the rocks can only be viewed from above - the hillside is too steep and unstable to climb down amongst the base of the pinnacles. From here, you can return the way you came to complete the roundtrip hike. This trail is well marked for the entirety of its length.
Note: The Under-the-Rim Trail, the premier backpacking trail in the park, continues from the Hat Shop for more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) south to Rainbow Point.
Riggs Spring Loop
- Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
- Distance: 8.8 miles (14.2 kilometers)
If you are looking for peace and solitude away from the crowds near the main canyon, then the Riggs Spring Loop is for you. A majority of the trail travels through a thick coniferous forest and does not offer as many opportunities to view hoodoos and unique rock formations as other trails in the park. The preferred direction for this hike is counter-clockwise which gives hikers more of a gradual climb out at the end.
Beginning at Rainbow Point parking area, head west following signs for Yovimpa Pass following a series of switchbacks downhill. As you descend through forested terrain, you will be presented with impressive views of vertical pink cliffs. As you approach Yovimpa Pass, at around 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers), you will notice a backcountry campsite complete with a spring pumphouse, a reliable water source.
After the campsite, the trail will continue descending down the rim through a ponderosa pine forest eventually saddling Podunk Creek. Roughly 3.3 miles (5.3 kilometers) along the trail, you will come to Riggs Spring campsite. The seasonal stream in this area is not reliable but if you do fill up water here be sure to treat it first.
After Riggs Springs, the trail turns sharply to the left (heading north) and begins ascending to the base of more pink cliffs. The more you ascend, the better the views get. At about 5 miles (8 kilometers), you will reach Coral Hollow campsite, the third designated backcountry campsite on the loop. There is no reliable water source here and is not a recommended site to pitch a tent.
After passing Coral Hollow, the trail continues to climb up towards Promontory Mesa, offering incredible views of the staircase plateau below. Continue along the last stretch as you climb more switchback back to Rainbow Point and then return to the parking lot.
Note: This hike can be completed as a long day hike or a 2-day overnight backpacking experience. A backcountry camping permit is required for the overnight hike.
Peek-a-boo Loop Trail
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Distance: 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometers)
This challenging trail covers an elevation gain of over 1,500 feet (473 meters) as it descends under the rim of Bryce Canyon and down to the floor offering up-close views of hoodoos and natural arches. Due to the challenging nature of this route, this trail often has fewer hikers than other trails in the park, making it a great escape from the crowds.
The Peek-a-boo Loop can be accessed from both Sunrise and Sunset Points but the most scenic route descends from Bryce Point, as described here. Starting at the parking lot from Bryce Point, the trail descends steeply down a series of switchbacks along the Peek-a-boo Connector from the rim. Enjoy the panoramic views of rock formation along the canyon walls as you continue downhill. At about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) into the hike, you will come to a “T” intersection making the Peek-a-boo Loop Trail.
The loop can be done in either direction, but clockwise has proven to be the preferred way. Making a left at the “T” intersection, the trail will pass a horse corral and pit toilets before cutting around the head of the canyon and into a series of switchbacks. Climbing up and down minor ridges and gullies, passing directly beneath the Wall of Windows, a massive fin topping the ridge rimming the canyon’s western wall. The trail will then begin to ascend, passing through a tunnel on its way to the top of a ridge. At around 2.1 miles (3.3 kilometers), wonderful views will open up as hikers cross a ridge separating Peek-a-boo and Bryce Canyons, with Cathedral Point towering above the trail to the east.
The trail now descends along the east side of Bryce Canyon dropping down switchbacks to the trail’s lowest elevation point at around the 2.7 mile (4.3 kilometers) mark. At the intersection found here, turn right (heading south) to continue the Peek-a-boo Loop. The trail now climbs steeply up as it makes its way to the top of the ridge opening up views of the Fairy Castle Rock formation. As you crest the ridge the trail passes by a large standalone hoodoo and terrific views open to a sea of hoodoos, pinnacles, and fins beneath Bryce point and along Peek-a-boo Canyon. The trail will then begin a long descent to the bottom of the canyon floor meeting the canyon’s wash at 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) before ascending the valley to reach the junction with the connector trail returning to Bryce Point at the 3.9 mile (6.2 kilometers) mark. Turn left at the Peek-a-boo Loop Connector and retrace your steps up to Bryce Point, completing the loop.
Note: This trail is shared with horses. Be sure to give the horses the right of way when encountering them on the trail.
Now that we’ve highlighted the must-do hikes when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, let’s review the essentials to bring along with you when hitting the trails.
- Map: Remember, your smartphone may not have reception at every trailhead. So print out a map of the area and know the important junctions on the trail. Alternately, ask for a map at the park entrance, or download an offline version of the trail map through an app like AllTrails.
- Water: The amount depends on the climate where you are hiking, but a good rule of thumb is 1 liter (32 ounces) for every two hours of activity.
- Snacks: Always bring a snack, just in case your hike goes longer than planned. Trail mix, granola bars, dried fruit. Keep it nutritious.
- Sun Protection: Apply a layer of sunscreen on your skin before heading out for a hike, even if it’s a cloudy day. Consider wearing a hat or sunglasses to minimize exposure to the sun. You can wear SPF protective clothing as well.
- Headlamp: Whether for an overnight or day hike, bringing along a headlamp is an essential safety must-have. These are small, lightweight devices that fit easily into any bag. You never know when you might need it, and if you do, you’ll be happy to have one.
- Rain gear: Ultralight rain jackets pack down small and can easily fit into your bag. Rainstorms can pop out of nowhere and it’s best to be dry when out in nature.
- First aid kit: Your first aid kit doesn’t need to be big. But make sure you have the basics: bandaids, alcohol wipes, waterproof matches, moleskin, burn treatment, and duct tape.
Okay, now that we’ve got our hiking safety taken care of, head out and explore the top hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Additional national park hiking articles:
- Top Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Top 4 Hikes in Acadia National Park
- Top 8 Hikes in Zion National Park
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