Top Reasons to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park’s unique landscape separates itself from the other national parks found in the United States. The park’s famous crimson red hoodoos and bizarre rock formations, mixed in with a vast network of interconnected hiking trails, make it a must-visit destination. Then of course there are the awe-inspiring canyon views and vistas that create a mesmerizing appeal that is unmatched anywhere else. If you are looking for an incredible outdoor adventure then Bryce Canyon National Park is just the place for you.
Bryce Canyon offers many activities for all ages and levels of adventure. Hiking, camping, horseback riding are among the more popular activities but those aren’t the only activities that make Bryce Canyon National Park interesting. Read on to find out our top reasons to visit Bryce Canyon National Park.
Bryce Canyon National Park has the world’s largest concentration of these unique rock formations in the world.
You may be wondering what a hoodoo is? Hoodoos are pillars of rock, typically between 5 and 150 feet high. Unlike a spire (which tapers from bottom to top), hoodoos have a variable, totem pole-like thickness throughout their height. The towers are typically a softer sandstone capped by a more erosion-resistant layer of rock.
If geology is your thing, then Bryce Canyon is the place for you. However, even if you don’t know much about geology, simply walking around and taking in the views of these incredible rock formations will have you thinking you’re on another planet!
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One of the most photographed hoodoos in the park is Thor’s Hammer. This towering, massive stone structure tops out at 150 feet tall as it isolates itself from a maze of other hoodoos and tightly packed fins that surround it.
There are several ways to view Thor’s Hammer when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. Two of the main viewing points are Sunrise and Sunset Points. These two locations are only a half-mile away from one another making it less challenging to see two viewpoints of this famous landmark. The view from Sunrise Point is said to be more spectacular as the red glow of the morning sun brightens up the structure.
The more adventurous explorer can opt to hike into the Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre along either the Navajo Loop or Queen’s Garden trails. The trails are about 3 miles each and can be considered strenuous with the elevation factored in.
One of the best ways to experience Bryce Canyon National Park is by foot. Hiking down into Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre allows hikers to get up close and personal with the canyon’s unique rock formations while hiking along the rim provides visitors with opportunities to view these bizarre formations from the top.
Perhaps the best thing about hiking in Bryce Canyon is there is a hiking trail for just about everyone. Hiking trails range from flat easy terrain with distances less than a mile to extreme backcountry trails that require multiple days to complete. You’ll find more people on the trails that stay up on the rim which means that the deeper you go down into the canyon, the fewer crowds you’ll encounter.
A few must-do hikes when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park are:
- Navajo Loop Trail - This 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.
- The Rim Trail - This trail wraps around the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, the hoodoo-filled valley in the heart of the park. This path traces the canyon, providing must-see views of the Bryce Canyon hoodoos from above.
Check out our Top Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park to learn more.
A great way to experience the unique landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park is to ride on the back of a horse. Horseback riding has been a part of the park experience since before it was established as a national park. Nowadays visitors can enjoy several miles of established horse trails as well as wrangler-led guided tours.
Canyon Trail Rides, the park's concessioner, offers 2-hour and 3-hour guided horse and mule rides into the Bryce Amphitheater along a dedicated horse trail and the Peek-a-boo Loop Trail. Guided trail rides typically begin in April and run until October 31st, depending on the weather.
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If you think the daytime views of Bryce Canyon are amazing, wait until the stars come out at night! Certified as a Dark Sky Park, Bryce Canyon National Park has minimal light pollution and superior air quality, making it a prime location for stargazing.
Amateur astronomers will find Bryce Canyon to be a prime destination to set up a telescope and observe celestial events, but if you are not equipped to do that, you can join the free educational and entertaining stargazing programs at the visitor center organized by the park’s Astronomy Rangers. Almost all throughout the year, the Milky Way stretches across the sky above Bryce Canyon. It is also said that on a moonless night some 7,500 stars are visible!
Each year the park hosts an annual astronomy festival. These astronomy festivals feature family-friendly daytime activities, ranger-led evening programs, and constellation tours.
To get the most out of your time in Bryce Canyon, you should pitch a tent and camp out for a night or two during your stay, especially if you want to take in that amazing night sky we just told you about.
There are two established campgrounds inside Bryce Canyon National Park: North Campground and Sunset Campground. Both campgrounds are located near the visitor center and Bryce Amphitheatre. North Campground is open year-round and Sunset Campground is open from April 15 - October 31. Both operate on a first-come, first-served basis though there are a limited number of sites that can be reserved at North Campground.
For a more adventurous night under the stars, you can obtain a backcountry camping permit (up to 48 hours in advance) and take to the trails that go deeper into the canyonlands. The Under-The-Rim Trail is a 22-mile trail that navigates through the backcountry with several campsites along the way. The Riggs Spring Loop Trail offers a unique backcountry experience as well.
New to camping? Read our Camping Tips: A Beginner’s Guide to Their First Trip.
If you don’t have time for a long hike or horseback riding is not your thing, you’ll find that driving through the park is awe-inspiring as well. Highway 63 crosses through the heart of the park for 18 miles connecting all the major scenic viewpoints. Scenic viewpoints such as Sunrise, Sunset, and Inspiration offer some of the best views in all of Bryce Canyon. Also along the highway, there are opportunities for visitors to get out and combine their drive with a short walk to take in more of the amazing scenery.
The stark white of freshly fallen snow, red rocks, blue sky, and evergreen trees--some say Bryce Canyon is even more beautiful in winter! Most of the park’s trails remain open during the winter months but will require snowshoes. Ranger-led snowshoe hikes start from the visitor center on days when the conditions are right. Cross-country skiers can enjoy Fairyland Road and Paria Point Road as these roads are left unplowed during the winter months.
In addition to daily activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival and Christmas Bird Count are two popular annual events.
Additional Reading: 9 Winter Hiking Tips for Your Next Cold-Weather Adventure
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of Utah’s finest gems and a wonderful destination for any traveler. Bryce Canyon’s bizarre hoodoos and strange rock formations make it one of the most unique landscapes in the world. Millions of visitors come each year to see this amazing scenery and there is no reason why you should not be one of them. When you are planning your next United States National Park adventure, consider adding Bryce Canyon National Park as a must-visit destination.
Planning a trip to Utah? Learn more in these articles:
- Top Reasons to Put Zion National Park on your United States Bucket List
- Top Hikes in Arches National Park
- How to make the most of your stay in Moab, Utah
- Top Things to Do in Salt Lake City, Utah
Check out other United States national park-related articles:
- Top Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
- Visitor Guide to Grand Canyon National Park
- Plan Your Next Trip: Yellowstone National Park
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