Utah is must on any road trip for a reason! Among the many, varied National Parks in this state is the small but mighty Bryce Canyon National Park. From the magical-looking sand structures, known as hoodoos, to the red/orange earth, Bryce was absolutely impressive. I hiked through some unique landscapes and even rode a horse for the first time!
Zion National Park is only 45 minutes away, so these two parks can definitely be combined for an adventurous trip. One of the most vivid things about my drive from Zion to Bryce was the changing landscape from lush green to the orange earth that is unique to Utah.
Bryce Canyon National Park is definitely on my list of places to return!
HIKING IN BRYCE CANYON
I had never visited Utah before this trip and definitely had not hiked in a desert before this trip, so the experience of hiking in Bryce was exhilarating and unique.
I enjoyed walking up to the many different shapes and sizes of hoodoos, reaching down and touching the sand under my foot, and just being surrounded by the wonder of these naturally occurring structures that are carved by rain and snow. When I first saw the hoodoos from the Sunrise and Sunset points, it looked like miles and miles of mini sandcastles but when I got down to the canyon floor specific hoodoos like Thor’s Hammer made me feel pretty tiny in the grand scheme of the universe and as if I were in an otherworldly place.
Bryce Canyon is a day hikers paradise. Many of the trails are short but interconnected, so I really had the opportunity to plan my own adventure! I decided to stick to a commonly combined hike, the Figure 8 Loop, which combines the Navajo Trail, Queens Garden and the Peek-A-Boo Loop. Once I started the hike, the heat in the canyon floor was pretty intense so I decided to end my hike before getting to the Peek-A-Boo Loop.
Just as there are canyon floors, elevations in the park also rise up to 9,000 feet. Be prepared for all conditions, carry plenty of water and be aware dramatic changes in elevations can have an effect on your body (e.g., lightheadedness, nausea, etc.). When I started my hike it was chilly on the rim but by the time I made it to the bottom I shed almost all of my layers. Water filling stations are only located at the rim, so make sure to carry plenty of water.
– Figure 8 Loop (combination of the three below)
– Navajo Trail
– Queens Garden
– Peek-A-Boo Loop
The two major airports close to Bryce Canyon National Park are in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and each is located about 270 miles from the Park entrance. There are smaller airports in St. George, Utah (125 miles) and Cedar City, Utah (80 miles), but keep in mind that travel to and from these airports are likely to be more expensive and offer less options.
The town of Bryce, Utah is only a few miles (and minutes) from the Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center. Once inside the park boundary, visitors are encouraged to use the free park shuttle because parking is very limited. I stayed outside the park and made sure to arrive at the trailhead early in the morning to get a parking spot.
As with other National Parks, there is an entrance fee to Bryce Canyon National Park. A seven day pass for cars/other vehicles is $35 and $30 for motorcycles. Visitors can also walk or bike into the park for $20/per person. There are annual pass options as well – $40 for unlimited entrance to Bryce Canyon for one year or $80 for unlimited entrance to any National Park or any other public lands operated by the National Park Service.
The Bryce Canyon Lodge is located inside the park and only a short drive from the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center. The Lodge offers private cabins ($230/night), motel rooms ($223/night), suites ($271/night), and studios ($176/night). Each of the room options have a quaint and rustic feel with outdoor seating space but the Lodge does not offer Wi-Fi or TV in the rooms. Although the lobby offers free Wi-Fi, the signal was weak to non-existent during my visit. This could be different for hotel guests.
There are several hotel and motel options in Bryce, Utah as well. I stayed at the Bryce Canyon Resort, which is closer to a motel experience than a resort. Because there are limited options for lodging, prices are high. My motel stay cost $275/night.
If you’d prefer sleeping in the great outdoors, there are several options. Bryce Canyon has two campgrounds – North and Sunset – close to the visitor center. Reservations open six months in advance and usually are gone fairly soon after they become available. A number of limited first come, first serve walk-up spaces are available but usually fill up by afternoon. Each regular campsite costs $20. There is one group site at the Sunset Campground and price varies based on the group size. Hook-ups are not available in either campground but a fee-for-use dump station is available during the summer months.
Just outside the park is the Dixie National Forest, which has both dispersed camping (not in a developed campground) and campground tent spaces. There are over a dozen campgrounds in the Dixie National Forest and the fees range from $15-20/night.