The smallest of the mighty 5 Utah parks, Bryce Canyon National Park is worth a visit even if you are short of time. Check out this one-day itinerary for exploring Bryce Canyon National Park. I included everything to do on a one-day trip as well as everything else you need to know about visiting the park!
The Basic Information
- Address: Highway 63 Bryce, UT 84764
- Hours: Open 24 hours a day, year-round
- Visitor Center: Bryce Canyon Visitor Center
- Summer Hours: 8 AM to 8 PM
- Fall/Spring Hours: 8 AM to 6 PM
- Winter Hours: 8 AM to 4:30 PM
- Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle (entrance fee is valid for 7 consecutive days)
- America the beautiful park pass is also accepted
What is Bryce Canyon National Park known for?
Bryce Canyon is home to the largest collection of hoodoos in the world. A hoodoo is the intricately carved rock spikes the park is known for that are left standing from erosion. The hoodoos can be experienced up close on many of the hiking trails!
How do I get to Bryce Canyon?
Bryce Canyon is located in southern Utah. It is approximately 4 hours from Salt Lake City International Airport or Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas. When I compared airports, Las Vegas had cheaper flights from Tampa and better prices on rental cars. There is also a smaller airport, Cedar City Regional Airport which is 1.5 hours away.
I visited Bryce Canyon as part of a national park’s road trip from Las Vegas. We went to Bryce Canyon as a day trip from Zion National Park. We left early in the morning after grabbing some breakfast at the hotel and it was an easy 2-hour drive to the park.
How do I get around the park?
You have two options to get around the park, drive your own vehicle or ride the Bryce Canyon shuttle.
Drive your personal vehicle
This is your only option during the winter months when the shuttle is not running. Currently, you are not required to take the shuttle even in the summer. This allows you to have control of your schedule, but during peak visitation you may have difficulty finding parking and there may be traffic. We chose this option during early May and were able to find parking with minimal traffic throughout the park.
Bryce Canyon Shuttle
A second option is taking the Bryce Canyon Shuttle if you don’t want to worry about parking during the busier months. The shuttle makes 15 stops total taking you throughout the entire park. The shuttle does not run in the winter and proof of park entrance must be shown before boarding the shuttle.
You can utilize the shuttle by parking at the shuttle stop in Bryce Canyon City or at the visitor center inside the park. The shuttle also has stops at the hotels in Bryce Canyon City.
The shuttles typically come every 15 minutes and runs from April to October.
Where should I stay?
We stayed in Virgin River outside of Zion National Park. However, if you want to stay closer to Bryce Canyon you have a couple of options.
There are a few different hotels in Bryce Canyon City which are right outside the park entrance including the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn or Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. If you prefer to stay in the park, you can book a room at the Bryce Canyon Lodge. The lodge is only open April through October.
One other option if you enjoy camping is to stay at one of the campgrounds in the park when open.
When should I visit?
The park sits between 8,000 to 9,000 feet elevation which can impact your visit. It is open year-round, but the scenic drive past mile 3 is often closed during the winter depending on current weather conditions and recent snowfall. Various hiking trails will also be closed throughout the winter months. The park experiences the heaviest snowfall in the winter and snowstorms may continue through April.
The park works diligently to clear the roads and open the 18-mile scenic drive as soon as possible. We visited in early May 2023 and the park road fully opened a few days before our visit. Several of the hiking trails had also reopened, but there were still some closures that impacted our visit. There was still snow at the higher elevations in the park, including at Rainbow Point.
I would recommend planning your visit between mid-May to mid-October if you want to access the entire park.
Is one day really enough?
Yes! If you use this one day itinerary for Bryce Canyon you can see the very best of the park! I would say it is worth stopping in the park even if you only have a few hours. However, you can absolutely spend more than a day. If you are an avid hiker and want to hike multiple trails in the park you will likely need more time. I would recommend anywhere between 1-3 days to enjoy this park.
What is there to do at Bryce Canyon National Park?
The most popular activities are hiking and the scenic drive. More information is listed below.
What are the best hikes?
There are many trails to choose from but be sure to plan your hike carefully at this high-altitude park. If you aren’t used to the higher altitudes, consider taking it easy.
A popular area for hiking is in the Bryce Ampitheater area which can be accessed from the first 3 miles of the park. There are several hikes to pick from here at varying distances.
If you do not want to hike into the canyon, consider hiking a portion of the Rim Trail. This is a 5.5-mile trail that stretches from Bryce Point to Fairyland Point. Don’t let the name fool you, if you complete the entire hike as an out-and-back (around 11 miles) there is over 1500 feet of elevation gain. However, if you aren’t looking for something that strenuous consider hiking from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. This section of the trail is only 1.1 miles out-and-back with less than 100 feet of elevation gain. This section of the rim trail is also paved making it accessible to all.
One of the most popular hikes into the canyon is Queen’s Garden/Navajo Combination Loop. This is a 3 mile-loop trail with approximately 650 feet elevation gain. This was the hike we originally planned to do; however, the Navajo Loop was closed so we completed Queens Garden Trail as an out-and-back trail instead. This trail was heavily trafficked during our visit, but I would still recommend it.
There are other more strenuous hikes in the park including Peekaboo Loop Trail which is a 5.2-mile loop with over 1500 feet elevation gain. I recommend this trail if you are a more experienced hiker.
Another popular activity is to complete the 18-mile southern scenic drive. There are 14 viewpoints that you can stop for various views throughout the park. There are a couple viewpoints I highly recommend stopping at, the first is Natural Bridge. The view was incredible! The second viewpoint I recommend is Rainbow Point, which is the highest point in the park at just over 9,000 feet elevation. There are also several viewpoints along the first 3 miles of the road that give stunning views of the Bryce Amphitheater.
TIP: All the viewpoints are on the east side of the road, so consider driving all the way to Rainbow Point and then make your stops on the way back out of the park to avoid crossing traffic several times.
Bryce Canyon National Park One Day Itinerary
Here are all the details of how we spent a day trip to Bryce Canyon from Zion.
- Grab breakfast before heading to the park
- Arrive at the park and take your picture by the entrance sign
- Head to the visitor’s center to talk to the park rangers and buy any souvenirs
- Take in the view of the Bryce Ampitheater from Sunrise Point
- Head into the canyon and hike The Queen’s Garden Trail (consider combining it with the Navajo Loop if it’s open!)
- Take the Rim Trail to the Bryce Canyon Lodge for lunch at the restaurant
- After lunch consider hiking the rim trail to Sunset Point before heading back to your car
- Enjoy the scenic drive out to Rainbow Point (make a stop here!)
- Head back towards the visitor center and stop at additional viewpoints, don’t forget to stop at the Natural Bridge
- Say goodbye to Bryce Canyon and head back to your hotel
- Enjoy dinner near where you are staying.
- We headed back to Springdale and grabbed a casual meal at Jack’s Sports Bar
What other National Parks can I visit near Bryce Canyon?
There are several national parks within driving distance that you can also visit. Below are the closest national parks and the driving distance from Bryce Canyon.
- Zion National Park: 2 hours
- Capital Reef National Park: 2 hours
- Arches National Park: 4 hours
- Canyonlands National Park: 4.5 hours
- Grand Canyon National Park: 3-5 hours
- The drive time varies if you are visiting the North Rim or South Rim
Another popular nearby destination is Page, Arizona which is 2.5 hours away where you can visit Antelope Canyon.
Summary of One Day Bryce Canyon Itinerary
Even if you only have a few hours, it is worth taking the time to stop at Bryce Canyon National Park! The view of the Bryce Ampitheater is stunning and hiking into the canyon was a fun experience! Are you planning a visit to Bryce Canyon? Comment below and tell me what you are most excited about!
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The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. Information will be verified and updated periodically. If you are planning to visit this park, I recommend verifying the most current information with the National Park Service website.