A Guide to Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park for the First Time

If you’re looking for a national park that packs a punch, Bryce Canyon is the place to be. Despite being the smallest of Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks, Bryce Canyon boasts a unique and unforgettable landscape of hoodoos, or otherworldly rock spires striped with orange, pink, and red. In fact, Bryce Canyon is home to more hoodoos than anywhere else in the world.

One of the factors that sets Bryce Canyon apart is its high elevation, averaging over 8000ft and reaching almost 10,000ft at its highest points. This, combined with the seasonal cycle of freezing and thawing water over millennia, has transformed the soft sandstone and limestone into a plateau of epic hiking trails that skirt the rim before diving 1000ft down into a forest of alien pinnacles, juniper trees, and bristlecone pines. If you’re planning a visit to Bryce Canyon National Park, here is everything you need to know.

When is the Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park?

If you’re wondering when to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, there are a few things to consider. The summer months of June through September are the most popular times to visit, with over half of the park’s visitors coming during this time. The weather is pleasant, with average high temperatures in July reaching 79°F, making it a great time to explore the park’s trails and scenic viewpoints.

However, if you prefer fewer crowds, consider visiting during the winter months. January is the least busy month, with only 29,457 visitors, compared to September’s 367,425 visitors in 2023. The winter months can also provide a unique and magical experience, with snow dusting the park’s famous “fairy chimneys.” Keep in mind that some trails and accommodations may be closed during the winter season.

Here’s a summary of the best times to visit Bryce Canyon National Park:

Time of YearProsCons
Summer (June – September)Pleasant weather, great for hiking and exploringCrowded, higher prices
Winter (December – February)Fewer crowds, unique winter scenerySome trails and accommodations may be closed
Spring/Fall (March – May, October – November)Mild weather, fewer crowds than summerSome facilities may have limited hours or be closed

Ultimately, the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park depends on your preferences and what you want to experience.

How Much Time Do You Need to Explore?

Bryce Canyon National Park offers stunning views and unique geological formations that are worth exploring for at least a full day or two. Although some travelers visit as a day trip from Zion National Park, it is recommended to stay for longer to fully appreciate the park’s beauty.

To make the most out of your visit, consider the following recommendations:

  • Spend at least one full day exploring the main amphitheater and hiking trails.
  • Watch the sunrise and sunset to witness the stunning golden-red glow of the hoodoos.
  • Take advantage of the park’s excellent nighttime visibility for stargazing, which includes views of the Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light-years away.

Overall, plan to spend a minimum of one to two days at Bryce Canyon National Park to fully experience its natural wonders and unique features.

How Easy Is It to Get Around Bryce Canyon National Park?

Getting to Bryce Canyon National Park is relatively easy if you have a car. The park is just a few hours’ drive from the closest airports and major cities. However, during the busier months of April through October, shuttle buses are available to get visitors around the park. The shuttle bus is free to ride with park admission and reservations are not required. There are 15 stops, nine of which are in the park, and it also stops at some hotels in Bryce Canyon City outside the park entrance, where you can leave your car.

Unlike at Zion National Park, the shuttle bus at Bryce Canyon is not mandatory, and visitors are allowed to drive their own vehicles into the park. However, cycling is also a great way to get around, and you can ride a bike to every major trailhead. The paved multi-use path that runs through the park goes to the Inspiration Point overlook and, beyond the park, it connects with the Red Canyon Bicycle Trail, which takes you past even more hoodoos and awesome rock formations outside Bryce’s boundaries. Overall, whether you choose to drive, take the shuttle bus, or cycle, getting around Bryce Canyon National Park is easy and convenient.

Top Things to Do at Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is home to some of the most unique and stunning geological formations in the world. Here are the top things to do to make the most of your visit:

1. Marvel at the Hoodoos

The hoodoos are the main attraction at Bryce Canyon National Park. These towering rock formations, some with evocative names such as Thor’s Hammer and Silent City, are believed by the Native Paiute to be ancient “Legend People” who were turned to stone as punishment for wrongdoing. Take your time to explore and admire the hoodoos from every angle.

2. Hike the Rim Trail

The Rim Trail is an easy hike that offers breathtaking views of the hoodoos from above. While the viewpoints along the trail can get crowded, you can easily find a quiet spot by walking a short distance along the trail. The Rim Trail is perfect for those who want to enjoy the beauty of the park without too much physical exertion.

3. Descend into the Hoodoos

To truly experience the beauty of Bryce Canyon National Park, you must hike down into the hoodoos. The Queen’s Garden–Navajo Loop Combination Trail is the most popular hike in the park, taking you through the signature features of Bryce Canyon in a relatively short amount of time. The Fairyland Loop is a more challenging option, but it rewards you with stunning views of the hoodoos, ancient bristlecone pines, and the high-mountain desert landscape.

No matter what you choose to do at Bryce Canyon National Park, you are sure to be amazed by the natural beauty of this unique landscape.

What Not To Miss at Bryce Canyon National Park

One of the most exhilarating experiences you can have at Bryce Canyon National Park is to explore the park on horseback. The Canyon Trail Rides offer a three-hour horse-riding adventure that takes you on Peekaboo Loop from April through October. This is a great way to see the park from a different perspective and get up close and personal with the hoodoos.

During the ride, you will be accompanied by an experienced guide who will keep you entertained with amusing commentary, stories, and information about the rock formations you will see along the way. The horses are well-trained and easy to ride, making the experience enjoyable even for beginners.

If you plan to go on a trail ride, it is recommended that you book in advance with Canyon Trail Rides as they tend to book up quickly. However, even if you prefer to explore the park on foot, the Peekaboo Loop is one of the best hikes in Utah and offers stunning views of the hoodoos.

How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Bryce Canyon National Park?

To fully enjoy your visit to Bryce Canyon National Park, you need to budget for various expenses such as entrance fees, accommodation, and camping fees. Here’s an overview of the costs you can expect:

Entrance Fees

The standard entrance fee for Bryce Canyon National Park is $35 per vehicle or $20 per person if you’re on foot or bicycle. This fee is valid for seven days. However, if you’re planning to visit multiple national parks on your trip, it’s more cost-effective to purchase the America the Beautiful pass for $80. This pass is valid for a year at all national parks and federal recreation land across the country.


There’s a lodge and two campgrounds inside the park. The Bryce Canyon Lodge costs between $200 to $330 per night depending on the season and room size. The campgrounds cost $30 per night for both tents and RVs. During the busiest season (mid-May to mid-October), campsites must be booked in advance through recreation.gov.

Other Expenses

In addition to entrance fees and accommodation, you may also need to budget for other expenses such as food, transportation, and activities. It’s recommended to bring your own food and snacks to save money, and to use the park’s shuttle service instead of driving to save on gas.

Overall, the cost of visiting Bryce Canyon National Park can vary depending on your needs and preferences. By budgeting for the above expenses, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable visit to this stunning national park.