UPDATED JANUARY 2015
When I was growing up, I visited Bryce Canyon National Park regularly, because we often visited family in Southern Utah. I introduced my children to Bryce Canyon for the first time in Fall 2011. It won’t be our last visit.
Ebenezer Bryce, the Mormon pioneer for whom the park is named, described Bryce Canyon as “a h— of a place to lose a cow.” Come see what makes Bryce Canyon special and lose yourself in Bryce Canyon’s amphitheater of delicate red sandstone spires and hoodoos.
What to see and do
Our first stop at most national parks is the visitor center. Bryce Canyon has a pretty good one with the usual short film, exhibits and gift shop. We always visit the ranger desk for Junior Ranger information for our kids and to up-to-the-minute information about whatever we might want to know about the park.
Bryce Canyon can be easily appreciated from a string of accessible viewpoints. You can spend a full day driving from one to the other, or from several of these points you can get a different perspective of the amphitheater by hiking in.
Two of my favorite walks are the trail from Sunrise to Sunset Point and Navajo Loop.
Sunrise and Sunset Point
Sunrise Point and Sunset Point are adjoining viewpoints and you could drive to both, but to really soak up the scenery, I recommend walking the easy half-mile trail between them. The trail is paved and wide and is the only wheelchair or stroller trail in the park. There are benches along the way for resting and savoring the view.
Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden
Navajo Loop starts and ends at Sunset Point. It is only 1.3 miles round-trip, but it descends from the rim to the bottom of the canyon and hiking back to the top is strenuous. If you’re up for that, every step is worth it. The trail descends dramatically among the hoodoos for a completely different view of the canyon.
At the bottom, there is an opportunity to connect to the slightly longer Queen’s Garden trail which will take you back to Sunrise Point and is considered the easiest of the trails going down from the rim. On the walk back up to Sunset Point, the excellent photo opportunities of Thor’s Hammer and other formations are a good reason to stop and catch your breath.
Wear sturdy shoes with good traction and bring plenty of drinking water. When we visited Bryce Canyon last October, this is the trail that inspired me to make my kids their own water bottle holders because I carried their water for too much of the time. We went with our two children, my 10-year-old niece and my husband’s parents. The kids reached the top first, sporting a couple of skinned knees, with my husband close behind and me and my in-laws bringing up the rear at our own speed.
Bryce Canyon’s clean, dry air and distance from the light pollution produced by cities makes it one of the best places for stargazing. On a clear night, 7,500 stars can be seen above the canyon. Night sky programs are available throughout the year.
Stargazing programs begin with a ranger talk inside the visitor center. On the night we attended, the ranger talk was a little long for my kids, but I thought it was fun and educational. Once it’s good and dark, the program moves to the parking where big telescopes are set up and pointed at interesting stars and planets. Stargazing programs are popular, so expect crowds.
When to Go
Bryce Canyon is open year-round, and the contrast of snow on the colorful sandstone is gorgeous, but at elevations of up to 9,100 feet, April through October are the most comfortable and popular months of year to see the park. There is a convenient and complimentary shuttle available during peak season, but unlike at Zion National Park, visitors are not required to use it.
I like using the shuttle because we don’t have to worry about finding parking spaces at the popular view points. I also like it because we can get off the shuttle at one stop, walk the Rim Trail, and pick up the shuttle again down the road.
Where to Stay
There are a lodge and campgrounds inside Bryce Canyon National Park, but most visitors stay outside the park at Ruby’s Inn or one of the other establishments in Bryce Canyon City or or in the the nearby communities of Panguitch or Tropic.
Planning a trip to Bryce Canyon?
You may also enjoy
- Winter at Bryce Canyon
- Hotel Review: Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
- Zion National Park for families
- Tips for hiking the Zion Narrows
- Hotel Review: Zion Ponderosa Ranch and Resort
- Our National and State Parks page
- Subscribe to our National Parks Pinterest board