Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most breathtaking and otherworldly places that I have ever visited. I had seen many a picture of its colorful hoodoos, so I thought I knew what to expect. Nope. All of that paled in comparison to actually seeing them in real life. Despite being familiar with Bryce Canyon’s unique scenery, let me tell ya, my jaw DROPPED when I first laid eyes on the amphitheater. As high as my expectations were, Bryce Canyon blew them out of the water. This national park belongs on any traveler’s bucket list.
I spent the night at Bryce Canyon’s Sunset Campground, just minutes away from the gorgeous amphitheater area. Although I could have spent days roaming through the canyon and along the rim, I only had time for 24 hours. However, I still felt that those 24 hours at Bryce Canyon were satisfactory. I accomplished quite a bit in my short time. I was able to visit all of the viewpoints along the scenic drive and even knocked off a few short hikes along the way.
Here’s all you need to know to maximize your time at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Tips for Visiting Bryce Canyon in One Day
It goes without saying but if you want to make the most of your visit, start in the morning. There are plenty of benefits, aside from having more time to spend in the park. The weather is usually cooler and calmer. When it gets hot at Bryce Canyon, it gets really hot. If you’ve been to Utah’s other national parks, you already know.
Afternoon and evening storms also roll in quite often. I was met with torrential downpour in the afternoon and late evening. Thank god I upgraded to a waterproof tent the week before, hey? Beat the bad weather by starting early. I recommend getting to the park for a mesmerizing sunrise and then starting your day from there. I’ve posted a suggested one day itinerary towards the bottom of this post, and you’ve guessed it. It starts at sunrise. Hope you’re an early bird like me.
Take Advantage of the Free Shuttle
Bryce Canyon National Park has a free shuttle that hits almost all of the major attractions in the park. It comes in intervals of 15 minutes and runs until around 8 PM. Think you’d save more time in the car? I did, too. But say you want to do a hike like Bryce Point to Inspiration Point. It’s 1.3 miles each way. That’s not too bad, but you could save a lot of time by hiking one way and then taking the shuttle back. Take a look at the shuttle map and map out a route to save time and energy for other hikes.
The shuttle doesn’t just make things convenient for you, either. It helps free up traffic, reduce congestion along the scenic drive, and helps the environment. And it’s completely free! There’s no reason not to use the Bryce Canyon shuttle. It even has stops from outside of the park so you don’t have to travel too far from your hotel or campground if you’re staying outside of the park.
Stick Around for Sunset
Well, duh. Staying until late is obviously another way to make the most out of your day. But seriously, sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park is something that you don’t want to miss. It might be one of the most surreal places to catch a sunset in the world. The way the waning sun basks the hordes of hoodoos in its golden light… *chef’s kiss*. It is just magnificent. You can spend the morning hiking before it gets too hot and then drive to all the viewpoints in the afternoon. Go back to Bryce Canyon City for an overpriced meal or something, and then come back for sunset to cap off a marvelous day.
Bryce Canyon National Park Suggested One Day Itinerary
Sunrise: Wake up!! It’s one of the most magical times to be at Bryce Canyon. Hike along the rim from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point and find a good spot to bunker down and watch a glorious sunrise.
Early Morning: After sunrise, take advantage of the cooler weather and hike the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trails. The lighting at this time is absolutely ethereal. Doing both of these should take no more than two hours, even if you take your time. Aside from the steep incline to get back up to the rim, both hikes are easy-going and can be done by mostly everyone.
Morning: Once you end up back at the rim, walk back over to Sunset Point. It’s only another half mile to continue along to Inspiration Point. If your legs aren’t tired yet, cap off your morning with the 1.3 mile hike along the rim to Bryce Point. From there, head to the parking lot and take the shuttle back to where you parked your car.
Early Afternoon: It’s about to get real hot. I’d recommend taking a break for lunch or drinks before starting back up again. Unless you’re camping in the park itself, you won’t find much respite or shelter from the sun.
Afternoon: Once you’ve cooled off from your morning hikes, let your car do the rest of the work. You can spend the afternoon driving along the scenic drive and visiting all of the viewpoints. None of these require any hiking, which is perfect because it’s probably really hot if you’re visiting in the summer. Once you hit Rainbow Point, loop back around and it’s almost time for golden hour.
Evening: The best time for sunset watching is actually a couple of hours before the sun is supposed to set. An hour before sunset or so, you won’t actually even be able to see the sun anymore. It dips behind the trees and the golden glow over the hoodoos disappears. Go sunset chasing about two hours before the actual sunset. The sun basking the hoodoos with its dying rays is a magnificent sight to see.
It is the perfect way to cap off a perfect day at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Best Views in Bryce Canyon National Park
What are the highlights of Bryce Canyon National Park? The good thing about Bryce Canyon is that it is quite small compared to the other massive national parks of Utah. It is the smallest in the state and one of the ten smallest in the entire country. I’d say it’s the only park in Utah small enough that you can stay for only a day without feeling like you’ve missed out on much more. Many of Bryce Canyon’s best attractions are viewpoints right along the scenic drive road. No hikes needed, meaning you can get a lot of views in a day with minimal effort.
Sunset Point and Sunrise Point
These two are easily the most popular viewpoints of Bryce Canyon National Park. As their names suggest, they are perfect spots for chasing the sun. While a bit crowded, they can’t be missed. I actually found the crowds to be tolerable compared to similarly popular spots in Zion and Arches. That’s a must, especially in the time of social distancing. While Sunset and Sunrise Point both have a specific location, the entire rim is quite spread out. That gives you plenty of opportunities to hunker down at a less congested spot and take in the views.
I’ve been to a few places called Inspiration Point throughout my travels. Few of them live up to the name, and I’ve come to expect disappointment. Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon? It lives up to its name and then some. I decided to save Bryce Amphitheater for last, and I’m glad I did. Although the rest of the park is stunning, it kind of pales in comparison to the amphitheater area. I walked up to Inspiration Point after a storm cleared out all of the tourists. I had the spot to myself for several minutes, and let me tell ya, it was actually inspiring.
On the same turn off as Inspiration Point, you’ll find Bryce Point. It’s a little further along the road if you’re driving, or a 1.3 mile hike along the rim if you want some epic views. This view gives you a different, more distant angle of the Bryce Amphitheater. It gives you an idea just how vast and impressive this region is. Look below and try to imagine this view without my website compressing the image quality.
At the end of the scenic drive, you’ll find Rainbow Point. There was a storm rolling in as I arrived, so there were actual rainbows while I was there. I’m not sure if that’s why it’s called Rainbow Point, though. The panoramic views here are incredible. Along with hoodoos and other impressive geological formations, you’ll get some epic views of the endless forests. One can take the short hike over to Yovimpa Point, as well. It’s only a short walk from the parking lot and offers more breathtaking views of the national park.
Along the scenic drive, you’ll drive past quite a few viewpoints and parking lots. Natural Bridge was one of my favorites, despite having seen my fill of arches at every other national park in Utah. You only need a few minutes here, but dang is it impressive.
Honestly, why not hit them all? If you’re driving or taking the shuttle, you’ll have plenty of time to visit literally every viewpoint marked on the map they give you. I stopped at pretty much every one and still had time for an afternoon nap in my 24 hours at Bryce Canyon. Swamp Canyon, Piracy Point, and Fairview Point are some more of my favorites that you should try to visit.
Best Short Day Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park
There are a ton of hikes to do in Bryce Canyon. Some of them, you’ll need the whole day or more to do. Luckily for those of us who don’t have the whole day, some of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon are pretty short. You can do all of these hikes on the same day, and still have time to hit all of the viewpoints mentioned above.
This short hike takes you into the heart of the canyon. You’ll be surrounded by hoodoos, which you’ll quickly realize are way, way bigger than they look from above. The highlights of this trail include natural bridges and a stretch called Wall Street, where you’ll be cramped in between narrow canyons. This trail is beautiful and truly makes you feel tiny. Just be prepared for a grueling hike back up to the rim of the canyon.
From sunrise point, you can drop down to the Queen’s Garden trail. It’s short and sweet but takes you through some otherworldly scenery. I recommend going around sunrise because the lighting along the way often feels ethereal. Some stretches felt like I was floating in a pink glow. This hike can connect to Navajo Loop right before you reach the end. I recommend doing both, as it’s only about a 3-mile trip total.
Bryce Point to Inspiration Point Rim Hike
I wasn’t planning on doing this hike but like I said earlier, Inspiration Point truly inspired me. I just kept walking without even realizing I was almost to Bryce Point. This short hike is only 1.3 miles along the rim, or 2.6 miles if you make it a roundtrip. However, I also recommend taking the shuttle back if you don’t feel like walking back. I walked back, though. The way the lighting changes the landscapes made it feel like an entirely different hike the second time around.
Is One Day Enough For Bryce Canyon National Park?
Is one day enough for any national park? Definitely not. However, we unfortunately all have time constraints. While I could stay at Bryce Canyon for weeks just admiring the views, I do think that one day can be enough to get your fill of the park. The views stick with you, because seriously, there’s nothing quite like them anywhere else in the world.