Bryce Canyon National Park’s endless sea of hoodoos is unlike anything else on earth. The drama of these brilliant pink and red sandstone pillars takes your breath away. Here’s a look at the best hikes in Bryce Canyon.
As a freelance writer for the outdoors, I’ve hiked all over the country. I keep coming back to Southern Utah. Desert hiking is a specialty of mine and since I make a trip to this wonderful landscape nearly 6 times a year for the past several years, I want to give you exclusive tips for hiking in the American Southwest.
About This Guide to the Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon
The best hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park aren’t too difficult. In fact, most of the Bryce Canyon hikes are along easier, well-marked trails. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to know a few things before you hike. Here’s a look at what we’ll cover:
- The best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park for hiking
- A look at the best hikes in Bryce Canyon
- Quick tips for hiking in the desert
- A look at what to pack for hiking in Bryce Canyon
- Additional resources for hiking in Southern Utah
The Best Time to Hike in Bryce Canyon National Park
A little-known fact about Bryce Canyon is that it sits 9,000 feet high! This means that temperatures are typically cooler than other nearby national parks like Zion or even Arches.
As a result, the hiking season runs from around late April through early June in the spring and summer. While September through mid-October is the best fall hiking window. The best time to visit Bryce Canyon is during the seasons where the hiking trails are open.
Keep in mind, it’s common for snow to cover the park. Although this makes for some beautiful photography, it also closes many of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon. Time your trip with good weather to ensure you can hit the best trails in Bryce Canyon.
Planning a desert road trip? Check out these posts:
- How to master desert camping
- Budget-friendly road trip hacks
- Tips for Car Camping
- Mega-List of RV, Vanlife, and Car Camping Hacks!
The Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park
Let’s dive into the best hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park. Despite the altitude, most of the Bryce Canyon hiking trails are relatively mellow. There are a few tough hikes, but for the most part there’s not a lot of long distances or burly elevation gain to cover.
Getting into and out of the main area of hoodoos is a bit of a lung buster if you aren’t accustomed to hiking at altitude. Take your time and you’ll make it back out. Here are the best hiking trails in Bryce Canyon you can’t miss.
Wall Street and Queen’s Garden
We already discussed being at the park early, but the best way to spend one day in Bryce Canyon is to hike from Queen’s Garden to Wall Street via Navajo Loop for sunrise. Queen’s Garden is located near Sunrise Point. Walk past the hordes of photographers, all taking the same photograph, down the Queen’s Garden Trail to enjoy the sunrise right against the rock monoliths.
The views down the trail are incredible. You’ll get to a fork in the road and follow the signs to Navajo Loop/Wall Street as you make your way through rock tunnels, sandstone hoodoos, and pine forests. The canyon has a much different feel at the bottom, and it’s well worth your time to hike during the morning light. Don’t fret too much about getting lost, trails are well marked.
Finish the loop on Wall Street, a meandering climb back up some of the biggest rock formations in the entire park. The entire hike is 2.6 miles (add an extra 0.2 miles if you plan on meandering up Wall Street) with 623 feet of elevation and takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete if you’re moving slow and taking lots of pictures. Queens Garden and Wall Street are some of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon. Wall Street drops you off at Sunset Point and it’s a quick half-mile walk along the rim to get back to the start of the loop.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Distance: 6.3 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 1,499 feet
Explore the Fairy Land Trail
The Fairy Land Trail contains a bit more elevation gain, but it isn’t too tough if you take your time. This 7.4-mile loop trail is absolutely stunning and will give you a great feel for the entire canyon. However, with 1,545 feet of elevation gain, come prepared.
Overall this hike isn’t super difficult compared to other high-elevation hikes, but you’ll get killer views of the hoodoos. Furthermore, it explores a different area of Bryce Canyon, you’ll be looking up towards stunning rock formations such as the Tower Bridge and Crescent Castle, making it one of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park. The entire loop takes around four hours to complete since you’ll be stopping every few minutes to snap those selfies!
Distance: 7.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,541 feet
Sunset to Sunrise Point
For an easy, accessible hike for all abilities, make the walk from sunset to sunrise point. Don’t let the easy walking fool you, it’s still one of Bryce Canyon’s best hikes. The trail is mostly paved but offers a bird’s eye view of the magnificent amphitheater of hoodoos.
Distance: 1.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 82 feet
Peekaboo Loop Trail
The Peekaboo Loop Trail is well marked and offers meandering hiking through the forested hoodoos. You’ll catch a glimpse of the beautiful Cathedral Formation as you make your way through this winding, lollipop loop trail. Be prepared for a lot of downhill and uphill grade.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Distance: 5.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,453 feet
Navajo Loop Trail
This is one of my favorite Bryce Canyon hikes! The Navajo Loop Trail is a great choice if you want to dip into the hoodoos, but you’re short on time. It’s relatively steep as you descend the cliffside into the rock forest. However, it’s not too difficult, especially if you take your time and snap lots of photos.
Pro Tip: Tackle this trail at sunset for amazing views. Just be sure to take a headlamp.
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 459 feet
Quick Tips for Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park
When it comes to hiking in the desert, you’ll want to be prepared. Here are a few quick tips for enjoying Bryce Canyon’s best hikes.
- Start EARLY. Bryce Canyon gets insanely crowded since it’s a small park. Start hiking early to get some quiet time on the trails.
- Bring plenty of water. The desert is a dry place. You’ll want at least 1.5 liters or more per person.
- Acclimatize. Bryce Canyon National Park is 9,000 feet above the sea! You’ll feel the thin air.
- Pack snacks and water. It’s easy to tackle multiple hikes a day here, so keep lots of food in your car so you don’t lose your coveted parking spot!
- Watch the weather. Always pack an extra layer or two so you don’t end up too cold – the altitude makes the temperatures cooler. Don’t forget your headlamp!
What to Pack for a Hike in Bryce Canyon
Aside from the normal road trip packing lists, you’ll want a few extra items for your one day in Bryce Canyon. Here’s a Bryce Canyon packing list to help you stay organized.
- Sturdy walking shoes. You don’t need the burliest boots, as trails are well maintained, marked and not too rocky, but sturdy shoes will serve you well.
- Non-cotton hiking clothes. For a look at how to find hiking clothes on a budget, check out this post.
- A small hiking pack. I personally love the REI Flash 18L. It’s small, multi-purpose and won’t break the bank.
- 2 liters of water and a way to carry it. Use a bladder or a water bottle. Keep at least an extra liter in your car – two if you’re traveling in summer. Re-fill between hikes.
- Hiking snacks. Think tasty, cheap calories like candy, granola bars, beef jerky, and trail mixes
- A map or GPS. Trails here are well marked, but always be prepared
- A light jacket or puffy jacket depending on the weather
- Sun hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, any time of year
- A headlamp – you’ll likely be hiking in the dark this Black Diamond headlamp has multiple settings and works great
- Camera! It’s seriously jaw-droppingly beautiful here
- Beanie/headband, Buff, Gloves – even if you’re visiting in summer, temperatures can get chilly when the sun is down.
- A wind/rain Layer
- A SOL Emergency Bivvy. I carry one of these everywhere, even though it’s a busy area and if something happens you might have to wait for help, this bivvy can protect against shock if someone falls and gets seriously hurt.
- National Parks Pass
- A hiking first aid kit. You can make your own, or pick one up at an outdoor retailer.
Go ahead and explore the beautiful scenery with one day in Bryce Canyon National Park. You can easily take on the best hikes in Bryce Canyon, enjoy stunning views and even find a free place to rest your head at night.