When I decided to make a last-minute pit stop to Bryce Canyon National Park, I was completely blown away. This small slice of hoodoo paradise is on everyone’s bucket list, and for good reason. You can easily visit Bryce Canyon National Park in one day.
With one day, you’ll feel like you really saw the park and didn’t just stop by for a rushed experience. This guide to Bryce Canyon in one day is designed to help you beat the crowds and make the most of your limited time.
About this Guide to Visiting Bryce Canyon in One Day
As an expert in travel to Southern Utah, I always try to stop by Bryce Canyon whenever I can. I’ve combed this region of the US and spend nearly 6 weeks a year discovering the deserts and national parks of Southern Utah.
In this guide to visiting Bryce Canyon in one day, we’ll cover:
- How to visit Bryce Canyon in one day and not feel rushed
- The best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park
- Accessing the park
- One day itinerary for Bryce Canyon National Park including ways to beat the crowds.
- Quick tips for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
- Additional Southern Utah travel resources
Can You Visit Bryce Canyon National Park in One Day?
It is entirely possible to visit Bryce Canyon in one day and hit all of the highlights without feeling too rushed. However, I would certainly recommend spending a full 24 hours near the park.
Bryce Canyon has some of the most impressive sunsets and sunrises I’ve ever laid eyes on. The best part, Sunset and Sunrise Points are easily accessible, making this a friendly park for all ages and abilities.
During your one day in Bryce Canyon, you can enjoy views of the Silent City and hike below the rim and see the massive hoodoos along Queen’s Garden without feeling too rushed.
When to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is one of the smallest, most accessible national parks in the US, which means it draws plenty of crowds with not a lot of places to go. The best time to visit Bryce Canyon depends on what you’re looking to get out of your trip.
Even in October with freezing temperatures, the park was packed. At 8,000 to 9,000 feet high, Bryce Canyon is often higher in elevation than its nearby neighbors. This means that it’s colder too.
Summer is the busiest time in the park, while winter is fairly quiet (but you’ll be battling fierce winds and unpredictable weather with the potential for closed trails.
For the most bang for your buck, plan on visiting Bryce Canyon during the spring or fall months. You can easily squeeze a trip to Bryce Canyon between some of Utah’s other famous destinations.
Carve out one full day and night on your desert road trip to get the most out of your visit to Bryce Canyon.
Accessing Bryce Canyon National Park
There’s only one way in and out of Bryce Canyon National Park, which means that it can get busy. Traffic jams at ticket windows are common, so plan on arriving before sunrise to make the most of your day.
Ticket fees for the park are $35 per vehicle. If you’re planning to leave the park and come back, you’ll have to pay again, even on the same day.
If you’re planning to visit other national parks within a year, it’s worth it to pick up America the Beautiful Parks Pass. At $85 for 12 months you’ll be able to access all the national parks, national monuments, and national recreation areas in the USA. It’s a screaming deal.
How to Avoid the Crowds at Bryce Canyon National Park
Since Bryce Canyon is so small, you’re often surrounded by busloads of people. When I visited we were sometimes with the crowds, but we did a good job of going in the opposite direction of the bussed tours.
To make the most out of one day in Bryce Canyon, I’ve designed this itinerary to beat the crowds. However, there’s a few quick tips for avoiding the crowds:
- Hike at sunrise. A fellow photographer and I hiked down a few hundred yards along the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trail. We had the place to ourselves.
- Visit viewpoints at opposite times. Soak in a sunset at Sunrise Point or catch the sunrise at Sunset Point. The two points are separated by a gentle 0.6 mile trail so you can easily explore them all.
- Don’t hike in the middle of the day. Scope out lesser-known areas instead.
- Go during the shoulder seasons. Bryce Canyon is less crowded in February and November. The dead of winter is also quiet, but trails might be closed due to ice and snow.
Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon
The tiny town of Bryce offers a few places to stay near Bryce Canyon National Park. These places are pretty over-priced and home to mostly bussed groups. However, it’s the only choice if you want to be near the park and in a hotel.
There is amazing camping inside of Bryce Canyon (advanced reservations required) or you can boondock along the dirt road on the right just before the Bryce Canyon National Park sign.
How to See Bryce Canyon in One Day
If you’ve only got one day in Bryce Canyon, you’ll want to make the most of it. This itinerary tackles a lot of different places to check out but isn’t too rushed.
The key is to stay near the park the night prior, so you can get in super-early for sunrise. You’ll beat a lot of the crowds. I’ll put in pro tips for any of these Bryce Canyon activities.
Rise and Shine for Sunrise and Sunset Point
Get up well before dawn and start your one day in Bryce Canyon. Be sure to pack everything you’ll need. Don’t forget your hiking gear, plenty of snacks, a packed lunch, and extra water. Store extra items in your car since you won’t leave the park until later.
Make your way to Sunrise Point to watch an amazing display of desert magic. The first thing you’ll notice is a large number of tripods and photographers squashed at Sunrise Point.
You’re not like them. Simply make your way down the Queen’s Garden Loop several hundred yards for virtually the same view without the crowds. If you’re a photographer, there’s plenty of places to perch a tripod.
If you don’t want to hike up the steep Navajo Loop, you can start your day at Sunset Point (home to Thor’s Hammer rock formation). The view of the sunrise is just as spectacular from here. The area shares the same parking lot and is separated by a 0.6 mile one-way, easy, paved trail.
Hike Queens Garden To Navajo Loop and Wall Street
Queens Garden to Navajo Loop is one of the best hiking trails in Bryce Canyon. It’s also one of the most crowded trails. Before you get hiking, be prepared with these expert tips for hiking in the desert.
Hit this trail for sunrise to enjoy soul-warming views of the Bryce Canyon hoodoos. Hoodoos, or pinnacles of sandstone carved by the wind and rain, are what Bryce Canyon National Park is most famous for.
I prefer hiking this trail starting from Queens Garden an ending at Navajo Loop for sunrise. However, if you don’t want to tackle the steep uphill of the Navajo Loop, hike from Navajo Loop to Queens Garden after you soak up the sunrise from Sunset Point (confused yet?).
For an added challenge, take the Wall Street Trail back from the Navajo Loop. Simply follow the signs, everything is very well marked in the park. This adds about 0.2 miles to your journey. The trail winds its way directly up the hoodoos.
For easier hiking, you can just do either Queens Garden or Navajo Loop. The total time for this hike takes around 2 hours and that includes plenty of stops. Add in more if you want to shoot sunrise photography.
Distance: 2.6 miles, 3.1 miles with Wall Street
Elevation Gain: 623 feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Go for a Scenic Drive to the Natural Bridge
The day is still young, and it’s time to head to one of the most famous viewpoints in Bryce Canyon National Park. Natural Bridge is an arch of sorts, that looks like a perfectly formed bridge.
Make your way leisurely along the scenic road deeper into Bryce Canyon National Park. You’ll see a pullout for the Natural Bridge. Get out of the car for a quick stretch and check out this natural phenomenon.
Scope Out the Colors at Rainbow Point
Hop back in the car and continue down the road until it ends. You’ll be greeted with Rainbow Point. A stunning viewpoint where the layers of this landscape truly shine. If you’ve timed everything correctly, you should still have plenty of excellent morning light left. Oh, and the hordes of busses haven’t caught up with you.
Other Viewpoints in Bryce Canyon National Park
There are several other noteworthy viewpoints in Bryce Canyon National Park. If you don’t mind the onset of crowds, and you don’t feel like hiking, you can certainly spend more time checking out other viewpoints. Here are a few of the most beautiful:
- Yovimpa Point (near Rainbow Point)
- Fairview Point (just south of Natural Bridge)
- Paria View (South of Sunrise and Sunset Point)
- Bryce Point (Past Bryce Point, our sunset spot)
The Fairyland Trail and Lunch
If you want to dive back into the beautiful and magical landscape of hoodoos and pine forests, then you’ve got to hike the Fairyland Trail. Pack your lunch and snack amongst these sandstone giants.
Don’t forget to pack out all of your trash, don’t feed the wildlife, and don’t litter! This trail dives deep into the hoodoos, giving you a different viewpoint than the Queens Garden and Navajo Loops. You’ll even get the chance to stop along Fairyland Point.
Although this trail does get a bit more crowded, it doesn’t see nearly as much traffic as the other, easier hiking trails. It takes around 4 hours to complete. You’ll certainly feel tired afterward.
Distance: 7.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,541 feet
Grab Some Grub and Relax
You’ve been at it and on your feet for some time now. Take a few hours to relax. You can hang out at one of the many picnic areas in Bryce Canyon, or leave the park to get some rest and return for sunset.
Snag an early dinner in town (or at camp). Choices are limited in town, but the Pizza Place and Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant offer up some tasty American fare at a reasonable price.
The park typically gets the most crowded from 2pm onwards, so taking a break to beat the crowds isn’t a bad thing. There are a few fun stops on the road into Bryce you can check out as well, including the rock tunnel. Other ideas include visiting the remaining viewpoints you missed in the morning.
Soak in the Sunset at Inspiration Point
After a little late afternoon nap and some grub, head back into the park for a jaw-dropping sunset. Sunset Point is arguably one of the best spots to catch the end of the day, but it does get crowded.
You can hike your way up from sunset point to Inspiration Point and soak in other-worldly views. Alternatively, you can drive to the Inspiration Point Parking Area. These tall pinnacles of rock ar inaccessible by trail and dubbed The Silent City. Their mesmerizing shadows dance as the sky comes to life with color. Inspiration Point isn’t exactly a secret, but it’s less crowded than Sunset Point.
For more solitude, head to Bryce Point. Although the hoodoos seem a bit further away, you’ll still be treated to a beautiful sunset view. I prefer Inspiration Point, but you can easily hike between the three viewpoints if your feet aren’t tired yet!
Quick Tips for Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
Spending just a single day at a national park can seem a bit daunting. Don’t worry, there are plenty of tips for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park that will make your trip less stressful and more enjoyable. Here are a few handy tips to make the most of your one day in Bryce Canyon.
- Plan on being there for sunrise. If you want to (sort of) beat the crowds, get to the park at sunrise. Hike the most popular trail, Queen’s Garden to Wall Street, as the sun is rising to have the trail to yourself.
- Bring plenty of water. You are in a desert and even during the cold months, the air is dry. Be sure to carry at least 3 liters of water on you at all times, store more in your vehicle so you can re-up throughout the day.
- Acclimatize. Bryce Canyon does not have any difficult hiking routes with a crazy elevation gain the way that Zion or the Grand Canyon does, but you are still over 8,000 feet high up and you want to acclimatize appropriately. This means take it slow, drink plenty of water and plan on spending the night here so you can get used to the altitude.
- Pack a lunch. There is only one way in and out of the park, avoid waiting in pesky lines by arriving early with everything you’ll need for the day.
- Buy a park’s pass. Bryce Canyon is currently $35 for the day, a park’s pass not only covers that fee, but you can come and go as you please without paying double entry. You’ll also get access to a lot of public lands. It’s well worth the price, especially if you’re on a desert road trip.
Additional Travel Resources for Visiting Bryce Canyon and Southern Utah
Planning a trip to Utah? Don’t forget to check out these amazing, expertly-crafted resources.
- The Best Hikes in Southern Utah (coming soon)
- Amazing Things to Do in Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks
- The Ultimate Utah Road Trip Itinerary (coming soon)