How to Visit Bryce Canyon in One Day Without the Crowds

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.

In just a 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.

In fact, I’ve been back to Bryce Canyon many times since that initial stop. And over the years, I’ve learned how to beat the crowds in Bryce Canyon.

As a professional in the outdoors, I know how to travel like a local and not a tourist. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds at Bryce Canyon, this itinerary is about as good as it gets. I’ve been to Bryce Canyon multiple times and I’ve had the most popular attractions pretty much to myself.

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. In fact, I’ve seen Bryce Canyon National Park during every season. I’ve combed this region of the US and spent nearly 8 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:

visiting bryce canyon in one day
Thor’s Hammer is located at Sunset Point. A true icon!

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 of this top US national park without feeling too rushed. However, I would certainly recommend spending a full 24 hours near the park. With so many different things to do in Bryce Canyon, you’ll want to come prepared for a full (but not rushed) one day in Bryce Canyon.

Pro Tip: Pack your lunch, water and plenty of snacks so you don’t have to leave the park. The town caters to tourists and has meh food options, so you’re not missing much by brown bagging your lunch!

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 (as are most of the viewpoints), 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. Despite the frosty temps, it’s still one of the most amazing national parks to visit in the fall.

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.

Pro Tip: March is an excellent time to visit the park. We had Inspiration Point to ourselves on a chilly March morning. The park was dusted in snow and it was absolute magic.

Carve out one full day and night on your desert road trip to get the most out of your visit to Bryce Canyon.

one day in bryce canyon
Image courtesy of Rami Hanna.

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 beat the crowds in Bryce Canyon.

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.

Bryce Canyon Visitors Center

The Bryce Canyon Visitors Center is a great way to get a lay of the land and chat with park rangers (not to mention you can pick up a souvenir if that’s your thing). It opens at 8 am to 8 pm in the summer and 6 pm in the spring/fall and just 4:30 pm in the winter.

You’ll find restrooms, drinking water, permits, a shop, the backcountry permit office, and ranger help. Keep in mind that some services (like water) are very limited or closed during the winter.

What are the Crowds in Bryce Canyon National Park Like?

Bryce Canyon National Park is crowded year-round. In fact, if you enter the park after 8 am you’ll be waiting in a long line of cars just to get through the gates. Parking will fill up quickly, often forcing you to park either at the shuttle Station outside of the park or at the Visitor’s Center and ride the shuttle around.

Winters in Bryce Canyon National Park are a bit quieter, albeit cold. Early spring or late fall can also be less crowded if you plan your day right.

It’s a small park, with one major road in and out and not a lot of places to find solitude unless you’re up for a very long hike. So if you’re not interested in seeing viewpoints with hundreds of tourists pouring out of busses, keep reading.

Bryce Canyon Crowds
A sample of what the crowds and Bryce Canyon can look like.

How to Avoid the Crowds at Bryce Canyon National Park

Since Bryce Canyon is so small, you’re often surrounded by literal busloads of people. Of the multiple times I’ve 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 are 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.

Catch a sunrise, then drive to the far end of the park. This is one strategy to stay ahead of the crowds. As you make your way back and stop at the viewpoints, it will get more and more crowded, but it’s a quick and easy way to make the most of your one day in Bryce Canyon if you’re a little short on time.

What Are the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon?

Many people come to Bryce Canyon to see the famous hoodoos, but what exactly are these weird and whacky things? Hoodoos refer to tall rock pinnacles. These piercing fingers that stretch into the sky are what make up most of the Bryce Canyon landscape.

They are formed by thousands of years of erosion from ice, snow, rain, and wind. The result is these delicate, finger-like red rock canyons. They create strange shapes and make up the other-worldly canyon systems that make Bryce Canyon National Park so famous.

Fun fact: There is no other place in the world where there are so many hoodoos in one place!

bryce canyon snow

Map of Bryce Canyon

Okay, so in order to experience Bryce Canyon in one day without the crowds, I’m going to be talking in tongues. A lot of this itinerary focuses in being in opposite named places during opposite times of the day.

In order to stay on track, here’s a map of Bryce Canyon to keep oriented. (Two images are shown for clarity).

map of bryce canyon
The northern part of Bryce Canyon, where you’ll begin your day. Image courtesy of the National Parks Service.
map of bryce canyon
Image courtesy of the National Parks Service.

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.

Bryce Canyon in One day
Get the interactive map here.

Rise and Shine for Sunrise and Sunset Point

No that’s not a typo, I promise this will make COMPLETE sense. Just keep reading about how to avoid crowds at Bryce.

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 have two options. If you’re an avid hiker, then simply make your way down the Queen’s Garden Trail several hundred yards for virtually the same view without the crowds. There are tripod spots here too.

You’ll be coming back via the Navajo Loop for an easy 4-mile hike.

If you’re a photographer, then you can perch your setup on Sunset Point, at the opposite end of the parking area (signs lead the way. This also lets you hike the steep Navajo Loop (home to Thor’s Hammer rock formation) in the downhill direction.

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 (5-minute walk).

one day in bryce canyon
Get ready for a complete guide to beating the crowds when you visit Bryce Canyon for one day!

Alternative Crowd-Free Sunrise Spot in Bryce Canyon

Inspiration Point (which we will visit later with this one day in Bryce Canyon itinerary) is a pretty phenomenal sunrise spot in Bryce Canyon. My husband and I were two of 5 people at this sunrise spot in Bryce Canyon on a chilly March morning. I think it’s far better than Sunrise Point.

After I snapped a shot of the sunburst, we put the tripod in the car and walked along the Bryce Canyon Rim trail towards Navajo Loop and Queens Garden. Soaking up the early morning light was pretty spectacular and the crowds were thin.

You can easily swap this out for Sunset or Sunrise Point and immerse yourself in the beauty of the area. The tradeoff is that the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop will have a few more people on it, so it’s up to your personal preference.

avoid crowds at bryce canyon
The sunrise at Inspiration Point has a fraction of the crowds and twice the views.

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 and 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.

Pro Tip: If you’re really looking for some quiet for sunrise, you can opt to hike this trail, starting from Queens Garden, at sunrise for the ultimate solitude. I’ve done this before in the heart of the busy fall season and had the ENTIRE trail to myself.

Distance: 2.6 miles, 3.1 miles with Wall Street
Elevation Gain: 623 feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Check Out Bryce Point

Similar to the views at Inspiration Point, you can travel down the road to check out this bird’s eye view of Bryce Canyon. This is one of the more popular areas in the park, so you can opt to hit it early after your hike, or save it for sunset. Either way, you’ll want to avoid Bryce Point during mid-day if you are avoiding the hordes.

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.

one day bryce canyon

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.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to walk over to Yovimpa Point – the highest spot in the park – for a bird’s eye view.

bryce canyon one day.

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. We enjoyed hopping out of the car along the main road to scope out the views really quickly.

Since you started at the top of the road with Rainbow Point, you’ll avoid the worst crowds at Bryce Canyon stopping on the way back.

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
Difficulty: Moderate

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.

avoid crowds at bryce canyon

Soak in the Sunset at Inspiration Point (or Revisit One of Your Favs)

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 mega-crowded.

Pro Tip: Nearby Sunrise Point provides just as much scenic beauty and makes for a great sunset spot too!

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 are 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 or Sunrise 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!

24 hours in Bryce Canyon
The views from Sunset Point to Inspiration Point live up to their namesake!

How Many Hours Do You Need At Bryce Canyon?

I’ve already mentioned how I’ve visited Bryce Canyon in one day countless times. Sometimes my visits last an entire day (or two) and other times I stop by for a killer sunrise and a few epic views before moving onwards to other attractions.

If you’re super-short on time, you can hit the major highlights in Bryce Canyon in about 3 hours. However, it’s worth the effort to show up for sunrise, this is when the park truly shines and when there are fewer crowds at Bryce Canyon.

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. Simply turn right down the dirt road and post up.

camping in Bryce Canyon National Park
The starry skies didn’t’ disappoint at our boondocking campsite!

Can you See Bryce Canyon Without Paying?

You are required to pay the entrance fee to get into Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s easy to buy your pass on arrival and even easier if you have the America the Beautiful Parks Pass.

However, you may be surprised to see what happens if you show up before sunrise. And although getting into a national park for free can be a sweet experience, if you have the cash, shell it out – especially if you’re visiting multiple national parks in one year.

Bipartisan mindsets towards funding parks and public lands throughout the years have been to slash budgets. You may be surprised to learn that most park rangers make well below the poverty line for their salaries. With the increase in people visiting, paying your fee goes an exceptionally long way to keep these parks in pristine shape.

I’ll let you in on a quick secret. I am never entering national parks during hours when the gate kiosk is manned. This means I don’t have to pay. But since I spend tons of time in these spaces, I always purchase an annual parks pass to show my support for our treasured landscapes.

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 beat the crowds, get to the park at sunrise. Hike the most popular trail, Queen’s Garden to Wall Street and Navajo Loop, 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.

PIN THIS POST

Want to visit Bryce Canyon on a day trip? If you only have one day to visit Bryce Canyon in Utah, this ultimate day trip guide has you covered! From the best things to do, cool viewpoints, trail and where to stay, this is the only travel guide you need to visit Bryce Canyon in a day! #Utah
Wondering how to make the most out of a day in Bryce Canyon, Utah? If you're planning a visit to one of the most amazing national parks in Utah, this guide has you covered! From things to do, to where to stay, to the best time to visit and top travel tips, this is the only Bryce Canyon travel guide you need! #Utah

Hi There!

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.