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. Carved by years of snow, wind, and ice, the hoodoos stand like sentinels against a brilliant blue sky. The beautiful thing about Bryce Canyon is that you can explore the park’s best hikes in just one day. Here’s your guide to the best hikes in Bryce Canyon you can tackle in one day.
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 one day in Bryce Canyon, you can enjoy views of the Silent City or 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, that means it draws plenty of crowds with not a lot of places to go. Even in October with freezing temperatures, the park was packed. At 8,000 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). 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 a night on your desert road trip to get the most out of your visit to Bryce Canyon.
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Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon National Park
For the most creature comforts, you can stay in the nearby town of Bryce. This small town serves only tourists, so expect to pay higher prices for basic lodging. Since the park is so popular, lodging is often filled with busloads of tourists making their way to Utah’s Big Five (five national parks in Southern Utah). There are plenty of other towns nearby, as well as an RV campground with a few amenities. If you’d like to stay inside the park, there are two paid campground within the Bryce Canyon boundaries as well. Make your reservation well in advance to guarantee a spot. Keep in mind, that due to construction near the campgrounds, they are currently operating on a first-come-first-serve basis. This hasn’t always been the case, so do call the rangers for the most up-to-date info.
Free Camping Near Bryce Canyon National Park
I’ve mentioned how to find free camping near National Parks, and Bryce Canyon has plenty of spots to boondock or camp for free. Keep in mind these camping areas lack any amenities, so be sure to pack it out and Leave No Trace. There is a dirt road right next to the park entrance (on the right), simply turn down the road and the place is littered with free camping. If that road is full, there are also options on the opposite side, although I’m unsure of the road quality.
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!
Tips for Spending One Day in Bryce Canyon National Park
Spending just a single day at a national park can seem a bit daunting. 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 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.
Looking for other desert-worthy destinations? Here are a few destination guides to help you plan.
- The best hikes and views in the Grand Canyon
- Hiking canyons and incredible secret spots in the San Rafael Swell
- Plan the perfect Moab, Utah Getaway
- Utah’s National Parks Bucket List
Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park: 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.
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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!
See the Sunset on the Rim
Round out your one day in Bryce Canyon with a beautiful sunset along (surprise) Sunset Point. Walk up from the point to get a bird’s eye view of the jaw-dropping Silent City. These hoodoos cannot be accessed by any trail. The eerie landscape feels as if it’s from another planet. Take your time to soak in the view. Dip below the rim down Wall Street or Queen’s Garden to revel in the orange hues of sunset. Keep in mind that the sunset gets better after the sun has disappeared, so stick around for the show.
What to Pack for a Day 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.