Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the famous “Big 5” Utah National Parks. It is famous for its unique rock formations called “hoodoos” that cover the bottom of the canyon. The amphitheater of Bryce Canyon has thousands of these amazing rock formations that boast a beautiful red-orange color. If you don’t have much time to spend in this amazing national park then this guide will teach you exactly how to best spend one day in Bryce Canyon National Park.
If you plan on seeing all of the “Big 5” Utah National Parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion, and Bryce Canyon), then check out my Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary.
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Early Morning: Drive the Scenic Route and Look For Animals
Did you know that Bryce Canyon has multiple different species of animals that are active in the area? Once you get out of the amphitheater area of Bryce Canyon National Park, the rest of the park is basically one 13-mile scenic drive that goes up a plateau. Along this road, you can see multiple different animals if you are lucky.
Bryce Canyon is home to multiple families of deer as well as mountain lions, turkey, rattlesnakes, short-horned lizards, prairie dogs, and pronghorn. The time of year and the time of day that you go determines your ability to see these animals.
The best way to spend the morning of your one day in Bryce Canyon is to go on a drive and search for animals. Early morning and early evening are the best times to see the animals as it is the time when they are the most active and out looking for food.
Bryce Canyon National is one of the best places on a Utah National Parks Road Trip to see animals in the wild. If you plan on visiting Zion National Park as well during this trip, there are also a bunch of animals active in that area as well.
Viewpoints to Stop and Enjoy
On this scenic drive, make sure to take time to stop at all of the famous viewpoints that overlook different areas of the canyon.
- Fairyland Point
- Sunrise Point
- Sunset Point
- Inspiration Point
- Bryce Point
- Paria View
- Swamp Canyon
- Piracy Point
- Farview Point
- Natural Bridge (A personal favorite of mine)
- Agua Canyon
- Ponderosa Canyon
- Black Birch Canyon
- Rainbow Point (The highest elevation in the park and one of the best views of the entire canyon)
- Yovimpa Point
Mid-Morning: Hike the Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden Trail
Bryce Canyon is located in the deserts of Southern Utah which means that it can get HOT and sunny very quickly into the day. If you start early in the morning looking at animals, you’ll be able to get on the trails before it gets scorching.
One of the absolute best things to do during your one day in Bryce Canyon is to hike the most famous hike in the park: The Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail Combination. This trail 2.9-mile trail is actually a combination of two trails. It can start and end at either Sunrise Point or Sunset Point.
What makes this trail so amazing is that you actually hike down into the canyon and come face to face with the amazing hoodoo structures. The views from the trail are breathtaking, and this hike is easily one of my favorite hikes out of all of Utah’s national parks.
Keep in mind that the trail can be steep so you will want to bring or rent hiking poles. There is a winter sports store in town where you can rent equipment like crampons as well if the conditions are icy. The Navajo Loop Trail side of the trail has really intense switchbacks that are made easier with hiking poles.
If your starting point is Sunrise Point, then you have a gradual descent into the canyon at the beginning and a very intense switchback trail ascent to leave the canyon at the end. If you start at Sunset Point, you have the opposite. Either way, this is the perfect trail to hike if you only have one day in Bryce Canyon National Park.
This hike also includes the very short Rim Trail hike which is just a paved walkway and a short walk from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. If you just want an easy hike, then the Rim trail is perfect for those who struggle with inclines.
It is also important to note that this is a very popular hike so you may have a lot of people on trail with you.
In the middle of the day after this hike is a great time to go get some food and get out of the sun for a bit. It is important to rest up before your afternoon adventures or at least enjoy a picnic lunch.
Afternoon: Go Horseback Riding Into the Canyon
After you take a lunch break, it’s back into the canyon you go! Did you know that you can actually sign up for a horseback riding adventure into the canyon? It is an incredible experience that allows you to descend once again into this incredible canyon and experience it from a whole different view. This horseback riding tour will take you through the famous “Peek-a-boo” trail in the canyon.
When planning to horseback ride during your one day in Bryce Canyon, you need to make sure that you book it well in advance. It is also imperative that you book with the ONLY company that is allowed to work inside the national park. There are other horseback riding tours, but only one goes through the national park for the full experience. You can find that tour here.
Keep in mind that this awesome opportunity is only available May through October due to icy conditions in the winter that could put the horses in danger. It costs $75 for a 1.5-2 hour ride and $100 for the 3-hour ride. When I did it, I opted for the 3-hour ride to make the most of the experience, and I was very happy with my choice!
If you have children or people who can’t sit on a horse for long, then I would opt for the shorter excursion.
Early Evening: Watch the Sun Set Over The Amphitheater
After a long day of adventuring, it is time to just stop and enjoy the moment. Bryce Canyon is famous for its orange-red color that comes to life when the sun hits it. In the evening at sunset is one of the best times of day to just sit at one of the viewpoints and enjoy the incredible view that the national park has to offer.
Of all the experiences that you could have during your one day in Bryce Canyon, taking time to just sit and enjoy the sunset is one of the absolute best things to do. Plan ahead of time and get to sunrise or sunset point before the sun actually sets. The parking lots at these locations can get crazy, and you’ll want to grab the bench with the absolute best view.
Bring a few snacks, maybe a journal, and some headphones, and watch the sun’s light bring the canyon colors to life.
Night: Watch a Rodeo
Located right outside of Bryce Canyon National Park is the famous Ruby’s Inn. Ruby’s Inn really isn’t an inn at all. Instead, it’s a massive western-themed resort that takes up the entirety of Bryce Canyon City. Ruby’s Inn really has something to offer for everyone. It has a steakhouse, a fast-food restaurant, two inns, yurts, camping, a general store, and even a rodeo!
If you aren’t completely worn out from your day full of activities, then plan on spending your dinner-time watching one of the amazing rodeo shows that is put on by Ruby’s Inn. These shows are held every Wednesday through Saturday from Memorial Day until mid-august during high season and closed during the winter months.
The show starts at 7pm each night and boasts its amazing horseback riders and horse-centered events. This is an amazing family-friendly event that you will talk about for years to come.
You can book your tickets in advance here or you can buy them at the gate.
Late Night: Go Star Gazing and Try Astrophotography
Finally, if you have enough time and energy after your full-day itinerary, you will end your night with another one of the spectacular views that Bryce Canyon can provide: the Milky Way. Did you know that Bryce Canyon is actually located in one of the least light-polluted areas in the United States? Because of this, it was officially labeled as an “International Dark Sky Park” in 2019.
Being an International Dark Sky Park means that it will remain protected from light pollution from neighboring cities. It also means that if it is a clear night, you will have the opportunity to spot the Milky Way with your bare eye.
One awesome thing to do in Bryce Canyon is to take time to try your hand at astrophotography. All you need is a phone or camera with a long exposure option and a tripod of some sort and you have everything you need to try your hand at capturing the stars on camera!
When night hits, it is time to go back into Bryce Canyon National Park and find a good spot to sit and watch the stars. Even if you don’t want to try astrophotography, it is an amazing place to just sit and view the galaxy. The feeling of sitting under millions of stars is truly overwhelming, and Bryce Canyon National Park is the perfect place to experience that.
Bryce Canyon also offers Stargazing excursions that are run through the park ranger’s office. You can sign up for them the day-of at the visitor’s center at the entrance of the park.
How to Get to Bryce Canyon National Park
There are multiple routes that you can take to get to Bryce Canyon National Park.
- If you are flying, one option is to fly into Phoenix and road trip up to Bryce Canyon. If you choose this option, then you can also see the Grand Canyon!
- Another option is to fly into Moab and see Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park before heading over to Bryce Canyon. This is an ideal way to see multiple parks in one trip.
- If you choose to fly into Salt Lake City, then you can drive south and hit the famous Bonneville Salt Flats on your way to the national park.
- Finally, you can also fly into Las Vegas which is the nearest airport and drive from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon. If you choose this route, then you can easily stop at Zion National Park on your way to Bryce Canyon.
Entrance Fees For Bryce Canyon
- Bryce Canyon National Park costs $35 dollars per car.
- I recommend buying an “America the Beautiful Pass” from the Park Ranger at the entrance station. This will cost you around $80, but will give you free access to all of the United States National Parks for an entire year! You can also buy it online here.
- It costs $30 per motorcycle
- It costs $20 for anyone who walks or bikes in
- The entrance fee is valid for an entire day, but make sure you get a ticket when leaving if you plan to leave and come back.
What to Pack For One Day in Bryce Canyon
Hiking poles are essential to pack for your time in the national park because they will make hiking so much easier! Hiking poles help take the pressure off of your knees while descending and help you keep your balance on shifty ground.
Having a small backpack or daypack will make your life so much easier while you are hiking and exploring because it can hold all of your important gear. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to bring any type of bag with you while horseback riding though!
A camera is one of the most important things to bring with you during your one day in Bryce Canyon as it will capture memories that will last a lifetime. You don’t need a fancy camera, but make sure that you bring something that can capture a few photos to save for later when you are missing being in the canyon.
If you are bringing a fancier setup, I recommend bringing a tripod and a wide-angle lens. The wide-angle lens will help you capture the larger scenes in the amphitheater, and the tripod will help you stabilize your camera for astrophotography.
Water is the single most important thing that you can bring with you. Bryce Canyon is located in the desert which means that it is dry and the sun is brutal. You need to make sure that you are staying hydrated at all times. Even if you don’t “feel” thirsty, make sure that you are regularly drinking water. Bring at least one liter per person if you plan on hiking and two if it is during the summer.
A Hat and Sunglasses
The sun can be absolutely brutal in the canyon. Especially if you plan on going down into the canyon, you will definitely want a hat to protect your head and neck from the sun and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Once you are in Bryce Canyon, it is going to be hard to convince yourself to leave! Inside the park, there are no places to buy food. Come prepared and bring snacks of your own to ward off hunger until you are ready to leave for a real meal! You can even bring a picnic if you’d like, just make sure to leave no trace!
A Polarizer or ND Filter
If you plan on photographing the canyon in pure daylight, then you will need to make sure to bring a polarizer filter or a neutral-density filter to help filter the light. These filters will help your image from becoming too overexposed from the bright sunlight.
Where To Stay Near Bryce Canyon
There are a few options of places to stay near Bryce Canyon that you can choose from. Each has its own pros and cons so it depends on your travel style! For the ultimate budget options, try camping or boondocking. If you are looking for a little more of a luxurious option, stay at the local western-themed resort.
Ruby’s Inn is the most obvious choice as it is basically the entire town of Bryce Canyon City. Its accommodations are decent, but nothing to write home about. However, this is probably your most “luxurious” option for accommodation. The best part about staying at Ruby’s Inn is that you have easy access to the general store and food options, and you have free wifi.
The Bryce Canyon Lodge
The Bryce Canyon Lodge is located in Bryce Canyon near Sunrise Point. It is the only official lodging that is available inside of the park. If you don’t have a car with you, this is an ideal place to stay because the free shuttle service stops here. You can ride the shuttle to most of the viewpoints in the park, but keep in mind that it only runs during peak season.
Ruby’s Inn Tipi Campgrounds
Also owned by Best Western’s Ruby’s Inn, these tipi campgrounds offer a unique lodging opportunity for those who want a “glamping” experience. These tipi structures are located in the Ruby’s Inn Campground which is less than a mile from the entrance of Bryce Canyon If you are looking for something different than a normal tent camping experience, then this option might be for you.
It is important to note that there is no electricity, plumbing, or beds inside of the tipi. It is essentially a fancy tent. You will need to bring your own sleeping bags, mats, and pillows. There are camp showers and bathrooms that you can use, but they will be communal camp bathrooms.
If this idea doesn’t appeal to you, but you still want a glamping experience, Ruby’s Inn also has rustic cabins that you can rent that do come with a bed.
Bryce Canyon Campgrounds
If staying inside of the park appeals to you, you can stay at one of the two campgrounds located inside of the national park: The North Campground and the Sunset Campground.
The North Campground is open year-round and spots can be reserved up to six months in advance. Keep in mind that there are no electrical or sewer hookups available at any of the spots. There is an RV dump station that is available for a fee during the summer, and there is also a potable water spout that you can use, but no water hookup at the site.
The Sunset Campground is only open from mid-April until the end of October. It is only available on a “first-come, first-serve” basis so you cannot reserve a spot in advance. Like the North Campground, there are no electrical, sewer, or water hookups available.
Ruby’s Inn Campground
If Bryce Canyon’s campgrounds both fill up, or you want to make sure that you will have a place to camp for the night, you can also reserve a normal campground spot at Ruby’s Inn Campground. This campground offers full hookups for your RV or travel trailer! If you need water, electricity, and sewage hookups during your time in Bryce Canyon, then this will be a better choice for you than camping inside the park.
The last option is the ultimate budget option. You can wild camp, boondock, or car camp on any BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land for up to 14 days. You may have to drive a bit away from the park to find unprotected land, but it is completely free! Just make sure to pack all of the wild camping essentials and remember to leave no trace!
Have you been to Bryce Canyon National Park before? Comment below if you have anything to add to this perfect way to spend one day in Bryce Canyon!
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