On the list of must-visit National Parks, Bryce Canyon, with it’s epic hikes among hoodoos and spruce trees, is surely among the top.
It’s hard to explain just how bizarre and unique the landscape really is until you’re in it. And I’ll be honest – pictures just can’t do it justice.
But if you’re up for a surreal and awe-inspiring experience, strap on your hiking boots and head to Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s one place you are sure to never forget.
And the best news of all? You can experiences all of Bryce Canyon’s best hikes in just one day! Read on for tips to plan your visit, plus a detailed one day itinerary to Bryce Canyon National Park.
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The Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon in One Day
Bryce Canyon National Park is fairly compact, with the majority of it’s most popular hikes being clustered together in the area known as the ‘Bryce Amphitheater’. This makes it super easy to tackle the park in just one day, and especially easy to navigate with children.
But before we get into the best hikes to include in your one day itinerary, here’s a few other things to consider when planning your trip:
When to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
As Bryce Canyon becomes more and more popular, summer visitors overwhelm the park from June through August. This can make traveling the one main road that stretches through the park a little difficult, as tourists overwhelm the limited roadway. Southern Utah can also get very hot in the summertime, so you’ll need to carry lots of water and dress in lightweight layers.
If you can, I’d recommend avoiding Bryce Canyon in summertime, however, I realize that for many families planning around school holidays, it may be the only option. In that case, go ahead. It’s still totally worth the hassle!
Alternatively, the winter season runs from early November to late March, and can be a magical time to visit the snow-capped hoodoos of the Bryce Amphitheater. You’ll find the park is much quieter, but it can get rather cold, so you’ll need to pack appropriately. During this time there may be additional road or trail closures as well, so be sure to check current park conditions before heading out.
In my opinion, April-May and September-October are the best times to visit Bryce Canyon. Temperatures are comfortable and the park much less congested, making it easier to drive throughout while still be able to take advantage of the park shuttle if you wish (currently running from April through mid-October). Depending on the exact timing of your visit, most trails and roads should be open, and best of all, you’ll save money on accommodations outside of peak season.
What to Pack for One Day in Bryce Canyon
Depending on the time of year that you visit, your packing list will vary, but you’ll definitely want to pack these key items to make your day go as smoothly as possible:
Hiking Socks | Lightweight moisture-wicking socks can make all the difference in keeping feet cool and dry while out on the trails.
Daypack | A light backpack for snacks, water, and hiking essentials is a must. We love this lightweight packable one for day hikes.
Reusable Water Bottle | Staying hydrated is key, especially during the warm summer months. Hydration stations for filling your reusable water bottle are located throughout the park and noted on the park map. (don’t forget one for the kids too!)
Mini First Aid Kit | Scrapes, bumps, and falls can happen. Have a basic first aid kit tucked away in case of emergencies.
Sunscreen | Many areas of the park have minimal shade, so be sure to lather on the sunscreen before heading out.
Hiking Pack Child Carrier | For bigger kids who aren’t ready for a full day of hiking, we love our Deuter Kid Comfort hiking pack.
Lightweight Toddler Carrier | This lightweight carrier is our go to for younger kids, ages 1-3.
Getting to Bryce Canyon National Park
If you’re traveling from afar, the most popular airports for getting to Bryce Canyon National Park are Las Vegas (LAS), Salt Lake City (SLC) and St. George (SGU).
St. George is the closest and about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the park. It’s a small regional airport with limited servicing routes, but as demand for visitors to the southern Utah area grows, so do your flight options. We found really cheap $150 round-trip tickets from our own little airport here in Omaha, Nebraska, so it is possible to get a good deal to St. George. Our favorite travel hack, Scott’s Cheap Flights, now offers domestic deals, and one good deal can easily save you the cost of the yearly membership fee and then some!
If St. George is out of the question, your next best bet will be either Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. Both are a bit longer drive (each just over 4 hours), but you’ll have lots of options for cheap flights. Just be sure to weigh the cost of extra gas and driving time to make sure it’s worth it.
You’ll most definitely need a car rental to get to Bryce Canyon National Park. We always book with RentalCars.com for their guaranteed cheap prices and flexible cancellation policies.
Read Next: A Fall Weekend in Park City, UT
Where to Stay near Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park sits just outside of the town of Bryce, Utah, and naturally, you’ll find several accommodation options in town. Some of the most popular include:
Hotels in Bryce Canyon National Park
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon ($$) | The only official lodging inside the park, The Lodge offers just about what you’d expect from mid-range accommodations. The real perk of this hotel is being right in the park, meaning you can park the car and take the shuttle pretty much everywhere during peak season. It also features a restaurant on-site.
Compare rates on: Direct Booking | Agoda
Hotels near Bryce Canyon National Park
Best Western Plus Grand Hotel ($$$) | Arguably the nicest hotel in town, (and not to be confused with the other Best Western Plus across the street), this hotel features a large lobby with on-site restaurant, free breakfast, and an outdoor pool to cool off in during the summer months.
Compare rates on: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com
Bryce View Lodge at Ruby’s Inn Resort ($) | For a more budget option, Bryce View Lodge offers the basics for a reasonable price. If you’re spending the day in Bryce Canyon and just need somewhere to sleep before moving on, it’s a solid, no-frills experience.
Compare rates on: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com
Vacation Rentals near Bryce Canyon National Park
If you’re having trouble finding hotels with availability, look for Airbnbs in nearby Tropic, UT. It’s only about 20 minutes from the park, but you’ll find many affordable rental homes here that may be better suited for families.
Getting Around Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park offers a free park shuttle which runs from April through mid-October. Shuttles arrive at each stop approximately every 15 minutes, making it a convenient option for hikers who want to take advantage of one-way trips and not have to worry about limited parking inside the park.
While it’s not required to use, it’s highly encouraged to help reduce congestion throughout the park, especially during the summer months. Shuttle parking can be found in Bryce Canyon City or in an overflow lot near the Visitor Center.
Visit the offical Bryce Canyon website for shuttle hours and stops.
If you’re visiting outside of peak season, you can easily drive the park. We visited in mid-November and found plenty of parking at every stop.
One Day Itinerary for Bryce Canyon National Park
To get the most out of your one day in Bryce Canyon, we recommend following our itinerary which will lead you through all of Bryce’s best hiking trails in one long loop. You’ll be descending into the canyon, following the wooded trails of Queen’s Garden, and then climbing back up and out of the canyon to take in the various vistas from above. After that you’ll head out on the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive to take in a few more lookouts and one last quick hike.
Plan for a one solid day (around 6-8 hours) to experience it all!
Pro Tip: You could do this same itinerary in reverse, starting at Sunrise Point, but we suggest doing the initial loop in a counter-clockwise pattern. The descent from Sunset Point is rather steep…not exactly something you want to climb up after a long hike. Instead, we’ll take the steep descent down first and climb up to Sunrise Point. It’s still plenty of work, but much more gradual.
Start your day with a stop at the Visitor Center to grab a trail map and get a quick intro into the unique rock formations of Bryce Canyon. This is also a good time to pick up a Junior Ranger Booklet, which includes fun activities for kids ages 4 years and up.
Next head to Sunset Point to start your hike. In the off-season you’ll find plenty of parking in the lot, but if you’re visiting during the peak summer season, you may want to take the shuttle from the Visitor Center instead.
Take in your first amazing views of the hoodoos from above, and then head down the trail, following the signs to Navajo Loop.
Navajo Loop Trail
The full Navajo Loop takes 1-2 hours to hike it’s 1.3 mile loop. Instead, we’ll cover half of the loop and carry on to Queen’s Garden.
At the beginning of the Navajo Loop, you’ll pass Thor’s Hammer, Bryce’s iconic hoodoo jutting 150 feet into the air.
Depending on when you visit, you’ll have 1 or 2 options for which trail to hike down into the canyon. The northern trail will lead you down a few switchbacks and past Two Bridges before reaching the trail floor. This is the easiest path down.
The second option is to hike the southern trail, which takes you down even steeper switchbacks and through the narrow opening known as ‘Wall Street’. This trail is closed in winter (early November to late March), so unfortunately we weren’t able to experience it during our visit.
Queen’s Garden Trail
At the bottom of your descent on the Navajo Loop you’ll meet up with Queen’s Garden Trail. You really can’t miss it as the landscape changes and there are plenty of signs pointing the way. This fairly easy 1.8 mile trail is not a loop, but rather connects the Navajo Loop to Sunrise Point. Winding through spruce and fir trees at the bottom of the canyon, you’ll experience a completely different side of Bryce Canyon.
Queen’s Garden Trail is also a great place to take a break from your hike, find shade under a tree, and enjoy a quick snack while you take in your surroundings.
Read Next: One Day in Zion National Park
Rim Trail: Sunrise to Sunset
Continue following the signs along Queen’s Garden Trail to Sunrise Point. After hiking your long way up and out of the canyon, take a breath and enjoy the expansive views of the Bryce Amphitheater from Sunrise Point. Then comes the easy part. Follow the 1 mile paved portion of Rim Trail that leads you along the edge of the Bryce Amphitheater and back to Sunset Point.
Up for more hiking? Continue along Rim Trail for one more mile until you reach Inspiration Point.
Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive
Next, take a break from hiking and head out on the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive, a 19 mile stretch of road that leads you to the edge of the park with several worthy stops along the way.
Inspiration Point | If you haven’t already, be sure to stop at Inspiration Point to take in some pretty incredible views of the Bryce Amphitheater.
Natural Bridge | Pull off between mile markers 12 and 13 to see this natural sandstone arch.
Rainbow Point | The last stop on Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive, more vistas of hoodoos and cliffs await at Rainbow Point and give you a sense of just how vast the Bryce Amphitheater is.
Yovimpa Point | This final viewpoint offers one of the best views of the Grand Staircase, or the series of rock formations that lead all the way from Bryce to the Grand Canyon.
Bristlecone Loop Trail
Near Yovimpa Point, you’ll find an easy 1 mile hike through a spruce-fir forest. There’s also a small picnic area near the trailhead, making this a nice spot to stop for a snack or dinner.
After your last hike, turn back along Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive and head towards the park entrance. You can make any stops along the way that you might have missed during your initial trip out.
Mossy Cave Trail
For one last easy bonus hike, head to Mossy Cave. It’s trailhead is actually outside the main park entrance on the way to Tropic, but is least busy in the early morning or evening, making it ideal to tack on to the beginning or end of your day. This .8 mile trail leads you on a streamside walk to a mossy grotto (and waterfall!).
Short on Time? Book a Tour!
If you want to see the best of both Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in one day, consider booking a group tour! This highly-rated small group tour provides round-trip transportation from Las Vegas and includes 2 hours of exploring at each national park.
Have more questions about hiking Bryce Canyon? Leave them in the comments below!