One Unforgettable Day in Bryce Canyon National Park – a 2023 Itinerary
Wanting to spend one day in Bryce Canyon National Park? I’ve got the perfect itinerary for your time there!
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most unique and fascinating parks in the United States. To be honest, Bryce Canyon is probably my favorite national park of all time (so far, at least!)
I just loved the otherworldly landscapes here and was in awe of the majestic hoodoos rising across the orange Bryce Amphitheater.
Why Visit Bryce Canyon National Park?
Bryce is known for its hoodoos, which are tall, thin spires of rock that have been carved by wind and water over time. The red/orange color of the rocks and Ponderosa pine forests only add to the beauty, and the geological formations in the park are some of the most interesting in the world.
All together, these features make Bryce Canyon a must-see destination for anyone visiting Utah.
The good news is that this National Park is pretty small, and one day in Bryce Canyon National Park is definitely enough to get a great sampling of what it has to offer.
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One Day in Bryce Canyon
So let’s get into it! Here’s a one day itinerary for the perfect day in Bryce Canyon and includes all our favorite things to do and places to see in Bryce Canyon.
Your day starts in the area of the park called the Bryce Amphitheater. This is the main sightseeing area and has the most classic shots and viewpoints of the hoodoos, as well as most of the hiking trails.
If you’re doing Bryce Canyon in one day, I would highly recommend you start early! You don’t necessarily have to start at sunrise, but I would say getting here around 7-8 a.m. is optimal. You’ll cruise right in, have no trouble finding parking, and get started on the best hikes with relatively few people.
Start at Sunset Point
There are four main viewpoints in the Bryce Amphitheater: Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point.
Start your day at Sunset Point. Here you’ll see the hoodoos all around you. This is one of the most classic viewpoints of the park, the one that you’ll see on most pictures representing Bryce Canyon.
Tip: If you arrive before ~9am, you can probably find parking right at Sunset Point. Later than that, and the parking lot will likely be full and you’ll need to park at the Visitor’s Center and take the shuttle (more on the shuttle later on).
Hike the Navajo Loop + Queen’s Garden Trail
The Navajo Loop + Queen’s Garden trail is easily the most popular trail in the park and is absolutely a must do activity in Bryce Canyon. I adored this hike and it easily jumped into my top 5 favorite hikes of all time.
The Navajo Loop and the Queen’s Garden Trail are two separate trails, so you could do them separately. However, the Navajo Loop intersects with the Queen’s Garden Trail at approximately the halfway point, and you can jump over and finish the trail from there.
Starting the Hike, and Which Direction To Go
On the Navajo loop, you can descend via the Wall Street path or the Two Bridges path. Wall Street is for sure the more popular, and ostensibly cooler path to take.
Wall Street is known for the tight switchbacks the trail makes as it heads into a slot canyon-like area surrounded by tall hoodoos. This is the picture, above.
If you want to enjoy the epic views of Wall Street as you’re heading down it, I recommend starting from Navajo Loop and ending at Queen’s Garden. However, know that the switchbacks in Wall Street are fairly slippery (as they are sandy).
The National Park Service actually recommends that you start at Queen’s Garden and end at Navajo Loop, because the descent is more gradual from Sunrise Point and it’s easier and less technical to climb up Wall Street than descend it and less injuries happen that route.
We chose to do Sunset Point to Sunrise Point because we wanted to see the cool switchbacks of Wall Street as we descended. You will find that there are a lot of people going both ways. The area is slippery though, and if you have any concerns with risking injury, starting with Queen’s Garden is probably a safer choice.
Note: Wall Street is closed during the winter, so you’ll have to take the Two Bridges portion during the winter months.
After the Wall Street section, you’ll continue through a slot canyon area filled with tall, golden canyon walls. There are lots of little places to explore here, and you’ll find some hoodoos tucked away around you.
When you reach the valley, the view opens up, the trail flattens out, and you’re walking by Ponderosa pine trees. You’ll also now really get some nice views of the dramatic hoodoos all around you. Some of the features across the valley are also pretty fun with “castles” and “cathedrals” to admire.
When you pick up the Queen’s Garden Trail, the tall hoodoos line the trail directly next to you and you come up close with intricate formations that spark your imagination.
The Queen’s Garden Trail is named for a specific formation that does look strikingly like a Queen. A placard helps you identify it, and it also shows how the hoodoos shift through the years due to erosion. You can look at old pictures on the plaque and compare it to the current formation.
Be sure to look around for other fun shapes – we saw dragons, a musketeer, and a man with a lamp!
From here, the trail starts heading up to the rim. There are some sections of this hike with tighter switchbacks, but nothing quite as dramatic as Wall Street.
Finally, the Queen’s Garden Trail ends at Sunrise Point.
I really can’t overstate how much I loved this hike; being dwarfed by these tall, dramatic rock formations right along the trail was just SO epic. If you only do one thing in Bryce Canyon National Park, it must be this trail!
- Distance: 3.2 miles/6km
- Elevation Gain: 663 feet
- Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The climb up and out really wasn’t too bad!
- Time Spent: We spent approximately 2 hours on this hike. We were hiking with our 4 kids, and taking tons of pictures, so you may go faster.
The Queen’s Garden Trail starts and end at Sunrise Point, which is on the northern edge of the Bryce Amphitheater.
Sunrise gives you sweeping vistas in the opposite direction as Sunset Point, as well as some views over the dramatic Queen’s Garden, and the red rolling hills nearby.
Take a moment to enjoy the stunning views from here, and look back on where you just hiked!
Walk the Rim Trail
The Rim Trail is a flat, paved walking path that extends along the Bryce Amphitheater, all the way from Bryce Point at one end to Sunrise Point on the other. You can see the views over the canyon and amphitheater and walk between the four main viewpoints.
It is quite a long walk to do the whole thing, and if you only have one day in Bryce Canyon I wouldn’t recommend doing the entire trail. However, you can always do a shorter chunk between just two of the viewpoints (e.g. Sunrise to Sunset is only 0.6 miles, and Sunset to Inspiration is 0.7 miles).
If you parked at Sunset Point to do the Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden trail, then walk back to your car via the Rim Trail.
You’ll want to either drive or take the shuttle up to Bryce Point and Inspiration Point (next). More information about the shuttle is at the bottom of this post.
Both of these points are at the opposite end of the amphitheater compared to Sunrise/Sunset Point, so you get a unique vantage point.
Bryce Point gets you the most dramatic vista of the amphitheater. You are closer to some of the large, upper hoodoos, such as the “cathedral” and “alligator” (which really does look like an alligator from on top!).
You, of course, also get a sweeping view of Bryce and also the surrounding countryside. One unique thing to see here are the caves in the canyon wall, which you really can’t see at any other viewpoint.
Inspiration Point was cool because you are very close to the sections of hoodoos that are more spindly, and tall and skinny.
Inspiration Point has an upper and lower viewpoint. The parking lot and shuttle are at the lower point. It’s a steep climb up to the upper viewpoint, but I would say the views are better at the upper viewpoint.
All four of the viewpoints in the Bryce Amphitheater (Sunrise, Sunset, Bryce, Inspiration) give a unique and interesting view – all are worth stopping for and don’t take too long to see.
Drive the Scenic Route and Stop at the Viewpoints Along the Way
Bryce Canyon Road (Highway 63) is the main road that goes through the national park. While this road goes weaves it way along the rim of the Bryce Amphitheater, it also continues past Bryce Point and becomes a scenic route, leading you to additional viewpoints, features, and gorgeous vistas.
For this part of your Bryce Canyon itinerary, I recommend going past Bryce Point and into these lesser visited areas. The road (which is actually pretty forested) still stays close to the Rim of Bryce Canyon, and there are about 8 different official viewpoints over the valley beneath.
Beyond Bryce Point, the Scenic Route definitely has less people driving on it; so you can enjoy beautiful views in a more personal way. There are also access points to additional hikes, but you likely won’t have time for these with just one day.
Bryce Canyon is on the edge of the topmost “stair” of the Grand Staircase, and the Scenic Drive takes you south to where this area opens up. Thanks to the added elevation, this really lets you see out and over the next range of mountains, to see the surrounding countryside and ridges.
Note: The Scenic Route beyond Bryce Point is often closed during the winter.
Second Note: The whole route, from Bryce Point to the southern terminus at Rainbow Point, is about 20-30 minutes one way. Since you will be stopping along the way, plan on this whole section taking between 1 – 2 hours.
These were our 4 favorite stops on the Scenic Route:
➡️Farpoint and Piracy Point Overlooks
These two viewpoints share a parking lot. It’s less than a 5 minute walk through the pines to get to Piracy Point, which I do think is superior to Farpoint (better view of the hoodoos).
➡️Natural Bridge Overlook
Natural Bridge is a must-see on the Scenic Drive. This “bridge” is a stunning arch and is much bigger than it appears in photos – we were impressed! The arch is visible right from the road, and is surrounded by other pines and greenery.
➡️Agua Canyon Overlook
There are two prominent hoodoos at this viewpoint, the “Rabbit” and “The Hunter.”
➡️Ponderosa Canyon Overlook
A beautiful overlook, with hoodoos in the front and a pine forest in the valley below.
Mossy Cove Trail
Mossy Cove Trail is an interesting one because it is technically a part of Bryce Canyon National Park, but it is actually outside of the fee area (and in a completely different area).
From the main National Park entrance, head north out through the town of Bryce to Highway 12. Take a right (east) on Hwy 12 and you’ll reach the trailhead parking lot in about 3 miles – the parking lot is well-marked.
If the parking lot is full (it’s not super big), there is overflow and RV parking just another 0.2 miles further.
This trail is an easy 0.8 round trip hike up to the cave. We were pleasantly surprised by loving this trail, despite the fact that the cave was rather boring (it’s actually most dramatic and beautiful in the winter when the slowly dripping water of the cave creates massive and intricate icicles).
The trail follows a little stream, and crosses two bridges, before reaching a fork. The left fork takes you away from the stream, to the cave. The right fork takes you to the top of a fun waterfall. If you want to plaly in the stream at the base of the waterfall, exit the trail at the second bridge.
While the cave wasn’t all that interesting (just a relatively shallow cave and you can only look into it, not go in it), the waterfall and stream were delightful. It’s very picturesque, and shallow and calm enough that you can play in the water.
We decided to do Mossy Cove on a whim, but ended up loving it! This is definitely one of the best hidden gem things to do in Bryce Canyon.
- Distance: 1.3 miles
- Elevation Gain: 135 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
Admire the Night Sky
One of the best things to do in Bryce Canyon at night is go star gazing. The high elevation, dry desert air, and isolated location make Bryce a great location to observe the night sky!
Since Bryce is open 24 hours, you can head to any open area during the dark hours to view the night sky, or you can join a ranger-led program about the night sky. On full moon nights, you can join a guided night hike where flashlights are prohibited!
Get more information here or at the Bryce Canyon visitor’s center.
Optional Addition: Add a Hike to Your Afternoon
If you start early in the morning and are faster hikers than us with our kids, then you may very well have time for a second hike in the afternoon. There are two trails I would recommend for a second hike, and still have time to do the rest of the things on this one day Bryce Canyon itinerary.
Tower Bridge via Fairyland Loop
The Fairyland Loop Trail is a beautiful and challenging hike in Bryce Canyon National Park. The trail winds its way through a series of hoodoos and other geological formations, making for a very interesting and scenic hike.
While the entire Fairyland Loop is quite long, for a shorter hike, stop at the Tower Bridge rock formation, which resembles the Tower Bridge of London impressively well.
- Distance: 3.4 miles round trip to Tower Arch
- Elevation Gain: 826 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
Peekaboo Loop Trail
The Peekaboo Loop Trail is a great hike for visitors looking to explore the more hidden areas of Bryce Canyon National Park.
The trail winds its way through a series of hoodoos, arches, and other geological formations, bringing you closer to the Cathedral and Alligator formations from below. This hike connects to Bryce Point viewpoint.
This is a great hike for getting off the beaten path in Bryce Canyon.
- Distance: 5.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1453 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
How to Get Around
While there are parking lots within Bryce Canyon and you can drive yourself around, these parking lots can fill up, and you may just find it easier to hop on the shuttle bus.
Here’s what you need to know about the Bryce Canyon Shuttle:
➡️The shuttle runs during the summer months
➡️The shuttle is free to ride, but you cannot have open food or drink on the bus.
➡️The shuttle makes one loop through the park and does not pass through the same stops on both directions. This means that at all but two of the stops, there is only a bus going in one direction. The visitor’s center and the sunset campground are the only stops that you can transfer from. Otherwise you’ll need to walk between stops and cross the road.
➡️You can drive into Bryce Canyon and then hop on the shuttle, or you can get on the shuttle outside of the park. The shuttle stop outside the park is across from Ruby’s Inn and next to the Sinclair gas station in the town of Bryce.
➡️Buses come by about every 10 minutes. The full bus route takes approximately 50 minutes.
Bryce Canyon National Park does have a fair amount of parking, but it will fill up throughout the day. What we found is that even if you get parking in the morning, it is easier to use the shuttle if you want to move to other sections of the park later in the day.
As far as crowds go, when we visited the beginning of June, there were a decent number of people in the parking lots, on the main trails, and at the viewpoints, but nothing where I felt like it was overrun or you were just shuffling along in a huge crowd. Expect crowds to get thicker as the day goes on. It only gets truly crazy at holidays, when even the park entrance can get backed up just to enter.
A Summary of Your One Day in Bryce Canyon Itinerary
- Sunset Point (get here ideally before 9am)
- Navajo Loop to Queen’s Garden Trail – take the Wall Street path
- Sunrise Point
- Rim Trail Back to Sunset
- Bryce Point
- Inspiration Point
- Drive the Scenic Route and stop at Farview Point, Natural Bridge, Agua Canyon, and Ponderosa Canyon.
- Walk Mossy Cove Trail
- Optional: Add in a hike on either the Fairytale Loop to the Tower Bridge Hoodhoo, or the Peekaboo Trail
Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon
The closest city to Bryce Canyon is the city of Bryce. This is a very small town, so there are limited options, and most hotels lean into the “rustic” theme.
A few good options include:
Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
➡️This is the highest rated hotel in Bryce and one of the closest to the park entrance.
➡️It’s also within easy walking distance to the shuttle at Ruby Inn.
➡️Rooms are clean and comfortable and there’s a pool onsite.
Rating: 9 of 10 stars – read all reviews here
Bryce Pioneer Village
➡️This is a great budget option for your stay in Bryce.
➡️It’s about 20 minutes from the park entrance, and has some really nice outdoor spaces for guests to enjoy.
Rating: 8.1 of 10 stars – read reviews here
Under Canvas Bryce Canyon
➡️This glamping tent camp is tucked away in a beautiful, quiet part of the desert
➡️It offers an interesting and unique place to stay not too far from Bryce Canyon.
Rating: 9.3 of 10 stars – read reviews here
Hotels inside Bryce Canyon National Park:
There is one hotel inside the national park: the Bryce Canyon Forever hotel. This hotel operates during the spring-fall months.
Camping in Bryce Canyon:
There are two campgrounds in Bryce Canyon: North Campground and Sunset Campground. North Campground is first-come, first-serve, with parts of it open during winter.
Spots in Sunset Campground can be reserved ahead of time, but reservations go quickly, so if you want to stay here, reserve asap. Sunset Campground is closed in winter.
You can get more information and make reservations for these campgrounds here.
Bathrooms in Bryce Canyon
It wasn’t too hard to find bathrooms when visiting Bryce Canyon, but they are not at every location. There were nice flush toilets at the Visitor’s Center and at the Sunset Point parking lot. There were also vault toilets at Inspiration Point.
There were no bathrooms at Bryce Point or Sunrise Point.
Farther along the Scenic Drive, there are bathrooms at Farview Point and at the Rainbow Point.
There are water filling stations at Sunset, Sunrise, and the Lodge.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon?
While you can visit Bryce any time of year, really the best times are between spring and fall (ideally between April-October).
Even though Bryce Canyon is in southern Utah, its elevation is quite high (7600 feet). This means that Bryce stays quite a bit cooler than most of southern Utah. In summer this is amazing, because the temperatures are much more mild than other parts of Utah.
In winter, this means Bryce can also get more snow. Bryce in the snow can be gorgeous, and there will certainly be less crowds. However, some trails, roads, or overlooks may be closed during the winter.
Is Bryce or Zion Better?
I’ve been to both Bryce and Zion and LOVE them both. I would say that Bryce Canyon has the cooler landscapes, but Zion has the more epic hikes of Angel’s Landing or the Narrows. If you can, I would FOR SURE do both!
(….. but, if I had to choose, I’d probably choose Bryce as my favorite!)
Can You Do Zion and Bryce in One Day?
I mean…. you technically could. If you start Bryce at sunrise, you could start do Sunset Point, the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden trail to Sunrise Point, and then Bryce Point and Inspiration Point OR Mossy Cove Trail.
Then drive the 1.5 hours to Zion, and hike in the afternoon and evening at Zion.
I wouldn’t recommend this, though, as there is enough to do for one full day at Bryce, and you could spend several days in Zion.
How Far Apart Are Bryce and Other National Parks in Utah?
From Bryce Canyon:
- Zion National Park is 72 miles, 1.5 hours away
- Capitol Reef National Park is 107 miles, 2 hours away
- Arches National Park is 245 miles, 4.25 hours away
- Canyonlands National Park is 256 miles, 4.5 hours away
Entrance Fees, Hours, and Pets
Fees: It costs $35 for one private vehicle to enter Bryce Canyon, and is good for seven days. Alternatively, you can buy an America the Beautiful Pass (also known as a National Parks Pass) that will get you into all sites in the National Parks System for free for one year.
Hours: Bryce Canyon is open 24/7/365
Pets: Pets must be leashed, but are allowed on paved surfaces, including the overlooks and the trail between Sunset and Sunrise points. They are also allowed in campsites and picnic areas.
Pets are not allowed on any unpaved trails, on the shuttle buses, or in public buildings.
Do You Need a Reservation to Go to Bryce
No. No reservation is needed to enter Bryce Canyon.
So, Is Spending One Day in Bryce Canyon Worth It?
Absolutely! Bryce Canyon is an absolutely jaw-dropping, stunning, otherworldly national park. The hoodoos are just incredible geological formations. I legit think I spent the day with a permasmile on my face because the whole park is just so dang fun.
And because it’s only 56 square miles big, it’s easy to hit all the high points of Bryce Canyon in a one day itinerary.
Now that you can see how manageable it is to visit Bryce Canyon National Park in one day, are you ready to add it to your bucket list?
Planning to Visit More than One Destination in Utah? Check out My Other Utah Posts:
- The ULTIMATE GUIDE to the Best Hikes in Arches National Park
- How to Do the Tower Arch Hike in Arches National Park
- Everything You Need to Know about Hiking Fiery Furnace