Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the Mighty Five national parks in the state of Utah and is one of the most popular parks in the country with millions of visitors from across the globe each year. This park is not only beautiful but also vast and packed with all kinds of things to do. Check out seven of the best things to do while you’re there in this guide!
1. Drive Under an Arch on Your Way In.
The best way to get into Bryce Canyon National Park is via scenic Highway 12 through Tropic. This route not only gives you a panoramic view of the park from the backside, it also takes you under a natural bridge in your car. There aren’t too many places in the world that you can do that.
2. Stop by the Visitor Center.
The first thing you’ll see when you enter the park is the visitor center directly to your right after you’ve paid the entrance fee. You’ll want to park here (or in the overflow lot across the street) and pop in to see what they have to offer.
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the larger parks in the National Park System, so they typically run several ranger-led programs a day. You’ll also find important trail information at the visitor desk inside the center–the hoodoos that make the park so unique can crumble and create danger on the trails. So, before you head out, make sure it’s safe to do.
3. Ride the Shuttle Around the Canyon Rim.
Here’s a pro tip for you–stay parked at the visitor center. For one, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a parking spot somewhere inside the park unless you arrive at the ass crack of dawn. Rather, take the complimentary shuttle that takes you along the rim of the park.
Not only does it save you from having to double back to park and walk, it also gives you great insight into the history of the park. As you’re riding along, the shuttle drivers provide you with all kinds of fascinating information about the park itself (like how it’s not actually a real canyon by definition). It’s basically a free tour of the park and you can get on and off as you please.
4. Take in Views of the Natural Bridge.
One of the many stops of the Bryce Canyon shuttle tour is the Natural Bridge. As I mentioned before, this park is full with unique monuments including hoodoos (“tall, thin spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of an arid drainage basin”–thanks Wikipedia) and natural rock bridges.
One of the best natural bridges that you’ll see in the park is, well, Natural Bridge. That’s its name it’s right off the side of the road for your viewing pleasure.
5. Walk Part of the Rim Trail.
You shouldn’t just ride the rim in the shuttle–you should walk some of it, too. When we visited Bryce Canyon National Park, we got off the shuttle at Inspiration Point and walked along the rim to Sunset Point. These points are neat on their own but you’ll get some great views from the many different vantage points that this flat trail has to offer between them. Did I mention that it’s paved?
6. Hike the Navajo Loop Trail.
Navajo Loop Trail is, by far, one of the most popular trails in this park and in the country. The popularity of this park is due in part to its unique steep descent to the canyon floor via a series of bright orange switchbacks. You can opt to do the whole loop or you can treat these switchbacks as an out-and-back trail.
Remember when I said you should always check at the visitor center before you hike? That’s doubly true for this trail in particular because of its caved-in-line nature. When we went to hike this trail, we found out that it was partially closed due to rockfall–don’t be that person that gets stuck at the bottom of a canyon because you didn’t ask enough questions.
Bonus: Go to Queens Garden from the Navajo Trail.
If you find yourself in the same predicament as we found ourselves, or you just want to extend your hike through Bryce Canyon, opt to veer off of the Navajo Loop Trail and take the Queens Garden Trail back to the top of the canyon rim.
This will more than double your hike (to around three miles, and brutal ones at that) but it’s totally worth it. Just be sure to pack enough water and trail snacks to sustain yourself–trust me, you’ll need it on your way back up.
7. Hike to Mossy Cave on the Backside of the Park.
When you enter Bryce Canyon National Park using Highway 12, you’ll drive right past a seemingly uninteresting trail head for a place called Mossy Cave. We were so close to not stopping but our expectations were blown out of the clear blue water that you’ll find along this trail.
The trail to Mossy Cave takes you across a beautiful creek, over a scenic bridge, and right up to a breathtaking waterfall. The whole 0.8-mile trip took us about 30 minutes and was a true highlight of our trip to Bryce Canyon National Park.