Bryce Canyon is my favorite canyon national park. It’s just so unique and cool! You literally can’t look anywhere without saying “Wow”. It’s also on the small side as far as national parks go – there’s not a whole lot of variety of activities since the park pretty much only consists of one big awesome canyon. It’s easy to only need one day to explore the park, but while you’re here, you also want to maximize your time and pay more attention to the best stuff and avoid the worst not-as-cool stuff. So, here’s what I would recommend are the best things that you absolutely must see and the worst things that you can probably skip and spend some extra time on the cool stuff instead:
Best Must See Things To Do
Views From Sunset, Sunrise & Inspiration Point
These are the absolute must see views that you can’t do without. If you don’t stop at at least one of these, then you haven’t seen Bryce Canyon. These are the three most popular viewpoints that overlook Bryce’s Amphitheater – and you MUST see the amphitheater! These points are fairly close together, so there isn’t a huge difference in the views between each one, but they do all offer something a little different based on where they’re located on the rim and which direction they’re facing. You can walk between all three using the Rim Trail if you like, or just stay at one and bask in the awe of the canyon.
Hike The Navajo Loop Trail
One of the easiest, fastest hikes in Bryce Canyon. A great way to experience hiking down into the canyon without it being a big commitment. It’s 1.7mi and you can do the hike in less than an hour if you’re in decent shape. It’s basically just a series of switchbacks down, a short flat path along the bottom, and then more switchbacks to get up. You’ll also be able to see two of Bryce’s natural attractions: Wall Street and the Double Natural Bridge. Absolutely a must do, even if it’s the only thing you’re going to do while in the park. More details about the hike, where it starts, etc. here.
Visit The Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge is a really impressive site that I would definitely recommend seeing. You can’t hike to it. It’s visible from a pullout/ parking lot on the side of the main road that goes through Bryce, so it’s easily accessible. It also won’t take much time to see since you just drive in, look and enjoy, take a few photos and that’s about all there is to it. It’s one of the more impressive natural bridges I’ve seen, so you might as well stop by for a look. To get there, follow the (one) main road (Rte 63) straight (past sunset, sunrise, and inspiration point) and you will see signs for it on the side of the road.
Views from Agua Canyon
Shortly past The Natural Bridge mentioned above is another pullout/parking area for Agua Canyon. This is the viewpoint I most recommend that’s outside of the amphitheater. I personally think the amphitheater is the most impressive part of Bryce, but if you want another view that’s also very beautiful, this is it. There isn’t access to any hiking trails from this point, so again all you can really do is look at it, but is a really great view. And less crowded too! Since the amphitheater is closer to the entrance of the park and the most popular area of the park, the Agua Canyon view has much less people with almost equally as stunning views.
Hike the Peek-A-Boo Trail
For those looking for a longer trail than the Navajo Trail listed above (and also one that’s less crowded). The Peek-A-Boo trail is a 5mi loop the follows a horse trail. It winds through some of the most spectacular areas and dense formations of Bryce, which is what makes it such an attractive trail. You’ll pass through some tunnels in the hoodoos and some narrow “slot canyons” while getting up close to some views not available from the amphitheater. If you’re looking for a longer more involved day hike where you can see more than just the amphitheater, this is the trail for you. It gets hot out there so make sure to bring water and sunscreen!
Worst Things That You Can Skip Doing
Rainbow & Yovimpa Point
I really wasn’t impressed. These two points are the southern most part of Bryce, and it’s a bit of a drive to reach them (18mi or so). I don’t think the views are really worth the drive when there are so many other more amazing views in the northern part of the park. The rock formations start to lose their colors the further out from the amphitheater you go, so I’m not sure why Rainbow Point is called Rainbow Point since most of the hoodoos here are pretty muted.
Yovimpa Point, at least when we visited, also smelled horrible. I didn’t see any latrines nearby (there are some at Rainbow point), so I don’t know where the septic smell was coming from, but it was really bad and got worse the closer to the point we got. That plus a “mediocre” view (by Bryce standards), plus the 20min drive to get out there make both of these points not really worth it.
The Rim Trail
The Rim Trail does exactly what you’d guess from the name – it’s a trail that goes along the entire rim of Bryce Canyon. It’s an almost 11mi trail (which means it’s a full day’s commitment) with almost no shade. My biggest complaint with this trail and why I put it on the “don’t bother” list is because you don’t get to see anything from this trail that you can’t see from the viewpoints that you can access with your car. The views are basically the same as you roughly have the same vantage point as all of the views that you can drive between. I think the trail is great if you just want to go between a few of the view points without driving and would highly encourage that – hiking the entire trail however, is a big commitment with little reward in my opinion. You’d be better off spending that time taking one of the above mentioned Navajo or Peek-A-Boo (or others) trails and actually going down into the canyon to get a different view point and have some new experiences.