What’s So Special About Bryce Canyon National Park?

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Located just northeast of Utah’s most famous national park, Zion, Bryce Canyon unveils a magical world to visitors.

Zion Canyon continues to be shaped by the Virgin River, while Bryce Canyon continues to be shaped by water, ice, snow, wind, and other forces.

If you haven’t visited the unique hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, it’s time to plan your trip. Let’s dive in and learn more about what you can expect here!

Where Is Bryce Canyon National Park?

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of Utah’s “Mighty Five.” The Beehive State has five national parks, including Zion, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, and Bryce Canyon.

All of them are in the southern half of the state, below I-70.

Bryce Canyon National Park is the highest in elevation, with its highest point at 9,100 feet at Rainbow Point.

Many people visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon in a single trip because of their proximity. It takes less than two hours to travel between them.

From Highway 89, visitors take Highway 12 east for about 13 miles before reaching Highway 63. Then, turn right and drive for about four miles to reach the Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center.

The park sits at the northeastern boundary of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which spans almost two million acres in south-central Utah.

A man standing at the edge of a canyon looking into the vast valley of hoodoos.

When Did Bryce Canyon National Park Become A National Park?

J. W. Humphrey was instrumental in getting Bryce Canyon federally protected. He had photographs and movies sent to Forest Service officials in Washington, D.C.

Humphrey also improved the road to make the rim accessible to cars. The famous Ruby’s Inn was established just outside the park in 1923.

Finally, Humphrey’s hard work paid off as President Warren G. Harding proclaimed Bryce Canyon a national monument in 1923.

A few years later, on February 25, 1928, Bryce Canyon officially became a national park.

Pro Tip: Check out The Best Time to Visit Utah National Parks to start planning your trip.

What’s So Special About Bryce Canyon National Park?

Bryce Canyon is famous for its hoodoos. These unique rock formations are found all over the world. However, Bryce Canyon is home to the largest concentration of these distinctive spires. 

Hoodoos are tall, thin towers of rock formed by erosion. Bryce Canyon is remarkable because of its high altitude and weather. Precipitation and wind wear down these rock formations just like anywhere else.

But the snow and ice in Bryce Canyon cause the rocks to crack, pieces to fall off, and hoodoos to form season after season. There are constantly new hoodoos forming and others falling apart completely.

These totem pole like rock formations are magical. When you’re at the rim looking down into the canyon, it takes your breath away to see the natural erosion process at work before you.

As you hike into the canyon and see the hoodoos close-up, you feel transported to another planet.

Hoodoo and arch formations in red rocks.

In 2022, over 2.3 million people visited Bryce Canyon National Park. The highest visitation occurred in 2018 when over 2.6 million guests flocked to see the hoodoos.

Bryce Canyon is Utah’s second most-visited national park, behind Zion, which welcomes between four and five million people annually.

If you haven’t planned a trip to southwestern Utah, you certainly want to add it to your bucket list. The hiking trails and unique geology will have you planning your return trip before you even leave.

Here are our favorite things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park!

1.   Hike the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Combination Loop

The Queen’s Garden/Navajo Combination Loop is the Bryce Canyon National Park’s most popular hike. It’s about three miles and takes two to three hours to complete.

The walk out of the canyon can be strenuous as it’s a 600-foot elevation change over a short distance.

Hikers access the trailhead from either the sunrise or sunset viewpoints. By hiking clockwise, you get stunning views of the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater as you descend the trail.

Along this trail, hikers get an up-close view of the iconic Thor’s Hammer rock formation. The entirety of this loop isn’t open during the winter because of ice and snow, but you can make it an out-and-back trail to Queen’s Garden year-round.

Wide landscape shot looking into the valley of hoodoos at bryce canyon national park.

2.  Hike the Rim Trail

For a more accessible trail and a different perspective, hike the Rim Trail. It begins at Bryce Point and follows the edge of the Bryce Amphitheater area.

Hikers can walk out to Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point along this trail for spectacular overlooks.

Because the shuttle service picks up and drops off along these points, you can walk as little or as much of the Rim Trail as you’d like and pick up the shuttle at these various locations.

3. Attend A Hoodoo Geology Talk

When you visit Bryce Canyon National Park, learn more about the hoodoos.

Attend a 20-30-minute ranger talk during your visit along the rim at Sunset Point to explore the evolution of these rock formations. You can take the shuttle, listen to this short talk, and then walk the Rim Trail to enjoy the fantastic views.

These geology talks are offered daily at 11 AM during the peak season.

Up close shot of hoodoos at bryce canyon national park.

Visit This Hidden Gem In Bryce Canyon National Park

After a couple of hours of hiking, head over to The Lodge at Bryce Canyon Restaurant for lunch or dinner.

You can enjoy the soup and salad buffet or order an entree from the menu. It’s also open for breakfast if you want to fill your belly before heading out on a morning excursion.

It’s near the Sunset Point parking lot, where you can easily access the Rim Trail. The restaurant isn’t open during the winter.

Pro Tip: After all the hiking you’ll do in Bryce Canyon, plan to visit some of The Best Hot Springs in Utah!

Best Place For Camping Near Bryce Canyon National Park

North Campground has 100 campsites inside the park. Although there are no hookups, a dump station is available in summer.

There’s also potable water. This campground is near the Visitor Center, General Store, and Fairyland Loop/Rim Trail.

Sunset Campground has 99 campsites inside the park. Like North Campground, there aren’t any hookups, but guests can access the dump station and potable water at North Campground. Sunset Campground is near Sunset Point.

If you prefer full hookups, stay at Ruby’s Inn just outside the park. It’s the closest campground to Bryce Canyon and has a propane refill station, bathhouses, a general store, a restaurant, a post office, a pool and hot tub, a fitness center, an auto care center, and more. 

Rae and Jason taking a selfie in front of some hoodoos at bryce canyon national park.

Is Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park Worth It?

Bryce Canyon National Park is truly a wonder! Whether you visit in the winter to view a magical wonderland of hoodoos covered in a blanket of white or in the summer to take advantage of all the hiking trails into the canyon, there’s year-round excitement and awe here.

There’s a reason over two million people come to Bryce Canyon every year. Will you be one of them?

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