Bryce Canyon National Park is known for colorful sandstone hoodoos and miles of trails through challenging terrain in a group of naturally-formed amphitheaters. Located about 50 miles northeast of Zion National Park, Bryce adds a vivid dimension to any Utah trip.
With the rim of Bryce at 8 – 9000 feet above sea level, the park is at a much higher altitude than Zion and usually about 10 degrees cooler. However, as one hikes down into the Bryce Amphitheater, temps also rise significantly, just as they do in the Grand Canyon.
Bryce is not as crowded as Zion or the Grand Canyon, due to its more remote location. Still, nearly 2.5 million people visit the park each year. During summer, the park uses a shuttle system to move visitors about, as parking spaces tend to fill up early in the day.
While visitors do hike Bryce, most people stop at the various scenic overlooks and take photos. The most popular area is within the first three miles of the park, along the edge of the Bryce Amphitheater. For those who follow the park road for 18 miles to Rainbow Point, the full measure of the park can be seen.
The busiest trails are along the rim, and those shorter loops that traverse down into the Bryce Amphitheater. The 5.5 mile (one way) Rim Trail from Fairyland to Bryce Point includes some steep elevation changes and hits many of the popular scenic overlooks.
The Navajo Loop traverses tight switchbacks, through enormous red and orange hoodoos and doorways cut into the colorful rock, along wide packed-sand paths and a scrubby pine landscape along the floor.
Sunset Point, Sunrise Point, Inspiration Point, Rainbow Point… one can spend the entire day taking photos as the sun moves across the sky, as the changing light brings out different effects in the red, orange, yellow and white sandstone pillars.
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon has guest rooms, a gift shop and a decent restaurant, with a nice variety of menu items.
Lots of cabins dot the area around the Lodge, with communal showers and bathrooms, for a more rustic approach. Tent and RV camping in two specific areas is also permitted.
Lodging within the park fills up quickly, so many visitors stay at one of the several hotels or campgrounds just outside the park. Restaurants generally offer basic road food, with lots of burgers, fries and sandwiches.
Our favorite place to eat was Rustlers Restaurant in nearby Tropic. It had the best variety and freshest food in the area. It’s attached to the only decent market near the park and a really good ice cream shop.
We added on to our Bryce Canyon trip with a quick visit to Willis Creek Slot Canyon, south of Cannondale. We were able to make it out the six-mile sandy, dirt road encountering a few challenging slippery spots, with our two-wheel drive SUV. When it’s wet, four-wheel drive is a must.
Willis Creek was very hot on a June afternoon – a better call would be to do that hike in the morning. The yellow and black walls of rock provided a fascinating backdrop. The trail end to end is over three miles, so out and back can be long commitment. Luckily, one can easily turn around and make the trek shorter.
We also visited the Mossy Cave grotto. Even in June, frozen bits of ice could be seen deep in the shelter cave. In the late 1800s, Mormon pioneers created a water channel that is fed by Mossy Cave and nearby springs from Bryce. The year-round source of water feeds nearby farms and towns.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a unique place and well-worth the travel time to visit. It’s another scenic and wonderful way to Get Out of Town!
For more information on the park, visit the official website here.
Editor’s Note: While there’s always a lot going on in Burbank, myBurbank’s “Get Out Of Town!” highlights some of our favorite activities and events outside the town borders.