Last Updated on September 17, 2022
Bryce Canyon is an underrated national park in Utah that often gets overlooked for more time in nearby Zion National Park. It is definitely worth taking a little extra time to hike in Bryce Canyon to have the best experience possible. Even with just one day in Bryce Canyon, you can see the highlights and do a hike or two. Bryce Canyon is a must-see on any Southwest USA road trip.
Bryce Canyon is a unique national park home to brilliant orange hoodoo rock formations in a series of large natural amphitheaters along the east side of the park. It is home to both iconic Utah landscapes and endangered Utah prairie dogs. This Bryce Canyon one day itinerary will help you see all the best landscapes in Bryce Canyon National Park.
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Table of Contents
Is Bryce Canyon Worth Seeing?
Absolutely! Bryce Canyon is incredibly beautiful and home to a unique landscape that can’t be found outside of this area (except nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument.) Bryce Canyon is such a unique place because of the large number of hoodoos set in a spectacular natural amphitheater. The hoodoos were formed by a three-step process: the deposition of rocks, uplifting of the land, and weathering and erosion from ice and water. The unique shapes of the individual hoodoos can be contributed to slight variations in the rock composition.
Can Bryce Canyon Be Done in One Day?
Yes! The main area of the park isn’t too large so you should be able to see the main sights and go on some small hikes, especially with this one day in Bryce Canyon itinerary in hand.
Can You Drive Your Car Through Bryce Canyon?
Yes, you can drive through the main area of the park on the scenic drive and it is all paved. If you do not want to drive, there is also a shuttle you can use to see the sights, but it is not required like at Zion.
The Bryce Canyon shuttle is free and runs from April to mid-October. You do need proof of admission if you’re getting on outside of the park either with a national park pass or a digital admission pass. The shuttle is a great option if you plan to do any one-way hikes along the Rim Trail. It usually arrives at each stop every fifteen minutes but the Bryce Canyon Shuttle Tracker can keep you updated.
The best place to get on is at the Shuttle Station in Bryce Canyon City or the visitor center. From April 1st to May 13th and September 26th to October 23rd it runs from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. From May 14th to September 25th, it runs from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The shuttle is also a good choice for anyone with a vehicle over 20 feet (6 m) long.
Is Bryce Canyon or Zion Better?
Bryce Canyon and Zion are both amazing national parks in Utah and they are located not far from each other. It is hard to choose which is better, especially if you only have one day and can only visit one. One has sweeping landscape views and the other will dwarf you with its towering canyon walls. Both are extremely impressive in their own ways.
Bryce Canyon is better if you like sweeping overlooks that are easy to get to, cool rock formations that can’t be found many other places, and fewer people. It is still busy, but not quite as busy as Zion. You can also see most of Bryce Canyon quite easily in one day.
Zion is better if you want to experience being surrounded by towering canyon walls, to hike Angels Landing or The Narrows, and do not mind crowds or the requirement to use the Zion shuttle bus. Zion also has awe-inspiring views but most of them require hiking to get to. It is hard to see most of Zion in one day, but you can still see many of the most famous locations.
Directions to Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon covers 35,835 acres (143 sq km) in southwest Utah sitting at 9,115 feet (2,778 m) at its highest point, higher than any other of the Mighty Five Utah National Parks. It is almost in the center of a lot of amazing places in Utah like Kanab, Zion, and Escalante. It is very easy to get to from both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas airports for one day in Bryce Canyon.
Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon National Park
The drive from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon National Park is just under 4.5 hours, about 268 miles (432 km), almost entirely on Interstate 15. It is an easy drive and there are plenty of rental car options to get you there from Las Vegas. Check out RentalCars.com for a comparison of all the top brands to find the best price for your trip!
Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon National Park
It is almost the exact same distance from the Salt Lake City International Airport to Bryce Canyon. It is just over four hours and 274 miles (440 km) also almost entirely on Interstate 15. For being on the Interstate, the drive is fairly scenic. There are also plenty of rental car options in Salt Lake City. Check out RentalCars.com for a comparison of all the top brands to find the best price for your trip!
One Day in Bryce Canyon: Everything You Must See
Bryce Canyon is a national park unlike any other and it is actually not a canyon but an amphitheater. It’s at a higher elevation than other Utah national parks (keep that in mind when hiking) and it is the only national park where you can see the threatened Utah prairie dog. While the main scenic drive can be busy, it is easy enough to get away from the crowds on the trails within the park.
Start Your Day at Sunrise or Sunset Point
Sunrise and Sunset point are two of the best starting points for your one day in Bryce Canyon, or even ending it. Of course, based upon the name, starting your day here at sunrise is highly recommended to watch the sun rise over the mountains and begin to touch the bright orange red rock of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater. They are also the starting point for a lot of hiking trails. These are the two main viewpoints that overlook the Bryce Amphitheater. This is one of the most beautiful views in Bryce Canyon so you’ll definitely want to spend some time here, take some photos, and enjoy the amazing view.
Facilities: Sunset Point has bathrooms, a picnic area, and water. Sunrise Point has a picnic area, a general store (open in summer), bathrooms, and water.
What to Bring: If you are hiking from here down into the amphitheater, bring plenty of water.
Helpful Tips: Even if you do not make it here for sunrise, it is great to see any time. This area can get very busy though, so the earlier you can get there, the better. If you get a reservation at The Lodge, you won’t have to worry about that as much.
Optional: Hike the Navajo Loop or Queen’s Garden Trail
The Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Trail is a Bryce Canyon must-see. It is one of the best hikes in the park and the easiest way to walk among the hoodoos, which will make your one day in Bryce Canyon so much better. It is a moderate hike, but very easy to follow the well-worn paths. If you combine both trails, it is 2.8 miles (4.4 km) round-trip with 620 feet (189 m) of elevation gain. You can also do just one of the trails but it isn’t much longer to do both.
The Queens Garden Trail is 1.8 miles (3 km) with 320 feet (98 m) of elevation gain and the Navajo Loop Trail is 1.4 miles (2.2 km) with 515 feet (157 m) of elevation gain. One, or both, of these trails are a great option to include in your Bryce Canyon one day itinerary if you want to hike. which is highly recommended. The best way to experience the park is by getting below the rim.
Location on Google Maps: The Lodge at Bryce Canyon (the trail starts here)
Facilities: Bathrooms, water, picnic area
What to Bring: Plenty of water and hiking poles if you use them
Helpful Tips: This trail is a little steep and the higher elevation of Bryce Canyon National Park can make it more difficult than you may be used to, so take your time and don’t rush. This trail can be very busy but hiking on part of the Peekaboo Trail can get you away from the crowds.
Visit Inspiration Point
Beginning your drive through the park, your first stop is just a minute away. Just off of the side road to Paria View you can find your first stop, Inspiration Point. This viewpoint provides another incredible view of the Bryce Amphitheater, but from a new perspective. Unlike Sunrise and Sunset Points, there is no fence at this view so it is beautiful and unobstructed. It is a great place for photos and only involves a short walk from the parking area.
Location on Google Maps: Upper Inspiration Point
What to Bring: Nothing special here
Helpful Tips: Inspiration Point would be a great alternative for watching the sunset. The view is accessible in the winter but the bathrooms are closed.
Drive to Bryce Point
Bryce Point is another great stop to enjoy the view of Bryce Amphitheater from an entirely new perspective. There are some hiking trails here including the Rim Trail, Peekaboo Loop, and Under-the Rim Trail to Rainbow Point. If you have more than one day in Bryce Canyon, or get there really early and have enough time, the Peekaboo Loop is a great hiking choice. Like Inspiration Point, this is a great alternative for enjoying sunset.
Location on Google Maps: Bryce Point
What to Bring: Nothing particular here.
Helpful Tips: Trailers cannot go past Inspiration Point but you could hike here on the Rim Trail from Inspiration Point. The shuttle also goes here if you do not want to hike over. If you have the time, hiking the Peekaboo Loop is a great way to experience the park with fewer people around as most people just stick to the main road.
Stop by the Natural Bridge
Arches National Park isn’t the only Utah park to have arches and bridges. You can find one right here, too! There are no hikes at this stop, just a beautiful overlook. The Natural Bridge is a Bryce Canyon must-see and it is a nice quick stop, great for photos and checking out a beautiful arch if you don’t have time to visit Arches National Park during this trip.
Location on Google Maps: Natural Bridge
What to Bring: Nothing special needed.
Helpful Tips: You do not need too much time at this stop since you can see the Natural Bridge just a very short walk from the parking area.
Ponderosa Canyon Viewpoint
To get a different view of Bryce Canyon, stop at the Ponderosa Canyon overlook. This is a unique view from the others on this list because you get to see the red rocks among the beautiful Ponderosa pine trees that inhabit this area of Utah. It is the convergence of two very different landscapes, and is a decidedly different view compare to the Bryce Amphitheater.
Location on Google Maps: Ponderosa Canyon Viewpoint
What to Bring: Nothing special needed here.
Helpful Tips: Since there aren’t any hiking trails here either, this is a nice quick stop. It is a great place for photos as well.
Yovimpa Point and Rainbow Point Viewpoint
The Yovimpa Point is just before the end of the scenic drive at Rainbow Point and is a great place to enjoy a picnic in the park. Both viewpoints can be accessed from the same parking lot amongst a small network of trails. There are quite a few different viewpoints here and fewer people, which is always great. There are also some trails here if you want to do some hiking. The Under-the-Rim trail starts (or ends) here as well as the Bristlecone Loop Trail and the Riggs Spring Loop Trail. This is a great place to end your Bryce Canyon one day itinerary by looking back towards where you came from.
The viewpoints here allow for sweeping views of Bryce Canyon National Park and the surrounding Dixie National Forest as the Rainbow Point viewpoint is at a towering 9,115 feet (2,778 m), which is over 1,100 feet (335 m) higher than your beginning viewpoints of Sunrise and Sunset Points.
Location on Google Maps: Yovimpa Point
Facilities: Bathrooms and picnic area.
What to Bring: If you are visiting in the summer, Yovimpa Point is a great spot for apicnic lunch or dinner.
Helpful Tips: This is the highest stop on the scenic drive at 9,115 feet (2,778 m) above sea level. If you do any hiking from here it may be a little more difficult than, say, Navajo Loop. All hiking from here would also begin downhill, and your return would be the uphill back to Yovimpa and Rainbow Point.
Optional: Revisit Sunset Point at Sunset
If you are still in the park around sunset, revisit Sunset Point to experience the magical glow of the hoodoos below. This overlook got its name for a reason and being able to watch the sunset there is an incredible experience. It is the perfect way to end your Bryce Canyon one day itinerary if you have the time.
Detailed Utah National Park Itineraries:
Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon and the visitor center is open year-round but summer is the most popular time to visit. Winter is also a great time to visit if you want a more unique experience and do not mind snow or limited services. There is no bad time to visit but they all have their ups and downs, different hours and services available.
Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park
Most things are closed in Bryce Canyon in winter but the park and the North Campground are both still open. Amenities and services are just a lot more limited. Winter hours are in effect from November 7th to March 14th. If you don’t mind the cold, seeing the snow on the red rock is an incredible and unique experience.
The only two roads closed in the winter are the road leading to Fairyland Point and the road to Paria View but they remain open to hikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers. The main road may temporarily close for a few days after snowstorms at mile marker 3 to be plowed. Only two trails close in the winter as well: the Wall Street side of Navajo Loop and the Rim Trail between Inspiration and Bryce Points. Other trails may occasionally close for safety. Microspikes are almost always necessary for winter hiking on icy trails. Snowshoes are almost always needed after a snowstorm.
Spring in Bryce Canyon National Park
Access and amenities are still a little limited in the spring but it’s still a nice time to visit. There may still be snow on the ground and temperatures can still be pretty cool but it isn’t very busy. The spring hours are in effect from March 13th to May 7th.
Summer in Bryce Canyon National Park
Summer in Bryce Canyon is the most popular time for visitors, meaning it is the busiest season. Crowds are bigger and it is the hottest time of year but it is the easiest time to visit because all of the services and amenities are up and running. Due to its elevation, Bryce Canyon does not have as high temperatures as some of the other Utah National Parks, or relatively nearby Grand Canyon National Park.
Fall in Bryce Canyon National Park
Early fall is one of the best times to visit Bryce Canyon because there are fewer crowds and the temperatures are more enjoyable than the summer. The fall season is from October 9th to November 6th. The lodge and both campgrounds will still be open and you can even see some fall colors on the trees here.
Best Place to Stay Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Unlike Zion, there aren’t as many places to choose from to spend the night nearby, but there are enough and we will help you pick the best hotels for your Bryce one day itinerary! There is also seasonal camping inside of the park.
Hotels at Bryce Canyon
There is only one hotel in the park, The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, but if you can manage a reservation here, it is worth it. It is not open year-round and you will have to book this almost a year in advance or call to check for cancellations closer to your trip. The lodge is open April 1st to October 31st and the Western Cabins are open May 15th to October 15th. This is a great place to stay so you can enjoy both sunrise and sunset in the park without having to get up as early to drive in or out.
Hotels Nearby Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon City is the closest and most popular place to stay near Bryce Canyon but it is more expensive. There are more hotels a short drive away, about 18 miles (28 km), in Panguitch that are more budget-friendly. In Bryce Canyon City, the Bryce Canyon Resort is a good budget choice and the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn is a good mid-range option. In Panguitch, the Rodeway Inn is good for a no-frills budget option and the Quality Inn is another good choice.
Bryce Canyon Camping
There are two campgrounds in the park, the North Campground is open year-round (reservations required May 27th to October 1st, first-come, first-serve October 2nd to May 26th) and the Sunset Campground is open April 15th to October 31st and is first-come, first-serve.
The North Campground is across from the visitor center and has 100 sites. There are no showers but flush toilets are available year-round. In the summer, it has a camp store, laundry, firewood, ice, a dump station, and potable water. There is no Internet or phone service here.
The 100-site Sunset Campground is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the visitor center. It does not have showers and only has portable toilets. In the summer there is a camp store, laundry, ice, firewood, a dump station, and potable water. There is no Internet or phone service here either.
The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a One Day Bryce Canyon Itinerary
If you just have one day in Bryce Canyon, you will want to make the most of that day and these top tips will help you do that. You will be able to hike and enjoy the Bryce Canyon must-sees if you keep these in mind when you are planning your visit.
Arrive on Time
As they say, the early bird gets the worm and that is also true here. If you get there early, you will be rewarded with better lighting, fewer crowds, and better temperatures during peak season. If you plan to drive your own car in the park, parking at overlooks along the scenic drive will be much easier earlier in the day, saving you time and a lot of frustration.
Bring Lots of Water
Be sure to bring a lot of water (and drink it) because there are not many options to refill or buy water along the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. If you just have one day in Bryce Canyon, you do not want to have to leave the park to get more water. You can pick some up at Bryce Canyon City on your way in.
Pack Everything You Need for the Day
Bryce Canyon City has most amenities you could need but it is best to bring everything you will want or need with you. Options are more limited in Bryce Canyon City than somewhere a little bigger. This way you also won’t have to worry about going in and out of the park for anything. You can pack a picnic lunch to enjoy along the canyon rim as there are many great picnic locations.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
The Bryce canyon scenic drive is a beautiful but very winding road, traveling 18 miles (29 km) in each direction. The road follows a ridge, giving you beautiful views on both sides for many sections of the drive. Be sure to keep your eyes on the road to make sure you’re ready for the next turn, are aware of other cars stopping to sight-see, and being aware of wildlife, such as the Utah prairie dogs!
Plan to Stay for Sunset
If you didn’t make it into the park in time for sunrise, staying until sunset to see the magical soft light on the red rocks is a must. If you do stay for sunset, consider sticking around to do some stargazing. If you are staying in Bryce Canyon City, you could always come back once it is darker, too.
One Day in Bryce Canyon Itinerary Summary
Bryce Canyon is a great park that can be covered in one day with ease. The stunning rock formations are truly from another planet and definitely worth a visit. Did we cover all of the best places to see on a one day in Bryce Canyon itinerary? Let us know in the comments! To have this Bryce Canyon Itinerary ready for your next trip be sure to pin this post to your USA Pinterest board!