How to Make the Best of Your One Day in Bryce Canyon National Park
Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Being absolutely true to ourselves, and wanting to cram in as much as possible in the short four day weekend, boyfriend and I only allotted a single day for Bryce Canyon. Actually, not even a single day, just about six hours.
We left our hotel in Springdale, UT around 6:30 AM in an effort to catch the sunrise on the top of Zion as we were leaving. We did not, in fact, catch the sunrise. That's OK though.
Springdale to Bryce Canyon is about a 2 hour drive. We made a few scenic stops along the way, so it took just a little bit longer than two hours. We arrived in Bryce Canyon around 9:30 AM.
I had spent extensive time researching our trip, researching the hiking trails in Zion, researching things to do in Salt Lake City, and travel times, but I hadn't done much research on Bryce. I had an idea as to the trails I wanted to take, but mostly, we went into this hike completely blind. Which is why I'm writing this down now to hopefully let someone else know the things we learned along the way!
Buy Your Entrance Online
You can easily purchase your park pass in advance online at recreation.gov If you're driving into the canyon in your own vehicle, you can just buy the vehicle pass for $35. That pass is good for 7 days, so if you have ample time you can go back over the course of a week.
I'm telling you this because I didn't know to purchase the vehicle pass - I purchased two individual passes for $20 each (which are also good for 7 days). Only purchase the individual pass if you're hiking or taking the shuttle into the park. Overall I only spent an extra $5 to get us in, and I'm OK with it as it does go to help maintain the park.
**Pro Tip: If you purchase your ticket online, screenshot the QR Code as cell service is spotty and you'll hold up the line trying to get your phone to open the app/email.
There's a Free Shuttle
The shuttle does a loop through Bryce Canyon National Park but starts in Bryce Canyon City. If you're staying in the city this is incredibly convenient!
But you should also be aware (as we were not) that there are free parking areas at each viewpoint. So you don't have to take the shuttle if you drove (as we did). You can bop in and out of each viewpoint and even hike a little, if you want.
Bryce Canyon Lodge Facilities
There are dining options in the middle of the park at stop 10 Bryce Lodge on the shuttle. Because of Covid restrictions, there is no indoor dining currently, but there are plenty of spaces to eat outside and they have a fairly extensive menu with pizza, coffee, sandwiches, pastries, etc.
Now the Hiking Bit
We started our trek at Bryce Point hiking the Rim Trail to Inspiration Point, which is about 1.5 miles. We, being from sea-level, and having only recently returned to a consistent exercise program, had to ask one of the park officials if the hike would be strenuous. He informed us that it's the easiest hike in the park. And, despite my paranoia that he was a disgruntled park employee lying to the jiggly masses for his own dark humor, he was actually correct. It was a pretty easy hike with the absolute best views of the canyon.
Keep in mind, when I say it was easy - I mean that relatively. We had moments of heavy breathing and screaming muscles. There's also this one area where there's a drop off on both sides. This trek is at the very top of the canyon, with an altitude ranging from 8,000-9,000 feet. So the air is thinner and dryer than we sea-level, humidity-breathing dwellers are used to.
The Actual Hike
Once we got to Inspiration Point, we hopped back onto the shuttle to Sunset Point.
We decided to hike the Navajo Loop Trail, which is roughly 3 miles long. We overheard a park official telling another group that the best hike would be to start on the Queens Garden, which is roughly a mile long from Sunset Point. And that's an easy one because if you find that the hike isn't too strenuous, you can continue forward to the Navajo Loop, but if you find that 1 miles nearly kills you, there's an easy turnaround point.
Our initial plan was to follow those instructions. And then we started walking.
There was a small cave the lured us toward Wall Street. And in the end, I think that was a great decision for us. While each end of the hike (the incline) were difficult I think walking down Wall Street is the smarter choice. I think it's a steeper, longer incline whereas the other side of the Navajo Loop is a slower incline. But I could be wrong.
We were so optimistic at this point - as we headed downward.
It was amazing to trek through this canyon, the walls taller than pictures can really depict.
I do believe this is why they call it Wall Street.
Don't be mistaken as I was. This is NOT Thor's Hammer. It looks like it could be, but it's not. Thor's Hammer is actually at the top of the canyon and is MUCH larger than this clump of rock.
This is the part where I highly recommend you learn about Yoga Breaths. We got back into yoga at the start of 'Rona, and had learned deep yoga breaths. If you can control your breathing - you are in control of your body. Getting up this incline was no joke. We (and several other people) had to stop and rest at just about every curve. At one point, a girl just sat down and started crying. I hope she made it.
So there you have it! Bryce Canyon can be conquered in just six hours (if you're pressed for time - if you're not, definitely spend more time here!). While I recommend hiking down into the canyon, I know that's not an option, physically for everyone. So you can take the scenic drive (which follows the shuttle route) and go to all the viewpoints to take in the majesty of the canyon without putting your body through physical hell.
Good luck, travelers!