Coordinates: Bryce Canyon National Park

September 12, 2016

by Melanie Ott
Coordinates: Bryce Canyon National Park

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Coordinates: Bryce Canyon National Park

Located off Scenic Highway 12 in Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is 56 square miles of sunset-colored rock, pine tree forests and varied trails. 

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National Park: Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Utah 

Iconic Feature

Hoodoos – rock formations created by the area’s unique thaw/freeze cycle, where 200 days a year, temperatures rise above freezing during the day and drop below at night, causing water to melt, seep into rocks, then freeze and expand, breaking away pieces in a process called frost wedging. Rain water then smooths the edges over time. 

The Park

Located off Scenic Highway 12 in Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is 56 square miles of sunset-colored rock, pine tree forests and varied trails. Beyond the park gates lies main canyon area, with spectacular viewpoints along the 18-mile park road. Panoramic views from the rim extend across the canyon all the way to Escalante Grand Staircase in the distance.  

Main Attractions

Bryce’s trail system consists of numerous paths experienced on foot or horseback. The Rim Trail meanders 11 miles around the top of Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, passing four popular viewpoints offering stunning sights of Bryce’s iconic hoodoos. Several high-trafficked trails lead in to the Amphitheater where you’ll find a system of intersecting paths around the canyon floor. 

The Queens Garden Trail provides a gentle path down into the canyon, while the Navajo Loop Trail descends quickly into Wall Street –a deep slot canyon with towering walls. Trails like Peek-A-Boo Loop and Fairyland Loop enter the heart of the Amphitheater where you’ll find fantastic structures like the Wall of Windows and the Cathedral, and monstrous hoodoo formations including the Three Wise Men and Thor’s Hammer. 

Backcountry Exploration

While the Amphitheater shows off Bryce Canyon’s renowned red rock and hoodoos, backcountry trails lead through flora-rich meadows and quiet forests of Spruce, Fir and Bristlecone pines. The Under-the-Rim Trail runs for 23 miles and connects multiple trails along the way. 

The backcountry is open for day hikes, but overnight stays are an option if you obtain a backcountry permit for one of 12 campsites. Bryce doesn’t take advance reservations for backcountry permits, so head to the visitor center first thing to pick one up. And to borrow a bear canister free of charge, which you’ll want considering regular black bear activity in the area.  

Lodging and Dining

If no backcountry permits are available, you have several options for overnight stays. Inside the park are North Campground and Sunset Campground, both with RV reservation sites and first come, first served RV and tent sites. Sunset closes during winter months, but North Campground leaves some first come, first served sites open year-round. Make your reservations up to six months in advance. 

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon has cabins, rooms and suites near the Amphitheater. All Lodge rooms are available during the peak season from late March to early November, and limited rooms during winter. You can check room availability here. Dining at the Lodge includes Bryce Canyon Restaurant with a rustic atmosphere and grand stone fireplace, and Valhalla Pizzeria and Coffee Shop preparing artisan and organic pizzas, homemade pastries, and brewed coffee and espressos. 

Five minutes outside the gate in Bryce Canyon City is Ruby’s Inn, with campgrounds, RV parks, cabins, tipis and motel rooms. Ruby’s also has a market, buffet and diner, and organizes several activities for visitors: horseback rides, guided ATV tours, winter activities, MTB rentals and even an occasional rodeo to name a few. For more information, visit Ruby’s website.

Within 10 minutes of the park, there are many other lodging options, including Bryce Canyon Pines motel and campground, Bryce Canyon Resort and Bryce View Lodge. 

Activities Outside the Park

Water sources in the park can be sparse and unreliable; however, there are several bodies of water in the area. Paiute for Big Fish, Panguitch Lake is one of the state’s best trout fisheries and a favorite for fly fishing and ice fishing. It is less than an hour from the park, and lake-side rentals are available for fishing, boating, water skiing and other water-based activities.  

Twenty-five minutes from the park in the Dixie National Forest you’ll find Tropic Reservoir,  a quieter place for fishing and non-motorized watercrafts like canoes, kayaks and SUPs. The area has campgrounds, RV sites and ATV trails as well. 

Cycling is allowed in the park only on paved trails, but mountain biking enthusiasts can head to nearby Red Canyon: Thunder Mountain Trail (8-mile trail); Casto Canyon Trail (14-mile loop); and Cassidy Trail (9-mile trail) where old Butch himself used to hole up, according to local folklore. For information on trails for biking, ATVs, horses and hiking in the area, go to the Garfield County Trails website

Best Season

With the exception of some road closures after large winter storms, Bryce Canyon is open 24 hours every day of the year. Summer months are the busiest with tourists enjoying the warm weather, and winter months attract snowshoers, cross-country skiers, backpackers and sledders.


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