Bryce Canyon National Park is located in Utah in the USA. It is well known for its surreal landscape of colorful geological formations like hoodoos, fins and natural bridges. Bryce Canyon isn’t a canyon, but a series of amphitheaters carved out by water and ice.
Visitors find many things to do at Bryce Canyon like hiking the trails to appreciate the hoodoos from the canyon floor and viewing the vast landscape from the overlooks along the Scenic Drive.
One of the best things to experience at the park is the early morning when the pink-orange sandstone glows with brilliant color. This is the best time to photograph the amphitheater and hoodoos.
We always recommend you begin your visit at Bryce Canyon with the Scenic Drive viewpoints and end at the Amphitheater. Drive to Rainbow Point at the southern end of the road and head back towards the Amphitheater. This way all the overlook stops will be on your right to avoid left turns on a busy and winding road.
The Scenic Drive is 18 miles one way and should take about 1 to 2 hours to stop at all viewpoints. If you plan to do serious photography at each stop, then allow 3-4 hours. On a clear day, you can see 100 miles in all directions from the various viewpoint stops along the road.
Rainbow and Yovimpa Point
The elevation at the Visitor Center is about 8,000 feet, but you gain 1,100 feet as you drive to Rainbow Point. The Scenic Drive ends at the combined parking area for Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point. At this stop enjoy the view the colorful hoodoos in Rainbow Canyon. Take a short walk along the Bristlecone Loop Trail to see an 1,800-year-old bristlecone pine which is one of the oldest living things at Bryce Canyon.
At this overlook, you can see hoodoos and sweeping views to the north and south. The name Ponderosa Canyon came from the huge Ponderosa Pines on the canyon floor below the overlook. Some of these trees are over 150 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter, but it’s hard to see how tall the trees are from the top of the canyon.
The scene at Agua Canyon showcases some of the best contrasts of color in the park. Be sure to look for the two prominent hoodoos named The Hunter and The Rabbit, or the Backpacker, or the Thumb. Which name do you think best describes this rock formation?
Natural Bridge is really an arch. This overlook is one of the more popular stops on the scenic drive. When you photograph Natural Bridge, try to find a spot where you can see the green Ponderosa trees through the arch. The green adds a nice pop of color.
The most concentrated grouping of hoodoos in Bryce Canyon is found in The Amphitheater section of the park which can be viewed from various overlooks along the rim. The Bryce Point overlook provides a one of the best views of the entire amphitheater of hoodoos. It’s a good location to photograph at sunrise because the tops of the hoodoos glow with light.
There are 3 viewpoints at this overlook – lower, mid and upper Inspiration Point. The short hike to the upper viewing areas is worth the effort. The cliffs here have are exceptionally dangerous. Stay behind railings and stay away from the edge along the trails. Inspiration Point is a good location for taking panorama photos.
Sunset Point provides the most dramatic scene of hoodoos which features the famous ‘Silent City’. This is a close grouping of hoodoos and fins found directly below the point and to the south. All the viewpoints here face east which is perfect for sunrise to capture the soft light as it illuminates the amphitheater to the west. It is not a good location to photograph the Sunset so don’t let the name fool you!
Thor’s Hammer is probably the most well-known and photographed formations at Bryce. It’s just below the overlook of Sunset Point, but the view from up top is lackluster. The best way to see Thor’s Hammer is along the Navajo trail.
If you can only do one hike at Bryce Canyon, you must hike the Navajo-Queen’s Garden Trail to see the hoodoos up close. If you don’t want to hike the complete loop trail, you should at least walk down the trail enough to see Thor’s Hammer up close.
Yes, Sunrise Point is a good location to view the sunrise as well as the sunset. It is on the northern side of the Bryce Amphitheater where you can access the Queen’s Garden trail and descend to the canyon floor to explore the Queen’s Garden.
The Queen’s Garden is a small area with interesting rock formations that include Gulliver’s Castle, the Queen’s Castle, and Queen Elizabeth herself. To reach the garden, take the Queen’s Garden Trail for about 1 mile. The trail drops about 320 feet in that 1 mile. Remember you will need to be able to hike back up and out!
Visit the Bryce Canyon National Park website for more details of the park.
Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Here are my top picks for accommodation near Bryce Canyon National Park.
Bybee Steppingstone Motel
Located just 15 minutes drive from Bryce Canyon National Park in the town of Tropic. Bybee Steppingstone Motel offers free Wi-Fi, onsite check-in for Grand Stair Case ATV tours, flat-screen cable TV with satellite channels in all rooms, terrace with garden views, min-fridge, kettle and toaster as well as air-conditioning. Book Now
Best Western Ruby’s Inn
Located 1.6 km from Bryce Canyon National Park, this Utah hotel offers convenient amenities and comfortable accommodations just minutes from Scenic Byway 12 and the Escalante National Monument. Each room is air-conditioned and comes with a TV. Every room is equipped with a private bathroom. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. Book Now
Bryce Canyon Inn Cabins
Offering a restaurant on site, this inn is 15 minutes’ drive from Bryce Canyon National Park in the town of Tropic. All rooms feature mountain views, free WiFi access, air-conditioning, cable TV and en suite bathrooms with a hairdryer. Select rooms provide a kitchen with a refrigerator and a dining area. Book Now
About The Authors
David and Jamie, Photo Jeepers
David enjoys photography and exploring areas off the beaten path in the jeep. Jamie plans and organizes the travel itineraries and details. We share our photos and stories to Inform and Inspire you to explore new places and capture your adventure with photographs. Contact us if you have questions about Canyonlands, or any other National Park in the Western United States.
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