Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Kelly
Bryce Canyon is one of the most unique national parks you will ever visit! One look at the landscape and you will think you are on a different planet. Bryce Canyon is filled with hundreds of distinctive red stone pillars (called hoodoos). Bryce Canyon has more hoodoos than any other place in the world. It’s truly a whimsical place, and it’s definitely possible to visit with just one day at Bryce Canyon National Park! In this post, we’re sharing our one-day itinerary for Bryce Canyon National Park.
We personally visited Bryce Canyon National Park in one day, and we’re sharing our best tips!
In this post, we’re including two variations of our itinerary. In the first itinerary, we’ll share how to visit Bryce Canyon with a personal vehicle. In the second, we’ll share an itinerary using the the park’s shuttle system.
Important Information About Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is open 365 days a year. (Note that the visitor center and fee booths are closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving.) The park is open 24 hours a day. You don’t need reservations for the shuttle or for park tickets.
You can purchase park tickets at the entrance or in advance. A personal vehicle pass is $35 and will last 7 days. Because we visited multiple national parks during our trip, we purchased the America the Beautiful annual pass for $80. This pass allows entry to over 2,000 federal recreation sites, so if you’re planning on visiting three or more during one calendar year, it’s a good deal!
There is free public WiFi at the Visitor Center, and cellular access will vary widely within the park. We had cell signal at all the points listed on the shuttle loop.
One Day at Bryce Canyon National Park (Car Itinerary)
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks. It receives almost 3 million visitors each year. When we went on our road trip through Utah and Arizona, many travelers we met on the road told us that Bryce was their favorite national park. After our visits to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, Horseshoe Bend, and Grand Canyon National Park, we were eager to see for ourselves if Bryce Canyon would be our favorite too. (Spoiler…it was, and you’ll see why!)
Like many travelers, we had one day to spend at Bryce Canyon National Park. We did a lot of research building the perfect itinerary, and now we are sharing it with you so you can make the most of your trip!
So now that you know a little about the park, it’s time to plan your day! Here’s the itinerary we suggest for one day at Bryce Canyon National Park if you have a personal vehicle. (Scroll down to the shuttle itinerary below if you are planning on using the shuttle system!)
|Arrive at park entrance
|Begin at Sunrise Point
|Hike Queens Garden Trail
|Walk from Sunrise to Sunset Point
|Navajo Loop Trail
|Walk back to Sunrise Point
|Drive to Inspiration Point
|Drive to Bryce Point
|Drive to Rainbow Point
|Dinner at Bryce Canyon Pines
|Ice cream and shopping at Old Bryce Town
We recommend you wake up early so you can avoid a line at the park entrance. If you’re driving your own vehicle, you’ll also be more likely to secure a parking spot at Sunrise Point.
Once you arrive at Sunrise Point, you’ll want to spend a few minutes enjoying your first view of Bryce Canyon. There are many benches along the rim so you can really take your time there.
The trailhead to Queens Garden Trail begins at Sunrise Point. This is the easiest trail into the canyon to see the hoodoos up close and personal. The trail is 1.8 miles long and takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. You’ll start by descending 320 feet into the canyon, and you’ll eventually regain 320 feet of elevation when you return to the canyon rim. The trail is named after a hoodoo that resembles Queen Victoria overlooking the “garden” before her. The Queens Garden Trail is an out-and-back trail, meaning you’ll return to Sunset Point when you are finished.
Once you complete the trail, you’ll enjoy a nice walk along the canyon rim to Sunset Point. The walk is a little over half a mile from Sunrise Point and is fairly flat. From this vantage point, you’ll have an excellent view of the Silent City below you, as well as Thor’s Hammer (a hoodoo that is distinctly separate from the others). Be sure to see our full post about the trail from Sunrise to Sunset Point.
After all of that walking, enjoy a packed lunch and rest for a little while. If you didn’t pack a lunch, you can grab a to-go meal at the Bryce Canyon Lodge which is within walking distance. (Open seasonally.)
If you have enough energy, the next hike is the Navajo Loop Trail. The entrance to the trail is at Sunset Point and it is an out-and-back loop. It takes between one to two hours to complete the hike. (Note that some portions of the trail may be closed seasonally. Check current conditions or speak with a park ranger before starting your hike.)
After your hike, you can walk back to Sunrise Point to get your vehicle. At this point you will have completed all of the hikes for the day, and the rest of the itinerary is focused on driving to viewpoints.
Next you’ll drive to Inspiration Point. There are three levels of viewing decks in which you can see the canyon. The name of this viewpoint will make complete sense to you as you see the canyon below you.
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Looking for a fun activity? Try horseback riding at Bryce Canyon!
Then, you’ll drive to Bryce Point. This is an excellent place to see the sunrise if you have an extra day to wake up early. The morning rays will light up the red hoodoos for an amazing sight to behold.
If you are on schedule and you are up for one more viewpoint, you can then drive approximately half an hour to Rainbow Point. Rainbow Point is one of the highest viewpoints in the park. This area tends to be a little less crowded since it is further away into the park.
After a very full day at the park, you have surely earned a solid dinner. We recommend you eat at Bryce Canyon Pines, which is approximately a 40 minute drive from Rainbow Point (as you exit the park). We recommend the Green Bean Fries as an appetizer. They are crunchy and have a little kick! And you have to save room for the pie, which was easily one of the best pies we have ever tasted. We chose the banana blueberry cream pie and it was heaven!
After dinner, head to Old Bryce Town for shopping, and if you’re up for it, ice cream. The Bryce Canyon Rock Shop has an assortment of local rocks, fossils, and petrified wood. They also have a large rock yard outside to comb through as well. Once you’re finished looking around, walk back to your hotel and have a good rest!
For a full list of all our posts about things to do in Utah, click here!
One Day at Bryce Canyon National Park (Shuttle Itinerary)
The itinerary below has been slightly modified for the shuttle schedule (which travels in reverse of the itinerary listed above).
|Catch the shuttle
|Stop at Bryce Point
|Stop at Inspiration Point
|Stop at Sunset Point
|Navajo Loop Trail
|Walk to Sunrise Point
|Queens Garden Trail
|Stop at the Visitor Center
|Dinner at Bryce Canyon Pines
|Ice cream and shopping at Old Bryce Town
You can view full descriptions of each of the stops in the previous itinerary for personal vehicles.
Itinerary for Bryce Canyon Without Hiking
You can see a lot at Bryce Canyon National Park even if you don’t want (or aren’t able) to complete the hikes. We recommend that you do the following:
- Enter the park early, before 8am, to beat the crowds
- Drive to Sunrise Point to see the lookout
- Visit Bryce Canyon Lodge
- Visit Sunset Point
- Drive to Inspiration Point
- Drive to Bryce Point
- Then drive to Rainbow Point
- Finally, drive back to the Visitor Center
There’s minimal walking from each of these stops to the viewpoints, so they are much more accessible.
If You Have an Extra Day… Hike the Mossy Cave Trail!
The Mossy Cave Trail will take you to (you guessed it) a mossy cave, but we think that the highlight of the trail is really a beautiful waterfall. As far as waterfalls go, it’s fairly small (about 15 feet), but seeing the flowing water juxtaposed against the dry bedrock truly captivated us.
If you have an extra morning or afternoon on either side of your day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, we highly recommend visiting this trail. It turned out to be one of our favorites!
The trail is located on the northern section of the park, outside of the main entrance and loop described in the itinerary above. It’s only accessible by private vehicle. (The shuttle doesn’t run here.) There is a small parking lot on the side of the road, but it’s often full, so we recommend that you visit this hike early in the morning or later in the evening. There’s a pit toilet at the trailhead.
The trail is easy and family-friendly. It’s only .8 miles out-and-back. You’ll follow a stream and cross over a bridge, and then the trail will fork to the left or right. If you go to the left, you’ll see the mossy cave. (It’s really more of an overhang with some moss growing underneath it.) In the winter, you might see icicles within the cave. If you follow the fork to the right a short distance, you’ll find the waterfall.
Transportation Within Bryce Canyon National Park
Because there are many visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park during the summer, the National Park Service created a free shuttle for guests to access the park. The shuttle isn’t mandatory (you can still drive your own vehicle), but it is eco-friendly and convenient! Just be sure to check the shuttle operating hours depending on what month you visit the park. The shuttle buses typically run every 15 minutes, and there is even an online shuttle tracker so you can be sure when the next shuttle is arriving. You can catch the shuttle in Bryce Canyon City (many of the hotels have shuttle stops), and the shuttle will take you to the following points of interest:
- Sunset Campground
- Bryce Point
- Inspiration Point
- Sunset Point
- Bryce Canyon Lodge
- Sunrise Point
- Bryce Canyon Visitor Center
If you bring your own vehicle, you may find difficulty parking, especially during peak season. Be prepared to circle around parking lots waiting for a space. We saw rangers close some parking lots with signs that said “lot full” and wouldn’t even allow cars to circle the lot. (Thankfully we were on the way out at that point!) Visitors were told to come back at a later time.
For the best chances of seeing everything you want to see, start your day very early and beat the crowds. If you only have one day at Bryce Canyon, you don’t want to be spending it circling around a parking lot. Either start your day very early, or plan to use the shuttle.
Where to Stay at Bryce Canyon (Hotels, Campgrounds, Lodges, and more)
You have several options for high-quality lodging when visiting the park. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. We liked staying at this hotel because its within walking distance of Old Bryce Town and restaurants. It’s also one of the stops on the shuttle line. The complimentary buffet breakfast was the best of our entire trip, with dozens of hot and cold breakfast options. It was a convenient and easy way to start our day!
Another popular place to stay is Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn. The shuttle also stops here, and there’s a gift shop and restaurant right at this hotel. They coordinate a lot of activities, including mountain biking, horseback riding, and guided ATV tours. Ruby’s Inn also has a campground for RVs and tents.
There is only one lodge within the park, and that is the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. You’ll need reservations far in advance, as it’s a popular place to stay. Staying within the park has its advantages (the canyon is right in front of the lodge!), and it has a lot of rustic charm.
There are also two campgrounds within Bryce Canyon National Park: North Campground and Sunset Campground. (Both of which are located near the Visitor Center.)
Restaurants Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Within the park, the Lodge at Bryce Canyon has dining options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner within their dining room. Check their website for seasonal operating hours. In addition to the restaurant at the lodge, there is also Valhalla Pizzeria and Coffee Shop.
Outside the park, we recommend Ruby’s Inn Cowboy’s Buffet & Steak Room. They have a wide menu and you can choose from either entrees or the buffet. We ate there several times because it was conveniently located by our hotel.
The restaurant is located about a block away from Bryce Canyon City Park Playground. We brought our toddler there and she really enjoyed running around after dinner.
The Canyon Diner serves fast food and pizza and is great for a quick meal.
Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill features live country music and barbecue (open seasonly).
Our favorite restaurant was Bryce Canyon Pines, which we included in the itinerary above. We highly recommend you eat there at least once! (And be sure to get pie for dessert!)
For dessert, you can stop by Old Bryce Town for some hand-dipped ice cream.
What to Pack to Bryce Canyon National Park
You’ll want to bring sufficient water for a full day at the park. Pack more than you think you’ll need. (It’s never a bad thing to have an extra water bottle.)
Sun protection is important, so you’ll want to bring your favorite sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat.
If you’re planning on going hiking, bring the 10 Essentials with you.
You might want to bring binoculars so you can see the details across the canyon. Be sure to bring comfortable walking or hiking shoes. Dress in layers so you are prepared for a variety of temperatures throughout the day. A portable charger will ensure that your phone doesn’t run out of battery. You’ll need a comfortable daypack to carry all of your things, one of which should be a first aid kit.
Summary: One Day at Bryce Canyon National Park
We hope this post was helpful in planning one day at Bryce Canyon National Park. We definitely think it’s worth spending a single day at Bryce Canyon. When we visited Bryce Canyon National Park, we were able to see most of the sights in just a single day. In our opinion, it’s definitely worth visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, even if you just have one day! If you get an early start to your day, you’ll have plenty of time to see the major sites!
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