Bryce Canyon National Park Travel Guide

USA  #9 in Best U.S. National Parks

Why Go To Bryce Canyon National Park

Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park occupies an otherworldly area composed of a dozen amphitheaters, or horseshoe-shaped canyons, on an eroded escarpment of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The whimsical formations of limestone rock, created by erosion and rain, are entrancing to visitors who love to explore the slot canyons, windows, fins and, most notably, the tall, skinny spires called hoodoos. In fact, Bryce Canyon National Park boasts more hoodoos than any other place in the world.

The park was named after a Scottish immigrant, Ebenezer Bryce, who settled in the region with his family in 1875. Locals called the canyon where they lived "Bryce's Canyon" and the name stuck, even after they moved to Arizona in 1880. With elevations reaching 9,115 feet, Bryce offers panoramic views of three states and about 200 miles of visibility. Since it's exposed to very little light pollution, the park offers optimal conditions for stargazing. In fact, you can see 7,500 stars on a moonless night.

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Bryce Canyon National Park Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Bryce National Park is May through September. Not only does this period offer the warmest weather of the year, it also yields plenty of ranger activities. October through April offers its own charms, too. There are fewer people, cooler temperatures and the fall foliage and wildflowers can be stunning. In the winter, the park is transformed by snow and visitors can go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. But remember: Because of its high elevation, the weather at Bryce Canyon in the fall, winter and spring can be quite variable.

Bryce National Park is open 24 hours a day, year-round, but from October through May, some roads, campgrounds and other visitor facilities are closed or operate on reduced hours. It's a good idea to check the current conditions on the National Weather Service website before your visit. 

Weather in Bryce Canyon National Park

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Average Temperature (°F)
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42
11
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Average Precipitation (in)
1.7
1.4
1.4
1.2
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0.6
1.4
2.2
1.4
1.4
1.2
1.6
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See details for When to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Pay to play A vehicle pass to the park costs $30; an individual pass – for a pedestrian on a bicycle or on foot – costs $15. Each pass is valid for seven consecutive days. This fee includes unlimited use of the park's shuttle service during its operating season.
  • Wear proper footwear The National Park Service says visitors wearing the wrong shoes or boots (those not designed for hiking) is the number one cause of rescues and injuries requiring hospital visits at Bryce Canyon National Park.
  • Park your car If visiting between mid-April and October, park your car and hop on the park's free shuttle. It reduces congestion in the park, allows you to sightsee and saves you from having to find a space in busy lots.

How to Save Money in Bryce Canyon National Park

  • Visit on an entrance-free day All national parks offer free admission days during the year. In 2018, these are Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week (April 21), National Public Lands Day (September 22) and Veterans Day.
  • Camp out With campsites starting at $20 a night, roughing it can save you a bundle. The park has two campgrounds, North and Sunset.
  • Pack a picnic There are several places to enjoy a picnic, so plan ahead and bring your own meal. You'll find picnic tables at Sunset Point, the General Store, Rainbow Point, Whiteman Bench and Mile 4.5 of the park road. 

What to Eat

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, which is generally open from late March through early November, is the only lodging in the park. It has three eateries, two in the lodge and one by the North Campground.

In the lodge, visitors can eat at the restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, or at Valhalla Pizzeria & Coffee Shop, also open for all meals. Menu items include seared salmon, quinoa primavera and bison stew. Valhalla features artisanal pizzas and Italian dishes, as well as home-baked pastries, espresso drinks and coffee. 

The General Store, located near the North Campground, offers grab-and-go items, such as pizza, soft pretzels, hot dogs, soup and sandwiches, that can be eaten on the porch or at picnic tables. Meanwhile, the grocery section sells fresh, frozen and canned foods, as well as soda, water and beer. 

You'll find more options on the outskirts of the park, including the popular Stone Hearth Grille, Foster's Family Steakhouse and Ebenezer's Barn and Grill.  

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Safety

Most injuries at Bryce Canyon National Park can be avoided with proper preparation, common sense and caution. This includes wearing the right shoes, being aware of the weather and driving safely. As in any natural setting, never approach, startle or feed any wild animal you encounter. Observe wildlife from a distance, and make sure you have food contained properly.

Though lightning is a year-round danger at Bryce Canyon National Park, it's especially threatening during the summer. Storms are most common in July, August and September but can happen any time of the year. To avoid injury, follow the NPS' rule of thumb, "when thunder roars, go indoors." If you can hear thunder, that means lightning is within 10 miles. Head to a shelter or your vehicle immediately.

As on any hike, preparation is key. Wear hiking boots with good ankle support and "lug" traction; don't climb or slide on cliffs (it's dangerous, as well as illegal); bring plenty of water to avert dehydration; stay on the trail; and wear a hat and sunscreen. It's important to remember that at Bryce Canyon National Park, elevations can reach 9,115 feet and Bryce's trails start at the top, which means you'll be returning uphill. 

Getting Around Bryce Canyon National Park

The best way to get around Bryce Canyon National Park is by shuttle and car. The park's free shuttle system operates from mid-April through late October. If you're visiting outside those months, a car is the best way to get around. To reach the park, you'll need to have your own car since there is no public transportation to the park.

Many visitors fly into McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), which are both located about 270 miles from the park. Car rentals are abundant at the airports and in the surrounding areas.

Learn about Neighborhoods in Bryce Canyon National Park

Photos

Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
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Witness the hoodoos appear to change color as the sun sets on the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. 

Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images

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