• By Kim Grant

Bryce Canyon in southern Utah is basically a series of natural amphitheaters sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock “hoodoos.” The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun.

Summertime offers a myriad of walking/hiking trails and a 37-mile scenic drive overlooking incredible vistas. Incredible. Stop along the way at the Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, and Bryce viewpoints.

Since Bryce Canyon National Park is at an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, we always visit for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing — something you might not have expected in the Utah desert. The Lodge Bryce Canyon Lodge, a national historic landmark, is open from April through October.

The park ranger programs are particularly good here. Share interesting facts and activities about the park, including wildlife stories, geologic history, kids’ interests, full moon hikes, astronomy, and snowshoeing.

Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon City, UT, USA

Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon City, UT, USA

Bryce Canyon Visitor Center, Bryce Canyon City, UT, USA

Canyon Trail Rides, Bryce Way, Tropic, UT, USA

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon City, UT, USA

Bryce Canyon City, UT, USA

Tropic, Utah, USA

Cannonville, UT, USA

Panguitch, UT, USA

Hatch, Utah, USA

Escalante, UT, USA

Boulder, Utah, USA

Hell's Backbone Grill & Farm, Utah 12, Boulder, UT, USA

Bryce Canyon National Park, North Campgrounds, Utah, USA

Stone Hearth Grille, West Stone Canyon Lane, Tropic, UT, USA

i.d.k. barbecue, North Main Street, Tropic, UT, USA

Best Things To Do in the Morning in Bryce Canyon National Park


According to AllTrails, Bryce Canyon National Park offers the second-best hiking of any National Park. (Nearby Zion is the first!). It’s the best way to immerse yourself in the amazing geography. Day hikes range from easy 1-mile loops to challenging 11-mile round-trip adventures. As you hike, be sure to check out the bristlecone pine trees for which Bryce is known. Bristlecone pines are the oldest trees in the world, even reaching 5,000 years of age in some places.

Trails run from easy to strenuous, with varying backdrops. Hike to a waterfall, red-rock hoodoos, spruce tree forests, the Bryce Amphitheater, and other famous landscapes. Navajo Loop Trail is a 1.3-mile hiking path that wanders through rock formations and draws you into the mystical hoodoos perspective. If you have time, continue along the Queen’s Garden trail for the best round-trip access to Bryce Canyon. The trail adds about 1.8 miles and rises 320 feet back up to Sunrise Point. Alternatively, take the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop combination from Sunrise Point to the canyon floor then return up the Navajo Trail. Depending on your pace, the approximately 3 miles of the combination hike will take about three hours. Always stop in at the visitor center first.

Best Things To Do in the Afternoon in Bryce Canyon National Park

man riding horse on brown rock formation under blue sky and white clouds during daytime
Photo by Danika Perkinson

Canyon Trail Rides

Canyon Trail Rides — guided horseback or mule rides along spectacular trails — are pretty special. Riders, both beginners and experienced, get an intimate view of the park’s otherworldly red rock formations, towering hoodoos, and dense pine forests. The well-trained, gentle animals make the ride comfortable, while the knowledgeable guides provide insightful commentary about the park’s geology, flora, and fauna. It’s an unforgettable way to witness the Park.  I always feel like I’ve stepped back a century in time.

Best Places for Dinner in Bryce Canyon National Park

In case you thought I forgot: I have no recommendations for breakfast or lunch in Bryce Canyon City, the closest-to-the-park gateway town. Get picnic fixings for lunch and eat in the park.

Stone Hearth Grille

A 15-minute drive from Bryce in the town of Tropic, the Stone Hearth Grille is a gem. The restaurant prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients in its dishes. Their menu changes seasonally; their wine list is extensive. Highlights include the grilled elk tenderloin, served with wild mushroom demi-glace, and the ruby red trout, a delicate dish with lemon caper butter. It’s all set against a stunning natural landscape, with outdoor seating available.

IDK Barbecue

For a relaxed, down-home dinner, IDK Barbecue in Tropic is a top pick. The menu features generous portions BBQ classics like pulled pork, tender brisket, and succulent ribs, all smoked to perfection. Each dish comes with a choice of sides like coleslaw, baked beans, or cornbread — plus homemade sauces from sweet to tangy to spicy.


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Best Places to Stay in Bryce Canyon National Park

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon offers guests the rare opportunity to stay within walking distance of the park’s breathtaking amphitheater. The historic cabins and lodges, nestled among ponderosa pines, offer a blend of rustic charm and modern comfort. The rooms are clean, comfortable, and outfitted with essential amenities. Imagine waking up to a sunrise lighting up the iconic hoodoos. You don’t have to. While the service can vary, the unparalleled access to starry night skies and the trailhead to the canyon floor make up for it.

Gateways & Camping

Bryce “gateway towns” might be a bit of a misnomer, but here they are:

  • Bryce Canyon City (population 291; 1.3 miles from the entrance)
  • Tropic (population 503; 10 miles)
  • Cannonville (population 189; 15 miles away)
  • Panguitch (population 1734; 23 miles away)
  • Hatch (population 136; 24 miles)
  • Escalante (population 813; 48 miles)

Boulder (population 236; 76 miles) isn’t a gateway but it is home to my absolute favorite place to eat in the area: Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm. And I think everyone should in Boulder if it’s not too long a drive — just so they can eat at Hell’s Backbone.

Camping: An overnight stay in one of Bryce Canyon National Park’s campgrounds is highly recommended to experience the early morning and late evening in Bryce when the pink-orange sandstone goes through a dramatic transformation of light, shadow, and color. A view of Bryce under a full moon is also an experience you will never forget. Some loops are first-come, first-served. Make reservations at other sites as early as possible, like six months in advance. North Campground is open year-round.

After Dark in Bryce Canyon National Park


Stargaze under incredibly dark skies at 9,000 feet (2,700 m). The longest active astronomy program in the National Park Service (going back to 1969) inspires unforgettable awe. Make reservations here.

Bonus Pro Tips

How are those hoodoos formed? It starts with rainwater seeping into cracks in the rock. The water freezes during Bryce’s cold nights, expands, and breaks apart the rock. The deep, narrow walls called “fins” result from rain and snow melt running down the slopes from Bryce’s rim. Eventually, the fins form holes (called windows), and when the windows grow larger they collapse and create the bizarre hoodoos that we see today.

Note: It’s crucial to stay hydrated, wear sun protection, and take altitude into account when planning your visit. Bryce Canyon ranges from 6,600 to 9,100 feet (2,000 to 2,800 meters) in elevation, which can affect some people. Always ensure you’re well-prepared for the activities you plan to undertake.

Stay tuned: When the weather cools off, I’ve already penciled in a few more itineraries to experience and then share:

  • Hoodoo You Love: Hiking the Navajo and Queens Garden Trails
  • Family Fun Day: Easy Hikes and Ranger Programs
  • Bryce in Winter: Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
  • The Grand Circuit: Sunrise to Sunset Points

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