Self-Guided Tour of Bryce Canyon National Park
THEPARKGUIDE will soon release a BETA tour of Bryce Canyon National Park. It will be exclusively available for download through the TravelStorys App for a $9.99 BETA price.
The Canyon: First and foremost, it is not actually a canyon! Bryce is famous for its unique geology; instead of a canyon, it is a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved out of the high-altitude Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. Relentless erosion over the eons has shaped the “Pink Cliffs” of the Grand Staircase into bizarre shapes including fins, windows, deep slot canyons, and sandcastle-like spires called “hoodoos.” The rocks create a wondrous landscape of mazes tinted with colors too numerous and subtle to name, offering some of the most memorable walks and hikes imaginable. Because the area was not carved by a river, like Grand Canyon or Zion Canyon, it is not actually a canyon at all, it is an experience.
The Tour: Includes all of the park’s paved roads, as well as the entrance road through Bryce Canyon City and the road to Mossy Cave. The tour gives you detailed information about views, stops, food, parking, services, the Lodge, campgrounds, trailheads and bathrooms! It includes the main Visitor Center and Backcountry Information Center and every overlook area along the entire rim of the park. You will be told what is coming up and why it might interest you, so that you can decide whether to stop. As you drive, you will be encouraged to get out of your car and see the incredible geological features, take hikes, enjoy vistas, and explore historic sites. Go at your own pace, and see it all!
The Drive: Bryce Canyon has one main 18-mile road that runs north-south through the park. There are actually a few things to see before you even pass through the gate, but the first must-stop is the Visitor Center. After that, most folks will stop to see the Bryce Amphitheater. The four most popular overlooks in the park are also in that same first 3 miles of the road: Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. These areas also have trailheads for some of the park’s most popular trails, like the 2.9 mile Queen’s/Navajo Combination Loop. If you only have 1 to 3 hours to spend in Bryce, this area will use it all. If you have a full day, or even better, your are staying overnight, you will want to take a trip all the way down the 15 mile Southern Scenic Drive to Rainbow Point, Natural Bridge, and other viewpoints along the way. There are outdoor displays to read, trails for every level of fitness, pullouts, vistas, picnic areas, critters, and rangers to ask questions about the mind-boggling geology.
The Living Park: Huge ponderosa pines, high elevation meadows with quaking aspens, and fir-spruce forests border the rim of the plateau and abound with wildlife. You might see mule deer, Utah prairie dogs, chipmunks, golden-mantled ground squirrels, pronghorn, gray fox, ravens, Steller’s jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, red-tailed hawks, turkeys, and mountain short-horned Lizards. There are actually some black bear, elk, and mountain lions, but they are rarely seen. What you can see is a very long distance. This high-altitude and remote park has some of the world’s best air quality, offering panoramic views of three states and approaching 200 miles of visibility. This, coupled with the lack of cities nearby, creates world-class opportunities for stargazing.
The History: People have been wandering through Bryce’s hoodoos for at least 10,000 years. Paleoindians hunted giant sloths and mammoths here following the end of the Ice Age. The Ancestral Puebloan peoples gathered pine nuts and hunted deer in the forests and meadows of the plateau. Paiutes also visited the plateau to harvest pine nuts and hunt rabbits and other small game. Following Ebenezer Bryce, Mormon pioneers hand-dug the 10-mile irrigation ditch through the forests and rocky cliffs to divert water from the plateau top into the valley below. This ditch still serves the town of Tropic, Utah, which wouldn’t exist without it.
Things To Know:
- When is the park open? Bryce Canyon National Park is open all year! Of course, the weather affect what activities and amenities are available. Check the park’s Weather Page to decide when to go.
- Planning is important: Though not as busy as the Grand Canyon, check the Park’s Planning Page to get detailed information about how to start planning your trip.
- Time: Because of the drive to get there, most people spend at least a full day exploring Bryce. Even better and more relaxing is to stay at the Lodge or a campground. If you do not have that kind of time, there are helpful suggestions about what to see at the Visitor Center. It is a great place to start.
- Hiking at Altitude: Hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy the park! But, because Bryce is a high altitude park, at an average of about 8,000 feet, hiking can be more difficult that you expect. Check the Hiking Page to learn more.
- Cost: The normal park entrance fees apply. If you are going to visit more than two national parks this year, THEPARKGUIDE recommends that you purchase the Annual Pass, it is the best deal by far.
- Ranger Programs: These are one of the best sources of information and entertainment in the park! Highly recommended, and there are several types available, from amphitheater presentations to guided walks.
- Food and lodging are are available inside the park at the Lodge, campgrounds, Valhalla Pizza, and the General Store, but also just outside in Bryce Canyon City.
- The Visitor Center can all provide more information on specific points of interest. To find them, see the map.
- Horseback Rides: area fantastic way to get into the canyon without risking over-exertion. The sure-footed and sweet-dispositioned horses and mules have been up and down the trails many times. Much easier than hiking, and you get to make a friend.
- Picnic areas may be found in several places on the rim, including many along the road to Rainbow Point.
- Gasoline is conveniently available just north of the park in Bryce Canyon City, but not in the park itself.
Bryce Canyon National Park – General Information: