We can all agree that Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the greatest playgrounds Mother Nature has ever created. Water and wind over millions of years have made their mark in endless fields of red rock pillars. Known as ‘hoodoos’, these eerily beautiful rock spires draw in millions of visitors each year. Whether you’re here for a day or camping for a week, the park offers lots to do from hiking, rock climbing, and even cross-country skiing. Read on for more exciting things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park!
By far the park’s most popular activity is hiking all or part of the 11-mile (9.3km) Rim Trail, which offers hikers the opportunity to see a panoramic view of the Main Amphitheater. The trail can be accessed from several places including Sunrise Point and Sunset Point, as well as the Bryce Canyon Lodge. To descend into the Canyon, the Queen’s Garden trail is a great place to start. Beginning at Sunrise Point, it is the least difficult trail entering the canyon from the rim. Hiking this trail you will see many hoodoos, including one that bears resemblance to Queen Victoria!
To experience the solitude of Bryce Canyon’s backcountry, routes like the 23-mile (37km) Under-the-Rim Trail meander through stone formations, forests and meadows below the plateau. Backcountry campsites along the way enable multi-day treks through this part of Bryce Canyon!
Bryce Canyon is great even if you only have a few hours to drive to the main viewpoints, but there’s nothing to complete the experience like an overnight stay. There are two campgrounds in the park, North and Sunset, which are close to the Visitor Center and Bryce Amphitheater. North Campground is first-come first-serve, while Sunset Campground accepts reservations on a 6-month rolling basis during peak season. It also has a Group Site for a minimum of seven and maximum of 30 individuals.
Those going backcountry camping should note that there are seven campsites on the Under-the-Rim Trail and three campsites on the Riggs Spring Loop Trail. Sheep Creek and Corral Hollow are closed. Backcountry camping is permitted only in these designated campsites and a backcountry permit must be obtained prior to any overnight trips.
If you need another reason to spend at least a night here, Bryce Canyon is the ultimate place to learn about and enjoy the splendor of the night sky. Far from the light pollution of civilization, protected by a special force of park rangers and volunteer astronomers, Bryce Canyon is a sanctuary for natural darkness. The night sky here is so dark, it is possible to see thousands of stars on a moonless night! Here the Milky Way extends like a vast silver rainbow, and planets glow brightly in the sky. There are also Ranger Programs like the Constellation Tours where rangers point out constellations in the sky and share about the park’s international dark sky park status. For budding astronomers or those with an incessant curiosity about the sky, make sure to check out the Annual Astronomy Festival.
4. Ranger Programs
Want to get to know Bryce Canyon just a little bit better? Ranger Programs such as talks and constellation tours offer insight into Bryce Canyon’s unique geologic history and celebrate the unparalleled night skies. Best of all, they are always free, though some (such as winter snowshoe hikes and full moon hikes) require advance sign-up or are subject to a lottery. If you have young ones, the park also has regular kid programs which are fun for kids and parents alike!
5. Cross-country Skiing
Winter is a special time in the park, as the scenery completely changes and there are also fewer people. There are lots of opportunities for winter fun, such as winter hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing! Though it is illegal to ski off of the rim into the canyon, you can enjoy a variety of routes above the rim. These include sections of the Rim Trail along the edge of the Main Amphitheater, the Bristlecone Loop Trail; Paria Ski Loop; and the unplowed Paria View and Fairyland Point roads.