In the area of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, there is a cluster of national parks. Among these lies Bryce Canyon National Park, which is actually many natural amphitheaters rather than a canyon; it is known for its beautiful scenery, red sandstone, and hoodoos—rock columns created by erosion. A geological wonder, more than 1.5 million people visit Bryce Canyon each year to hike, camp, and just look at the views. So how do you navigate this natural masterpiece amidst so many other visitors?
Luckily, the National Park Service has an informative and succinct website that can answer many questions as you plan your stay. I wanted to plan a camping trip, so I tailored my searches to camping grounds and hiking; however, there are many options available if you want to stay in a hotel at the park or in a city nearby. My itinerary spans from a Friday afternoon to a Sunday morning.
On a Friday, my group will arrive at Bryce Canyon, getting in by paying a $30 vehicle permit fee. Also available is a $35 annual pass to Bryce Canyon, which covers the vehicle permit fee and is valid for one year, unlike the vehicle permit, which is only valid for one week. There are two campgrounds: North Campground and Sunset Campground. Each costs $20 per night. North Campground, where we will be staying, is year-round, and has paved roads, toilets, and drinking water available for campers.
Saturday will be devoted to hiking. The best viewpoint for Bryce Amphitheater (the main amphitheater in the park) comes from the Rim Trail, an 11-mile roundtrip hike. Despite its length, this is a fairly easy hike that also provides a great view. The Fairyland Loop is also a good trail for seeing much of the park. This hike goes from the Rim Trail down into the amphitheaters below and allows hikers to see inside the canyon. However, the Fairyland Loop is a strenuous hike, so if you aren’t feeling up to hiking a lot, try a shorter, easier trail. One easy hike (less than a mile roundtrip) is the Mossy Cave hike. It follows a small stream and reaches a waterfall at the end. On Sunday morning, we will leave, cleaning well enough to leave no trace that we were ever there.
The park is open year-round (however, the visitor center and fee booths close for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day), and, while the hours depend on the month, the visitor center is open from dawn until dusk to help with any questions you may have. Bryce Canyon has its “off-season” from October to May, so one good way to avoid the millions of people that visit each year is to visit during this time. One thing to note, however, is that in winter months, the roads leading into Bryce Canyon may be closed due to snow storms, so plan accordingly. The Bryce Canyon National Park website has a section about currents weather conditions for the park under the “basic information” tab which can help as you plan your visit in the winter months.
With plenty of research and planning, you can make your trip to Bryce Canyon (or any other national park) a wonderful experience for yourself and those who join you on your adventure.