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The Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park — Best Things To Do, See & Enjoy!

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

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Bryce Canyon National Park is set high on the edge of Utah’s Paunsaugunt Plateau and is 4 hours northeast of Las Vegas. This park is a continually changing landscape of immeasurable chasms, rising pinnacles, lush forests, and unique geologic formations.

Each year, over 1.5 million visitors come to visit this park filled with unusual red rock formations and enjoy the adventure and excitement of the Bryce Canyon National Park.

How To Get to Bryce Canyon National Park

Where Is Bryce Canyon National Park?

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in the southeastern region of Utah and 4 hours from Las Vegas. This sprawling park covers 35,835 acres of bright red rock formations, rich forests, and mesmerizing desert landscape. Whether you choose to drive, fly, or take a train, a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park will be a trip to remember for a lifetime.

Nearest Airports to Bryce Canyon National Park

There are several airport options for those flying to Bryce Canyon National Park. There are 2 major airports and several smaller airports that are all great options for those planning a trip to the park. If travelers choose to fly, several airports can help visitors in their journey to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC)

Cedar City Regional Airport is a smaller airport that is only an hour away from the park. While this is a smaller airport, it saves a lot of time traveling to Bryce Canyon National Park. Visitors can fly into Cedar City Regional Airport from Salt Lake City (SLC). This airport exclusively services Delta Connection and SkyWest.

Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)

Harry Reid International Airport is located in Las Vegas. This airport is a little over 4 hours from Bryce Canyon National Park. This airline is the ninth-busiest airport, providing flights to nearly 52 million passengers annually. Harry Reid International Airport services dozens of national and international airlines, including Aeromexico, British Airways, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United.

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

Salt Lake City International Airport is another major airport that provides transport to the Bryce Canyon National Park area. This airport is 4 hours from the park, but it is still an excellent choice for traveling. Salt Lake City International Airport offers more than 300 flights to 90 locations around the globe each day. This airport serves over a dozen airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United.

St. George Regional Airport (SGU)

St. George Regional Airport is approximately 2 and a half hours from Bryce Canyon National Park. St. George solely services Delta and United to and from Salt Lake City (SLC) and Denver (DEN). This is a smaller option for flying to the park, but it can get you very close and shave off some travel time.

Driving to Bryce Canyon National Park

There are several routes for driving to Bryce Canyon National Park. Driving times and routes will vary depending on which area you are coming from.

For those coming from Cedar City, Highway 14 is the best option and takes 1.5 hours. Travelers from Las Vegas will utilize I-15 for the majority of the trip to the park and then switch over to UT-20 East which will take nearly 4 hours. From Salt Lake City, I-15 South to UT-63 will get you to the park’s entrance in 4 hours.

Taking the Train to Bryce Canyon National Park

There is an option for travelers who prefer to arrive at the park by train, but there will still be some driving involved. Amtrak provides a scenic journey to the park and allows its passengers to enjoy the ride without the stress of driving.

The closest Amtrak station to Bryce Canyon National Park is the Green River Station. This station is 200 miles away from the park and takes a little less than 4 hours to arrive.

Getting Around Bryce Canyon National Park

Many visitors choose to drive their personal vehicles to the various sites around Bryce Canyon National Park. This is an excellent way for tourists to explore the park and not feel rushed as they discover the beauty and amazement of Bryce Canyon. The park service provides a variety of printable and interactive maps to help determine your itinerary.

Another way for visitors to explore the park is to utilize the free Bryce Canyon Park Shuttle. This shuttle service takes adventurers to the major attractions and overlooks throughout the park.

Bottom Line: The Bryce Canyon Shuttle Service allows visitors to sit back and enjoy the sights of Bryce Canyon National Park.

What To See and Do in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is brimming with adventure to discover and explore. This is an excellent place to visit with friends and family. With so much to do and see in this national park, it’s essential to plan ahead and have an itinerary made with all your bucket-list attractions and activities. Let’s explore what Bryce Canyon National Park has to offer its visitors.

Bryce Amphitheater

Bryce Amphitheater
Image Credit: Peter Densmore via NPS

Bryce Amphitheater is the most iconic attraction in Bryce Canyon National Park. The amphitheater is the world’s greatest concentration of irregular rock spires. These rock spires are called hoodoos. Several viewpoints throughout the park offer remarkable views of this natural phenomenon.

Bryce Amphitheater is called an amphitheater because it is a bowl-shaped feature that was shaped by seasonal rains and snow melting and draining. This is one site you will want to get a glimpse of during your Bryce Canyon National Park vacation.

Bryce Point

Bryce Point showcases one of the most stunning views of Bryce Amphitheater. Not only does Bryce Point boast this Ampitheater view, but it also offers breathtaking views of the sunrise. As the sun rises, the spires are set ablaze with vibrant shades of orange, and the shadows are cast out fantastically.

Bryce Point is a great place to see many animals that make their home in the park, such as the golden-mantled ground squirrel and the Uinta chipmunk. This area also has many incredible trails, like the Peak-a-boo Loop Trail and the Under the Rim Trail.

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point is a popular attraction in Bryce Canyon National Park. This overlook gives a birdseye view of the world’s most extensive collection of rock spires.

There are 3 levels to this viewpoint, and each level provides a variety of perspectives in every direction. Popular sites that can be seen from these viewpoints include the Claron Formation, the upper White Member, and the lower Pink Member.

Hot Tip: Several trails traverse the area near Inspiration Point and lead to the park’s most spectacular views.

Navajo Loop Trail

The Navajo Loop Trail is found in Sunset Point. This trail comes down from Sunset Point and through the slot canyon of Wall Street.

The Navajo Loop Trail showcases 500 to 700-year-old Douglas firs that reach up toward the sky and the sunlight at the top of the canyon. This loop is the most popular trail in the park, and most of the time people will combine this trail with the Queen’s Garden Trail to enjoy an even more scenic stroll through the park.

Sunrise Point

Sunrise Point is one of the 4 major viewpoints that look out over the Bryce Amphitheater. This lookout has an elevation of 8,100 feet and is slightly higher than the Rim Trail and the Ponderosa Forest. Other views from this overlook include the hoodoo rock formations and the Queen’s Garden Trail.

Even though this site is named for its spectacular location for sunrises, this area showcases panoramic views, which make this a perfect place for stargazing and watching the sunset along the western horizon.

Sunset Point

Sunset Point is a spectacular site to enjoy panoramic views of Bryce Canyon hoodoos. From this overlook, visitors can see the Silent City rising from the canyon floor, fins tightly packed into formation, and a mesmerizing maze of hoodoos.

Thor’s Hammer is another famous attraction visitors can see from Sunset Point. The colors of Bryce Canyon are showcased at Sunset Point. This is the only place in the park that displays such vibrant colors. Claron Formation is a unique rock made mostly of limestone deposited nearly 50 million years ago into a freshwater lake. Claron Lake is also seen in this area.

Not only are there fantastic views of major sites in the park, but Sunset Point is also a wonderful place to see the birds that make their home in the park. Birds such as cliff swallows, white-throated swifts, and violet-green swallows can be seen flying among the cliffs and hoodoos in search of insects for their meals. Other birds include Steller’s jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, ravens, and hawks.

Best Times To Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

A visit to Bryce Canyon National Park is fantastic no matter what time of year you visit. There are ideal times to plan a trip to this national park if you are hoping to participate in specific events and activities. Take a look at some of the best times to visit Bryce Canyon National Park.

Best Time To Visit Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter

Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter
Image Credit: Ken Goulding via Unsplash

During the winter months, Bryce Canyon National Park is a winter wonderland. Seeing the park covered in a blanket of snow makes it feel like an enchanted place.

A great month to visit this park in the winter is in February. Not only is there a long list of winter activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter astronomy, and hiking, but the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival also takes place in February, so visitors can have even more fun by participating in the festival’s activities and events.

Best Time To Visit Bryce Canyon National Park To Avoid the Crowds

April is an excellent time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park if you are hoping to avoid crowds. April is still considered the off-season, and the weather is starting to get much more comfortable after the cold winter months. Fantastic weather and fewer crowds make April a great month to visit Bryce Canyon National Park.

Best Time To Visit Bryce Canyon National Park for Hiking

Bryce Canyon National Park is an incredible place for hiking. One of the best times to hike the many trails in the park is in late September.

This month is part of the slow season, and the weather is near perfect for exploring the trails through the park. On top of perfect weather and fewer crowds, this is one of the cheapest times to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, so it is a beautiful travel trifecta.

Cheapest Time To Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

For those looking to travel and save money at the same time, the best time to plan a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park is in the middle to late parts of September. The park is less busy with school returning to session and summer travel dwindling. Airfare and accommodation rates also have a lower price, which helps with traveling on a budget.

Annual Events in Bryce Canyon National Park

Several events take place in and near Bryce Canyon National Park. Events include activities with nature, astrology, geology, and more. Let’s explore some of the top events Bryce Canyon National Park offers.

Annual Christmas Bird Count

The Annual Christmas Bird Count takes place each year in December. Park visitors and rangers work together to help the Audobon Society gather information during the Christmas Bird Count. This is a perfect opportunity for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers to come together and experience the incredible bird counting event that has taken place in Bryce Canyon National Park since Christmas Day in 1900.

Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival

Astronomy Festival
Image Credit: Ken Cheung via Pexels

Each year in June, Bryce Canyon hosts the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival. In this 4-day event, astronomy enthusiasts can gather and appreciate the beauty of the night sky in Bryce Canyon National Park. This event features guest speakers from around the nation, daytime and nighttime events, stargazing, and nights exploring the planets and stars.

Bryce Canyon Geology Festival

Bryce Canyon Geology Festival is an event that is perfect for geology enthusiasts of all ages and is a family-friendly event. The Bryce Canyon Geology Festival is a weekend event in July each year. This 2-day event consists of guided hikes, activities, and geology talks throughout the park.

Bryce Canyon Winter Festival

The Bryce Canyon Winter Festival takes place each year in February. This event is an exciting time for guests to experience Bryce National Park in all its winter glory. The Bryce Canyon Winter Festival hosts clinics, demonstrations, tours, and an endless list of activities, from cookie decorating to photography contests.

Bottom Line: This festival takes place no matter what the weather decides to do and is an exciting experience for guests of all ages.

Utah Prairie Dog Day

Bryce Canyon National Park holds a Prairie Dog Festival yearly during National Park Week, typically in April.

Not only does the park host this prairie dog event and activities on the property, but park rangers also visit schools in the nearby areas to teach students about these keystone animals and other wildlife connections throughout the park.

Utah prairie dogs are described as keystone species that have an important role in the ecological functions of the area. They are essential in maintaining meadow ecosystems and improve the soil quality and provide places for other animals to live.

Where To Stay in Bryce Canyon National Park

There is a wide variety of lodging accommodations in and near Bryce Canyon National Park. From camping to lodging in modern resorts, every traveler can find what will meet their vacation needs in and near the park. Let’s explore Bryce Canyon National Park’s accommodations and nearby towns.

Inside the Park

Bryce Canyon National Park has several options for lodging, including accommodations at a lodge and multiple campgrounds. Whether you choose to spend your nights under the stars or in a rustic lodge, you can rest assured that you will have a memorable experience. Let’s discover the different options for lodging inside Bryce Canyon National Park.

Backcountry Camping

Backcountry Camping Bryce Canyon National Park
Image Credit: Peter Densmore via NPS

For adventurers who enjoy a primitive camping experience, backcountry campsites are abundant in Bryce Canyon National Park. The backcountry and wilderness areas of the park are ideal for experiencing the great outdoors.

Several backcountry campsites are near the Riggs Spring Loop Trail and the Under the Rim Trail. Those who choose to camp in the backcountry must obtain a permit at one of the visitor centers and set up in the designated areas.

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon is a historic icon of Bryce Canyon National Park. This lodge is the only option for accommodations other than camping. The Lodge at Bryce Canyon has several options for accommodations, including cabin rentals, standard lodge rooms, suites, and studios.

Guests can truly disconnect when staying at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon as the lodge has no televisions and limited Wi-Fi service throughout the property. Visitors can step back in time and enjoy a rustic experience while staying at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon.

North Campground

North Campground is open year-round and is located near the visitor center. This campground has 100 sites for both tent camping and RVs. From mid-May to early October, the campground takes visitors by reservation only. These sites are available for the remainder of the year on a first come, first served basis.

North Campground fills up quickly. To ensure a site, book reservations in advance through the busy season. Showing up early during the slower parts of the year is the best way to get a spot, as they typically fill up before noon.

Sunset Campground

Sunset Campground is located a mile and a half from the visitor center, west of Sunset Point. This campground is within a 20-minute walk from the General Store and near Sunset Point and the shuttle stop.

This campground has 99 campsites for tents and RVs. From mid-April to the end of October, this campground is available on a first come, first served basis, and the rest of the year is on a reservation basis.

Accommodations Near Bryce Canyon National Park

Several towns near Bryce Canyon National Park are perfect for travelers to have a home away from home during their national park vacation. Some of the closest cities to Bryce Canyon National Park include Bryce Canyon City, Cannonville, and Tropic. Let’s take a look at these different towns and see what they have to offer.

Bryce Canyon City

Bryce Canyon City
Image Credit: Jaden Robles via Unsplash

Bryce Canyon City is located just 6 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park. This small town has everything a traveler needs for setting up a home base during a national park vacation. Bryce Canyon City is known as the Gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park.

There are several options for lodging in Bryce Canyon City and several locally-owned restaurants in Bryce Canyon City. Bryce Canyon City offers many exciting activities for travelers, such as hiking trails, off-roading, biking, and even telescope tours.

Bottom Line: Bryce Canyon City is one of the most convenient choices for those seeking lodging near Bryce Canyon National Park.

Cannonville

Cannonville is just 15 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park and is an excellent option for lodging near the park. This city has a few accommodations and is close to many exciting places to explore. Accommodations in this town are ideal for those seeking peace, quiet, and a place to retreat. The majority of lodging options for Cannonville are private vacation rentals and Airbnbs.

For outdoor adventure, Cannonville is just a few minutes from Kodachrome Basin State Park, which showcases fantastic hiking trails and notorious overlooks like Panorama Trail and Angel’s Palace Trail.

Panguitch

Panguitch is one of the largest cities near Bryce Canyon National Park. This city is only 30 minutes from the park and is an excellent choice for those hoping to stay near the park, as it has plenty of lodging choices, restaurants, and opportunities for shopping.

There is plenty of opportunity for adventure and entertainment in Panguitch. Dixie National Forest and Panguitch Lake are both in the area. They have an abundance of activities for recreation, such as hiking, ATV excursions, and boating.

Tropic

Tropic is a small town near Bryce Canyon National Park. It is only 10 miles from the park and a much more affordable location for lodging and recreation. There is plenty to see and do in Tropic and great places to get a bite to eat.

Tropic has many charming inns, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and hotels. It’s easy to find precisely what you have in mind in this town, whether you are looking for a cozy room for a bed and breakfast, a rustic cabin for your entire family, or all the conveniences of a hotel.

There are several incredible restaurants in Tropic, many being local restaurants with signature dishes. Adventure is everywhere, as many surrounding state parks and historical parks are just waiting to be explored. Popular activities include ATV tours, telescope tours, and mule rides.

Staying in Tropic won’t be a disappointment. With its proximity to Bryce Canyon National Park, affordable accommodations, and exciting activities, everyone will find Tropic a place to love.

Where To Eat In and Near Bryce Canyon National Park

The only place to get a bite to eat in Bryce Canyon National Park is the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. There are many more places to eat near the park. Let’s take a look at what the Lodge at Bryce Canyon has to offer as well as some of the restaurants in the nearby towns.

Bryce Canyon Pines

Bryce Canyon Pines
Image Credit: Bryce Canyon Pines

Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant is a top-rated restaurant by visitors and a local favorite. This local gem has been serving its delicious dishes for over 50 years, has received awards for its amazing pies, and has been mentioned by international tour guides.

Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant has a menu serving cowboy-sized steaks, hearty soups, favorite sides like mashed potatoes and gravy, and an assortment of pies.

This restaurant is just 6 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park and is open daily for lunch, dinner, and dessert. Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant has a casual, relaxed atmosphere and serves guests around a warm fire.

Lodge at Bryce Canyon

Lodge at Bryce Canyon is the only restaurant in Bryce Cayon National Park. This rustic restaurant perfectly combines fine dining and a cozy atmosphere. The dining room is centered around a warm stone fireplace.

Lodge at Bryce Canyon is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast and lunch are served as a buffet, and dinner is ordered off the menu. Favorite dishes include elk chili, cowboy ribeyes, and bread pudding.

Pizza Place

Pizza Place is located 5.5 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park in the city of Tropic. This restaurant serves a menu of Italian and American foods and specializes in hand-tossed, gourmet pizzas.

Favorite dishes include a meatball hero, the veggie pizza, and freshly-made salads and wings. Beer enthusiasts enjoy trying the HooDoo beer on tap. Pizza Place has dishes for vegetarians and vegans, as well as gluten-free options.

This restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily. Pizza Place is sure to satisfy your cravings and refuel you after your park explorations.

Ruby’s Inn Cowboy Buffet and Steakhouse

Ruby’s Inn Cowboy Buffet and Steakhouse is located in Bryce Canyon City, just minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park. This family-style western restaurant has a delightful menu of top-quality steaks, ribs, seafood, and chicken.

Ruby’s Inn is open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. The breakfast features a large buffet with popular items, such as the short stack of buttermilk pancakes and Ruby’s Country Breakfast, loaded with breakfast meats, eggs, and potatoes.

Bottom Line: Ruby’s Inn Cowboy Buffet and Steakhouse is the perfect place to refuel after a day exploring the park or fill up before setting out for the day.

Bryce Canyon National Park Facts

Bryce Canyon
Image Credit: Philip Graves via Unsplash

1. A Long Journey To Become a National Park

President Warren G. Harding established Bryce Canyon as a national monument on June 8, 1923. Nearly a year later, Congress passed a bill that established Utah National Park and all the land within the monument as the property of the U.S. When the land was acquired, the name Bryce Canyon was given. Bryce Canyon became an official national park on February 25, 1928.

2. What’s in a Name?

Bryce Canyon was named after a Mormon pioneer named Ebenezer Bryce. Ebenezer and his family moved to the Paria Valley to a town called Clifton in 1875. He helped to build a 7-mile irrigation ditch from Paria Creek. To make timber more accessible, Bryce built a road into the pink cliffs. The area where the road ended began to be called Bryce’s Canyon, which stuck even after Bryce left the area.

3. International Dark Sky Status

Bryce Canyon National Park was declared an International Dark Sky Park in 2019. This park’s clean air, high elevation, and remote location produce some of the darkest skies in the U.S. The Milky Way galaxy and thousands of stars can be seen from Bryce Canyon National Park.

4. A Grazing Park

Bryce Canyon was an area for grazing as early as the 1870s. The Forest Service issued grazing permits for the Bryce Canyon area from 1903 to 1929. Eventually, the Park Service began to reduce grazing in the park gradually. By 1936, the north-central area had no grazing at all. Over 2,300 sheep and 800 horses were still grazing in the park’s southern region in 1940. It wasn’t until 1964 that grazing was eliminated in Bryce Canyon National Park.

5. Bryce Canyon Is Not a Canyon

Bryce Canyon is not an actual canyon. The movement of rivers forms a true canyon. Bryce Canyon was formed by melting snow and seasonal rains melting. Instead of a canyon, we see a unique bowl-shaped feature. This name came from Ebenezer Bryce, creating a road for hauling timber. Pioneers started referring to this as Bryce’s Canyon, and the name stuck.

6. Home of the Hoodoos

Bryce Canyon National Park is home to the world’s largest collection of hoodoos. Hoodoos are tall, thin rock spires reaching up to 150 feet in height. Adventurers can admire these impressive geological formations in several areas in the park.

7. Original People of the Park

Three Native American groups originally made their home in the park as early as 1200 A.D. These groups were the Anasazi, Fremont, and Paiute. The Paunsaugunt Plateau was an excellent place for hunting and gathering. While we can gather that these groups were some of the earliest in the Bryce Canyon National Park area, there is no evidence that they permanently settled on this land.

8. Movie Star Status

Bryce Canyon National Park has been used as the setting for many films. From as early as 1924, films used the incredible red rock and hoodoos as a background. The first and most recent movies filmed in Bryce Canyon include “The Deadwood Coach” in 1924 and “Outlaw Trail: The Treasure of Butch Cassidy” in 2006.

9. Hoodoo Legends

There is a legend surrounding the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park. Before humans inhabited the earth, the Legend People, called the To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in this area. While they looked like people, they were believed to be birds, lizards, and other types of animals.

It is said that the Legend People were bad and Coyote, a god in those days, turned them into rocks. Ancient people called these rock formations Angka-ku-wass-a-wits, or Red Painted Faces. Today we know these structures as the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.

10. Different Life Zones

There are 3 life zones present in Bryce Canyon National Park. These life zones are the Ponderosa, the Pinyon, and the spruce/fir forest. Each of these zones showcases different plant and animal life and differences in the landscape. This is because of the different elevations throughout the park.

11. Diverse Wildlife

A diverse collection of animals makes their home in Bryce Canyon National Park. With 59 mammal species, 175 species of birds, 11 reptile species, and countless types of butterflies and other insects, guests are guaranteed many encounters with the wildlife of Bryce Canyon. Some of the exciting animals that live in the park include migratory hummingbirds, Rocky Mountain elk and pronghorn, and nesting peregrine falcons.

Final Thoughts

Come experience what draws nearly 1.5 million visitors each year and stand in awe of the natural splendor of Bryce Canyon National Park. From its bright red hoodoos to its mesmerizing rock formations, and from the incredible opportunities for hiking to the rich cultural and natural history, Bryce Canyon National Park is a world of wonder just waiting to be explored.

Planning a trip to this Bryce Canyon National Park will lead to one-of-a-kind experiences and memories to last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there entry fees for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park?

A 7-day pass for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is $35. Individuals entering the park on foot or by bicycle can pay $20 for a 7-day pass.

What is the weather like in Bryce Canyon National Park?

The temperatures in Bryce Canyon National Park vary depending on the seasons. The lowest temperatures measure 15 degrees and the highest is typically 80 degrees. The temperature and weather conditions can change quite a bit during the course of a day, so be sure to pack a variety of clothing and protective gear to be prepared.

Will I have cellular service when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park?

Cellular service is limited at Bryce Canyon National Park. The National Park Service provides free Wi-Fi at select locations. If you need to use your phone, the best places to do so are at the visitor center and Bryce Amphitheater.

How long should I plan a visit to Bryce Canyon National Park?

A 2- to 3-day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park is ideal. Staying for 2 to 3 days would allow plenty of time for driving through the park, sightseeing, hiking, and participating in some of the special tours and activities.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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