by Matt, Nov 2021
Planning a trip to the national parks these days can be a little stressful because they are so crowded! Many national parks are setting visitation records each year.
You may have heard that many popular national parks are moving to ticketed entry or reservations systems. So, is Bryce one of those parks?
Bryce Canyon does NOT require reservations or an advance ticket to enter the park, but you still need to pay a fee or have a national park pass to enter the park. Also, it has a shuttle system, so keep on reading for more details you need to know to have a great trip!
- Planning a trip to Bryce Canyon? Check out ALL our videos and articles about Bryce!
Does Bryce Canyon require reservations?
Some other national parks, like Glacier, Zion, and Yosemite, are experimenting with an advanced reservation system — or “ticketed entry” — to handle the increasing crowds flooding these popular places.
Bryce Canyon is NOT one of these parks. It does not require reservations or an advanced ticketed entry to enjoy this incredible natural wonder!
Do I have to pay to enter?
Yes, you still need a pass to enter the park. You’ll have to pay for this pass unless you meet one of the qualifications for a free pass.
Passes that cost money:
- One-week pass for $35, which covers the entire vehicle. ($30 for a motorcycle, $20 for a bicycle or walk-in; biking into the park is a great option!)
- One-year pass for Bryce Canyon for $70 (as of January 2022).
- America the Beautiful Annual Pass, which costs $80 and covers entry to just about all national parks and federal fee areas for one year. For Seniors (62+), this pass is good for the rest of your life!
- Military Pass. Available for current or former military, as well as Gold Star Family members.
- 4th Grade Pass. Available to 4th graders from the start of the school year through the following summer (September to August). The 4th grader must be present in the vehicle to use this pass. You must print the “paper pass” online before you arrive at the park; upon arrival, exchange it for a card.
- Access Pass. This is for those with disabilities. You must provide proof of disability.
- Volunteer Pass. This is for those with 250 volunteer hours with a qualifying federal agency.
Additionally, the National Park Service has some Fee-Free Days throughout the year.
Where can I purchase a pass for Bryce Canyon?
The simplest way to get your pass is to purchase it upon arrival at the park. Ordering online might result in extra processing fees or your pass might not arrive before your trip.
At Bryce Canyon, there are two places to purchase or claim your pass upon arrival:
- Ruby’s Inn. Ruby’s Inn is the major hotel/resort at the entrance to Bryce Canyon, and has been synonamous with the canyon since before it was set aside as a national park. Ruby’s Inn has a park employee (or contractor?) stationed in a booth right next to the entrance to the hotel, on the outside. Purchase your pass from here if you plan on entering the park via shuttle, which will pick you up at Ruby’s Inn (even if you’re not staying there).
- The toll booth. Most national parks have a toll booth at the entrance. It’s staffed by park rangers. You can purchase your pass at this toll booth.
BE PREPARED to show documentation for the following passes:
- Military Pass. Bring proper ID to prove you’re active military, veteran, or family.
- 4th Grade Pass. You must print the Paper Pass on the Every Kid Outdoors website first (digital copies won’t work!), and bring the pass with you to exchange for a real pass on location. See more requirements here.
- Access Pass (for the disabled). They are picky with the documentation, so make sure to read the requirements. For example, Handicap Parking Permits aren’t accepted.
Online passes are sold on two different websites, depending on the pass you’re buying or claiming.
- To buy the America the Beautiful Annual Pass, visit the USGS website. But if the pass doesn’t arrive before your trip, you’re out of luck. You’ll need to purchase another one when you arrive at the park. This is another reason to purchase upon arrival. (Honestly, I’ve never purchased one online; I just buy the annual pass at the first national park I visit that year.)
- To claim your free Military Pass, visit the USGS website. Be prepared to upload documentation. Also, you’ll have to pay a processing fee of $10.
- The 4th Grade Pass must be started online, and finished at an in-person location. Start by visiting Every Kid Outdoors and print your free Paper Pass. When you arrive at the park, exchange it for a plastic card pass.
- To buy the Senior Pass online, visit the USGS website. You don’t need to verify your age; the website automatically does it somehow (big brother).
Which pass should you purchase?
If you’re visiting Bryce, you’re most likely doing it in conjunction with other national parks, such as Zion, the Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef, Cedar Breaks, or Arches.
So it makes the most sense to get the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
How far in advance should I book lodging or camping?
While not quite as crazy as other national parks, places around Bryce Canyon still book up early because there aren’t as many accommodations as say, Zion National Park (St. George is located nearby and has tons of hotels).
The two mainstays of Bryce Canyon — Ruby’s Inn and the Bryce Canyon Lodge — start filling up about 8-10 months in advance of the busy summer season (winter, not so much).
If you can’t get a place at one of these popular locations, there are still plenty of places nearby. Also, you can stay in between Zion and Bryce and visit both parks from one location (although we recommend changing hotels and staying near the parks, rather than in between).
For more details, see The Best Places to Stay at Bryce.
Do I need tickets or reservations for the Bryce Canyon shuttle?
No, you do not need any tickets or reservations for the Bryce Canyon shuttle. The shuttle is free for anyone. Just hop on and hop off.
But, because the shuttle travels both inside and outside the park, you must have your park pass in order to board the shuttle if you’re boarding it outside the park and entering the park on the shuttle.
While not complicated, you still need to know about the shuttle before you go.
Can I drive into Bryce Canyon?
Yes, you can drive into Bryce Canyon. Most people enter the park in their vehicles.
But the parking spots can fill up around the amphitheater, so you may need to use the shuttle to access that section of the park.
Make sure to read our article about how to get around Bryce Canyon before you visit!
Do I need reservations for any of the hikes?
No! You might have heard that Zion National Park may require tickets or reservations to hike Angels Landing.
But Bryce Canyon does not require reservations for any of its hikes.
Do I need restaurant reservations?
Typically, do you NOT need reservations for restaurants in and around Bryce Canyon. It’s possible you can use them at the Bryce Canyon Lodge if you decide to eat there, but currently, they are only doing take-out due to COVID. That may change in the future.
Make sure to read our article about the best places to eat at Bryce Canyon.
Are there other activities I should book in advance?
Yes, there are a few popular activities you should consider booking in advance.
- Horseback rides. There are many companies offering horseback rides in the area, but only one offers rides INTO Bryce Canyon: Canyon Trail Rides. They book up early, so if you’re interested, get on it! That’s what we recommend, but read our article for all your horseriding options, though.
- ATV rides. Here again, there are many options for ATV rides around Bryce Canyon. Plenty of them will be available when you arrive, but booking early will ensure you can get the one you want.
- Bike and eBike rentals. These are much easier to obtain without a reservation, but again, you should know your options and possibly book in advance, especially if you’re considering eBikes.
- Ranger Programs. Ranger programs are free and educational. Bryce offers three programs that require you to register for a spot earlier in the day: the Constellation Tour, the Full Moon Hike, and the Snowshoe Hike. See their Ranger Program page for more information.
Can you help me with a game plan for all this?
Yes! Want to know ALL the best sites to see at Bryce Canyon, and have a step-by-step guide for seeing them?
Then check out our itinerary! Not only is this perfect for the first-time visitor, but it includes an audio guide created by me to tell you all about the park! I’m a history professor and love telling the best stories about the parks.
The itinerary will tell you where to go (and how to do it), and you’ll listen to the audio guide while driving to the park and while driving along the Scenic Drive — it’s just like having a tour guide with you in your car.