by Matt, Oct 2021
If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon, do yourself a favor and make sure to watch a sunrise! Yes, you have to get up early, but it’s totally worth it. It’s why we suggest staying near Bryce instead of between Bryce and Zion.
And I’m not someone who would tell you to watch a sunrise everywhere you go. Off the top of my head, the best sunrises I’ve seen are at Grand Teton and Bryce. I enjoyed the Grand Canyon sunrise but it wasn’t as dramatic and it was ridiculously early.
At the Grand Canyon, watch a sunset. At Bryce, watch a sunrise.
Sunsets are also great, so keep on reading to find out more about sunrises and sunsets at Bryce Canyon. In this article I’ll cover:
- Best viewpoints for sunrise
- Best viewpoints for sunset
- Other things to know
- Map of the park viewpoints
The best viewpoints for sunrise
Where can you watch a sunrise at Bryce Canyon?
The most popular viewpoint to watch a sunrise at Bryce Canyon is Sunrise Point, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best. Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point each offer something a little different.
Watching a sunrise at Bryce is like watching a play: where you sit in the theater (in this case, the Amphitheater) changes your experience. But if the play is good — as Bryce Canyon sunrises are — you can’t go wrong.
1. Sunrise Point
Sunrise Point is the most popular place in the park to view a sunrise. This may be a chicken and egg thing, but I’m sure it’s the most popular spot because of its name, not the other way around.
In other words, this isn’t any better or worse than the other viewpoints. Just different.
From Sunrise Point, you can look directly ahead to see the sun coming over the horizon, with Sinking Ship in the foreground. The panoramic views, with rolling hills and trees, are fantastic.
Look to your right to see the iconic Bryce Canyon Amphitheater of hoodoo formations. The sun hits them directly, lighting them up like Christmas Trees. They cast shadows on the canyon walls, providing a contrast of red and dark that you won’t soon forget!
2. Sunset Point
It may be named Sunset Point, but the sunrises are still better than the sunsets here! The name has more to do with early marketing than anything.
This point is closer to the Amphitheater, and a lot of people say it’s their favorite. From here you can see Thor’s Hammer to one side and Silent City to the other.
3. Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point looks straight down upon the central portion — the most crowded section — of hoodoos. For this reason, it’s a very popular viewpoint in general.
Basically, you’re sitting in the middle of the crowd, back row, with the stage lights shining directly in your face.
This spot is particularly cool because you get to be encircled by the full Amphitheater.
Also, there are three different levels of views here.
4. Bryce Point
If Sunrise Point is on the left-hand side of the theater (or Amphitheater), Bryce Point is on the right-hand side.
Here, you’ll get views of looking across the hoodoos, as opposed to down on the hoodoos like Inspiration Point. So it accentuates the shadows a bit more.
You can also see the town of Tropic down below the canyon from here.
A lot of people like this spot because it’s less crowded and has great views of the hoodoos below.
5. Anywhere inside the canyon
We hiked the Fairyland Loop and Peekaboo Loop at sunrise, and it was great! You don’t get the panoramic views of the hoodoos casting shade on the walls as you do from the rim viewpoints, but it’s still a very cool experience.
We’ve seen the sunrise before, so we were happy to try it out from within the canyon.
But if it’s your first time, definitely watch it from the canyon rim.
The best viewpoint for sunset
The rim of the canyon isn’t the best spot for sunsets because the sun sets at your back as you face the canyon, and since the hoodoos are lower than the canyon rim, they quickly get swallowed up in the shade.
But there is one place in the park that has a west-facing wall. That that place is….
The Mossy Cave section of the park. This part of the park is not linked to the main Amphitheater.
It’s a strange little canyon that was once carved by a river (to my knowledge), then dried up. When the pioneers settled this area in the late 1800s, they had to get water from above the canyon to below the canyon.
Because the Paunsagunt Plateau slants away from the canyon rim, water does not drain into the canyon (other than the rain and snow that actually fall into the canyon).
So they dug a ditch from Tropic Reservoir to this canyon so water would flow down to the city of Tropic below.
Today, we get to see a waterfall splash off of the ledge while the sun splashes off the canyon walls at sunset!
Other things to know about sunrises or sunsets
I bet you’ve got a few questions, so hopefully I can answer all of them here.
Are there any viewpoints to avoid?
Yes, avoid watching sunrises at Fairyland Loop Point. It’s not that they will be bad (no such thing here), but Fairyland Loop is cut off from the Amphitheater, so you can’t see the main section of hoodoos from there.
We did, however, see a sunrise while hiking the Fairyland Loop, and that was nice. But we’ve already seen the sunrise from the rim multiple times. If it’s your first time visiting, see it from the rim.
How do I enter the park before sunrise?
Just drive into the park! The park is open 24 hours a day, so you won’t encounter a gate or anything like that.
There is a ranger tollbooth a the entrance, and I’m not sure what time the rangers start working there. But if they aren’t there, you can drive on in. Just pay your entrance fee later in the day (unless you already have a pass).
Can I take the shuttle?
No! The Bryce Shuttle starts running at 8:00 am during the busy season, which is well after sunrise. So while we recommend using the Bryce Shuttle around the Amphitheater, you will need to drive into the park to watch the sunrise.
How do I know what time the sun will rise or set?
Use this link from timeanddate.com to quickly check when the sun will rise or set while you’re there.
The earliest time it rises is about 6:00 am in June, and the latest is close to 8:00 am in early November.
The lastest time it sets is about 8:50 pm in July and the earliest time it sets is about 5:10 pm at the beginning of December.
How early should I get there?
For sunrise, I usually arrive about 20-30 minutes early. It takes a few minutes to walk from the parking lot to the rim.
But don’t try to cut it too close because the parking spots will fill up and you’ll have to park farther away, making for a longer walk.
Arrive earlier if you want to get photography equipment set up for that perfect shot, OR if you want to get a “front-row seat” at Sunrise or Sunset Points (the most popular spots).
What if people are lined up along the railing of the viewpoint?
People will line up along the railing in advance. I’ve never seen it so crowded that I couldn’t squeeze in if I wanted to, but I usually hang back or meander around to a spot I like.
Is there any etiquette I should be aware of?
Keep your voice down, as people generally speak in whispers. Our kids were chatting once and it wasn’t a big deal, but we asked them to keep it down out of respect to others.
Is there anything else I should know?
Yes! If you want ALL the secrets to having an amazing trip to Bryce Canyon, check out our self-guided itinerary.
We give you a step-by-step itinerary to see the BEST of Bryce. We also have an audio guide to tell you all about it while you drive through the park!
It’s just like having a tour guide in your car, only it’s WAY cheaper and you don’t have to deal with the body odor. LOL