by Matt, Oct 2021
Maybe you’re thinking of visiting Bryce Canyon and you’re wondering what there is to do there? Answer: A LOT.
Bryce Canyon is an amazing place to visit for families, those who love the outdoors, those who want to experience the West, and those who want to check off a bunch of National Parks in one trip!
Here then, in no particular order, are 45 things you can do in or near the fascinating Bryce Canyon National Park!
1. Look into the Canyon
Just standing on the edge at one of the many viewpoints will leave you in awe. The formations in the canyon are called hoodoos, and Bryce has the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world!
2. Walk the Rim Trail
There are 6 main hikes in Bryce, and the Rim Trail is considered one of them. This is a paved trail that follows the edge of the canyon’s “amphitheater,” which is the area with the highest concentration of hoodoos.
The Rim Trail connects the different viewpoints and is a flat, easy walk. It’s 5.5 miles long but you can walk any portion of it for as long as you’d like.
3. Watch a sunrise
Seeing a sunrise at Bryce should be on your bucket list! They are much better than the Grand Canyon because they 1) start later in the morning, and 2) create a beautiful contrast between the sun hitting the hoodoos and the hoodoo shadows hitting the canyon wall behind.
Watch it at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, or Bryce Point.
4. Watch a sunset
Not quite as amazing as a sunrise, but watching a sunset is still a popular activity at Bryce. They even have a viewpoint named Sunset Point.
5. Drive the Scenic Drive
Bryce Canyon has one entry/exit, and there is one road that travels north and south from the entry to the end of the park. Then you must turn around.
This 18-mile road is called the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive, and there are 7 stops for lookout points along the way.
6. Hike the Queens Garden & Navajo Trail Loop
This is easily the most popular hike in the park. Technically these are two trails, but they connect to provide a 3-mile loop.
Look for Thor’s Hammer and Queen Victoria on the hike (see below).
7. Find Thor’s Hammer
Maybe the most popular formation in the park, Thor’s Hammer stands majestically near the beginning of the Navajo Loop trail. When will Thor take it back?
8. Say Hi to Queen Victoria
The Queen’s Garden trail is named after this formation, which is more subtle than Thor’s Hammer. Make sure to take the spur trail to find the interpretive sign; it will help you spot the Queen. Hint: she’s smaller than you think.
The formation was so named because it looks like a statue of Queen Victoria in England.
9. Hike Peekaboo Loop
One of the six main hikes, you can start this 5.5-mile trail from the bottom of Navajo Loop or from Bryce Point. It’s a less crowded alternative to the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop and still gets you into the hoodoos, even if it’s a little less spectacular.
10. Visit the Visitor Center
This is almost always a must-do at the National Parks! They have a movie and very nice displays on the geology, biology, and history of the canyon. You can also shop, get your National Park passport book stamped, pick up a Junior Ranger program for the kids, and find out when the rangers are giving talks or programs that day.
11. Ride the Shuttle
During the summer, the best way to get around the amphitheater is to ride the shuttle. It’s free and easy. Park near the Visitor Center (not AT the Visitor Center) and catch the shuttle to any of the amphitheater stops.
Don’t stress if you miss the shuttle; a new one will come in 5-10 minutes.
12. Attend a Ranger Star Program
Bryce Canyon is a certified “International Dark Sky Park.” It’s so remote that there is virtually no light pollution. This means the night sky is full of vivid stars and planets!
But too many of us stare into the sky with no knowledge about what is going on up there. Thankfully, the park rangers will tell you about it, and they’ll use a laser pointer to show you!
Sign up at the Visitor Center. Programs run from about 9:00-11:00 most nights.
13. See wildlife
It’s not Yellowstone, but it’s still a forested safe-haven for wildlife. It’s common to see deer and many of the best mountain birds in the West.
Stellar’s Jay, Western Tanager, and the Peregrin Falcon are some of the most popular.
14. Earn a Junior Ranger badge
We have four kids and our oldest is 15. We have a tradition of completing Junior Ranger programs whenever we visit a National Park.
Kids of ALL ages (my mom — in her 70s — usually does it with us) can complete the Junior Ranger program. They usually require attending a ranger talk, doing a short walk or hike, spotting wildlife, geologic formations, or flowers, and completing assignments in the book.
Once you’re finished, show a ranger, take the pledge, and get your badge!
15. See Mossy Cave
Mossy Cave is a separate section in the park, and it offers a cave with…moss. That may not sound exciting, but the nearby waterfall is a beautiful area with the added benefit of being able to play in the water!
16. Find the Bristlecone Pines
These are among the oldest living organisms on earth! They thrive in harsh environments where they don’t have to compete with other foliage.
The Bristlecone Pines in Bryce Canyon are 1,000-2,000 years old. These things look like something out of a Halloween movie!
17. Ride an ATV
You can’t ride an ATV inside Bryce Canyon National Park, but the area surrounding it has hundreds of miles of ATV trails. There are multiple companies near the park that rent ATVs.
18. Ride a horse
You CAN ride a horse into Bryce Canyon National Park! There are also many companies that offer horseback rides near Bryce, but only one is authorized to take you INTO Bryce Canyon: Cayon Trail Rides.
19. Ride eBikes
Again, there are multiple companies in Bryce Canyon City that offer bike and e-bike rentals. You can ride them into the park and up to the rim of the canyon, or you can go west to the gorgeous Red Canyon (our recommendation).
20. See Natural Bridge
Perhaps the most popular stop on the Scenic Drive is Natural Bridge. It’s even larger than the pictures make it look.
It’s tempting to walk out on top of the bridge, but unfortunately, we can’t do that anymore.
21. Hike Fairyland Loop
This is perhaps the least-hiked major trail in the park….which is exactly why you should hike it. It’s an 8-mile trail (including 3 miles on the Rim) that offers incredible variety.
You’ll see the Sinking Ship, Bristlecone Pines, wide-open vistas, and hoodoos.
22. See Rainbow Point
Located at the end of the Scenic Drive, this is a fantastic viewpoint because it provides a cross-section view of the “canyon.”
Bryce is technically not a canyon because it wasn’t formed by a river. It’s a plateau that is crumbling on one side.
This view is one of the best looks at the high plateau on the left and the erosion on the right.
23. Visit Old Bryce Town
Bryce Canyon City is located right at the entrance of the park. Within Bryce Canyon City is “Old Bryce Town,” which is basically a strip mall in Old West style.
Note that there isn’t anything authentically “Old West” about this, but it’s a popular place to get ice cream or buy rocks.
24. Stay near the rim at Bryce Canyon Lodge
There is only one hotel in the park: Bryce Canyon Lodge. This was built in the 1920s by the same architect who designed the Zion Lodge and the Grand Canyon Lodge.
It’s located within walking distance of the canyon rim and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
26. Go to a Rodeo
Throughout the summer, rodeos are held Wednesday-Saturday nights in Bryce Canyon City. We love small-town rodeos because they are short and sweet and they let the kids come into the rodeo grounds for games.
27. Visit Red Canyon
Near Bryce Canyon is an underrated attraction run by the Forest Service called Red Canyon. It also has hoodoos and red rock formations.
Hike, bike, ATV, and climb around all over at Red Canyon.
28. Helicopter Tour
Ruby’s Inn offers helicopter tours of Bryce Canyon, nearby Grand Canyon, and other amazing formations. Think of Bryce Canyon as part of “Canyon Country.” There are sooo many incredible natural wonders around Bryce Canyon!
29. Drive Scenic Byway 12
Speaking of things near Bryce Canyon, driving Scenic Byway 12 (also called Highway 12) is one of the best ways to see some of them!
It meanders through Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, through red rock and white rock formations. It was once called the “Million Dollar Road.”
Drive all the way to Boulder, Utah, and you’ll be surprised to find a little “foodie town” in the middle of nowhere!
30. Dinner and a show at Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill
31. Hike the Hoodoos
As you hike throughout the park, look out for the “Hike the Hoodoos” signs. Each sign has a seal on it. Take a picture of yourself with the sign, or use a piece of paper or your Junior Ranger booklet to collect a rubbing of the seal.
Collect three of these and show them to a ranger for a little prize.
32. Ruby’s Inn
No place is more synonymous with Bryce Canyon than Ruby’s Inn. Started by Reuben Syrett in 1916, this resort has gone through many changes over the years.
Today it’s a Best Western hotel and resort. It has lodging, camping, swimming pools, and is closely connected with the rest of Bryce Canyon City (if not a direct owner of most of the city).
33. Take pictures of Kodachrome State Park
Near Bryce Canyon is an underrated spot called Kodachrome Basin State Park. This area is so vividly red that it was named after a type of professional color film created by the Kodak company!
34. Play in the Devil’s Garden
About 1.5 hours away, located in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is a strange little formation with its own hoodoos. This is called Devil’s Garden, and it’s a fun place to climb around on the rocks and find secret caves and tunnels.
35. Attend the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
Yes, Bryce Canyon is open in the winter, and according to many people, it’s even more gorgeous. You can still drive into the park, see the amphitheater, and hike through the hoodoos.
Ruby’s Inn also puts on a yearly Winter Festival in February, with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other activities.
36. Attend an Astronomy Festival
Astronomy Festivals are held every June and the park has family-friendly activities like creating planispheres, sundials, and other art projects.
They also offer more evening programs and constellation tours.
37. Attend a Geology Festival
Every June the park puts on a Geology Festival with ranger talks, Plein-air painting, guided hikes, and other programs.
38. Fish at Tropic Reservoir
Water is scarce in this part of the country, but Tropic Reservoir is only a 30-minute drive away. You can fish, boat, and play in the water.
39. Photography Tour at Night
There are a few companies that offer photography tours of Bryce Canyon. Some of them offer night tours and will teach you how to take pictures of the milky way!
40. Moon Walk with a Ranger
These are different than the constellation tours mentioned above. Each month, during the full moon, the park offers Moon Walks. You must enter a lottery at the Visitor Center the day of. Selections are made at 4:00 pm.
41. Visit Cedar Breaks (Bryce’s little brother)
Cedar Breaks is only an hour away and it is a National Monument! If you’re a “parkie” and need to check off your list, make sure to visit Cedar Breaks.
It has hoodoos like Bryce, although not as many and not as dramatic. On the other hand, they are more colorful. The drive to and from the park is nice mountain scenery as well.
42. Drive Hell’s Backbone
There are two roads that go from Escalante to Boulder, Utah: Highway 12 (mentioned above) and Hell’s Backbone.
This is a mostly dirt road that takes about 2 hours to drive. At some points, you’ll have dramatic drop-offs on both sides of your vehicle. You won’t soon forget Hell’s Backbone.
43. Panguitch, Utah
Panguitch is the nearest “big city” to Bryce, but it’s just a cute little village town. It has some nice little historic homes and the nearby Panguitch Lake tucked away in the mountains.
Panguitch also has a balloon festival every June.
44. Hike Lower Calf Creek Falls
Located about 1.5 hours away from Bryce, this is one of the most accessible places in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
A 7-mile round trip hike through a red canyon ends with a beautiful waterfall.
45. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
The main feature here is actually a reservoir for swimming, boating, and kayaking. There is also a campground.
But a nearby hill contains petrified logs. The visitor center also has fossilized dinosaur bones.
BONUS: The Grand Tour!
It’s common for those visiting Bryce Canyon to also visit Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. These three parks have been closely connected ever since the 1920s when tourism took off due to the automobile.
Visitors used to get off the train station and a tour bus would take them on a Grand Tour to Cedar Breaks, Bryce, Zion, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
Those early tourists had a TOUR GUIDE, and if you’re looking at visiting any of these places for the first time, you should have one also.
But tours are EXPENSIVE, so we created a more affordable option.
We have self-guided tours of these places! Our self-guided tours give you a game plan for seeing the BEST of the park, AND we include an audio guide to tell you all about these places.
It’s just like having a private tour guide, but for a fraction of the cost! Check it out today.