The hiking trails in Bryce Canyon National Park are designed in a way where you can easily hike through much of the park in one day. And that is exactly what I did when I visited this place for the first time this year.
I was doing a road trip that began all the way in Las Vegas, and decided to try and visit all of the 5 Mighty National Parks in Utah.
- Zion National Park was the first place I visited as it was the closest.
- And Bryce Canyon would be the second.
- I did visit more parks after Bryce, but I’ll cover them later in this article.
And with these parks and every other I visited on my Utah road trip, I only had 1 day to explore each spot, and so when I came to the gates of Bryce Canyon, and I found out that much of the park was closed due to the snowy weather (this trip was in early March), I asked the ranger for advice on seeing as much of the park as possible but all in one day.
Turns out, despite many closings, the main attractions in the park were still open to exploring and that allowed me to really get into the heart of this park and truly see the sights. The following trails and scenic overlooks I will be sharing with you are the same exact ones I did. I will be putting them in the order I completed it in.
How to spend one day at Bryce Canyon National Park (itinerary):
- Stop by the parking lot near the Queens Garden trail and check out the famous Sunrise Point Overlook.
- Head down the Queens Garden trail (3 miles).
- Head back up the Navajo Loop Trail (1 mile).
- This will take you back to the parking area not far from where you started.
- Explore Mossy Cave. It is outside of the park.
In total, you’re looking at 5 miles of hiking in this one day itinerary.
Where you’ll find Bryce Canyon National Park on the map:
What you’ll see in Bryce Canyon by following this itinerary:
1) The Sunrise Point Overlook is amazing.
You will get a beautiful view of basically the entire park and see how unique Bryce Canyon looks compared to pretty much any other park in Utah, and probably the world:
2) The Queens Garden Trail (it will take you deep into the park).
For at least 1 mile, you’ll be entering the heart of the park and going through incredible scenic hikes that are actually quite simple to navigate through. You’ll enter small tunnels too and cross a small stream when you reach the bottom of this trail.
Here is a picture of what the Queen’s Garden Trail looks like when you start it:
3) The Navajo Loop Trail (leading to the famous zig zag hike).
The Navajo Loop trail will help you return back up to the parking lot without having to backtrack and see the same sights in Bryce Canyon (unless you really want to do that), but this trail will also take you through a very famous zig zag hike upward. This is actually a very popular location that you may see a bunch of Instagram photos from and I was fortunate enough to do it (I was worried I wouldn’t get a chance).
You’ll be hiking upward on the Navajo Loop trail for about a mile. Here is a picture of the zig zag area I was talking about (it’s covered in snow though):
4) Returning back to the parking lot.
Once you finish the Navajo Loop trail, you’ll return to the large parking lot close where you originally began you trip and there’s several viewpoints you can check out in spots up there that I recommend you take some time to do because they also give you a different but full view of the park.
And this was where I had this picture taken:
5) Driving to Mossy Cave.
Apparently not many people know about Mossy Cave, but it’s a small trail that I believe is outside of Bryce, but still within that same kind of landscape. It has a nice waterfall called Tropic Ditch Falls and cave you can explore. I just saw signs for it as I was headed to my next destination and decided to stop there.
Here’s what the cave looks like:
5 miles of hiking here may be short for some, but hear me out:
If you have more time to explore the park, as long as you visit it when there isn’t any snow, more trails and options will be open for you to explore. For me, exploring these 5 miles of trails, views and hikes was enough for my first time in Bryce Canyon and you will see a lot of beautiful spots when you follow this trail too.
For me, when I went through it, the time it took me to get through them all was about 2-3 hours, but I did kind of rush the hikes because I wanted to have some more energy for the next day’s hike which would be through Coyote Gulch. Remember, I was doing a road trip, so my pace may not necessarily fit with the one you set, which is totally fine.
When to visit Bryce Canyon National Park (My advice):
I’ve so far only visited this park in the winter and as someone who prefers cold weather, I loved it. Keep in mind that if you go here during the winter, when you reach the parking lot, the elevation there is about 8,000 feet, so it will literally be freezing when you go.
However, when you reach the bottom of the park during the hikes I mentioned, the temperature will probably rise to the point where you can likely just wear a warm sweater.
If you like warm and even hot weather, then visiting this park during the corresponding seasons is fine too, but I would suggest avoiding the summer heat here. Plus, there will likely be large crowds during the warmer seasons, which is something I dislike a lot, so another reason to go during the winter is that you will hardly run into anyone there.
One additional downside of going during the winter (besides the cold) is the fact that much of the other parts of the park will be closed off so if you have more time to explore the park, you might not be able to that.
So if you wish to go during the winter, go to Bryce Canyon during the tail end of the winter season. By that time, the weather will still be pretty chilly, but the snows will likely melt by that time and the closed off trails will open back up again.
My overall review of seeing Bryce Canyon National Park:
I loved it and I regret not going sooner. I was floored by Zion National Park when I visited it 2 years before, and figured no park could match Zion’s beauty. But Bryce ended up surprising me and opening my mind to the fact that Utah has so much more to offer than I imagined.
And that is why I continued my journey through Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks following my trip to Bryce Canyon, where I ended up seeing Canyonlands and Arches National Park in the following days (Coyote Gulch was also part of that trip).
So if you have the chance to see Bryce Canyon National Park, do it, because:
- You can easily explore a ton of it in one day.
- It is fairly easy to hike through many areas so you can see a lot of the park.
- The overall hikes to see much of the park are short, so you can do a little and see a lot there.