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5 Things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park For Newcomers

For anyone visiting this amazing place for the first time, know that there’s many things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park in one day, which I have had the opportunity to do twice now.

Here’s why there’s so many things you can do in Bryce Canyon in one day:

The bottom line is that the park’s main hikes are short and tied together which means you can cover most of the park in a short period and get great views and experiences in doing so. I know about this because I’ve done this twice now.

My one day in Bryce Canyon breakdown:

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 other National Parks in Utah 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.

Note: When I returned to Bryce Canyon a few years later, I basically redid the same trails and was just as impressed not just by how beautiful it was, but also how fulfilling (yet again) the experience was.

What to do in Bryce Canyon National Park Utah in one day (6 things now):

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  1. Do the Queens Garden trail and check out Sunrise Point Overlook.
  2. Head down the Queens Garden trail (3 miles).
  3. Head back up the Navajo Loop Trail (1 mile).
  4. Enjoy the beautiful overlooks at the top of Navajo Loop Trail.
  5. Explore Mossy Cave. It is outside of the park.
  6. Bonus: Do the Bryce Canyon scenic drive.

In total, you’re looking at 5 miles of hiking in this one day itinerary in Bryce and it may not seem like a lot, but trust me, it’ll be fulfilling.

These 5 miles will take you deep into the park and give you some great views, awesome hiking experiences and a lot of photogenic opportunities of the amazing panorama Bryce Canyon National Park has to offer.

And just as well, the experience of being there is an adventure in itself.

A detailed look at each of the activities on this Bryce Canyon itinerary:

This follows the same method of exploration I did both times I visited the park:

1) Start by checking out Sunrise Point Overlook:

bryce canyon national park sunrise point overlook 05

You will get a beautiful view of basically the entire park and see how unique Bryce Canyon looks compared to pretty much any other Mighty 5 National Park in Utah, and probably the world.

If you’re not into hiking, this kind of overlook area might be just what you need to really take in the views from the park and be satisfied with your visit. For me personally, I wanted to get into the park and explore it more, and thus began the second area of this park’s exploration:

2) Next, do on the Queens Garden Trail (the best Bryce Canyon hike):

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The Queens Garden trail is probably the most famous and best hiking trail to explore in Bryce Canyon in one day and it’ll take you through caves, canyon overlooks, the bottom of the canyon, and even the famous zig zag hike (mentioned later on). 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.

And really, I do recommend stopping and enjoying the views, it’s worth it. Again, the Queens Garden trail is in my opinion one of the top trails to take in this park to get the most out of it if you’re tight on time. I have also added this hike to my list of the best hikes in Utah to try.

Note: This is a loop trail, but it will mix together with a section known as the Navajo Loop trail later on.

3) The Navajo Loop Trail will lead you to the famous Bryce Canyon zigzag trail:

bryce canyon national park navajo loop trail 03

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 zigzag hike upward which you may not see too well here because there’s snow, but this is the place.

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. And I have to say the cold made hiking through this area so much better for me personally as I was sweating very little but enjoying the cold breeze there at the same time. It wasn’t bitter cold, but pleasant and if you’re like me then you might want to visit this place in the winter too.

4) Returning back to the parking lot (You’ll see this amazing overlook):

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The Navajo loop trail, which leads to the zig zag hike will take you back to the overlook area and parking lot where you started on the Queens Loop trail. 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 the above picture taken. There really are a lot of areas in Bryce Canyon to take awesome photos from and this certainly is one of them.

5) Visit Mossy Cave outside Bryce Canyon after (there’s a waterfall there):

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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. We accidentally spotted signs for this place while driving through after finishing our time in Bryce.

We didn’t actually think much of it, considering the sign was so small for it that it didn’t seem important. But because our next destination was too far to explore that same day, we decided to turn back and end the day exploring Mossy Cave and we were truly happy that we did!

This is a very short, but very pleasant scenic hike. It has red sand, bridges, beautiful views and even a nice waterfall called Tropic Ditch Falls as well as a cave you can explore (the actual Mossy Cave). I just saw signs for it as I was headed to my next destination and decided to stop there. In our case, when we went here, the cave was filled with ice as you can see which I think adds more beauty to it.

6) Finish the one day trip with the Bryce Canyon National Park scenic drive:

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It’s almost embarrassing for me to admit that I actually missed this activity in Bryce, but you don’t have to. This is the most amazing scenic drives in Utah that you can do and in this case inside the park once you finish the hiking trails I shared above and it’ll probably take you an hour to do with all the stops you’ll likely want to make. Just so you know, the road is identified as road 63 or Bryce Canyon National Park road.

You’ll cross Bryce Natural Bridge (one of the most famous arches in Utah), Ponderosa Canyon (great overlook of Bryce) and finish at Yovimpa Point, where you will also have the option to explore another popular day hike in Bryce (if you have time) called Riggs Spring Loop trail (which by the way I have added as the next hike I explore the next time I visit Bryce Canyon).

When to visit Bryce Canyon National Park (My advice):

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I’ve so far only visited this park in the winter and as someone who prefers cold weather, I loved it. The only downside to this is that some parts of the park may be closed. 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.

Do you need to wear any special stuff for any Bryce Canyon hiking trails?

I absolutely recommend it. For any “hikes” that’ll give you views of the top of the park, you probably don’t need to, but if you decide to hike down into the park or any of the major trails, it’ll definitely help if you wear (at least) basic clothing for hiking (including shoes).

Questions you may have before visiting Bryce Canyon National Park:

Is Bryce Canyon or Zion better?

I liked exploring Zion more than Bryce personally but they are both well worth seeing and close enough to one another to do that.

What is special about Bryce Canyon?

The landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park is very unique with large orange pillar cliffs and caves to explore.

How long should I spend in Bryce Canyon National Park?

You can do a one day trip to Bryce and explore most of it, but if you like to take your time, 2 days is more than enough.

Do I need reservations for Bryce National Park?

To get into Bryce Canyon, you do not need reservations but you do need to pay an entrance fee. If you plan to stay at a hotel near Bryce or a campground inside the park, that requires reservations.

Can you drive your car in Bryce Canyon?

You can drive over and around Bryce, but you can’t drive into Bryce Canyon itself. The main drive into the park will take you to viewpoints that overlook the park with hiking trails that take you into it.

My overall review of seeing Bryce Canyon National Park:

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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. On a related topic, you can check out my post on Zion vs Bryce Canyon to see a good comparison of these 2 places and I also have many Bryce Canyon National Park photos that show even more of this park there.

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.

More things to do near Bryce Canyon:

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Aside from Mossy Cave and exploring the other Mighty 5 National Parks (it’s too obvious), let me share some none traditional (and amazing) spots to see near Bryce:

1) Explore Red Canyon (15 minutes away). It’s hard to miss this amazing area if you’re driving to Bryce from the south.

2) If you have time, visit and stay in Kanab which is 1 hour south (close to Zion actually and there’s a lot of great places to stay there).

3) Willis Creek Slot Canyon is about an hour away too (amazing, more remote slot canyon hike I really enjoyed).

4) If you have time, explore Grand Staircase Escalante and the hikes there (better than what you see in Bryce in my opinion).

5) Utah State Parks (Not the National Parks and one of them is in Escalante).

This mixed together with the national parks to see make for an amazing road trip through Utah.

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