Bryce Canyon National Park is located in south-central Utah on the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The interest in preserving this area was largely due to its unique geology. The park is not a canyon, but a high plateau which has had its edges carved out by eroding forces. This has created a series of bowls and irregularly eroded columns of rock called hoodoos and Bryce Canyon is home to the largest concentration of hoodoos found anywhere on earth. The eroded plateau reveals a fossil record of the plant and animal life in the region from 130 to 40 million years ago. Archeological evidence suggests that people have been passing through what is now Bryce Canyon for at least 10,000 years. Today, visitors can explore these striking red and orange rock formations by hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, or bus tours.
Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon
Due to the park’s high elevation from 8,000 ft (2438 m) to 10,000 ft (3048 m), as well as approximate 2000 ft (610 m) elevation change, the weather can be highly variable. Come prepared for a variety of weather conditions.
Weather in the spring is highly variable. Spring storms bringing heavy snowfall are possible in March and April. Due to the lower number of tourists, spring is a great time to explore Bryce Canyon in an RV rental as long as you come prepared.
Summer days are pleasant. July is the hottest month of the year, with an average daytime high temperature of 83°F (28°C) and a nighttime low of 47°F (8°C). The rainy season comes in July and August and brings frequent but brief afternoon thunderstorms which may be accompanied by lightning.
The weather in fall is variable and snow may arrive as early as October. Warm sunny days are also common and daytime highs may be above 70°F (21°C).
December through February are the coldest and snowiest months with nighttime temperatures often falling below freezing. Average high temperatures in the winter are 37°F (3°C) and average low temperatures are 15°F (-9°C). Despite the cold weather, winter enjoys some dry, sunny days which makes a winter visit enjoyable.
It’s always a good idea to start off any National Parks trip with a stop at a visitor center. Here you can speak to park rangers, view exhibits, watch the park video on the area’s natural and cultural history, join a ranger-led program, or pick up maps, books, brochures, backcountry permits, and junior ranger booklets.
Bryce Canyon Visitor Center – located on Highway 63, Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, UT. Open year-round.
Getting To / Around Bryce Canyon
Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport (LAS) – Drive 272 miles (437.7 km) for about 4 hours and 15 minutes via the I-15 N to arrive at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) – Drive 274 miles (441 km) for about 4 hours and 15 minutes via the I-15 S to arrive at Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.
Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC) – Drive 93 miles (149.7 km) for 1.5 – 2 hours via the I-15 N to arrive at Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.
St. George Regional Airport (SGU) – Drive 156 miles (251 km) for 2.5 – 3 hours via the I-15 N to arrive at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.
Bryce Canyon offers a free shuttle that runs from April to October. Visitors are strongly encouraged to ride the shuttle in order to reduce traffic congestion and preserve the park. The shuttle runs to the campgrounds, visitors center, Bryce Canyon City, viewpoints, and trailheads. Since Bryce Canyon has such a great shuttle service in place it makes it easy to leave your motorhome rental at the campsite and explore the park.
Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Rainbow Point is located at mile 18 at the end of Park Drive, the farthest and highest of the park’s viewpoints at 9,115 ft (2778 m). In order to best enjoy this scenic drive, park staff recommend to drive straight to this point and then turn around and stop at the 13 viewpoints along the way back in order to help the flow of traffic. Visitors can access these points of interest by personal vehicle or by the free park shuttle. It is best to use park transportation when traveling through Bryce Canyon National Park in an RV as parking the motorhome can be difficult. Alternatively, park visitors can bicycle on all park roadways and the Shared-Use Path. The park has closed all other park trails and off-trail routes to bicycling.
There are four main viewpoints that are not to be missed; Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. Hiking the Rim Trail, if planned right, can take you to all four of these main viewpoints. The park has rated this popular trail as easy and is 11 miles (17.7 km) round-trip. There are many more trails ranging from easy to strenuous that will take you winding through hoodoos or exploring the plateau forests.
Backcountry trails will take you down below the plateau into the forested areas of the park. The Under-the-Rim Trail is a 23 mile (37 km) hike with many backcountry camping spots along the way. Park rangers require permits for overnight backpacking trips.
While exploring Bryce Canyon, you may be lucky enough to spot some park wildlife. This may include pronghorn deer, black bears, ground squirrels, ravens, hummingbirds, peregrine falcon, rocky mountain elk, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, or prairie dogs among others.
Guided horseback riding tours are another way visitors can explore the park. Experienced guides will take you on either a 2 or 3-hour ride into Bryce Amphitheater. Tours run from about April 1 until October 31 depending on the weather.
Winter in the park offers a few new activities. The many viewpoints are covered in a blanket of white snow, and snowshoe and cross-country ski routes are open above the rim. Rentals are available in communities outside of the park.
Ranger programs are a free way to learn more about the park. Daily geology talks, rim walks, evening programs, astronomy programs, kids programs, snowshoe hikes, and full moon hikes are all offered weather-dependent.
Annual Festivals are held within the park. The park hosts the Geology Festival (GeoFest) which is held annually at the end of July and includes family-friendly activities such as guided hikes, geology programs, geologist led bus tours, special guest speakers, exhibits, and activities at the visitor center. The Astronomy Festival takes place at the end of June and has activities taking place both in the day and at night. Visitors can enjoy family-friendly activities and programs such as model rocket building and launching, stargazing with telescopes, and keynote speakers.
Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon
The Bryce Canyon Lodge is a historic structure that was originally built in 1924. The lodge strives to hold on to its rustic roots by encouraging guests to unplug during their visits. This means that there are no TV’s in the lodge and that WiFi is only available in the main lodge and does not reach guest rooms. Guests have a choice of lodge suites, motel rooms, or cabins. The lodge dining room offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Valhalla Pizzeria & Coffee Shop is located adjacent from the lodge and serves pizza, salad, dessert, coffee, and alcohol between May and October. Although the park is open year-round, the lodge has limited options available during the winter months. Visitors are advised to make reservations, especially in the summer months.
Camping in Bryce Canyon National Park
North Campground is conveniently located near the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center, general store, and popular hiking trails. It is a large wooded campground consisting of 99 tent and RV camping sites which are all first-come, first-serve. One loop of this campground stays open year-round for winter camping.
Sunset Campground is located near Sunset Point, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center. The sites have appropriate privacy due to tree cover. Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis except during the peak season from mid-May through mid-October when reservations are available. This large campground has 100 sites for both RV’s and tents. The park closes Sunset Campground for the winter season from November through mid-April.
If you are looking for a spot with a few more amenities try Paradise RV Park and Campground. Located just 15 minutes from Bryce Canyon this RV park has 30 and 50 amp services and can accommodate any size motorhome. This campground has a gift shop and a laundromat on site.
Things to Remember While Visiting Bryce Canyon
- Follow ‘Leave No Trace’ principles.
- There is no reliable cell phone service in the park
- Free public WiFi is offered at the parks Visitor Center.
- Be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. The high elevation sun is strong at all times of the year. Come prepared with adequate sun and rain protection.
- Fill up on gas before entering the park. Gas stations are located in surrounding communities.
- Plan to buy food before arriving. In the park, visitors can find food at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, the Valhalla Pizzeria & Coffee Shop, and at the general store. Options may be limited or seasonal.
- Respect wildlife from a distance: don’t approach them or let them approach you.
- Human food has serious impacts on wildlife. Don’t feed wildlife, keep camps free of all traces of food, store food in an animal-proof food locker, and place garbage in an animal-proof trash can.
- Pets are only permitted on paved surfaces in the park such as parking lots, campgrounds, and paved roads and viewpoints for their safety and the safety of park wildlife.