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Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is a uniquely beautiful landscape that is known for its hoodoo formations which are eroded rock formations. The best way to explore the unique scenery and get a closer look at these hoodoo formations is to hike one of the many hiking trails in Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park has a hiking trail for anyone, from easy to challenging hikes.

In addition to discussing the best hikes in the park, we will also discuss the following:

  • The best time to visit Bryce Canyon.
  • Anything you need to know about hiking in Bryce Canyon.
  • Accommodation near Bryce Canyon.
  • What you need to bring to hike in Bryce Canyon.

When Should I Hike Bryce Canyon?

Bryce Canyon National Park is open throughout the year. Summer temperatures are high and dry. Winter sees snow and may see some trail closures.

The best time to visit the national park, especially for hiking, is spring and fall. From September to October and April to May the temperatures are milder and there aren’t as many crowds around.

If you are in the mood for a winter trip some of the Bryce Canyon trails will be open to snowshoeing during the winter.

Tips for Hiking Bryce Canyon

Here are some expert tips for hiking in Bryce Canyon.

  • Invest in the America the Beautiful National Park PassIt’s a good way to save money if you want to road trip from Zion to Bryce Canyon or if you want to see all 5 Utah national parks. This pass only costs $80 and can be used for 12 months in any of the 63 national parks in the US. Without the pass the entrance fee to Bryce Canyon National Park is around $35.
  • If you’re hiking in the summer, be prepared for thunderstorms. Keep an eye on the weather forecast because summer thunderstorms can be dangerous to hikers.
  • Wear layers. Even outside of winter, night temperatures can be below freezing. During day time the temperature can rise dramatically. So having several layers can be helpful.
  • Pack lots of water. Even when the day is expected to be cold. Of the Utah Mighty 5 national parks, Bryce Canyon has the highest elevation. With elevation gain you dehydrate faster than normal. We recommend at least half a liter of water per person per hour of hiking.
  • There are several fantastic points to view a breathtaking sunrise before your hike – specifically along the Rim Trail. Sunset Point and Sunrise Point are excellent options. This is a fantastic way to experience Bryce Canyon National Park.
  • Start hiking early. Bryce Canyon parking lots fill up quickly and early morning is the best time to catch the Bryce Amphitheater.

Accommodation Close to the Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park

You can find several accommodation options in Bryce Canyon National Park, but there are also some fantastic campgrounds outside the park. Accommodation in Bryce Canyon National Park books up quickly. If you want to stay at the lodge you will need to book up to 13 months in advance.

Best Accommodation In Bryce Canyon National Park

  • Sunset Campground is usually booked up six months in advance and is open between May and October.
  • North Campground does not take reservations and is open year-round.
  • The Lodge at Bryce Canyon is the only hotel that can be found inside the park.

What Should I bring for the Best Hike in Bryce Canyon?

No matter where you plan to hike, you need to be sure to pack the essentials. If you want to be prepared for a hike in Bryce Canyon we recommend packing the following:

  • Camera
    • Everyone wants to document their hikes in Bryce Canyon so bring a good-quality camera.
  • Sun Protection
    • Sun protection is always essential, even in winter times, and the same goes for Bryce Canyon’s hiking trails where shade is few and far between.
  • Hiking Essentials
    • The standard set of hiking essentials is non-negotiable.
  • Wear Hiking Boots
    • Having a good pair of hiking boots or trail runners is extremely important. You cannot hike Bryce Canyon without good traction. Remember to break the boots in before attempting the hike.
  • Rain Protection
    • Thunder and rainstorms in the summer are common, and rain in this part of the world can be unpredictable overall. Having rain protection is always a good idea.
  • Layers
    • Temperature fluctuations are common and can reach extremes. It’s important to have layers to work with when hiking.

The Best Hiking Trails in Bryce Canyon National Park

As we have mentioned, Bryce Canyon National Park has a bunch of different hiking trails at various levels of difficulty and lengths. We will discuss 12 of the best hikes in the park here.

Hat Shop Trail

  • Trailhead: Bryce Point
  • Hiking Time: 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 1,075 feet
  • Distance: 4 miles

The Hat Shop Trail follows part of the Under-the-Rim backcountry trail. It starts at Bryce Point along the same trailhead as the popular Peekaboo Trail, but unlike the crowded Peekaboo trail, the Hat Shop Trail is fairly quiet.

The name of this trail comes from hoodoo formations halfway through the trail where large grey boulders are balanced on top of the hoodoos, like hats.

This trail might be short, but it traverses difficult terrain that is rough on the knees. Keeping this in mind, we do not recommend this trail for novices, but it is perfect for the more advanced Bryce Canyon hiker.

Tower Bridge

  • Trailhead: Sunrise Point
  • Hiking Time: 2 to 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 802 feet
  • Distance: 3 miles

Tower Bridge takes hikers to a landmark rock formation along a moderate path under the rim. Like many other hikes on our list, it starts at Sunrise Point and winds down Bryce Canyon providing spectacular views of the Bristlecone Pines and hoodoos.

This out-and-back hike leads along landmarks like the Chinese Wall and Tower Bridge (if you take the longer Fairyland Loop Trail).

Bristlecone Loop

  • Trailhead: Rainbow Point
  • Hiking Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 200 feet
  • Distance: 1 mile

The Bristlecone Loop Trail starts at the park’s highest point: Rainbow Point which takes you more than 9,000 feet above sea level. The trail is named after the Bristlecone Pines in the park which are the oldest living tree species on the planet. The oldest Bristlecone Pine in the park is more than 1,600 years old.

This short hike provides absolutely unique views of Bryce Canyon due to its high elevation. Here you will find fewer crowds than the rest of Bryce Canyon Amphitheater.

Also take note that the high elevations mean that this is one of the colder Bryce Canyon hikes where you are likely to still find snow in late Spring.

Peekaboo Loop Trail

  • Trailhead: Bryce Point
  • Hiking Time: 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 1,571 feet
  • Distance: 5.5 miles

Bryce Canyon regulars love the Peekaboo Loop Trail (or Peek-a-boo Loop) which is longer than the other hikes that go through the hoodoos without the crowds that clog the Navajo Trail. Because this is a steep trail it offers up some amazing views, including the Wall of Windows.

From Bryce Point hikers continue in a clockwise direction and descend quite quickly to the canyon floor.

Once you have traversed the amphitheater you will climb the 1,500 feet back up to Bryce Point.

There are various ways that the Peekaboo Loop can be combined with other trails to lengthen the hike and add more scenery:

  • Bryce Amphitheater Traverse which is a 4.7-mile one-way trail that begins at Bryce Point and covers both the Queens Garden and Peekaboo before ending at Sunrise Point where the shuttle is available to take hikers back to Bryce Point.
  • Figure 8 Combination is a 6.4-mile loop that begins at Sunrise Point and covers the Queens Garden, Peekaboo, and Navajo loop Trails.
  • Navajo / Peekaboo Combination Loop is a 4.9-mile loop that starts at Sunset Point and encompasses both the Peekaboo and Navajo loops.

Sheep Creek/Swamp Canyon

  • Trailhead: Swamp Canyon
  • Hiking Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 647 feet
  • Distance: 4 miles

The Swamp Canyon trail provides a great opportunity for hikers to get away from the crowds and experience a part of the Bryce Canyon backpacking trails. The trail starts at Swamp Canyon Overlook and forms a moderate hiking loop that connects with the Under the Rim backpacking trail.

We suggest taking a clockwise direction for this loop trail that will take you over some steep climbs. The landscape here is completely different from the rest of Bryce Canyon National Park and its hikes. There is less of the orange desert and more foliage along the way.

Fairyland Loop Trail

  • Trailhead: Fairyland Point
  • Hiking Time: 4 to 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 1,716 feet
  • Distance: 8 miles

The Fairyland Loop Trail is another of the more popular Bryce Canyon National Park trails, and unlike some of the other popular trails is also one of the harder hikes in Bryce Canyon. The Fairyland Loop is the longest day hike in Bryce Canyon. The trail starts at Fairyland Point and dips below the canyon rim.

Fairyland Loop weaves through Bristlecone Pine trees and the hoodoos.

This trail leads clockwise around Boat Mesa and past the Chinese Wall views. Parts of the trail crisscross and overlap with other trails in Bryce Canyon, including the Rim Trail. And you can take an additional short walk up to Tower Bridge.

Mossy Cave Trail

  • Trailhead: 4 miles east of the park on Highway 12
  • Hiking Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 200 feet
  • Distance: 0.8 miles

The Mossy Cave Trail starts outside of the entry station for Bryce Canyon National Park. The trailhead is around 4 miles outside of the park along Highway 12. This is an easy trail with views that are very different from what you can see in the rest of Bryce Canyon National Park.

The trail leads along a small stream to a mossy cave. There is quite a bit of moss hanging down in the cave that transforms into icicles in the winter and drips down fresh water in the summer.

Mossy Cave Trail does not show you much of the dry and orange hoodoos, but instead provides some lush green foliage. This is one of the easier Bryce Canyon hikes and is perfect for families.

Queen’s/Navajo Combination Loop

  • Trailhead: Sunset Point
  • Hiking Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 600 feet
  • Distance: 2.9 miles

This combination trail gives hikers the opportunity to traverse both the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queens Garden Trail.

The hike starts at Sunrise Point along the Queens Garden Trail and then connects to the Navajo Loop where you end up climbing the Sunset Point switchbacks along the Rim Trail.

Many hikers indicate that this is the best hike in Bryce Canyon. The most iconic points of both trails are seen from this Queens and Navajo Loop, including Thor’s HammerWall Street, and Queen Victoria.

It is possible to hike the Queens and Navajo Loop from either starting point, but we recommend the Sunrise Point.

Navajo Trail

  • Trailhead: Sunset Point
  • Hiking Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 550 feet
  • Distance: 1.3 miles

The Navajo Loop Trail begins at the Sunset Point and takes hikers below the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater rim. It is slightly more challenging than the Queens Garden trail but provides some additional epic views.

A series of switchbacks take you down into the canyon from your starting point. When you get into the canyon there are towering walls and slot canyons like Wall Street to traverse through.

The Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park is an extremely popular trail, so there tends to be a crowd whenever you go, but fewer crowds can be found just after sunrise.

The Navajo trail takes hikers to Thor’s Hammer and is great for someone who wants a bit more of a challenge while viewing the hoodoos.

The Navajo Loop trail is also an out-and-back which provides for a steep climb on the way back.

Queens Garden Trail (Queen’s Garden Trail)

  • Trailhead: Sunrise Point
  • Hiking Time: 1 Hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 357 feet
  • Distance: 1.8 miles

The Queens Garden trail (or Queen’s Garden Trail) is known as the hike “under the rim” and is one of the best ways to see the hoodoos up close. This trail takes you down to the hoodoos themselves where you can walk among them and see them in their glory.

The Queens Garden trail is the easiest trail that takes you right to the hoodoos. The trail starts at Sunrise Point and goes down into the canyon without much elevation change.

One of the hoodoos that you get a gander at on the Queens Garden trail is the magnificent Queen Victoria. This is the hoodoo that gave the trail its name as it is said to resemble Queen Victoria on her throne.

This is an out-and-back hikewhich means you hike halfway out and come back the same way you went in. The Queens Garden trail is the perfect next step after watching the sunrise.

Sunset Point to Sunrise Point

  • Trailhead: Sunset Point Parking Lot
  • Hiking Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 34 feet
  • Distance: 1 mile

If you’re looking for a shorter hike than the full Rim Trail, you can take the Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, which is a paved section of the trail. Many hikers feel like this part of the trail offers up the best views of the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater.

As an added bonus this is the easiest part of the trail and is accessible to wheelchairs and is quite close to the parking lot. Starting from either end of the trail is guaranteed to give you fantastic views of the hoodoos.

Rim Trail

  • Trailhead: Bryce Point or Fairyland Point
  • Hiking Time: 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 1,754 feet
  • Distance: 5.5 miles

The Rim Trail follows the canyon and provides fantastic birds-eye views of the hoodoo formations as it wraps around the Amphitheater. Parts of the Rim Trail are paved while the rest is made up of dirt paths.

All along the Rim Trail you will find benches specifically placed there for hikers to enjoy the amazing views and idyllic sunrises.

The Rim Trail is a one-way and connects Bryce Point and Fairyland Point. If you do not want to retrace the hike back down there is an official (and free of charge) Bryce Canyon shuttle that runs from April to mid-October.

Starting at Bryce Point gives you a mostly downhill hike, whereas starting at Fairyland Point will give you an uphill trek.

There are several must-see spots along the way, including Fairyland PointSunrise PointSunset PointInspiration Point, and Bryce Point.

Things to do in Bryce Canyon Trails that are not hiking

While Bryce Canyon hikes are extremely popular, and the heart of this list lies with the best hikes in the park, we would be amiss not to include some additional things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park should you need a break from hiking.

  • Get your national parks passport stamped at the visitor center. This provides a great opportunity to document your travels through stamp collection from all the national parks that you visit.
  • Take a look around Bryce Canyon Lodge. It is very close to the amphitheater and has some stunning views. So get a bite to eat at the restaurant.
  • Full moon hikes and stargazing. Bryce Canyon is an official dark sky part which means that it has some of the most visible stars in many national parks in the country. Full moon hikes are led by rangers on a lottery basis.
  • A scenic drive along Rainbow Point. This drive will lead you to some of the best viewing points in the park (all 15 of them).

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Hike at Bryce Canyon

How long is the scenic drive in Bryce Canyon?

The Bryce Canyon National Park is 38 miles long and we recommend that you take at least 3 or 3 hours for the drive.

How much time should you spend at Bryce Canyon?

We recommend at least a day or two in Bryce Canyon National Park in order to sample the more popular trails, the drive, and spend some time at the viewpoints.

Can you do Bryce Canyon and Zion in one day?

The Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are less than 2 hours apart and you can do both parks in a day. Although, if you want a proper trip through Utah’s National Parks you need to allow at least 3 days to cover these two parks on your grand Utah road trip.

What can you do in Bryce Canyon in one day?

Bryce Canyon, like other national parks, has a large array of things to do, but if you are visiting Bryce Canyon for only a day we recommend doing the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop plus the scenic drive. This way you can view all 15 points including Rainbow Point.

What should I not miss in Bryce Canyon?

Our favorite part of the Bryce Canyon National Park is the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail, the Sunrise and Sunset Point and the scenic drive to Rainbow Point.