If you only have one day in Bryce Canyon National Park, make sure to hit these highlights.
Bryce Canyon Amphitheater
Of this whole two week National Park roadtrip, our afternoon in Bryce Canyon was a definite highlight for me. After spending about five days in Zion on the canyon floor, I was used to looking up at things. Driving into Zion, the cliffs tower in the distance; you can’t miss them. But coming into Bryce Canyon, the landscape around is pretty unassuming until you get to the edge of the canyon. Suddenly, the world falls away into an exquisite bowl of shapes and colors, forming an almost alien landscape. Fiery orange limestone rock melts into tangerine and purple sands, while the towers fade from white to orange. You can’t help but think: What is this place?
One of the things that makes Bryce unique are its distinctive shapes knows as hoodoos. Hoodoos are defined as “bulbous columns of weathered rock” which is a delightful phrase. As is the word “hoodoos.” Hoodoos are formed when frost creates holes in the rock. Rain then shapes and erodes the limestone by dissolving it. The resultant forms are the unique and quirky looking hoodoos you see today. With each rainstorm, the canyon is reshaping itself.
Hike the Queen’s Garden Loop
Eager to get up close and personal with the hoodoos ourselves, we began our journey by following the Queen’s Garden Loop. This hike starts off at Sunrise point, and finishes at Sunset Point. Stretching three miles, it gives a wide variety of views both above and in the canyon with only 600 feet of elevation gain, which is what makes it one of the most popular hikes in the park.
We were like kids in a candy shop. We couldn’t stop taking pictures or marveling at every unique shape or stacking. I had never been in a landscape that felt so otherworldly and monochromatic; it felt like we were looking at the world through a filter.
One of my absolute favorite parts of this whole road trip was hiking up Wall Street. The orange walls and all the switchbacks make it feel like you fell into a Dr. Seuss book.
After we finished the loop, we popped down as far as we could on the other arm of the Navajo loop to see Thor’s hammer. (At the time, the rest of the trail was closed.)
We finished the day with the half-mile walk between Sunrise and Sunset, stopping to have our picture taken by a lovely foreign man who pretended to run off with our camera, but who then took one of my favorite pictures of the entire trip.
Friends, get you a good travel buddy. I spent over a week on the road with my sister-in-law and they are memories and experiences I will treasure forever.
Things to Note
Take advantage of the free shuttle.
There is a shuttle that runs every 10-15 minutes that will take you to popular viewpoints throughout the main amphitheater of the park. It runs from 8am-6pm (8pm in the summer). Check the app at brycecanyonshuttle.com for most current times.
We spent two nights at Bryce Canyon Pines. This was a nice campground with shaded sites, lots of trees, laundry, showers and a camp store, all on site. Conveniently located 12 min from the entrance to the park, this was a great place to rest at night, minus the downpours.
Next up, a second full day in Bryce. Check out Day 10 at the Grand Canyon if you missed it.