Bryce Canyon National Park is one amazing sight to see!
Despite its name, it’s actually not a canyon, but instead, a collection of giant natural amphitheaters along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctively known for its geological structures known as hoodoos, formed by weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The towering red, orange, and white colors of the sandstone rocks provide spectacular views unlike anywhere else.
Bryce Canyon National Park is much smaller and sits at a much higher elevation than the nearby Zion National Park. It also receives substantially fewer visitors every year. But let me tell you – it’s one of the most underrated national parks!
Location, Location, Location
Pit Stops on your way to Bryce
There’s a lot of random and fun things to see on your way to the park as well. If you’re a weirdo like me, may I recommend making a pitstop at Bear Valley RV, or accidentally inappropriately hugging a ginormous Smokey the Bear at the park entrance?
Utah’s Scenic Highway, Hwy 12, provides access to the Bryce Canyon Area, as it cuts across the northern part of the national park. Hwy 63 drops south from Hwy 12 and runs through the main part of the park, past the visitor center, the campgrounds and all of the park’s scenic overlooks.
Bonus points if you notice the 3 Smokey The Bears in the next photo. He happened to be out and about that day, giving out high-fives during Corona. What a rebel.
You may recognize this Insta-famous arch over the roadway! You’ll see it on your drive into Bryce Canyon.
Word of warning: there’s a blind curve and quite a bit of traffic. You’ll have to play frogger to get that shot! If you don’t die, it’s totally worth it.
Now to the hiking part. That’s why we’re all here, right?
Navajo Loop to Queens Garden
If you only do one hike at Bryce Canyon, this should be it.
Because you get views of the ENTIRE park!
Sunset Point is the starting and ending point for this hike. You can easily find Sunset Point on the map the park will give you.
Park in the parking lot at Sunset Point. When you step out to the overlook, be prepared to be amazed!
Hike north (left) along the canyon rim until you reach Sunrise Point. From there follow the Queens Garden Trail to a 4-way intersection down at the bottom of the canyon. Continue straight ahead into the Wall Street half of the Navajo Loop, which will return you back up to Sunset Point.
The entire hike is full of towering and unique sandstone formations. You could literally spend all day on this trail just exploring and taking photos!
…much like I did.
Like all Southern Utah hikes, be mindful that you’re hiking in the desert. That means we don’t grow much, which in turn means we have zero shade.
(I realize that the “we don’t grow much” sounded like most of us folks in Utah are vertically challenged. I don’t believe that to be true, but what do I know)
This particular trip was in August and it just so happened to be a decent day where the heat wasn’t horrible, but it can get very very hot!
Tips to avoiding/surviving the heat:
Hike early in the morning or later at night, or even better – pick a time of year with cooler temperatures, and always bring lots of water!
Navajo Loop to Queens Garden at Bryce Canyon National Park is a 2.9-mile loop from Sunset Point back up to Sunset Point.
We opted to take the longer route (when I say opted, I mean we accidently) through to Wall Street trail. This version of the hike is 3.2 miles with an elevation gain of 643 ft.
I’m glad we took this route because the views are epic and it’s not much further than the original trail plan!
The cool thing about National Parks is that the little critters are super human-friendly. Bryce Canyon is no different. The animals are used to tourists feeding them, so they’ll come right up to you with zero fear.
Nothin’ like domesticated rabid animals to make Jessi happy.
One notable thing about this hike to be mindful of: there are switchbacks at both the beginning and end of the hike. The beginning switchbacks are relatively easy because it’s all downhill. But we all know that “what goes up must come down” and the reverse happens here.
That means at the end of this hike you’ll experience about a half mile of straight up switchbacks to the top.
I got 99 problems and switchbacks are all of them.
Hellooooooo calf burn.
But the views at the top are always worth it!
After you finish your hike, I suggest stopping at Bryce Point for a killer view of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Bryce Point is a breathtaking viewpoint to admire the magnificent red rock hoodoos and unique geological formations within the natural amphitheater.
It’s a short stroll to some beautiful lookout points and totally worth the stop.
It’s no secret that Southern Utah is home to some of the most beautiful terrain on the planet.
Whether you are passing through or vacationing for a few days, the natural beauty here will leave you in awe.
No amount of planning can prepare you for the scenic beauty of Bryce Canyon, or its neighboring attractions, either.
If you’re ready to plan your trip to Southern Utah, check out all the must-see sights, by clicking HERE!
If you’re looking for the most Instagram-worthy Southern Utah spots, you can find a stunning list that will leave you with gorgeous photos for all your social media channels, by clicking here: Most Instagrammable Places in Southern Utah.