How to see Bryce Canyon in one day: a complete day trip itinerary

Sunset at Bryce Canyon

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It’s easy to visit Bryce Canyon National Park in one day – find out how to do it here!

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the “Mighty 5” National Parks in Utah – a stunning group of National Parks that also include Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. I recently hiked through all five National Parks and absolutely fell in love with Bryce Canyon. Don’t get me wrong – all of the National Parks in Utah are unique and amazingly beautiful, but Bryce Canyon is my favorite of the Mighty 5.

I love Bryce Canyon because it is so unique. The rock formations are so unique, the weather is less aggressive in the summer, and it’s less crowded than other Mighty 5 National Parks. It offers up all the greatness of the other parks, but with a little something extra.

It’s really easy to visit Bryce Canyon in one day. Find out how to spend your day with this one-day itinerary!

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What you need to know about Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is located just a few hours east of Las Vegas (the closest major airport) near the southwestern corner of Utah. It is surrounded by stunning natural areas, including Zion National Park and a ton of State Parks.

Bryce Canyon is famous for their “hoodoos” – the tall, skinny, crown-like rock formations that rise out of the base of Bryce Canyon. Despite growing up near the gorgeous geology of Roxborough State Park in Colorado – and despite seeing all the other National Parks in Utah! – hoodoos are like nothing I’ve ever seen. They are so unique, which is what makes Bryce Canyon so beautiful.

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos
Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park

Sitting at over 7,500′ elevation, elevation can be a problem at Bryce Canyon. If you’re coming from a low elevation place (like me, hello Houston!), the elevation will make breathing much more difficult than you may be used to. In addition, this elevation means you are literally a mile and a half closer to the sun than places at sea level. Sunburns happen fast at this elevation, so you’ll want to be prepared with sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.

There are no services down in the canyon, so pack plenty of water and any snacks you may need. Cell service is limited to non-existent and you’ll need to be prepared.

Bryce Canyon is also cooler than the other parks, temperature-wise. You will likely want to pack a jacket, even in the summertime. It’ll warm up quickly but in the morning, temperatures can dip to nearly freezing! Check the weather before you go and be prepared.

Where to stay when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

If you get lucky, you may be able to snag lodging at the Bryce Canyon Lodge. This is definitely the best way to go, but this books up quick – literally months in advance. This will put you right in the heart of Bryce Canyon.

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

Stay in the heart of Bryce Canyon at Bryce Canyon Lodge! With unbeatable views and the ultimate convenience, this is the best place to stay at Bryce Canyon.

The closest city to Bryce Canyon National Park is Bryce Canyon City and is the second-best place to stay if you can’t find accommodations at the Lodge. Bryce Canyon City is best described as “kitschy”. I met a hiker who described it as “the city Cracker Barrel would design if they did that sort of thing.” It’s touristy and a bit obnoxious, but puts you about 7 minutes from the Sunrise Point parking lot.

The absolute best hotel to stay at here is the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Lodge. It’s a huge hotel that offers a gigantic gift shop, pool, on-site breakfast, shuttle to the park entrance, and more. The furnishings are a bit dated but otherwise, Ruby’s Lodge is a great option.

Best Western Plus Ruby's Inn

Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn

With a stay at Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon, you’ll be in a national park, within a 5-minute drive of Bryce Canyon National Park and Old Bryce Town. Featured amenities include complimentary wired Internet access, a business center, and complimentary newspapers in the lobby.

The perfect Bryce Canyon National park one-day itinerary

As I talk about these routes, open up the Bryce Canyon park map in another tab for reference!

Begin your morning with a gorgeous sunrise

Sorry to say, but to get the best experience at Bryce Canyon, you’re going to have to wake up early – really early.

Check out the sunrise time and plan to arrive at the Sunrise Point parking lot roughly 30 minutes prior to this time. Sunrise time means the moment when the sun peaks over the ridge, so to experience the full sunrise, you’ll want to get there a little bit early.

Walk from the parking lot to Sunrise Point. You may as well bring your entire backpacking pack, because your day continues when you’re done enjoying the sunrise. Bring a packable jacket, because it’s sure to be chilly!

Pro tip: sunrise is better than sunset at Bryce. I experienced both – it’s worth waking up early for (better views, beat the crowds, AND beat the heat – win win win!)

Once you’re done enjoying the sunrise, take the roughly half-mile walk to Sunset Point, where you’ll begin your hike down the Navajo Loop Trail via Wall Street.

Estimated time: 45 minutes, roughly half a mile.

Trek down Navajo Loop via Wall Street

You could start hiking down from Sunrise Point straight into Queen’s Garden, but I learned the hard way that it’s much more difficult to go UP Navajo Loop than down. Queen’s Garden is easier to climb, so that’s why we’re switching things up here.

Walk the Rim Trail to Sunset Point. You’re going to be hiking down the Navajo Loop via Wall Street. There are two sides to the Loop, but Wall Street is stunning – soaring rocks with difficult switchbacks (made less difficult, because you’re climbing down). This is definitely the route you want to take.

Start with Navajo Loop to go DOWN this instead of up!

The Navajo Loop trail meets the intersection of the Peek-a-Boo access spur, the second half of Navajo Loop, and Queen’s Garden after about 0.7 miles.

Estimated time: 30-60 minutes, 0.7 miles.

Complete the Peek-a-Boo Loop

At the base of the Navajo Loop, you’ll be at a literal fork in the road. At this point, you will decide if you want to go for a shorter hike or a longer, fairly strenuous hike.

I’m gonna be honest: I’m plus-sized and don’t work out often enough. I didn’t train for this, either, so the hiking and elevation was challenging for me. Despite all these factors, I was able to complete this entire loop I’m recommending. If you have plenty of water and snacks and no mobility issues, you’ll be able to complete this, too. It may take time – that’s ok! – as long as you’re prepared.

Bryce Canyon in One Day
The center chunk is Peek-a-Boo. This entire loop took me just over 4 hours, so it’s definitely doable!

If you’re exhausted, finish the hike up Queen’s Garden (and skip to that section). If you’re feeling motivated, continue to Peek-a-Boo.

Continue down to the relatively level spur trail to Peek-a-Boo Loop. You’ll get to a sign that indicates the loop is 3 miles from that point.

Don’t make the same mistake I did! When you get to this sign, go LEFT. It’s a more difficult hike if you turn right.

Peek-a-Boo loop is a pretty difficult hike, but if you planned time (which this itinerary does!), it’s absolutely doable. Looking at the image above, you can see that there is a lot of elevation change in this hike. Take breaks and have plenty of water. Some Gatorade or Powerade will help, too, along with food.

This hike is less traveled than other trails, so it’s a great way to experience some tranquility in Bryce.

After 1.3 miles, you’ll have the option to bail out of Peek-a-Boo. If you’re exhausted, DEFINITELY do this! You’ll take a 1.5 mile trail to Bryce Canyon Point, where you can snag the free park shuttle to return to the Lodge.

If you decide to continue on, you’ll eventually begin to wonder how you’ll make it out of the canyon without some restroom facilities. Thankfully, at about the halfway point, you’ll run into some restrooms! I’ve never been so thankful for a restroom.

Continue along the Peek-a-Boo loop for another ~mile or so. When you make it back to the start of the loop, travel back on the spur trail to that fork at Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden.

Estimated time: 2.5 hours, 3.5 miles.

Exit the Canyon at Queen’s Garden

Take a much-needed rest at the benches at this junction. Load up on water and snacks and chat with the other hikers.

(Side note, hikers are a lovely bunch – impossibly friendly and easy to chat with. You’re guaranteed to make friends along the trails).

When you’ve caught your breath, continue on to Queen’s Garden.

In my opinion, Queen’s Garden is the most beautiful trail. It’s winding, relatively peaceful, and provides absolutely stunning views of the hoodoos. It’s a great way to finish up your hike.

Unfortunately, you’ve spent the last few hours INSIDE the canyon. To exit, you’ll have to climb up. This is going to be fairly difficult, but pace yourself and you’ll be fine.

The end of this trail will spit you out right by your car, so it’s super convenient!

If you are still hungry once completing Queen’s Garden, head over to the Lodge and get some food. If you have enough snacks, you’ll get in your car and complete the Scenic Drive.

Estimated time: 1 hour, 1.7 miles.

Total distance: 6.5-7 miles, 3-5 hours.

Bryce Canyon One Day Itinerary

Take the Scenic Drive

Phew, finally time to relax! Sure, there are still other hikes in Bryce, but you’ve just hit the majority of them. Pat yourself on the back and take a breather because it’s time to take the scenic drive.

Hop in your car and go to the far end of the scenic drive. Don’t bother snagging any viewpoints just yet – they’ll be easier to check out on the way back.

Once you’re on the return route, check out any of the viewpoints that interest you. This 18-mile drive will take you about 35 minutes to the end and maybe another hour on the way back (depending on how long you linger at each viewpoint).

If you’ve followed this one day itinerary, it’s probably sometime between noon and 2 pm. You’ve now completed your one day in Bryce Canyon and you’ve earned a well-deserved shower and rest!

Return to town for a shower and nap

Head back to your accomodation to snag a shower and a nap. You’ll likely be exhausted after walking nearly 8 miles and taking probably 25,000 steps. Shower off the grime, take a 2 hour nap, and head to dinner!

Drive to Tropic for dinner

Even if you’re staying at Ruby’s, the best place to eat dinner is in Tropic, a roughly 20 minute drive away.

If you’re looking for something more low-key, definitely checkout idk BBQ. Just make sure to save room for the delicious peach cobbler!

If you’re looking for more high-end dining, Stonehearth Grille is the way to go. Considering I had eaten two meals out of a backpack, I thought I earned a nice, sit-down experience with awesome food.

Stonehearth Grille really surprised me. The food was surprisingly high-end for being nearly in the middle of nowhere. The patio is adorable and has great views, which added to the entire experience. It’s popular, so definitely make a reservation!

I ordered wine, one appetizer, and the steak. The food was fresh and bright and very clearly high-quality. I like my steak well-done (blasphemy, I know), and despite being well-done, the meat was butter soft. It was like cutting into a pot roast!

After dinner, rest easy – you’ve earned it.

It’s easy to visit Bryce Canyon in one day. With this itinerary, you’re sure to have a great trip!

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