With fiery orange and creamsicle-colored hoodoos, epic valley views, winding trails, and towering Douglas Fir trees, Bryce Canyon seriously tops the charts for one of the best national parks we’ve ever visited. It’s no wonder it’s a part of Utah’s “Big 5”! On our 2-week road trip across the Southwest, we decided to spend one day in Bryce Canyon National Park soaking up the best viewpoints and hiking the best trails. I’m so glad we did because Bryce Canyon is unreal!
What’s so cool about Bryce Canyon is that you can easily visit it in one day. Since it’s so much smaller compared to its neighboring national parks, you’ll have no problem visiting Bryce Canyon in one day before journeying on to your next destination.
Even with a day trip to Bryce Canyon, there’s ample time to do some hiking down in the valley amongst the hoodoos, visit several viewpoints, see the iconic Thor’s Hammer, and drive the Bryce Canyon scenic route.
If you are budgeting your time between the parks, here’s everything you need to know about how to make the most of your time with one day in Bryce Canyon.
Here’s how to spend an epic one day in Bryce Canyon! Before you go — make sure to snag a 2022-2023 national park pass and save on national park entry fees.
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The Perfect One Day Bryce Canyon Itinerary
The best way to make the most of one day in Bryce Canyon National Park is to arrive in the morning between 8 and 9 AM (or earlier). That way you can get started on the hikes without the heat of the day. This will also give you more time for seeing more viewpoints!
Here’s my personal recommendation on how to organize one day in Bryce Canyon.
Note: Entry for 1 day in Bryce Canyon costs $35. If you plan to visit other parks in the Southwest, then consider buying the National Park Pass called America The Beautiful. It costs $79.99 and has limitless entries to over 2,000 federal recreation parks across the USA and is valid for one whole year!
The best viewpoint to start at is Sunset Point. Drive straight there and park. From here, you’ll walk along the edge of the plateau to Sunrise Point. Make sure to go slowly and take in the mind-blowing views of Bryce Amphitheatre.
When you park at Sunset Point, you’ll walk along the edge of the plateau via the paved Rim Trail and then start your descent on the Queen’s Garden Trail.
On your round-trip hike (assuming you continue from Queen’s Garden on the Navajo Loop trail), you’ll end up back at Sunset Point where your car is located. Then, hop in your car and finish visiting the other awesome viewpoints at Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Fairyland Point, and Rainbow Point.
The scenic driving route is 18 miles long in total (one-way), starting at the visitor’s center and ending at Rainbow Point.
Tip: You could also do the viewpoints/hikes in reverse, but doing it this way makes you end with the most exciting/scenic parts of the hike and is the best option for a one-day itinerary.
Bryce Point Viewpoint (3rd level)
Best Hikes to Do with 1 Day in Bryce Canyon
To get a fantastic overview of Bryce Canyon in one day, I recommend combining the Queen’s Garden Trail with a portion of the Navajo Loop Trail (either Wall Street or Twin Bridges). Combined with the small walk from Sunset to Sunrise Points, this hike is approximately 2.9 miles total and will take 2-3 hours to complete.
Queen’s Garden Trail (0.9 miles one-way)
Start with the Queen’s Garden Trail. It is a fairly short, 0.9-mile route that descends from Sunrise Point (you’ll walk there from Sunset Point, where you left your car).
From here, you’ll hike down winding dirt terrain into the valley of the hoodoos. The Queen’s Garden trail introduces you to all the gorgeous formations and stunning geology of Bryce Canyon – the hoodoos, the windows, and the fins. When you see signs to go left for the Navajo Loop, continue straight to reach the official end of Queen’s Garden Trail.
Here, at the end of the trail, you’ll be in the Queen’s Garden – there’s literally a hoodoo spire that is shaped like a queen looking out onto her “garden” of other hoodoos (there’s a sign pointing her out). There are a few shady trees to plop down on and eat a snack. Don’t feed the tiny ground squirrels or Uinta chipmunks that approach you! It makes them become overweight and dependent on humans for food.
Once you’re ready to leave, instead of hiking back up the Queen’s Garden trail, take a right onto the Navajo Loop Trail.
The best way to spend one day in Bryce Canyon is to combine these two trails into one awesome hike.
The Navajo Loop Trail is a 1.4-mile loop that continues from the Queen’s Garden Trail. It gently descends further into the valley and levels out onto a flat walking path speckled with trees.
So now you have two options to see part of the Navajo Loop trail and finish your hike at Sunset Point.
You can either 1. swing left to continue onto Wall Street (my recommendation) or 2. hang a right on journey onward via Twin Bridges.
Note: Both the Wall Street and Twin Bridges hikes are 0.7 miles each and feature roughly 550 ft inclines.
After another half mile off the Queen’s Trail and on the Navajo Loop Trail, you’ll come to another fork in the road. This is where the Navajo Loop Trail divides into the Wall Street Trail and Twin Bridges Trail.
If you have to choose one, I’d recommend hiking Wall Street. This portion of the Navajo Loop trail just blew our minds. The landscape from the valley floor begins to change dramatically as you begin to enter into a narrow canyon.
You’ll see Bryce Canyon’s only slot canyon as you reach two towering 400-year-old Douglas Fir trees. (Make sure to bring your wide-angle lens to capture its enormity in one shot!)
After you pass the trees, you’ll climb a few steps into Bryce’s slot canyon. The perspective from here is breathtaking.
You’ll then reach Wall Street – the dizzying switchbacks that climb up over 500+ feet to the top. The views on the way up are so impressive and you’ll end your hike with a bang! Once at the top, turn around for even more epic views of the switchbacks that you just mastered!
Twin Bridges is an alternative to Wall Street. It’s considered less scenic overall, but it does have a gorgeous switchback section as well. It also has Thor’s Hammer (although you can see this at the top once you come back from Wall Street too). Twin Bridges will be the only option if you’re hiking in winter, as Wall Street closes during that time. If you’re hiking in the summer and have extra time, you could totally do both. But if you have just one day in Bryce, it’s best to choose Wall Street!
No matter which route you take, you’ll end up back at Sunset Point.
From here you can hop into your car and visit the viewpoints I suggested above. For our itinerary, we drove to Inspiration Point and Bryce Point and hiked up to the 3rd level of the viewing deck to get one of the best views of Bryce Canyon.
View from atop Wall Street just below Sunset Point
I hope this one-day itinerary helps you plan your trip to Bryce Canyon National Park!! Below are more travel tips and essential information you should know before visiting. 🙂
Where Is Bryce Canyon?
Bryce Canyon National Park sits in the southwestern part of Utah and is easily reached by car from Zion National Park or Highway 89 or the scenic Highway 12.
Since they’re so close, most people visit Bryce Canyon on a day trip from Zion National Park. Here are the driving times for getting to Bryce Canyon from nearby destinations.
- Springdale, UT (south entrance of Zion) – Bryce: 2 hours (1.5 hours if you’ve already driven through the park and exit at the east entrance of Zion)
- Escalante, UT – Bryce: 1 hour
- Las Vegas, NV – Bryce: 4 hours
- Horseshoe Bend (Page, AZ) – Bryce: 2.5 hours
Alternatively, you could stay overnight near Bryce Canyon and experience both sunrise AND sunset. Plus, we’ve heard that Bryce Canyon has some of the best stargazing because of the insane dark sky thanks to zero light pollution.
Bryce Point Viewpoint
Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon — The Bryce Lodge is the best option for comfy accommodation inside Bryce Canyon City (located inside Bryce Canyon National Park past the visitor’s center). The Bryce Lodge gives you front-door access to the best of Bryce – right in between the Sunrise and Sunset Viewpoints where you’ll have the best view of the Bryce Amphitheatre.
North & Sunset Campgrounds — The only two campgrounds inside BCNP. North Campground can be found just beyond the visitor’s center to your left. The Sunset Campground lies just off the road on the right further down between Sunset and Inspiration Point Viewpoints. If you’re camping in tents, take note that Bryce Canyon sits at an 8,000 ft elevation so nights and mornings can get pretty chilly!
Bryce Canyon Maps
Here are two handy maps of the Bryce Canyon area so you can get a better idea of where the viewpoints and hikes are.
Download the large map of Bryce Canyon here (includes scenic drive points).
Download the detailed map of Bryce Amphitheatre here (for detailed hiking trails and names).
The Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon
April – October are the best months to visit Bryce Canyon. Bryce sits at 8,000 ft elevation (2438 m) which is considered high altitude. That said, you might have some difficulty breathing while at Bryce! I didn’t really notice, but Paul did note having a harder time breathing when hiking.
The cool thing about Bryce Canyon is you could visit virtually year-round. In the late fall and winter, it’s special to see Bryce’s crimson hoodoos blanketed in the snow while the late spring and summer are perfect for hiking and stargazing.
Most of the hikes and viewpoints are open during winter, except for the Wall Street trail which is routinely closed in winter (probably due to the steeper switchbacks), and the portion of the Rim Trail from Inspiration Point to Bryce Point.
We went to Bryce Canyon in mid-August and found the temperature pleasant – much more than at Zion. It was sunny with a mild breeze and perfect for hiking. Then suddenly around noon, while we were standing looking out at the top-tier of Bryce Point, it started raining and became extremely cold! We were shocked at the temperature difference that took only minutes to change. So make sure to bring a jacket and some warmer clothes as a backup or in case you are spending early mornings or evenings in Bryce.
The Best Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park in One Day
Walking & Hiking
Obviously, one of the best things to do in Bryce is actually exploring it on your own two feet! There are dozens of trails to do – from short to long (65 miles in total!). We found hiking to be the highlight of our visit to Bryce because we were able to get right up under the hoodoos down in the Bryce Amphitheatre.
The best time for hiking in Bryce is in the morning, so count on arriving sometime between 8 and 9 AM to make the most of your day trip. That way, you’ll have a couple of hours to hike before the peak heat of the day. Don’t forget, all the trails lead down into Bryce Canyon, meaning the return will have to be uphill!
Viewpoints and the scenic drive are the second best thing to do in Bryce Canyon. Many people only come for the viewpoints and skip out on the hiking, but I personally feel that offers a limited view of Bryce Canyon. Nonetheless, the viewpoints do offer incredible panoramic views of Bryce Amphitheatre and merely walking in between the viewpoints is somewhat of a trot itself.
When you arrive in Bryce Canyon, your first stop will likely be at the Visitor Center. Now’s a good time to get important trail updates, ask rangers questions, or reserve your backcountry permit (required for backcountry hiking). The Bryce Visitor Center has bathrooms, exhibits, pamphlets, and a movie. The gift shop also has tons of souvenirs and all purchases directly help support the upkeep of the park!
The North and Sunset campgrounds are the only two campgrounds within the Bryce Canyon National Park. Together, they have over 200 tent and RV sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis, apart from a dozen or so sites at each that can be reserved in advance. If you go camping, pack for cold weather and bring your own firewood and most of your supplies!
If you have the opportunity to stay overnight in Bryce Canyon, do it! Bryce Canyon is said to be one of the darkest places in the world. You can see the Milky Way sparkle in its entirety and see the hoodoos under the moonlight. Ask about ranger-guided night hikes or stargazing opportunities at the visitor center during your visit.
There’s so much to do in Bryce Canyon in one day. I hope you can make the most of your time in Bryce with this itinerary! If you have any questions about the hikes or viewpoints for one day in Bryce Canyon, then feel free to reach out and drop me a message or comment.