How does epic vistas, towering rock formations, and a unique labyrinth of hiking trails sound for a perfect day? Impressive and distinctive, if this is your first trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, you are in for a treat.
Part of our first-time visitor’s guide, this itinerary for a perfect day in Bryce Canyon gives you everything you need to know to hit the best of this spectacular national park.
Start a Perfect Day at Bryce Canyon with Sunrise
Our perfect day started with the soft glow of morning light over the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. As the sun revealed a warm spectrum of rich colors across the weathered rocks, we knew Bryce Canyon would be our favorite of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks.
We know getting up early is not on everyone’s vacation to-do list, but trust us, it truly is worth it.
Take a Hike Down the Queens Garden Trail
Starting our perfect day at Sunrise Point put us at the entrance of the Queens Garden Trail, the easiest trail to descend into Bryce Canyon’s Amphitheater.
Under the shade of the hoodoos, we wound our way down the seemingly never-ending switchbacks.
Not sure what a hoodoo is? You’ll hear the term a lot in Bryce Canyon. Though it sounds like something out of Dr. Suess, it simply means a pinnacle column of weathered rock. There are thousands of them at Bryce Canyon.
Finding the Queens Garden
As we made our way down the 1.8-mile Queens Garden Trail, we almost didn’t realize when we reached our destination, the Queens Garden. Neither did anyone else.
Here’s how you’ll know you’re there.
- You’ll come through the last in a series of doorways cut into the rock and the trail will split.
- The sign will say Queens Garden straight ahead, but Navajo Loop to the left.
- Queens Garden is just a short dead end. So, go straight.
- Once you’ve explored the Queens Garden, you’ll return to the sign and continue following the trail to the Navajo Loop Trail and eventually Sunset Point.
The area was named after a hoodoo which resembles Queen Victoria. Honestly, it took us a little while to see it, but now we can’t unsee it.
Follow the Navajo Loop Trail
After a quick stop at the garden, we continued on the Queens Garden Trail which ended at the mid-point of the Navajo Loop.
At the junction, we had the choice of taking a right towards Thor’s Hammer or going straight towards Wall Street. Either way we knew we would end up at Sunset Point. We heard great things about Wall Street, so that’s the way we went.
However, it’s worth noting, that in the winter months, the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop closes so you must make the right.
Walk Up Wall Street
Our favorite area of Bryce Canyon looked more like Lombard Street in San Francisco than New York’s Wall Street. Though it was named for the narrow passages with high walls, its steep snake-like switchbacks rising from the canyon were more memorable.
Take it All in at Sunset Point
It was about mid-day when we climbed the switchbacks of Wall Street to reach Sunset Point. Though, obviously not the best time of day for this spot, even at mid-day the views were phenomenal.
Stroll the Rim Trail Back to Sunrise Point
From Sunset Point we walked the Rim Trail north, back to the car. This section of the Rim Trail was very easy and paved. It only took about 10 minutes to walk the half-mile back to Sunrise Point.
This short walk was an easy way to get in some breathtaking views of Bryce Canyon’s Amphitheater. We even had a view of Thor’s Hammer, a particularly large hoodoo with a block of sandstone on the top.
Plus, in the distance, we could see hikers traveling along the Queens Garden Trail.
Grab Lunch on a Perfect Day in Bryce Canyon
Bringing a picnic would have been ideal, but the little general store at Ruby’s Inn, where we stayed, didn’t have a lot of options when we arrived late in the evening.
As we didn’t want to leave the park, we grabbed a quick lunch at the North Campground General Store, near Sunrise Point. They had to-go salads, sandwiches, hot chili, hot dogs, and microwavable wraps (with a microwave to use). It was similar to a convenience store.
The other choice was the restaurant at The Lodge. They had a nice menu with burgers and other hot foods. However, they were quite busy, and we knew it would take a lot more time.
Also, from May to October, there’s usually the Valhalla Pizza and Coffee Shop adjacent to The Lodge.
Hike the Rim Trail from Bryce Point to Sunset Point
After lunch, we wanted to get in at least one more hike before the end of the day. So, we drove to Bryce Point at the far end of the Amphitheater.
The views from Bryce Point were just as breathtaking as the other overlooks.
From here we started another section of the Rim Trail, walking north to Sunset Point.
Unlike the section from Sunset to Sunrise Points, this trail wasn’t paved. It was also a lot more rugged, but not challenging.
Somehow this section also felt more remote. There were other hikers, but not nearly as many as the trails toward the front of the park.
The 2.7-mile trail should have taken us a little over an hour, but it didn’t. We found ourselves taking hundreds of photos and taking our time to enjoy the view.
Use the Shuttle Bus to Get Back to the Car
Instead of hiking the round-trip, we hopped on the park’s shuttle bus to get back to Bryce Point where we left the car.
The shuttle buses were very convenient. However, they do only run in one direction. To get back to Bryce Point without leaving the park, we needed to change buses at the Visitor Center.
Drive to the End of the Road
Depending on the time of year, your perfect day at Bryce Canyon may end there or you may want to skip straight to Sunset Point. However, we still had a little bit of time before sunset.
Utilizing the rest of the daylight, we jumped in the car and followed the main road to the end at Rainbow Point. From there, we viewpoint hopped our way back to Sunset Point.
If you only have time to stop at a few viewpoints, our favorites were Black Birch Canyon, Bryce Natural Bridge, and Aqua Canyon.
End a Perfect Day at Bryce Canyon with Sunset at Sunset Point
Luckily, we made it back to Sunset Point in time to catch the second-best show of the day. The sky filled with brilliant purples and pinks as the sun disappeared.
Worn out from our day, we grabbed dinner at The Lodge in Bryce Canyon. They had one of the best Wagyu Burgers we’ve tasted, and the pork lion was also fantastic. See the Lodge’s website for the current menu.
Due to Covid, there was no table service. It was the fanciest meal we’ve ever had in take out containers . At least they gave me a real steak knife for the pork loin.
Continue with our First Time Visitor’s Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park.