We arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park after an exhausting few days; hiking and mountain biking in Zion National Park plus more biking in Red Canyon just outside of Bryce. We were both suffering in the southern Utah heat and really just felt like lazing around in air conditioning and not doing a lot. However that would be unacceptable; we were in Bryce Canyon with its amazing red rock hoodoo formations after all, so after cooling off while watching the introductory movie in the visitors centre we headed into the park to see it all.
We essentially did Bryce Canyon National Park in a day, meaning we drove the 18 mile scenic drive, got out at all the main lookouts and did a few short walks. Works out that this itinerary is a great way of getting the most from Bryce Canyon in a single day.
With my increasing interest in photography I really wanted to capture some great photographs of Bryce Canyon National Park which meant I had to be thinking about light. We visited at the end of June and it was very hot with clear blue skies. There was ample light, often too much and when the sun was high in the sky it tended to wash out the beauty of the park. If you only have one day it pays to visit the best photo spots when the sun is low in the sky – the prime hours (dawn & dusk).
You should start exploring Bryce Canyon early. Start at Sunrise Point where you can take photos and embark on a walk or two before it gets really hot. We walked the Queens Garden Trail and combined it with the Navajo Loop Trail to Sunset Point and the Rim Trail which took us back to Sunrise Point. Note that both Sunrise and Sunset points are visited by the Bryce Canyon shuttle; so you can leave your vehicle at either location, do half the walk and catch the shuttle back to your car.
After taking morning photos and getting a decent walk under your belt it’s time to do the eighteen mile scenic drive to Rainbow Point. There are plenty of lookouts and picnic spots along the way so take it slow – make sure you have packed plenty of food and drink. Swamp Canyon, Piracy Point, Black Birch Canyon and Ponderosa Canyon are just a few of many spots where you can get out, go for a short walk and take some photos. We found that doing the scenic drive during the hot hours of the day still made good use of our time but allowed us not to feel too guilty about not doing any long walks.
Driving back during the afternoon when the sun is lower allowed us to re-capture some photos which we were not able to get good shots of during the middle of the day when the sun was too high and bright.
Finish the day at Inspiration Point, preferably with another walk since it’s no longer so hot. If you want to find some different angles as well as the famous ones walk from Inspiration Point along the canyon rim to Sunset Point; capture photos as the sun is getting lower in the sky, just make sure you photograph the last of the rays touching the tops of the Bryce Canyon hoodoos from Sunset Point.
To reiterate the key points to visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in a Day:
- Sunrise Point (for sunrise)
- Do a walk before it gets too hot
- Do the 18 mile scenic drive during the hot hours of the day
- Finish the day with another walk & photos at Inspiration Point and Sunset Point
Bryce Canyon is pretty awesome, well worth a visit. But don’t just take my word for it, check out James’ post on Visiting Bryce Canyon on his Escaping Abroad travel blog.
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