Bryce Canyon National Park is one of Utah’s precious five parks, with unprecedented rock formations. Can you take in the view from the rim? Sure! But to truly experience the park’s majesty you need to lace up your hiking boots and head into the canyon. Here are 13 best hikes in Bryce Canyon that we think everyone should experience.
BRYCE CANYON RIM TRAIL
Distance: 10.7 miles
Elevation Change: 1,587 feet
Sure, you could drive the rim…admiring the canyon’s beauty from various stops along the edge. But if you are able, walking the rim is a rewarding way to take it all in. Check the bus schedule. There is a shuttle (seasonally) at the end of the trail which will bring you back to the parking lot, which makes this only a 5+ mile trip instead of nearly 11. If you don’t want to hike the entire rim then try the 2.5 mile trek between Bryce Point and Sunset Point.
BEST HIKES IN BRYCE CANYON: FAIRYLAND LOOP TRAIL
Distance: 7.8 miles
Elevation Change: 1,545 feet
At the time we did this hike it was the longest hike my boys had ever done. I was very proud of them, especially with this elevation gain. But here’s the truth…I can’t imagine having visited Bryce without doing this hike! We did it counter clockwise, which has also been recommended by a number of park rangers. My only tip is to bring a camera and more water than you think you will need. Fairyland Point is NOT located inside the fee area of the park.
TOWER BRIDGE TRAIL
Distance: 3.4 miles
Elevation Change: 826 feet
Be aware that you can’t get close to the bridge, but it’s still worth the walk. Hiking the Fairyland Loop? This is a short spur trail. Otherwise, enjoy this shorter version with the view. You’ll be able to take in the hoodoos and sandstone walls along the way.
Planning a National Parks road trip? The America the Beautiful Pass covers entrance for an entire year to all the US National Parks and over 2,000 federal recreation fee sites. Fees are covered for everyone in the car for per-vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites. This is a no-brainer, friends. While fees vary, you’ll likely break-even after two visits. Plus, REI will donate 10% of pass sale proceeds to the NPS Foundation.
PEEKABOO LOOP TRAIL
Distance: 5.2 miles
Elevation Change: 1,453 feet
Start at Sunset Point and make your way to the canyon floor on what is one of the park’s most popular hikes. You’ll catch glimpses from the rim, and take in some of the best views of the hoodoos. If you want to make this into a longer hike, connect with Navajo Loop and Queens Garden (mentioned below.) AllTrails calls this moderate; the park site calls it strenuous…both are so-named because of the rapid incline. During the summer months you’ll want to start early in the day. This trail is also one of a few equestrian trails in the park, so be on the lookout for horses while you hike.
NAVAJO LOOP AND QUEEN’S GARDEN TRAIL
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation Change: 646 feet
The trail begins with Navajo Loop Trail where you’ll catch outstanding views of the canyon. It also includes a walk through Wall Street with a zig-zag of towering walls you’ll want to go down and not up! (That’s counter clockwise) Near the end you’ll find yourself in Queen’s Garden, with hoodoos galore and fun rock formations. Don’t forget to say “cheese” under the arches and look for the rock that resembles Queen Victoria in her vintage attire. You can also see Thor’s Hammer from this trail, so keep a look out for that famous hoodoo as you enter/exit.
BEST HIKES IN BRYCE CANYON: FIGURE EIGHT TRAIL
Distance: 6.3 miles
Elevation Change: 1,499 feet
The hike to do in Bryce is The Figure Eight.. either in part (as we’ve divided them above) or in a single hike as you’ll find here. From the soaring walls along the Wall Street switchbacks to the rock formations of Queen’s Garden, to the rim views along the Peekaboo Loop. It’s not easy, but it is absolutely the best way to see this national park.
MOSSY CAVE TRAIL
Distance: 1.0 miles
Elevation Change: 118 feet
Mossy Cave is outside the main entrance of the park, and with the short distance you may be inclined to skip it. Don’t! A bridge, waterfall, cave and arch make this an all-in-one trail that everyone in the family will enjoy.
SUNSET POINT TO SUNRISE POINT
Distance: 1.1 miles
Elevation Change: 82 feet
Can you drive from one point to the other? Sure. But this short, flat hike is paved…easy for all ages. You’ll see colorful views from the rim, as well as glimpses into the Queen’s Garden (but you won’t be able to make out the Queen rock formation from here.) If you walk out to the most prominent overlook on Sunset Point you will also be able to see into Wall Street on the Navajo Loop. A great alternative for people who can’t do (or don’t have time to do) the hikes with large elevation changes.
RAINBOW POINT, YOVIMPA POINT, AND BRISTLECONE LOOP
Distance: 1.3 miles
Elevation Change: 121 feet
This hike begins at the Southern-most part of the park that you can drive to. This area of the park also “wows” with unmistakable rock formations, but it also includes more trees than you see in the canyon in other parts of the park. Unlike the section of this trail covered below, this extra 1/3 mile includes a hike to Yovimpa Point where you can see the Grand Staircase — a layered rock formation. Each layer is a different color and named as such: Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermilion Cliffs, and Chocolate Cliffs.
BEST HIKES IN BRYCE CANYON: BRISTLECONE LOOP TRAIL
Distance: 1.0 miles
Elevation Change: 88 feet
Again, at the Southern-most part of the drivable portion of Bryce, Bristlecone Loop showcases amazing rock formations with bristlecone pines…some up to 1800 years old! You’ll also see Blue Spruce, Douglas-fir and White Fir — homes to numersous birds and forest creatures.
HAT SHOP VIA UNDER THE RIM TRAIL
Distance: 4.0 miles
Elevation Change: 967 feet
If you want a closer look at the Grand Staircase we mention above then hike this trail to the Hat Shop — balanced-rock hoodoos cluster along the trail’s edge which are topped by grey boulders. This hike begins by descending into the canyon for 2 miles, and then climbing back out when you reach the Under-the-Rim backcountry Trail. Looking to camp? This trail is how you get to the backcountry camping sites, just be sure to first grab a permit from the park.
SHEEP CREEK AND SWAMP CANYON LOOP
Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation Change: 892 feet
Sheep Creek is another option fr hiking the forested part of the canyon, but without the elevation change of the hike above. In order to get the hardest part over with, take the loop counter clockwise. It’s not the “quintessential” Bryce hike, but it’s a lovely hike for avoiding the crowds and seeing some wildlife.
RIGGS SPRING LOOP TRAIL
Distance: 8.6 miles
Elevation Change: 1,853 feet
Again, this backcountry trail is on the Southern part of the park, featuring rock formations and forestry you won’t see along the rim. You’ll want to get a permit from the park, as you’re likely hiking this as part of an overnight hiking adventure rather than a day hike. Bring your own water or a water filter, as the river access at the halfway point is not potable.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO UTAH
- UTAH: 50+ Astounding Things To Do In Utah: Your Ultimate Bucket List
- KANAB: 12 Mind-Blowing Things To Do In Kanab (Plus Day Trips)
- PARK CITY: Your “Things to Do in Park City” Family Fun Itinerary
- HYATT CENTRIC PARK CITY: Your “Ski With Kids” Logistical Treasure
- UTAH NATIONAL PARKS: Plan a Breathtaking Trip to See the Utah National Parks
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