Located in southern Utah east of Zion National Park (read my Zion post here), Bryce Canyon National Park is another one of Utah’s “mighty five.” I was surprised that its higher elevation resulted in a much different climate, even though it is only an hour and a half away from Zion. Getting out of the car I was met with a wintry chill in the clear air even in mid-May, and the day before at Zion I had been simply wearing a tee-shirt.
Bryce Canyon is most famous for famous rock formations called hoodoos. Created by erosion, freezing and melting water has cracked the stone into naturally formed pillars.
Bryce Canyon National Park is centrally located in the American Southwest. If you don’t want to drive, or are visiting from another country, you can fly into Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and rent a car from there (it will still be a several hour drive).
There are fees associated with entering the park which help with upkeep and conservation efforts. The fee is $30/week for a car or $15/week for a person on foot. (More options and details here). Our 2017 America the Beautiful pass covered our fee to enter Bryce Canyon and camp at Zion National Park on the same trip.
Bryce Canyon is smaller in acreage than Zion National Park but seems much more vast due to the geographic features (broad expanses instead of slot canyons). Most people take the scenic drive through the park first, and then take advantage of a couple of hikes (the park offers over 50 total miles of trails). One of the most popular trails in the park is the Navajo Loop trail. When we were there, parts of it were still closed due to snow (!) but Doug still meandered down until the close-off point, and got some amazing photos.
We camped at Zion, not Bryce, so I can’t provide a personal account of this park, however I have done some of the research for you. There are two campgrounds, North and Sunset, and they do not get booked up as quickly as Zion NP. The Sunset campground is closed during the winter. For those who don’t want to sleep outside, there is a lodge and a hotel located in the park too.
When to go
This is a great four-season park. Every National Park is a great summer family trip, and the summers here are comparatively mild (temperature does not crack 100). The hoodoos look beautiful when covered in snow, but due to high elevation winters are long and cold.
Visiting Bryce Canyon for a half-day left me wanting to see more. The beautiful landscape and intriguing hoodoos would make for a great camping setting. Like in my last post, if you want to camp but don’t have much experience, I highly recommend exploring Camp Academy for learning more, especially for newbies.
All photos by Staci and Doug Jackson for The Voyageer.