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Seeing the Park in 1 or 2 Days

It would be easy to spend a week in Bryce Canyon, starting with the visitor center, moving along to the scenic drive, taking a few short walks, and then advancing to more serious hikes. But what makes this park so attractive is that there are ways to see a good deal of Bryce in a short amount of time.

Get an early start, stopping first at the visitor center, of course, where you can watch an introductory video that explains some of the area's geology -- the why and how of Bryce. Then either drive the 18-mile (each way) dead-end scenic drive, stopping at viewpoints to gaze down into the canyon, or hop onto the shuttle, which will take you to most of the main viewpoints. Whichever way you choose to get around, spend at least a little time at Inspiration Point, which offers a splendid (and yes, inspirational) view into Bryce Amphitheater and its hundreds of statuesque pink, red, orange, and brown hoodoo stone sculptures.

After seeing the canyon from up above, we recommend that you get some exercise by walking at least part of the way down into the canyon on the Queen's Garden Trail. If you can spare 3 hours, hike down the Navajo Loop Trail and return to the rim via Queen's Garden Trail. Those not willing or physically able to hike into the canyon can enjoy a leisurely walk along the Rim Trail, which provides spectacular views down into the canyon. In the evening, try to take in a campground amphitheater program (different programs are held in all the different campground's amphitheaters).

Seeing the Park by Car

The park's 18-mile (one-way) scenic drive follows the rim of Bryce Canyon, offering easy access to a variety of views into the fanciful fairyland of stone sculptures below. Trailers are not permitted on the road but can be left at several parking lots. Also, because all overlooks are on your left as you begin your drive, it's best to avoid crossing traffic by driving all the way to the end of the road without stopping and then stopping at the overlooks on your return trip. Allow 1 to 2 hours for the main viewpoints, 3 to 4 hours if you plan to do a bit of walking.

From the visitor center, drive 18 miles to Yovimpa and Rainbow Point overlooks, which offer expansive views of southern Utah, Arizona, and sometimes even New Mexico. From these pink cliffs, you can look down on a colorful platoon of stone soldiers, standing at eternal attention. The short Bristlecone Loop Trail, from Rainbow Point, leads to an 1,800-year-old bristlecone pine, believed to be one of the oldest living things at Bryce Canyon. Heading north, the Black Birch Canyon Overlook is a roadside pullout, where you get a good view of the southern part of the park, including Rainbow Point.

From here, drive back north to Ponderosa Canyon Overlook, where you can gaze down at multicolored hoodoos from a dense forest of spruce and fir. Then continue to Agua Canyon Overlook, which has some of the best color contrasts you'll find in the park. Look almost straight down to see the Hunter, a hoodoo with a hat of evergreens.

Continue on to Natural Bridge, actually an arch carved by rain and wind, which spans 85 feet. From here, continue to Farview Point, where there's a panoramic view to the distant horizon and the Kaibab Plateau, at the Grand Canyon's north rim. From Farview Point, a dirt path leads several hundred feet north to Piracy Point, which offers good views to the north. After passing the Swamp Canyon overlook, continue until you see a right turn off the main road, where you'll find three viewpoints.

The first of these is Paria View, with views to the south of the White Cliffs, which have been carved in the light-colored sandstone by the Paria River.

To the north of Paria View, you'll find Bryce Point, a splendid stop for viewing the awesome Bryce Amphitheater, the largest natural amphitheater in the park. This is also a terrific point to take in distant views of the Black Mountains, to the northeast, and Navajo Mountain, to the south.

From here, it's just a short drive back toward the main road and Inspiration Point, a must-see stop offering views similar to those at Bryce Point, plus the best view in the park of the Silent City, a collection of hoodoos that looks like a sleeping city cast in stone.

Now return to the main road and head north to Sunset Point, where you can see practically all of Bryce Amphitheater, including the aptly named Thor's Hammer and the 200-foot-tall cliffs of Wall Street.

Continue north to a turnoff for your final stop, at Sunrise Point, where there's an inspiring view into Bryce Amphitheater. This is the beginning of the Queen's Garden Trail, an excellent choice for a quick walk below the canyon's rim.

The Best Time to Make the Scenic Drive -- The scenic drive is practically deserted in early mornings -- any time before 9am. This is the best time to see deer, and the light on the hoodoos is the richest at this time.

Seeing the Park by Shuttle

To alleviate traffic congestion during the busy summer season, a voluntary shuttle service runs from early May through early October, daily from 8am until 7:40pm (until 5:40pm the last few weeks of the shuttle season). Visitors can park their cars at the parking and boarding area at the intersection of the entrance road and Utah 12, 3 miles from the park boundary, and ride the shuttle into the park. Those staying in the park at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon or one of the campgrounds can also use the shuttle, at no additional charge. The shuttle has stops at various viewpoints, as well as at Ruby's Inn, Ruby's Campground, the visitor center, Sunset Campground, and the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. The shuttle runs every 12 to 15 minutes and is handicap accessible. The shuttle is free and you can get on and off as you please. Note that using the shuttle is not required; you can use your own car if you wish.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.