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For advance information on what to see and do in Bryce Canyon National Park, contact the park at P.O. Box 640201, Bryce, UT 84764-0201 (tel. 435/834-5322; www.nps.gov/brca). Officials request that you write rather than call, at least a month before your planned visit, for them to mail information. However, you will find everything they will send you and more at the park website. You can also get information at www.twitter.com/brycecanyonnps and at www.facebook.com/brycecanyonnps.

For even more details, order books, maps, posters, DVDs, videotapes, and CDs from the nonprofit Bryce Canyon Natural History Association, P.O. Box 640051, Bryce, UT 84764-0051 (tel. 888/362-2642 or 435/834-4782; www.brycecanyon.org). Association members ($35 single or $50 family annually) receive a 15% discount on purchases and discounts for programs presented by the High Plateaus Institute. Members also receive discounts at the Bryce Lodge gift shop and most other nonprofit bookstores at national parks, monuments, historic sites, and recreation areas.

Among the books that the association sells is the excellent Hiking Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks, by Erik Molvar and Tamara Martin, which includes detailed trail descriptions for both parks. The Bryce Canyon Auto and Hiking Guide, by Tully Stroud and Paul R. Johnson, is published by the association and has discussions of the various viewpoints and hiking trails, a variety of color photos of the park, and historic black-and-white photos. The association publishes Shadows of Time: The Geology of Bryce Canyon National Park, by Frank DeCourten, John Telford, and Hannah Hinchman.

For additional information on the area, contact Bryce Canyon Country, operated by the Garfield County Office of Tourism (tel. 800/444-6689 or 435/676-1102; www.brycecanyoncountry.com).

Getting There/Gateways

Situated in the mountains of southern Utah, the park is crossed east-west by Utah 12, which eventually heads out of the park east to Tropic and eventually to Escalante. The bulk of the park, including the visitor center, is accessed by Utah 63, which turns south off Utah 12 into the main portions of the park. U.S. 89 runs north-south, west of the park.

Visitor Center & Information

The visitor center, at the north end of the park, just after you enter (there is only one entrance), has exhibits on the geology and history of the area and presents an excellent introductory video program on the park, which we recommend seeing if you have time. There are large photos of many of the park's better-known formations, and a relief map that shows Bryce Canyon and nearby sections of the Colorado Plateau, including Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Rangers can answer questions and provide backcountry permits; several free brochures are available; and books, maps, videos, postcards, and posters are sold. The visitor center is open daily year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Summer hours are usually from 8am to 8pm, with shorter hours the rest of the year (in the dead of the winter, the visitor center will close at 4:30pm).

Fees

Entry into the park (for up to 7 days) costs $25 per private car, pickup truck, van, or RV, which includes unlimited use of the park shuttle (when it's operating). Individuals 16 and older entering the park on motorcycle, bike, or foot are charged $12 each; those 15 and under are admitted free. Campsites cost $15 per night.

Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips into the backcountry, and for up to 7 days cost $5 for one or two people, $10 for three to six people, and $15 for 7 to 15 people (group sites only). Backcountry camping is permitted on only two trails (details are available at the visitor center).

Passes Offer Free Admission on Most Federal Lands -- Those who enjoy vacationing at national parks, national forests, and other federal lands have opportunities to save quite a bit of money by using the federal government's annual passes. The America the Beautiful -- National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass costs $80 for 1 year, from the date of purchase, for the general public. It provides free admission for the pass holder, and those in his or her vehicle, to recreation sites that charge vehicle entrance fees on lands administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. At areas that charge per-person fees, the passes are good for the pass holder, plus three additional adults. Children 15 and under are admitted free.

The passes are also available for U.S. citizens and permanent residents ages 62 and older for a lifetime fee of $10 (Senior Pass), and are free for U.S. residents and permanent residents with disabilities (Access Pass). The Senior and Access passes also provide 50% discounts on some fees, such as those for camping.

The Senior and Access passes can be obtained by mail with an application form available online with a $10 processing fee, or without the processing fee in person at national parks, U.S. Forest Service offices, and other federal recreation sites. The general public version (the $80 one) can be purchased in person, by phone (tel. 888/275-8747, ext. 1), or online at http://store.usgs.gov/pass.

Regulations & Warnings

Hikers should practice minimum-impact techniques. All hikers are prohibited from building fires and must carry their own water, as water sources in the backcountry are unreliable. Bicycles are prohibited in the backcountry and on all trails. Feeding or disturbing wildlife, vandalism, and upsetting any natural feature of the park are all prohibited. Pets, which must be leashed at all times, are prohibited on all trails, in the backcountry, and in public buildings.

Trailers are not permitted beyond Sunset Campground; they can be left at a campsite, at the visitor center, or in other designated parking areas. Any vehicle longer than 25 feet (large trucks and motor homes, for instance) cannot go to Paria View.

While most visitors to Bryce Canyon enjoy an exciting vacation without mishap, accidents can occur, and here -- possibly because of the nature of the trails -- the most common injuries by far are sprained, twisted, and broken ankles. Park rangers strongly recommend that hikers -- even those out on short day hikes -- wear sturdy hiking boots with good traction and ankle support.

A concern in the park in recent years has been bubonic plague, which, contrary to popular belief, is treatable with antibiotics if caught early. The bacteria that cause bubonic plague have been found on fleas in prairie dog colonies in the park, so you should avoid contact with wild animals, especially prairie dogs and other rodents. Those taking pets into the park should dust them with flea powder. Avoiding contact with infected animals will greatly minimize the chances of contracting the plague, but caution is still necessary.

Symptoms, which generally occur from 2 to 6 days after exposure, may include high fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, and swollen glands. Anyone with these symptoms following a park visit should get medical attention immediately, because the plague can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Restrooms at Bryce Canyon

The nicest and most modern restrooms at Bryce Canyon are at the visitor center and just off the lobby at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. They're well maintained, heated, and have flush toilets and sinks with hot water.

There are also restrooms with hot water at the General Store in the park (about a quarter-mile south of North Campground, near the Sunrise Point parking area), and just outside the park entrance at Ruby's Inn (just off the lobby).

Other park facilities range from flush toilets at North and Sunset campgrounds and Sunset Point to vault toilets at Rainbow, Yovimpa, and Farview points. Although there are few toilets along trails (none in the backcountry), spring through fall, you will find a vault toilet on the Peekaboo Loop Trail, just west of its intersection with the Bryce Point cutoff trail.

Although essentially outhouses, vault toilets -- officially called "bulk-reduction toilet systems" -- have come a long way in the past 30 years -- they're now clean, sanitary, and best of all, they don't smell. However, there is no water for hand-washing, no lights, and no heat. During busy times, the less-developed restroom facilities may run out of toilet paper, so it's best to carry a backup supply.

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.