Getting around Bryce Canyon National Park is simple: there's one road, and it's a dead-end. Although the park is crossed east-west along its north edge by Utah 12, most of the park -- including the visitor center and most of the things you want to see -- are accessed by Utah 63, which turns south off Utah 12 and becomes the park's 18-mile (one-way) scenic drive. You can take your own vehicle on the scenic drive at any time, although use of the shuttle is recommended.
Just outside the entrance to the park, American Car Care Center & Bryce Canyon Towing (tel. 435/835-5232) is a full-service station, with gasoline and diesel fuel. It has facilities to work on large vehicles and motor homes and provides AAA towing services. There are also gas stations along Utah 12 in the communities of Bryce (where Utah 63 turns south off Utah 12) and Tropic (along Utah 12, about 8 miles east of Bryce).
To alleviate traffic congestion during the busy summer season, a voluntary shuttle service runs daily from early May through early October. 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. 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.
Exploring the Parks by RV or "Car-Camping"
One of the best ways to explore Zion and Bryce parks, is in an RV, or in a car or truck while spending your nights in a tent.
There are a few things that RVers might want to know. Entering Zion from the east in an RV involves an extra fee and maybe a short wait to get through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, and there may be parking restrictions along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. However, entering the park from this direction is worth it, and taking your RV into these parks isn't much of a hassle, especially if you plan ahead.
Parking is limited, especially for motor homes and other large vehicles, so park your RV where you'll be camping, and take shuttle buses as much as possible. Drive either early or late in the day, when there's less traffic -- the best times to explore the parks anyway.
If you'll be traveling in the parks in your RV and want to make it obvious that your campsite is occupied, carry something to leave in it, such as a cardboard box with "Site Taken" clearly written on it.
Because many of the national park campsites are not level, carry four or five short boards, or leveling blocks, to place under the RV's wheels. You can buy inexpensive levels at RV and hardware stores.
Elsewhere in this guide you'll find information on camping in Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, on nearby federal and state lands, and in the parks' gateway towns. Those planning to camp elsewhere in the state can get information on Utah's national forests from the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region Office, 324 25th St., Ogden, UT 84401 (tel. 801/625-5306; www.fs.fed.us/r4). The Utah State Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is at 440 W. 200 South, Ste. 500, Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0155 (tel. 801/539-4001; www.blm.gov/ut). For information on Utah's state parks, contact Utah State Parks, 1594 W. North Temple, Ste. 116, Salt Lake City, UT 84116 (tel. 877/887-2757 or 801/538-7220; www.stateparks.utah.gov).
Members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) can request the club's free Southwestern CampBook, which includes campgrounds and RV parks in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico; and several good national and regional campground guides are also available.
Renting an RV for Your National Park Trek -- If you own an RV, you're all set for a trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks; but if you don't, you might want to consider renting one.
But first, let's get one thing straight: You probably won't save a lot of money. It is possible to travel fairly cheaply if you limit your equipment to a tent, a pop-up tent trailer, or a small pickup truck camper, but renting a motor home will probably end up costing almost as much as driving a compact car, staying in moderately priced motels, and eating in family-style restaurants and cafes. That's because the motor home will go only one-third as far on a gallon of gas or diesel as your car, and they're expensive to rent (generally $1,000-$1,500 per week in midsummer).
But carrying your house with you lets you stay in relative comfort in the national park campgrounds, which many park visitors feel is one of the highlights of their trip. It also lets you stop for meals anytime and anywhere you choose, and you won't spend time searching for a restroom.
If you plan to fly into the area and rent an RV when you arrive, choose your starting point carefully. Rental rates are usually less in Las Vegas, Nevada, than in Salt Lake City, and most of Utah's national parks are closer to Vegas than to Salt Lake City anyway.
The country's largest RV rental company, with outlets in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, is Cruise America (tel. 800/671-8042; www.cruiseamerica.com). RV rentals are also available from El Monte RV (tel. 888/337-2214; www.elmonterv.com) and Camping World (tel. 877/297-3687; www.rvrental.com). Information on rental agencies, as well as tips on renting, can be obtained from the Recreation Vehicle Rental Association (www.rvra.org).
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.