Top 10 things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Situated to the south west of the state and comprising of a protected area just over 35,000 acres, this is an absolute 'must visit' for anyone crossing the border from Arizona as the chance to compare and contrast the hoodoos of Bryce with the vast drops of the Grand Canyon is a fundamentally fascinating prospect.
Geologists, hikers and lovers of natural photography should all prepare themselves for a treat to truly savour and if you're in the mood to experience Thor's Hammer, the Peekaboo Loop and some of the finest sun sets for miles around then read on and brace yourself for the top 10 things to do in Bryce Canyon.
10. Camping out in Utah
If you're hoping to make the most of your time in Bryce Canyon National Park then surely a cheeky camping trip has to be the way to go. Bryce has a couple of grounds to choose from (North and Sunset) both of which can be found near to the info centre and the local lodge. This is a superb idea if you've got plans to hike or watch the stars and although facilities are somewhat sparse the chance to spend a night or two in the midst of a pine forest will no doubt prove to be more than adequate.
9. Snow-shoe trails
Come the months of winter and Bryce Canyon National Park turns into a sublime snow-covered paradise where blue sky days and crystal clear nights both lend themselves to lovers of the natural world who aren't afraid of a bit of cold weather. Following a ranger on snow shoes is an excellent way to find out more about the park's natural landmarks as well as keeping yourself fit and healthy whilst working up an appetite just in time for your evening meal. Snow shoe shuffling is a brilliant winter sport and if you've never tried it then it's about time that you got started as anyone joining an organised tour in Bryce Canyon gets their shoes for free.
8. More winter sports in Bryce
Whatever way you cut it, Bryce Canyon is a spectacular location for lovers of winter sports and although there are a few areas which are designated as 'no goers' i.e. off the rim and into the canyon, you'll still find numerous routes above the rim to ensure satisfaction is guaranteed. Cross-country skiing, winter hiking and sledging are all possible within the confines of the park and if you're up for skiing or snowboarding then check out Canyons, Deer Valley and Park City ski resorts which are all within driving distance from Bryce Canyon National Park.
Landscape photography doesn't get any more exciting than the iconic features of Bryce Canyon and if you've always wanted to capture one of those cool hoodoos silhouetted against an all-consuming sun set then prepare yourself for screen-saver heaven. Best advice for anyone contemplating a photographic tour of the canyon is to start early in order to work your way through the light of the day. Tripods are certainly going to give you an advantage as is a telephoto lens however, in the main, Bryce is pretty much a point and shoot with the prospect of fab photos just a mere click away.
6. Geology trails
The natural erosion of Bryce Canyon has managed to morph some incredible images from rock and sandstone which in turn has attracted geologists to Utah in their droves. If you find yourself touched by the sculptures, towers and edifices whilst out hiking or just visiting then undertaking a ranger-led geology trail will certainly help you find out more. Not only are rangers a wealth of knowledge when it comes to how the hoodoos came into being, they're pretty handy when it comes to wildlife too and anyone interested in the natural beauty of Bryce Canyon should definitely bear this in mind.
5. Kids' activities
If you're visiting Bryce Canyon National Park with the family then you'll be pleased to learn that there are some talks, programmes and activities just for the young 'uns' and if you've got some wannabe geologists or naturalists in your party then be sure to pop into the visitor centre to find out more. Mammals, birds, plants and those all-important rock formations are all-covered within a morning's session and as adults are required to accompany kids during activities then you'll also get to learn a few things too - winning!
Thanks to Bryce Canyon's fabulous location and protection programme this is one of the best places in the whole of America to check out the sky at night. Following a ranger-led (Dark Rangers) nocturnal hike and getting the chance to use a state-of-the-art telescope is simply an amazing experience and even if you've never been into astronomy before after a night out in Bryce you'll never judge the sky in the same way ever again. Depending on the weather, night time tours take place all year round and if you're visiting over the course of a weekend then Saturday night in the canyon is the only place to be.
3. Horse or mule rides
During the summer months trekking around the rim and walking across the canyon floor can get to be something of a chore and let's face it there's only so far that you can go on two legs alone. An excellent alternative or day activity is to mount a noble steed and explore the canyon on four legs and if you've ever fancied going all cowboy in the wilds of Utah then now's your chance. A 2 or 3 hour horse or mule back ride will incorporate all of the major landmarks including: the Wall of Windows and the Silent City, with plenty of opportunities to pause for photos and give your beast the chance to get his or her breath back.
2. Hiking through Bryce Canyon
Thanks to Bryce Canyon boasting some truly magnificent designated viewing areas (12 altogether) you won't be surprised to find that hikers will be in their absolute element with the prospect of spectacular scenery more than spurring them on. There are around 8 trails that are marked for trekking all of which can be undertaken to completion over the course of a day. Fairyland Loop (5 hours), Navajo Loop (2 hours) and Peekaboo Loop (4 hours), all lead to some amazing sights and with a couple of overnighters (Riggs Spring Loop and Under the Rim) thrown in for good measure you'll be more than happy with your decision.
1. Scenic flights
If strolling amongst the hoodoos and trekking around the rim of Bryce Canyon has become old hat or you're just hankering to observe this incredible national park from a different angle then an aerial tour is definitely something to take note of. Helicopters, airplanes and even the peace and tranquillity of a hot air balloon can all be boarded without too much bother and if you fancy finding out more about the canyon then in-flight narration is certainly an enjoyable and educational accompaniment to a totally unique experience.
Further reading: From Bryce, head southwest in the direction of Las Vegas and in just under 80 miles, you'll discover Zion. Read our top 10 things to do in Zion National Park including horseback riding, mountain climbing and canyon tours.
Article written by Chris Owen.