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Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah—a Most Spectacular Place!

Janda Raker has explored four continents via power boat, train, motorcycle, cross-country skis, snowshoes, sea kayak and her own two feet.

Some of the fascinating hoodoos seen in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah; it's the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world!

Some of the fascinating hoodoos seen in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah; it's the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world!

A spectacular hoodoo with a "big head."

A spectacular hoodoo with a "big head."

About Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park in south-central Utah is one of the most scenic and interesting places in the world! It’s especially known for its wonderfully bizarre hoodoos—hundreds, if not thousands, of eerie pillars of stone left by erosion, some as tall as 200 feet, and thought by the ancients to be bad people turned into rock. Hoodoos can also be found in Cappadocia in Turkey, in New Zealand, Italy, and at Drumheller in Alberta in Canada, as well as in Taiwan, Japan, France, and other places. But the greatest concentration of them in the world is in Bryce Canyon, as well as the amazing variety of walls and outcroppings, which welcome visitors from everywhere. The stone of the area, which is not really a canyon but a series of eroded amphitheaters, in hues of red, orange, pink and white, includes shapes worthy of Dr. Seuss.

A far view of Bryce Canyon from a viewpoint.

A far view of Bryce Canyon from a viewpoint.

Another beautiful view of hoodoos and other rock formations in Bryce Canyon. Note the "windows" forming between several of the hoodoos!

Another beautiful view of hoodoos and other rock formations in Bryce Canyon. Note the "windows" forming between several of the hoodoos!

Getting to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Whether flying or driving, getting to Bryce Canyon is a beautiful trip from almost any direction. The nearest large city is Las Vegas, NV, which is about 250 miles to the southwest, so you could fly in there and rent a car. When you drive in, you’ll enter through the north end of the park. You’ll need to plan your trip based on the weather, how fit you are, and how much time you have to spend.

Lovely, peaceful campsites are available among the trees and hillsides.

Lovely, peaceful campsites are available among the trees and hillsides.

Where to Stay

If you can stay a while, the park has a hotel, The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, which includes a historic hotel, motel and cabins. (Be sure to make reservations ahead. The lodge is closed in winter.) Two camp areas are available in the park; North Campground is open year round, with only one loop open in winter, and reservations can be made for summer camping. Sunset Campground is first-come, first-served, but closed in winter. As of 2022, fees for tent camping are $20 per night. For RV camping the charge is $30 a night. None provide electric hookups. Holders of Golden Age, Golden Access, and America the Beautiful passes can camp for 50% off. For lodging outside the park, check the Garfield County Tourism Bureau. Nearby are several hotels, motels and RV parks to choose from. If campgrounds in the park are full or if you prefer to get away from other campers, dispersed camping is available within a few miles. Check the park's website for information on those areas and where in Bryce Canyon you can park vehicles longer than 20 feet.

A huge arch visible from a trail in Bryce Canyon.

A huge arch visible from a trail in Bryce Canyon.

Seeing the Sights

A shuttle bus is available—use is encouraged but not required—to take you from one exquisite view to another or from a camping area to the sights. It operates from approximately early April to late October. Or you can drive and use parking areas at the best viewpoints. The main viewpoints are—from east to west—Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. Hiking trails abound, from very short and easy to long and challenging. Many trailheads are at the parking areas for viewpoints. The well-maintained trails are marked, most in the Amphitheater area and between 1 and 4 miles in length. The majority of them start going downhill, so be sure you have the energy to hike back up!

Every view is different and exhilarating, and they change according to the time of day and the weather! Be sure to take your camera or just your cell phone for great pics of this gorgeous park!

The overlooks above the hoodoos and the hiking trails winding among them sometimes teem with visitors as tour buses arrive on beautiful, bright days in spring, summer, and fall. Winters are cold and snow-covered, but are vivid and welcoming to visitors seeking solitude.

A busload of tourists may crowd the trails briefly, but they are soon on their way, allowing a more leisurely stroll for those who made the trip on their own.

A busload of tourists may crowd the trails briefly, but they are soon on their way, allowing a more leisurely stroll for those who made the trip on their own.

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Your pet may even enjoy the view, while leashed and kept in approved areas!

Your pet may even enjoy the view, while leashed and kept in approved areas!

Mule deer quietly stand guard in campgrounds and near trails.

Mule deer quietly stand guard in campgrounds and near trails.

Wildlife

Most of the resident animals are not often seen, because they're wary of the many people and vehicles, but watch carefully and you might see mule deer, pronghorm, chipmunks, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, “horny toads," and deer mice. Present but rarely seen are rattlesnakes, black bears, and mountain lions. Birders may spot peregrine falcons, ravens, sandhill cranes, redtail hawks, and many others, depending on the season.

See this list from the National Park Service for more info about mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Pronghorn (frequently called "antelope" by tourists) graze in the flatlands of the park.

Pronghorn (frequently called "antelope" by tourists) graze in the flatlands of the park.

Sunrise Point is an easily accessible spot with a 360-degree view of the night sky.

Sunrise Point is an easily accessible spot with a 360-degree view of the night sky.

The Dark Sky of Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park has been awarded “National Dark Sky” status, proclaiming that the area is dark enough to allow for wonderful astronomy and many events connected with star and planet gazing! The air is so clean and pure that, on a clear day, visitors can see almost 200 miles to Arizona’s Black Mesas. On a cloudless and moonless night, they've even seen the Andromeda Galaxy! You can join the “Night Sky Rangers” for “full moon hikes” and many other free nighttime programs! Check the website or check at the visitors center for more information.

An ancient bristlecone pine frames the gorgeous view of multiple layers of Bryce Canyon in the far distance.

An ancient bristlecone pine frames the gorgeous view of multiple layers of Bryce Canyon in the far distance.

About Bristlecone Pines

Bristlecone pines, the longest-living life-forms on the planet, dot the landscape of Bryce Canyon, with end branches looking like bottlebrushes. Some in the park are as old as 4,600 years. Their scent after a rain is quite refreshing.

A closeup of bristlecone pines framing another view of hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.

A closeup of bristlecone pines framing another view of hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.

The high desert vegetation near the walkways highlights the terrain.

The high desert vegetation near the walkways highlights the terrain.

Get Going!

A picture is worth a thousand words, so you don’t need more to read here. Just look at the rest of the pictures and this NPS video. Then start planning your own trip to . . . Bryce Canyon National Park!

A pale spire in a beautiful amphitheater.

A pale spire in a beautiful amphitheater.

Hoodoos are formed when ice erodes the soft rock below but leaves the top covered with harder rock. It's visible in this photo at the back left where tops of entire groups of columns remain in place.

Hoodoos are formed when ice erodes the soft rock below but leaves the top covered with harder rock. It's visible in this photo at the back left where tops of entire groups of columns remain in place.

© 2022 Janda Raker

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