Description - Bryce Canyon National Park is named for one of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. Erosion has shaped colorful Claron limestones, sandstones and mudstones into thousands of spires, fins, pinnacles and mazes. Collectively called 'hoodoos,' these unique formations are whimsically arranged and tinted with colors too numerous and subtle to name.
Copyright: National Park Service
Bryce Canyon National Park
Ponderosa pines, high elevation meadows and fir-spruce forests border the rim of the plateau, while panoramic views of three states spread beyond the park's boundaries. This area boasts some of the nation's best air quality. This, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates unparalleled opportunities for star gazing.
- The main attraction of this National Park and most others in Utah is the natural beauty and unique rock formations that exist within the area. Over 50 miles of trails take visitors closer to interesting natural features along the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The park visitor center is probably the first of the developed attractions in the park that you will visit. It is open year round and a good place to gather information that will help you decide what to see in the park. A ten-minute slide program, exhibits, restrooms, information and backcountry permits are available here. In addition, maps and other publications are also available for purchase.
The 18-mile main park road winds along the edge of the plateau, terminating at Rainbow Point in the south end of the park. Spur roads and pullouts along the main road offer opportunities for viewing and trailhead parking. In summer, parking at most viewpoints is extremely congested. Your best chance of finding a parking space at Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, Bryce and Paria Viewpoints is before 10:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m. To avoid the congestion visitors should take the park shuttle, established in the year 2000. This can be boarded outside the park or at the visitor center.
Trailers are not allowed beyond Sunset Campground on the Scenic Drive. Campers should leave trailers at their campsite. Day visitors should leave trailers at their overnight campground, at Ruby's Inn free shuttle parking area just outside the park, at the park visitor center or at the trailer turnaround south of Sunset Campground. No vehicles over 25 feet in length are allowed at Paria View where the parking area is too small for large vehicles to turn around.
The park has over 50 miles of hiking trails with a range of distances and elevation change. The easiest trail is the half mile section of Rim Trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points. Other sections of the Rim Trail, which extends 5.5 miles between Fairyland and Bryce Points, have steeper terrain. The Fairyland Loop (8 miles round trip), Peekaboo Loop (4.8 or 5.5 miles round trip), Queen's Garden (1.7 miles round trip) and Navajo Loop (1.5 miles round trip) trails descend through the rock formations along steep grades. The Peekaboo Loop Trail also serves as a horse trail.
The Under-the-Rim Trail extends 23 miles from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point and has eight backcountry campsites. The Riggs Spring Loop Trail (8.8 miles round trip) from Rainbow Point has four backcountry sites. Both trails drop below the rim of the plateau and lead through forested areas. A permit is required for overnight backcountry camping and is available at the park Visitor Center. A fee is requested for backcountry use.
Recreation - This National Park boasts activities for all visitors to enjoy. Recreation opportunities range from scenic driving to 25 mile cross-country ski treks. Visitors can also enjoy camping (developed and dispersed), hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing and viewing exhibits. The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day.
Climate - Visitors can enjoy Bryce Canyon during any season. The park exists at an elevation between 8,000-9,000 feet, so that does factor in to weather conditions. Summer days are pleasant and nights are cool. July is the warmest month, with an average daytime high temperature of 83 degrees and a nighttime low of 47 degrees. Much of the area's precipitation comes as afternoon thundershowers during mid to late summer. Spring and fall weather is highly variable.
Cold winter days are offset by high altitude sun and dry climate. Winter nights are subfreezing. During some winters, Alaskan cold fronts descend on the region bringing temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero. Although March is the snowiest month, the area can have snowstorms from October through April. Annual snowfall averages 95 inches, providing opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The high altitude sun can burn in any season--hats and sunscreen are recommended all year. Layered clothing is good preparation for the plateau's temperature extremes and frequent strong winds. Boots with good tread and ankle support are strongly recommended for hikes into the canyons.
Bryce Canyon is located in south central Utah, approximately 85 miles northeast of Zion National Park and 35 miles west of Escalante, Utah.