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Located in Bryce Canyon City, Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is easily one of the most underrated parks in the United States. Filled with mystical hoodoos and spectacular hikes and viewpoints, it’s completely doable to spend just one day in Bryce Canyon with planning.
Throughout this post, you’ll learn exactly what to do in Bryce Canyon in one day, as well as all of the basics of the park so you can spend your day wisely. Plus, in the end, there’s a great suggested itinerary so you can plan your trip without the hassle of researching.
Get ready to spend just one day in Bryce Canyon National Park!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.
Where is Bryce Canyon National Park?
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in Bryce Canyon City, Utah. It’s a little over an hour’s drive away from the famous Zion National Park and only two hours drive away from the lesser-visited Capitol Reef National Park.
Because Bryce Canyon National Park is almost on the border of Arizona, you may think it’s far from Salt Lake City; but that’s not the case. A four-hour drive can get you to start your Bryce Canyon National Park itinerary, making it the perfect location for a weekend trip from the city.
This national park is famously known for its hoodoos and features top-notch viewpoints, making it a super accessible park. There are also epic hikes ranging from short to hours long which are perfect for adding to your Bryce Canyon itinerary.
What is a Hoodoo?
So, what exactly is a hoodoo? A hoodoo is a skinny piece of rock (that’s usually quite tall) that almost looks like frozen liquid; like a rock that had been melted. Some people also refer to hoodoos as fairy chimneys, which is another popular term for them.
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best spots in the USA to spot hoodoos. In fact, there are hundreds upon hundreds here. Even driving through Bryce Canyon City, you can’t help but spot them all around you.
How to Get to Bryce Canyon National Park
Even though it’s not the most famous of parks (though it should be!), there are quite a few ways to get there for one day in Bryce Canyon.
To travel by plane, you’ll want to fly into the Cedar City Regional Airport. While the closest airport is technically Bryce Canyon Airport, this isn’t one that you can really fly into. Luckily, Cedar City Regional Airport is only about an hour and a half away from Bryce Canyon City.
If you’re traveling from somewhere else and can’t book a flight to Cedar City Regional Airport because it’s a smaller airport, try to fly into Salt Lake International Airport. Most city airports will fly into here, making it easy to get to!
You could also easily drive to Bryce Canyon National Park because it’s one of the best spots to visit on a Utah road trip itinerary. Most people will take Scenic Highway 12, especially if they’re coming from Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park up in Moab.
Keep in mind that this road is very scenic, but a lot of the road doesn’t have a whole lot of spots to stop along the way, so you’ll want to be prepared and have food and drinks with you in the car.
Other popular roads to get to Bryce Canyon National Park include Highway 89 and Highway 22.
Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
Many people will argue that summer is the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, but that is far from the truth if you want to steer clear of huge crowds. Plus, the weather is quite warm, and accommodations in Bryce Canyon City will increase during this time due to the influx of tourists.
Instead, I can’t help but recommend visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in the fall months, mainly September through early November. The weather is fantastic during this time, with the mornings being cool enough to wear pants and a hoodie only to warm up by mid-day.
Accommodations in Bryce Canyon National Park during the fall months are also significantly lower than in summer because not as many people visit. Trust me, visiting the park during this time of year for your Bryce Canyon 1 day itinerary is going to make your trip even better!
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that, unfortunately, parts of the park do close once the snow gets bad enough in the park. The exact time cannot be predicted for when this will happen each season, but it’s usually in October.
As a reference, I did a southwest road trip in mid-October, and by the time we made it to the park, Wall Street, one of the popular parts of the Navajo Loop Trail, was closed due to the weather conditions. We were told it had just closed about a week before!
You can also visit Bryce Canyon National Park in winter if you want to visit with the least amount of tourists. The snow creates a breathtaking stark contrast against the orange hoodoos, making for great photos, even on an iPhone!
Best Places to stay Near Bryce Canyon National Park
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon – $$$
If you want to stay right inside of the national park, then you’ll want to check out The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, also sometimes referred to as Bryce Canyon Lodge. This accommodation is the only place you can stay directly in the park besides camping, making it perfect if you want to stay central and beat the crowds in the morning.
Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn – $
The Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn is one of the most popular places to stay in Bryce Canyon City. Plus, it’s super affordable, with prices typically not exceeding more than $100 per night. With a restaurant and tours nearby, you can’t go wrong with staying here, especially if you’re on a budget.
Bryce Canyon Pines – $
The Bryce Canyon Pines is a motel with great rooms to rest in the evening, and there’s even a pool. It’s only about a five-minute drive from the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park, and it’s another perfect place to stay on a budget.
Bryce Country Cabins – $$
Bryce Country Cabins is technically located in Tropic, but it’s still a five-minute drive away from the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance! It’s also down the street from many restaurants, all of which serve tasty local food.
By staying in the cabins, you’ll have your own log cabin with a seating area in the front. I stayed here during my stay, and I would book it again in a heartbeat.
The cabins also have a tiny kitchenette so it’s really easy to cook meals with a fridge and a microwave.
Bryce Canyon Tips
To make the most of one day in Bryce Canyon, you have to plan wisely. Here are some of the best tips for visiting Bryce Canyon in one day.
Get to the Park Early
Like other National Parks in the United States, you want to get to the park as soon as possible for one day at Bryce Canyon. Wake up early so you can not only see it in its most beautiful state but also avoid all of the crowds.
When you first get to the park, you’ll also want to be sure to visit the popular sites right when you get there. A lot of the trails don’t get busy until around 9:30 a.m., including the viewpoints. So you’ll want to hit spots like Sunrise and Sunset Point first thing in the morning.
Visit During the Fall
One of the easiest ways to avoid crowds is to visit in the fall. So many people visit in the summer, so you’re almost guaranteed not to have issues parking if you visit between September and November.
Book Hotels ASAP
No matter what time of year you are visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, you’ll want to book your hotels and make reservations the second you know the dates that you’re going. Prices tend to fluctuate quite a bit, and even if you think your hotel won’t book up, it very easily might.
As a heads up, I went in mid-October and booked in early September. I had minimal options for places to stay even though I thought I was booking far enough in advance!
Purchase an America the Beautiful Pass
To save yourself money (especially if you know you’ll be visiting at least a few National Parks), purchases an America the Beautiful Pass. This pass costs $80, and it covers your entire vehicle, making it very much worth it.
If you don’t purchase this pass, you’ll have to pay the per-park fee for each park you go to. This fee ranges but can be anywhere from $25 to $35 depending on the park and the time of year, so consider yourself warned!
Make Use of the Shuttle Service
This pertains more to you if you plan on visiting during peak season but make use of the shuttle service. It’s completely free to use and saves you the hassle of finding parking which can be extremely difficult in the summer.
The shuttle stops at many popular spots, including Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point, and more. Plus, if you’re staying at the Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn, it will even pick you up and bring you back there!
The shuttle service usually starts in late spring (around May) and closes in early fall (usually sometime in September).
No matter what time of year you’re visiting Bryce Canyon in one day, you’re going to want to wear and pack layers. The more layers, the better because you’ll want to be able to take them off throughout the day when it starts to warm up.
This is even more true in the fall. I had sweatpants over shorts and a long sleeve shirt with a hoodie over it. I was freezing in the morning, but by mid-day, I was super warm!
Bring a Backpack
This pretty much goes for all national parks, but bring a backpack. This is one of the best ways to carry everything around without hassle, especially if you plan on doing a Bryce Canyon hike. You can put your layers in here in addition to snacks.
What to Pack for Bryce Canyon
When spending 1 day in Bryce Canyon, you need to pack wisely because you’re there for such a short amount of time! Here are some of the best things to pack for Bryce Canyon National Park in one day.
You absolutely can’t visit without a water bottle. Definitely bring one that is at least 32 ounces, like a Hydro Flask, which will keep your water cool all day. Be sure to fill it with ice in the morning too, and consider bringing extra bottles just in case.
The sun can be bad in Bryce Canyon National Park, especially in the morning, because of the way the light hits the orange hoodoos. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes so that you won’t be squinting the entire day!
Even if you’re visiting in winter, you need to bring sunscreen. A lot of the park is out in the open, so you need to be prepared and ensure you don’t get burnt! I highly recommend packing sport sunscreen because it stays on even if you sweat.
Layers are essential for one day in Bryce Canyon. Pack a sweatshirt or some other type of layer so you can have something you can take off as it starts to warm up throughout the day. Any type of sweatshirt will do!
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is not packing hiking boots. Too many people try to wear sneakers, which is so hard when it comes to hiking, especially as it gets cooler and the trails start to get slick.
Purchase a sturdy pair of hiking boots if you plan on hiking in Bryce Canyon, and just know these are usually an excellent investment because they’ll last you a while.
The second the trails start to get slick, you need to get crampons or shoe spikes to put over your hiking boots to make sure you can keep a grip on the ice. You can purchase these affordable ones on Amazon.
Do not forget your camera when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park! My favorite camera is the Canon EOS M50 because it takes excellent photos and videos and even doubles as a vlog camera.
Where to Eat Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Even though you’re only spending one day in Bryce Canyon, you may want to stop somewhere for food instead of packing a lunch on your own. Here are some of the best places to eat near Bryce Canyon National Park.
Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill
Located near the Best Western in Bryce Canyon City is none other than Ruby’s Inn, which is home to three great restaurants. The top one that you won’t want to miss is called Ebenezer’s Bar and Grill.
They serve excellent BBQ dinner but are only open seasonally, usually from April to the end of October. If you’re lucky enough to visit while they’re open, enjoy the live country music while you indulge in great food.
Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant
For a local treat, stop by Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant that serves up hearty and tasty meals. They have everything you could think of, including steaks, salads, soups, and mashed potatoes. It has a super casual atmosphere and food that will remind you of Grandma’s meals.
Wanderlust Cowgirl Coffee
While technically located a little bit outside of Bryce Canyon City, if you’re on the hunt for great coffee, stop by Wanderlust Cowboy Coffee. From the outside, it looks like a little shack, but the coffee is delicious. They also serve great pastries that are cooked fresh.
Kenny Rays is a great place to stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. At breakfast, they serve traditional American dishes like omelets, pancakes, french toast, and more. They have tasty entrees for the rest of the day, including chicken wings, quesadillas, soup, and steak. Prices are mid-range, and it’s a great place to stop if you’re visiting with a family.
Easily the best BBQ restaurant near Bryce Canyon City is I.D.K. BBQ. At this point, it’s still a hidden gem, having only started in 2014. They serve huge dishes with barbecue goodness and even have salads and macaroni and cheese! They’re located in Tropic, down the road from the entrance at Bryce Canyon National Park.
What to do in Bryce Canyon in One Day
With just one day in Bryce Canyon National Park, these are the top activities and spots that you can’t miss! These things to do in Bryce Canyon are ranked in no particular order
Bryce Canyon Visitor Center
When you first get to Bryce Canyon National Park, you for sure have to stop by the Visitor Center. You can learn all about Bryce Canyon National Park at the Visitor Center, mingle and speak with park rangers, and shop at the souvenir store.
Be sure to grab a Bryce Canyon map so you can easily get around during your trip.
Sunrise Point + Sunset Point
The most famous viewpoints in all of Bryce Canyon National Park are Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. They’re the first viewpoints you’ll see after stopping at the Visitor Center, and they’re also located near the lodge.
These points offer incredible views of the hoodoos, but keep in mind that they tend to be busy because they’re so popular, especially during peak season. Be sure to stop by there first thing in the morning; it’s called Sunrise Point for a reason, after all!
To get to these points, just park at the nearby parking lot. These lots tend to get packed as the day goes on but tend to be open in the morning. Then, follow the signs to get to the viewpoints.
Go On At Least One Hike
Navajo Loop Trail
Easily the best trail in all of Bryce Canyon National Park is the Navajo Loop Trail. This trail is only a mile and a half long and is moderately rated. Along the way, you’ll encounter Bryce Canyon scenic switchbacks and hoodoos up close.
The trail starts right at Sunset Point and brings you directly inside Bryce Canyon and down to the canyon floor. Some of the best spots along the way include Thor’s Hammer and Twin Bridges. You’ll also be able to trek through the popular Wall Street, a photogenic portion of the Navajo Loop Trail.
Keep in mind that Wall Street tends to be one of the portions that close when it gets icy in the park.
Queens Garden Trail
This is the longer of the recommended trails for one day in Bryce Canyon. It’s popularly combined with the Navajo Loop Trail!
This trail is a little under two miles long, but it becomes about three miles round trip if combined with the Navajo Loop Trail.
Be sure to look out for the Queen Elizabeth rock and Gulliver’s Castle along the way. There’s also a great rock formation called Queen’s Castle.
Unlike the Navajo Loop Trail, the Queens Garden Trail is an out and back trail. Be warned that some parts of the trail are steep, so you’ll want to be careful.
The Bryce Canyon Rim Trail is super long at about 10 miles, and it’s an out and back trail that’s rated moderate. However, it’s one of the more accessible trails in the park. Obviously, with one day in Bryce Canyon, you can just walk a small portion of this trail to see what it’s like walking with great views of Bryce Canyon.
This trail is flat the majority of the way and is known for offering breathtaking views of Bryce Amphitheater.
Inspiration Point is one of the more underrated viewpoints to visit with one day in Bryce Canyon. You can do the canyon scenic drive and park right at the parking lot near the point and take a short walk out to the viewpoint.
One thing to be mindful of is that while the views are impeccable, there are steep drop-offs along the trail, so be sure to stay behind the railings. It’s not worth getting a beautiful photo if it means walking out to the edge where the rocks aren’t as safe!
Take a visit to the Mossy Cave, a beautiful spot in Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s less than a mile out and back, but there are around 300 feet of elevation change. However, this trail is still ranked as easy!
The area is incredible here even if you visit in the winter as you can see it with ice. It’s unlike any other spot in the park. Be sure also to locate the waterfall, which you won’t want to miss during your trip.
Another viewpoint you can’t miss is called Bryce Point. From this viewpoint, you can see the most hoodoos in one spot! It’s beautiful every time of the day, but especially around mid-day when you can see it all lit up by the sun.
To get to Bryce Point, you can park at the nearby parking lot. There’s a short walk to the viewpoint, and there are even a few trails that come off the popular viewing platform so you can see it from different angles.
You can see incredible stars at Bryce Canyon National Park. Even though you’re just spending one day in the park, if you have time to stay until the evening, you’re going to want to see the stars here. The sky looks incredible and will truthfully take your breath away.
To do stargazing here, be sure to park at a great spot with a short walk to a trail, so you don’t have to go far in the dark. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight too.
Bring your camera, and be sure to change the settings for long exposure at night.
Suggested Bryce Canyon One Day Itinerary
- Wake up and get to the park around sunrise. Head straight to Sunrise Point to catch it!
- Hike one of the suggested trails listed above.
- Hop in the car and head to a few viewpoints, namely Bryce Point and Inspiration Point. If you packed lunch, consider eating it at one of these!
- Hike to Mossy Cave after being fueled by your lunch.
- Consider driving the road throughout the park for more great views if you have time.
- Head out and grab lunch at one of the nearby spots, like I.D.K. BBQ.
- Go back to the park and stargaze.
It’s doable to spend just one day in Bryce Canyon National Park if you plan wisely and stick to an itinerary! So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip and make your hotel reservations ASAP.