7 Oct 2022
Looking for a rewarding day-trip from St. George, Utah? Look no further than Bryce Canyon National Park. This remarkable red rock wonderland is small in size but packs a powerful punch, making it perfect for families. Prepare to be astounded by its unique beauty, unlike anything you've ever witnessed before.
Now, I know the term "must-see" gets thrown around a lot, but trust me when I say that Bryce Canyon truly lives up to that description.
In this article, I will outline the reasons why you should visit, provide guidance on how to get there, and give you a glimpse of what to expect during your trip. Additionally, I'll share some insider tips and tricks based on my extensive experience as a local Utah resident and frequent visitor to Bryce Canyon.
As someone who holds Bryce Canyon dear to their heart, I'm excited to assist you in creating an unforgettable visit to this magnificent place.
Why Visit Bryce Canyon?
Young and old alike can easily enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park thanks to….
1. Convenient Viewpoints
Most viewpoints at Bryce are right next to the road, and usually only require a short walk on a well-groomed -- sometimes paved -- trail. Most viewpoints also have toilets and drinking water.
2. Small Size
Because the park is small and the canyon itself isn’t very deep, most trails are accessible for most ages and abilities. In fact, of the 15 trails in the park, only 5 are labeled as “Strenuous;” and that’s usually just because they are longer and have one or two extra steep portions.
3. Well-Groomed Trails
Most major trails are well-marked, well-groomed, and wide, even in cliffy areas, making exploration easy.
4. Family-Friendly Activities
Bryce, like most national parks, has a Junior Ranger program as well as ranger talks throughout the day. They also host festivals, special events, and more. There’s always something fun for every age!
The drive to Bryce requires a significant elevation climb, but the climb is not steep, so even older cars can easily make it. There are no dirt roads or confusing routes to access the park, and it’s easy to navigate there with any GPS app.
You Can See All Major Highlights in One Day
It’s easy to see Bryce’s highlights in one day without being in a rush thanks to its small size and superb transportation system.
How To Prepare For Your Visit
Good Sun Coverage
Bryce’s landscape doesn’t provide much shade; and considering its high elevation, adequate sun coverage is essential. Sun hats, sunscreen, and long sleeves are highly recommended, even when the temperature isn’t high. It’s especially important for children and the elderly to have adequate sun coverage.
I recently made the mistake of wearing hiking sandals in Bryce….BIG mistake! The trails are sandy, so sand gets stuck under sandal straps, irritating your feet and causes blisters. Wearing closed-toed shoes will prevent sand from getting in your shoes.
Water Bottles and Electrolyte Replenishment
Bryce’s high elevation and lack of shade make water an absolute must, even if you’re only going on easy hikes. Drinking water faucets are plentiful in major areas of the park (usually near the restrooms) so refilling bottles is easy.
For the same reasons, electrolyte replenishment is important, especially if you’re hiking in the summer. During my last visit early-fall visit to Bryce, I was so grateful to have some electrolyte mix in my pack. Halfway through a long hike, I was feeling exhausted despite drinking lots of water; but an electrolyte boost picked me up and made it easy to finish! Salty snacks also help replenish electrolytes.
How To Get To Bryce From St. George
Driving from St. George to Bryce Canyon usually takes about 2 hours, and 20 minutes. From St. George, go North on I-15. Take Exit 95 to get on UT-20. Continue until you get to US-89. Turn right and follow US-89 through Panguitch. Turn left onto UT-12 E and follow the road until you pass the entrance gates.
What To Expect When You Arrive
Parking and Shuttles
Bryce Canyon has an efficient, simple, and convenient shuttle system that stops at every major viewpoint, making cars unnecessary for most visitors.
It’s not required to take the shuttle, but it’s recommended. It’s simple and convenient, as stated above, and helps the park stay clean and prevent the need for invasive parking lot expansion projects.
You can take the shuttle from most parking lots inside the park, but I’d recommend parking just outside the park in one of the many parking lots and taking the shuttle into the park from there.
If you’ll be driving your car in the park, be sure to arrive early for good parking spots. During the busy season, it may not be possible to park at many viewpoints.
Click here for more information on the park shuttle.
Bryce rarely experiences extreme weather, but it’s recommended to check conditions before arrival. Click here to check.
Restrooms and Drinking Water
Restrooms and drinking water sources are plentiful at Bryce Canyon. Locations for both are marked on the park map.
How To Make The Most Of Your Trip
Being a Utah local, I’ve been visiting Bryce Canyon frequently my entire life. In that time, I’ve gathered some tips for how to make your visit the most fulfilling.
Talk To The Rangers
They’re not just there to wear cool outfits -- the park rangers at Bryce are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the park they work in, making them an invaluable resource.
Asking a ranger for recommendations when you arrive will set you in the right direction. They can offer suggestions based on how much time you have, your group size and age, the time of year, etc., etc….if you have a question, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll have the answer!
Rangers also have inside information about special activities happening in or near the park like festivals, astronomy programs, Junior Ranger, and more.
Get Up For Sunrise or Stick Around After Sunset
Bryce has some of the most magnificent sunrises and night skies I’ve ever seen. If you can, try to see at least one of them!
If you’re a sunrise person, I recommend watching it from Sunrise Point. (Appropriately named, right?)
The park hosts ranger-led night time astronomy programs, full moon hikes, and a June astronomy festival after dark. These programs are all family-friendly.
Help Your Kids Become Junior Rangers
The Junior Ranger program is what made my earliest visits to Bryce so fun and memorable. Doing engaging exploration activities while learning about the park sparked my love of Utah’s outdoors!
The Junior Ranger program guides kids as they explore the park through learning activity packets designed for their age group. It keeps kids interested and entertained while they learn about what makes Bryce Canyon special.
On completion, kids get a unique badge (one only available to Junior Rangers) from a real ranger and get announced to the whole Visitor Center as the newest Junior Ranger. I remember being so proud and excited when I got my badge!
Family programs are also offered in the summer months.
Spend Some Time Learning About the Park
Visitors Center displays, rangers, the Junior Ranger program, and pamphlets are readily available to teach you about the geological, anthropological, and environmental history of Bryce Canyon.
The park really comes alive when you know what you’re looking at!
Do Your Part to Keep Bryce Healthy
Any highly-trafficked area is prone to ecological disruption, but deserts are especially delicate. Stay on marked trails to keep Bryce Canyon’s ecosystem healthy and thriving.
Bryce’s animals are SO cute when they’re eating, but unfortunately, it’s very harmful to feed them. The National Park Service says it best:
“Wild animals become unhealthy from eating human food and grow dependent on it as a food source. Often animals that are fed become nuisances and must be destroyed. It is also against the law to feed any wild animal.
Feeding wildlife is also dangerous. Small rodents can and will bite the hand that feeds them, transmitting a variety of diseases. Larger animals, such as deer, have been known to buck or kick suddenly and cause serious injuries.”
My Favorite Hike: Bryce Amphitheater Traverse from Bryce Point
This hike is like a 3-4 hour “best-of” tour of the canyon. It’s my favorite hike, especially if I only have one day, because I think it gives you a good taste of almost everything the park has to offer.
It’s labeled “Strenuous,” but I think that’s an exaggeration. It’s fairly long (4.7 miles), and has 2 spots of steep elevation change, but I think older children and the elderly could definitely do it as long as they have plenty of water, electrolytes, sun coverage, snacks, time, and temperatures under 82 degrees.
Don't Hesitate -- Bryce Is Waiting!
Bryce Canyon National Park is the perfect day-trip from St. George! I’m sure that if you take the time to visit, you won’t regret it.
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