If you are in Bryce Canyon, you should take some time for hiking. The easiest trail is the Queen's Garden Trail, named after a rockformation that resembles Queen Victoria. This trail starts at Sunrise Point (3.0km; 1-2 hours roundtrip (way back is the same as way in). You can also do the combined Queen's Garden/Navajo Loop combination which is a 4.6km roundtrip from Sunrise Point through Queen's Garden and "Wall Street" up to Sunset Point and along the rim back to Sunrise Point.
Any of the Viewpoints are great of course. But the ones that should not be missed are the four central viewpoints: Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point. These give you great and very different views of the "Main Amphitheatre" of the Bryce Canyon region.
86 miles northeast of Zion is Bryce Canyon National Park. Here, you enter on top of the canyon, so it may be a little chillier. Elevation ranges from 6,500 to 9,100 feet along the hiking trails so, research and be prepared. Most trails have loose rock and become VERY narrow in parts!! Yovimpa Point and Rainbow Point offer the most expansive views of the canyon! There are only a couple of campgrounds and a lodge which is only open from April to November. Overnight backpacking trips are allowed on the Under-the-Rim and Riggs Spring trails and both require a permit.
There is lodging outside the park in a town called Ruby's Inn.
There are so many trails to hike...from short, easy ones to long, strenuous ones to overnight hikes! You can't go anywhere here and have a bad view. As the elevation changes, so do the trees and flora. I strongly suggest getting away from the scenic overlooks and take a walk. You may be missing something!!
While the park suggest visiting Rainbow Point first it is likely your first view of the canyon will be from Sunset Point. If you could only see the canyon from one vantage point, it should be from here just prior to sunset or from Sunrise at dawn. Sunset surely has the tightest cluster of hoodoos in the most colorful hues of pink in the park. As the sun goes down, they get ever warmer in color and it's well worth making the effort to be here this time of the evening. The park's premier day hike, The Navajo Loop, starts and ends here.
Described as an All American Road passing through some of the most varied and beautiful landscapes in the country, Scenic Byway 12 is not to be missed. I can say this, because you must drive this road to gain access to the park.
The byway ends just west of Bryce Canyon near Panguitch and passes through two manmade "tunnels" (pictured here) at Red Canyon.
If you follow hwy 12 to the east you will pass Calf Creek Recreation Area, Hell's Backbone, Boulder Mountain and ending near Capitol Reef National Park.
Hoodoos are rock formations which get their shapes from water and wind erosion. Bryce Canyon appears to have millions of hoodoos, especially in Bryce Ampitheatre. Many are unevenly shaped and some even resemble objects.
During a visit to Bryce, you can see the multitude of hoodoos in the ampitheatre and can also see formations such as Thor's Hammer and the Hunter.
This trail is a lot of fun. For those of you that are like me (a bit afraid of heights), then the beginning may scare you a bit. It's a pretty steep decline into the canyon. Once you get past the first few switchbacks, it's not as intimidating. The trail is about 1.3 miles roundtrip.
Bryce's unusual landscape, and the unique rock formations called hoodoos, are often what people deem the most memorable things about this park. But the wide open views and dramatic changes in landscape are equally remarkable, at least in my opinion. This picture was taken from one of the many scenic pullouts along Bryce Canyon Road. Beyond the fir and spruce trees, the view of the plateau and the mountains in the background stretches on almost endlessly.
If you have the chance, go see a sunrise here at Sunrise Point. Remember, in summer you have to go up early to do so. For the first quarter of an hour after the sun appears, you will see the colours of the canyon change every minute. Like the entire area is set on fire.
One related tip: Sunset is not nearly as good. Due to the direction of the canyon towards the east. By the time the sky is turning red, the canyon is completely covered in shadows already.
From Sunset Point you will find the trailhead to the Navajo Loop which will take you down a series of switchbacks 521 feet to a narrow slot canyon called Wall Street. Here the path winds amongst the base of the hoodoos and past tall Douglas Fir Trees that somehow have grown up through the narrow space to reach sunlight above.
From here, you can either take the north side of the loop back up to Sunset Point, which will complete a 1.3 mile hike or you can continue to Sunrise Point via the Queens Garden Trail, as we did.
The vast majority of Bryce Canyon National Park visitors are quite content to enjoy the hoodoos from above at numerous viewpoints along the admittedly scenic drive that runs from Rainbow Point to Fairyland Point. While this gives you a nice perspective of the immensity of the canyon, it does little to personalize the experience. While it is a drive worth doing if you have the time, I would say a brief hike into the canyon would be time better spent than rushing around from one viewpoint to the next. But if you are not into any type of physical exertion or unable to do any such admittedly steep walking or you have time to do both, the viewpoints are certainly a worthwhile excursion.
The park advises to go to Rainbow first to get the grand perspective of Bryce Canyon. The road is 18 miles and picks up 1200 feet so allow some time to get there and ample time for stops on the way back as there are other nice viewpoints as well. It can also be a bit cooler so be prepared. The view from Rainbow Point goes as far as the eye can see. You can see red cliffs in the distance and imagine how they were transformed into the magical hoodoos you are now amongst through nature's sculpting force of erosion. The short Bristlecone Trail starts and ends here as does the short backcountry Riggs Loop. The most adventurous hike in the park is the Under the Rim Trail that goes all the way from Rainbow Point nearly 23 miles to Bryce Point.
Fairview and Swamp Canyon viewpoints are again nice but if pressed for time I would skip them. Paria View is meant to be great for sunset but we were too early for that so headed to the expansive view at Bryce Point. Perhaps nowhere in the park can you see such a far reaching view of the amphitheater created entirely of hoodoos. This is a great place for sunrise and is also the trail head for the Under The Rim Trail that traverses the park's backcountry for 23 miles to Rainbow Point. It is also the trail head for the Peekaboo Loop.
While the viewpoints give a nice perspective of Bryce Canyon and for many it is all they can physically do, if you are at all able to walk, you should try and tackle some of Bryce's short hikes. I am not sure if you can hike such a short distance anywhere else and get such amazing views.
The short section between Sunrise and Sunset is very flat and paved but the entire length is a more up and down affair of 11 miles. It is not a loop but during the summer months, you can catch a shuttle back to from where you started. It is amazing how little traffic you see once you go north of Sunrise Point. While not a wilderness experience, you still get a much more private feeling of the park.
As you drive along the 18 mile scenic road through Bryce Canyon, you will encounter 13 viewpoints along the way. One of the best is Sunset Point, at any time of day.
From here you have a fantastic view of the natural amphitheater filled with thousands, maybe millions of tall rocky spires in colours of red, pink, orange and white. The Paiute Indians described them as "red rocks standing like men in a bowl shaped recess".