If you’ve been following my blog, you would know by now that I work a regular 9-to-5 and take advantage of long weekends to travel. That said, I don’t always have the luxury of time to thoroughly explore each and every destination. As much as I hate travelling like this, there’s just so much out there to see and so little time that oh what the heck! I’ll take what I can!
In this guide, you can expect to find recommendations on where to find the best photo ops AND how you should plan your trip to maximize your one day in Bryce Canyon.
First and foremost, Bryce Canyon National Park is HUGE. It’s a scenic 18-mile drive from one end to the other (Visitor Center to Rainbow Point viewpoint) and you’ll see lots of cyclists who come here to challenge themselves. If you are pressed on time or not in the best shape to cycle 18 miles uphill, however, I definitely suggest you hit that gas pedal.
Entrance Fee Charges
Now my friend and I technically flew into Vegas then drove out from there. Depending on where you’re coming from, there may be different routes to take. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll need to enter through the Visitor Center where you’ll be charged a $30 private vehicle entrance fee. ($15 if you are visiting by foot or by bike; $25 for motorcycles.)
Note that Zion National Park is relatively close to Bryce as well. We had a rough itinerary planned out and put Zion on our list if we had extra time. Apart from that, we didn’t route our trip or do any additional homework beforehand whatsoever. We relied on Google Maps and simply keyed in points from location to location. Since we departed from Vegas, Google actually led us through Zion National Park first. Here we were charged another $30 park entry fee for passing through Zion. If you’re planning to drive out from Vegas, just be aware that you’ll most likely need $60 in cash handy.
Bryce Canyon Viewpoints
Map from Elena Hanajenko.
At Bryce, there are roughly 15 viewpoints – all of which are are super close and less than a minute-walk from the parkades. There are a lot of amazing hikes here but even without the trek, you can still enjoy phenomenal views of Bryce’s well-known hoodoos.
We kicked off our adventure by visiting the closest viewpoints. However, if you only have one day in Bryce Canyon, I highly recommend you to start at the furthest one and working your way back. I personally found the closer ones to be way more spectacular and astonishing. Frankly at the end of our drive, I was a little disappointed.
Marked at mile 18, this is the furthest AND the highest elevated point exceeding 9,100ft. Here you get a very nice panoramic view of pretty much the entire park with the hoodoos and the forests. Another reason why starting here is a good idea. It gives you a much better understanding of the geography of the park.
To the south of Rainbow Point is the Yovimpa viewpoint. I feel like because we were rushing, we only paid attention to the major viewpoints that we had read about online prior to our visit. Since we were super focused on Rainbow, we didn’t even see Yovimpa on the map. Having said that, if you wanna get a closer look of the Grand Staircase (a sequence of rock layers that look like steps of stairs), by all means, check it out and let me know your thoughts!
Ponderosa gets its name from the ponderosa pines that grow here on the canyon floor. This is where you can get another closeup look of the Grand Staircase but I wouldn’t say it’s a must.
No, it’s not a bridge; it’s an arch. As misleading as the name is, this natural phenomenon completely took my breath away. The arch is sculpted from Claron Formation rocks and is a result of rock erosion by water. Rainwater, snow, even gravity all play a factor in shaping this unreal beauty.
Thanks to my gorgeous friend Lily for letting me put her photos up here on the blog.
Bryce Amphitheater Region
The Amphitheater Region encompasses five main viewpoints: Fairyland Point, Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. Inspiration Point was the very first one we visited. You’ll see in a bit what I mean by I was disappointed about visiting Rainbow Point last.
Parking here was by far the most difficult to find and we waited a good 10-15 minutes. Although that is because this is easily the best spot to view the famous Bryce hoodoos. Hoodoos, by the way, are those tall, thin rocks that protrude from the bottom of the basin. They’re also called fairy chimneys and are truly magical.
A new friend we made along the way.
This is my absolute favorite viewpoint of them all. Not sure if it’s because this was where we first saw the magnificent hoodoos but I was just so taken aback and stunned and mesmerized by Mother Nature’s beautiful work of art that I fell madly in love with this surreal scene.
There are three levels at Inspiration that overlook Boat Mesa. We unfortunately only stayed near the bottom because again, time constraints, but I highly recommend hiking a little higher up. The lower level views were already out of this world and I can’t begin to imagine how much more beautiful higher up would be!
“From here you can watch the tops of hoodoos set alight as if by fire from the first rays of the rising sun.” – National Park Service.
Last but not least, Bryce Point. You can’t come to Bryce Canyon National Park and not visit Bryce Point.
Bryce is actually known for sunrise viewings. Even if you can’t make it out here that early, the views are extraordinary no matter what time. It’s no wonder all the tour busses stop here. Definitely add it to your “things to see in Utah” bucket list.
This is no doubt the best viewpoint to end your canyon adventure on. Just be mentally prepared for flocks of tourists though.
Key Takeaways for One Day in Bryce Canyon
- Start your trip at the furthest viewpoint and work your way back to the Visitor Center.
- If you really really do not have time to spare, the absolute must-sees are Rainbow Point, Natural Bridge, and Inspiration Point. These are also my top suggestions for where to take the best photos.
The reason why I say I got disappointed towards Rainbow Point is because I went in not knowing what to expect. After seeing Inspiration Point, I thought the whole park was hoodoos and hoodoos everywhere. Rainbow Point really is more of an overview of the park. Yes, the panoramic views are jaw-dropping but in my head I just imagined it to be an upgraded version of Inspiration Point. Something even more epic maybe even somewhere you get to see double rainbows… I don’t know. Either way this is exactly why I suggest starting your trip at Rainbow Point then working your way back towards the park entrance/exit.
Bryce Canyon really is quite a wonder. If you have time to thoroughly explore each of the viewpoints or maybe even camp there overnight and enjoy the starry sky, that’s the best. I know I specified where I think the best views are, but please keep in mind that this is taking time constraint into account. We legit spent two hours here (including the time it took to drive to the different viewpoints). One day in Bryce Canyon is doable for sure but again, it’s that question of what you are willing to sacrifice and what you are okay not seeing.
And there you have it, a quick guide to seeing one of the most popular tourist attractions in Utah.
If you’re planning a road trip in the American Southwest region, be sure to read up on my other blog posts to better help you prepare!