Nestled within southern Utah’s vast expanse, Bryce Canyon National Park stands as a magnificent reflection of nature’s brilliance.
The distinctive orange and red hue and mesmerizing landscapes of Bryce Canyon attract over a million visitors every year. There is much to see at Bryce Canyon, but if you’ve only got a day to spare, this one day in Bryce Canyon itinerary is the perfect guide.
Bryce Canyon offers breathtaking vistas from sunrise to sunset, making it one of the most worthwhile of Utah’s National Parks to visit on a day trip. So pack your bags and your boots and get ready to spend some time in the USA’s great outdoors at Bryce Canyon National Park.
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Things to Do at Bryce Canyon in One Day
Before we dive into the details, here’s a quick glimpse of the top things to do in Bryce Canyon in one day:
Top tip: To make the most of your day at Bryce Canyon, make sure to have an America the Beautiful Pass.
Hike: Whether you’re an experienced hiker who enjoys a treacherous trail or two or a hiking novice looking for a light stroll, Bryce Canyon has plenty to offer. Each path at Bryce will lead you through a labyrinth of natural scenery to unforgettable vistas.
Horseback Riding: Get close to nature on a Bryce Canyon horseback riding tour. So you can still soak up the scenery if hiking isn’t your cup of tea, and having an experienced guide to answer your questions is always a welcome bonus.
Biking: If you crave a little more activity, you can use your bicycle or E-bike on Bryce Canyon’s paved park roads. At Bryce, you’ll have to stick to the paved paths, but if you’re more into off-road rides, you can try the trails at the nearby parks.
Get Educated: There is lots to learn about at Bryce Canyon. The national park offers ranger-led activities and educational programs for visitors of all ages. You’ll learn about the park’s history, its wildlife, and its geological wonders.
Picnic: Who doesn’t love a charming picnic? There are designated areas where you can stop, throw down your blanket, open your baskets, and soak up the scenery while enjoying your snacks. Just make sure to stick to the designated picnic area to avoid disrupting the wildlife.
Wildlife Watching: Bryce Canyon National Park is home to an array of beautiful animals. There are about 175 documented species of birds, 59 species of mammals, and 11 species of reptiles to look out for.
Rock Climbing: This region of Utah is a climber’s paradise because of its variety of rock formations with tricky climbing routes. You’ll need to be an experienced climber with a climbing permit to scale rocks in and around Bryce Canyon.
Photography: Take some time out of your day to find some of Bryce Canyon’s most Instagrammable spots. Pro-tip, if you’re an early bird, you can capture some magnificent sunrise shots at the amphitheater.
Bryce Packing List
Make sure you have these items before your trip!
Catch the Sunrise
Get ready to experience the best of Bryce Canyon in a day.
To maximize your one day at Bryce Canyon National Park, you’ll need to get an early start.
Sunrise is the most magical time in this region.
As the sun creeps over the rocky outcrops and hoodoos, it brings a warm glow to the canyon, perfectly complimenting the canyon’s already red and orange hues.
The best place to capture this phenomenon is at Bryce Canyon’s amphitheater.
You can take a short walk from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point on the Rim trail.
It’s an easy 0.5-mile path, and the walk is well worth the pictures.
Alternatively, you can take a drive along the Main Road from Sunset Point, turn right at the lodge, continue past it, and take the next right immediately after the Service Station.
There you are, Sunrise Point!
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Once you’ve watched the sun rising and got a gallery full of pictures, you’ll need to fuel up for the rest of your day.
You can grab a hearty breakfast at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon Restaurant.
It opens every day at 7:30 am and is only a 5-minute drive from Sunrise Point.
This restaurant has a pretty extensive breakfast menu, including vegetarian options and meals for kids.
Morning – Visiting Bryce Canyon
Hike The Navajo Trail
When it comes to choosing the best Bryce Canyon hikes, the Navajo Trail is an easy contender.
If you only have the time or the energy to do one hike during your one day in Bryce Canyon, let it be this one.
The Navajo Trail is one of the park’s most popular routes because it starts at Sunset Point and descends deep into the canyon through a series of switchbacks and past many magnificent red-rock formations.
As you trek, you’ll find that the already Martian landscape changes, presenting a little bit of Bryce Canyon’s best features with every few steps.
The hike is easy to moderate difficulty, with a small elevation of 500 feet along the 1.5-mile route.
It’ll take you around 2 hours to complete the loop trail, which begins and ends at Sunset Point.
Along the way, you’ll see ancient rock formations such as the Twin Bridges, Wall Street, and Thor’s Hammer.
Besides the otherworldly experience the hike offers, it’s also a popular choice because it intersects with the Queen’s Garden Trail, so you can extend your hike if you’ve got time and energy to spare.
There are many hiking trails at Bryce Canyon, so while this one is a popular favorite, there might be another hike that better suits your fitness level and interests.
You can find out all about Bryce Canyon day hikes from the official national parks website.
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Alternative: Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can still see the best of the park by taking a scenic drive around Bryce Canyon.
You can take the main road from the park’s entrance all the way to Yovimpa Points at the end of the road.
The route is around 18 miles long and will take about 3 hours to drive if you stop at each viewpoint.
Taking a scenic drive is the best way to see most of the park’s highlights in a limited time.
In the first 3 miles, you’ll see the Bryce Amphitheater, and for the next 15 miles, you’ll continue along the Southern Scenic Drive.
The best way to tackle the journey is by driving straight to Rainbow and Yovimpa Point, stopping here to enjoy the vistas, and then driving back.
Since you’re now heading in the opposite direction, all the viewpoints are to the right.
It’s much easier and safer to pull over and take in the scenery.
Pro Tip: If you’re not planning to stop at every viewpoint, make sure that Rainbow Point, Yovimba Point, Natural Bridge, and Agua Canyon are on your list.
Mid-Morning – Things to Do in Bryce Canyon
Mossy Cave Trail
If you’re hiking in the summer, the sun gets pretty intense as it becomes midday.
For that reason, you don’t want to embark on any lengthy hikes with limited shady spots to cool off.
The Mossy Cave Trail is the perfect short-and-sweet route to take if you still fancy a bit of hiking at this time of day.
While this trail doesn’t promise incredible views of the canyon, you will see a beautiful waterfall along the way and the Mossy Cave to its left.
If you have the time, I’d recommend exploring both features.
The hike is a short 0.8 miles, but you will have to drive outside of the main park to reach the trailhead.
Insider Knowledge: It’s just 4 miles south of the main park area on Route 12.
Alternative: Biking at Bryce Canyon
Mid-morning is the perfect time to explore Bryce Canyon’s paved trails.
There are no off-road trails within the park, but it’s all in the name of natural preservation and safety, which isn’t so bad.
Plus, the paved trails around the park and at the camping grounds are lovely.
For a little more adventure, there are several off-road biking trails outside of the park’s boundaries and in other neighboring parks.
Thunder Mountain is a popular route, as well as Bunker Creek and Navajo Lake.
Note that you should be an experienced mountain biker if you’re going to attempt these trails.
Pro Tip: Help isn’t easy to come by in these regions, so it’s best to know what you’re doing and have the proper equipment.
Afternoon – What to Do in Bryce Canyon
Lunch at The Pizza Place
After burning all those calories in the great outdoors, you’ll be hunkering for something tasty.
The Pizza Place is just 15 minutes away from Bryce Canyon National Park along Route 63 and Route 12.
While it’s called The Pizza Place, and they do have a wide variety of pizzas and toppings, they also serve burgers, steaks, and many other American classics.
They also have a special menu for kids and options for vegetarians and vegans.
The Pizza Place Opens every day at 11 am, just in time for an early lunch.
Horseback Riding Near Bryce Canyon
After lunch, you can head back to Bryce Canyon to enjoy your afternoon outdoors.
Taking a Horseback riding tour near Bryce Canyon is a fantastic (and easy) way to take in more of the natural scenery after a long morning of hiking and biking.
This 3-hour-long horseback tour explores the Losee Canyon trail at Red Canyon.
This park is only 9 miles from Bryce National Park and offers a few outdoor activities like horseback riding, biking, off-roading, camping, and hiking.
On the tour, you’ll have an experienced and knowledgeable guide to answer your questions and tell you all about the wildlife and formations along the route.
The tour also follows a historic path, and you’ll get to travel the same road as outlaws did 100 years ago.
Evening – Things to Do in Bryce National Park
Sunset to Sunrise Hike
While it is technically a hiking trail, the Sunset to Sunrise route is an easy route along the rim of the canyon.
Going on this 1-mile walk is a great way to pass some time before the sun sets.
The Sunrise to Sunset trail is paved and safe for strollers and hikers with mobility challenges.
Both viewpoints offer spectacular vistas of the canyon and its ancient rock formations.
Plus, there are so many spots to take pictures with your camera gear to remember your day at Bryce.
Night – Bryce Canyon 1 Day Itinerary
Dinner at Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant
Pay a visit to Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant for some classic American food.
Here, you’ll find a variety of hearty meals, from steaks to locally sourced fish and homemade burgers.
This restaurant opens every day at 7 am and closes at 9:30 pm, and is only a short 8-minute drive from Bryce Canyon National Park.
This region of Utah is one of the best places to enjoy a magical night of stargazing.
A clear, moonless night is the best time to admire the night skies at Bryce Canyon.
You can see up to 7,500 stars when the conditions are right.
You can join one of the stargazing tours or programs at the park or just enjoy some independent stargazing.
Top tip: Sunrise and Sunset Points are both great spots to see the stars.
What To Do With One Day in Bryce National Park + Map
- Sunrise at Sunrise Point
- Hike Navajo Trail
- Bryce Scenic Drive
- Mossy Cave Trail
- Horseback Riding
- Sunset to Sunrise Trail
Now here’s a map for you to use!
Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon Pines — Located just a 5-minute drive from Bryce Canyon National Park, this motel in Bryce is a great place to spend the night after a long day of exploring Utah’s wilderness. Check Rates and Availability
Luxe Home Bryce Canyon — This home is the perfect stay for up to 10 guests. It’s only a 2-mile drive from Bryce National Park and less than a mile from Bryce Town’s eateries and points of interest. Check Rates and Availability
Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel — This hotel offers standard rooms, deluxe suites, and king suites, less than 2 miles from Bryce Canyon. It’s a fantastic option for a comfortable short stay in Utah. Check Rates and Availability
Final Thoughts on One Day in Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon National Park is a wonderland for nature enthusiasts, boasting magnificent rock formations and unforgettable vistas.
With this guide, you can experience the best of Bryce Canyon in one day and make memories that will last a lifetime.
If you want to see more of Utah on your next trip, check out this guide on how to have an amazing 8-Day Utah National Parks road trip.