With more than 84 million acres of national parks in the United States, it might be harder than you think to decide where to go on your roundtrip. It is difficult for me to make a top 3 for you, since the parks are so different from each other. You are probably heading for the well known Grand Canyon. If so, there is one park you must visit along the way: Bryce Canyon in Utah.
LARGEST COLLECTION OF HOODOOS IN THE WORLD
The landscape of the Bryce Canyon is spectacular and hard to compare to any other rock formation. When you enter the park and head for the first important sight at the rim, you will face the largest collection of hoodoos in the world. Hoodoos? Yes. That is how they call these odd-shaped pillars of rock. The groups of red and orange colored skinny spires look like large totem poles. They are formed by erosion and that’s why you can find them ranging in height from 2 meters till 30 meters. Some will collapse, others are just to be formed.
It is like the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon are alive.
WHERE TO GO IN BRYCE CANYON (CAR OR BIKE)
The thing I love about Bryce Canyon is the ease of traveling for every kind of visitor. There is a uncomplicated scenic road which you can enjoy by either car or bicycle (there is a well paved bicycle path from the Red Canyon to(wards) Bryce Canyon). There are 13 viewpoints along the way.
We took the rental car and finished the drive including stops at the majority of the viewpoints in just a couple hours. Make sure to go all the way to Rainbow point, because the view is spectacular. We had good sight and could see the Navajo Mountain and the Kaibab Plateau (which is about 140 kilometers away). You have a lot of picnic tables at the viewpoint, so enjoy your lunch with a view! At the time we got there, in April, this lunch was in the snow (in tank tops and shorts). A wonderful experience.
TOP HIKES IN BRYCE CANYON
There are eight hiking trails that can be hiked. Most of them are short hikes for about 1 to 2 hours, so you can complete them in a morning or combine several trails.
Navajo Loop Trail: Easy hike, get into the canyon
If you are not that much of a hiker, but do want to get into the canyon to explore the hoodoos from another perspective, the Navajo Loop Trail is a good pick. It is a short trail of 2.2 kilometers and gets you from Sunset Point into the canyon towards a lot of red, pink and orange hoodoos. The descent and the climb back up are steep, but not too hard. It will take you 1 to 2 hours to complete the trail, depending on the amount of pictures you take.
Rim Trail: Easy hike, get beautiful views from the top
It is possible to walk on the rim of the canyon, all the way from Fairyland to Brycepoint. On this walk you will love the beautiful views from the top into the canyon. It is a gentle, undulating path that curls through the canyon. You can decide to hike the roundtrip, which is about 17.7 kilometers. We included a part of the Rim Trail in our Fairyland Loop Trail.
Fairytail Loop Trail: Longer hike, amazing pictures
The length of the Fairytail Loop Trail is what makes it more challenging than other shorter trails in Bryce Canyon. The trail is 12.6 kilometers, and little of the kilometers are flat. I loved this hike, which takes you into a postcard scenery full of hoodoos. You will have amazing views, guaranteed. I didn’t experience it as a very tough trail, It took us about 3 hours to complete the loop.The heat was the most difficult part to deal with. Just make sure you are well prepared: bring a lot of water, sunscreen and make sure to wear a hat. In general people take about 4 to 6 hours to finish the trail, I guess this must be during summer or if you take a lot of time for pictures.
BRYCE CANYON FROM THE AIR
Without a doubt the BEST way to explore the canyon is by plane. The 30 minute flight above Bryce Canyon was one of the most amazing birthday presents ever. If you have some money left (learn how to save money during your road trip in the United States) go to the supermarket at Ruby’s Inn and look for Paul to book an airplane or helicopter flight. He also offers a tour around Zion and Bryce or Bryce and the Grand Canyon
WHEN TO GO TO BRYCE CANYON
Since the Bryce Canyon is located at a relatively high elevation (2400 meter), it can get pretty cool, especially at night. I also experienced it to be colder than Zion National Park, which is pretty “close by”. The best time to visit, depends on your wishes.
During spring or fall
We liked to hike a lot, and during spring (April) the temperatures during daytime were perfect for this (15-20 Celsius). However, as soon as the sun sets it gets cold. I mean, really cold! The cold that freezes your camping shower at night. We also had parts of the hill that were still covered with snow. If you are planning on camping in spring or fall, bring a warm clothes and make sure your tent survives the heavy winds.
I can imagine it to be pretty hot during summer. And hiking in 25 degrees is pretty tough, so make sure to leave early for your trail. During summer the nights are more mild and pleasant than the chilly spring or fall nights, however, always be prepared for heavy winds. I read that in July and August you can expect a lot of afternoon showers with heavy thunder as well.
Unfortunately, we were too late and a lot of snow had disappeared already, but apparently you can ski the Bryce Canyon plateau during winter! Must be a great experience.
During our trip at the begin of April we also saw some hoodoos in the shadow of the hills that were covered with snow. Can imagine it to be beautiful in winter!
WHERE TO SLEEP IN BRYCE CANYON
Just like there are car, bicycle and hike paths for all types of travelers, Bryce Canyon offers a selection of different sleeping options as well.
Hotels in Bryce Canyon
If you like some luxury, you can rent a room or lodge at the entrance of Bryce canyon. There are not hotel options inside the park. We only saw the hotels from a distance, when we had to go to the supermarket and get some gas, but they looked very nice (and for us unaffordable). And if a good, hot shower is not enough, it even gets better: there is a shuttle bus stop in front of Ruby’s in. Can’t get any easier to enter and enjoy the park.
Camping in Bryce Canyon
Just as in many National Parks, Bryce Canyon offers campsites for RV’s and tents. There are 2 campsites inside the park, with a first come first serve system. You will have to get there early in the day, because the quickly fill up. We got there around 9:00 and found a nice spot. Actually, we were there too early, since we had to wait in the car (it was 0 Celsius) for people to finish their breakfast and leave. The 2 campsites (North Campsite and Sunset Campsite) are really close to each other and have the same fees ($20 tent, $30 RV). I prefer the Sunset Campsite since you are closer to the rim. Make sure to get out of your RV or tent at night and walk towards Sunset Point to gaze at the millions of stars!
WHERE TO EAT IN BRYCE CANYON
As I explained in another blog, we traveled the National Parks on a budget and mostly cook ourselves. That is why we always check where the nearest supermarket is. If you are planning on camping for a long time, make sure to load up at a Walmart beforehand, since there are no big supermarkets nearby. We found a small grocery store on the way from Bryce Canyon towards Bryce Airport for some extra firewood and breakfast. They had the best wholeweat bread we had in 4 weeks.
At Ruby’s Inn there is also a nice supermarket, where you can find fresh vegetables.
Don’t like to cook? There are several restaurants (under which a pizzeria) at the terrain where Ruby’s Inn is situated and also alongside the road from Ruby’s Inn towards Bryce Airport.