Bryce Canyon Tour – Breathtaking Journey to Over 9000ft!

14
10317

From Arches National Park to Zion National Park, Utah is spoiled for choice when it comes to natural beauty. However, there is another national park that is sometimes forgotten but it is potentially the most breathtaking of them all – Bryce Canyon National Park! Following our short yet enjoyable scenic drive through Zion, we stayed overnight in Cedar City, Utah before taking the two hour drive to the entrance of Bryce Canyon. If you are looking for a very unique and distinctive topographical landscape, I would strongly encourage you to consider taking a Bryce Canyon tour!

Location and History

Bryce Canyon is located in the heart of the southern half of Utah. Access to this national park is not the easiest as it requires quite a bit of driving ‘off the beaten path’, or at least off the Utah interstate system. But this is what makes Bryce such a popular spot for those that take the time to explore the gorgeous beauty present here.

bryce canyon tour utah scenic landscape

The drive to Bryce is equally as rewarding as the park itself, especially if you opt to take the route along Highway 14 and Highway 89 which takes a mountain road with a number of daring switchbacks and stunning lookout points. Even during our trip at the end of May, we experienced ice and snow on the roads as we passed over the plateau.

bryce canyon city

Designated as the Markagaunt High Plateau Scenic Byway, Utah Highway 14 is breathtaking and we spent quite a bit of time exploring here before heading on to Bryce – one of many reasons why Utah has quickly become of one of my favorite states, as it is unlike anything else I have seen before around USA!

bryce canyon utah

What about Bryce Canyon’s history? The name ‘Bryce’ is derived from Scottish pioneer, Ebenezer Bryce who homesteaded in the area of the park in 1874. I love his quote that he is infamous for when describing the area we now know as Bryce Canyon.

“It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”

I guess if you are going to setup your farm anywhere, this is a pretty awesome spot to choose so I don’t blame Ebenezer at all!

Bryce Canyon was denoted as a National Park in 1928. Another park that is $25 for a seven-day pass but just like the rest of Utah’s “Mighty 5”, you won’t be disappointed after paying this expense (I will reiterate the value in the America the Beautiful Annual Pass for $80!)

Inspiration Point

After entering Bryce Canyon and spending a brief moment in the visitor center to figure out our bearings, we immediately headed to one of the most sought after spots throughout the canyon – Inspiration Point. If you decide to visit here or one of the previous two lookout points, Sunrise and Sunset Point, you will be left breathless at the beauty of the scenery in front of you.

bryce canyon tour utah

The scenic drive from the bottom of the canyon to the very top is everything you could imagine – view after view of breathtaking scenery. Walking from the parking lot at Inspiration Point, you are immediately faced with the amphitheater look of Bryce Canyon. The Bryce Amphitheater area is the most popular spot for tourists and after experiencing this, you will understand why!

bryce canyon tour

The maelstrom of colors that are presented throughout the amphitheater are emphasized when the sunlight shines down and what better way to see this than from the vistas such as Inspiration Point.

bryce canyon amphitheater hoodoos

Of course the highlight through Bryce Canyon, in particular the views from Inspiration Point are the ‘hoodoos’  which are the tall, narrow spires that look like chimneys and form together to create a geological phenomenon. The totem-pole like structures were formed years ago through the water and ice erosion process that is typical of many features in Utah and Arizona.

bryce canyon hoodoos

Taking in the hoodoos and varying colors of red that spring out of the amphitheater setting make Inspiration Point a spot you could easily spend all day relaxing with these views. We explored this awe-inspiring spot though I would encourage you to be wary of your surroundings, especially if you are daring enough to stand at the edge of the overlook. There are numerous plateaus and vistas that have protective barriers, but ‘off the beaten path’ is where you can avoid the large number of tourists and capture the perfect shot.

bryce canyon tour

Bryce Point

Another vista that is equally as tantalizing for its visitors is Bryce Point, not only because of the higher overlook but because of the possibility of capturing a perfect sunrise shot. Parking here was incredibly difficult and we were fortunate that a couple of tours around the parking lot led to an open spot, otherwise you may be waiting here for quite a while (perhaps this is one of the benefits of taking advantage of the Bryce Canyon shuttle that you are strongly encouraged to consider as you enter the national park!)

bryce point utah

As the sun beats down on the Roman style amphitheater setting, the hoodoos spring to life throughout Bryce. The vivid, bright colors are brilliantly exposed and it is without doubt a photographer’s paradise at any time of the day.

bryce canyon amphitheater bryce point

Looking back down at Inspiration Point, the view is stunning… in fact there are not enough superlatives to describe this, instead you will just have to visit Bryce Canyon for yourself to really appreciate the beauty here.

bryce canyon utah

A number of hiking trails are available from Bryce Point, including the wonderfully named Peek-a-boo Loop Trail which is one of the more spectacular treks throughout the canyon. I wish we had the time to hike this trail, even if it was just to say that we had hiked “Peek-a-boo”.

bryce canyon tour

Natural Bridge

Our journey continued towards the summit of Bryce Canyon and as we looked over the map, we were intrigued by the name of another of Bryce’s popular attractions, Natural Bridge. I will say that the name of this is a little misleading because I envisioned something very different from what we stumbled across.

natural bridge bryce canyon utah

You may be surprised to hear that Bryce Canyon is not just a hub of hoodoos and natural beauty throughout the Bryce Amphitheater. Instead there are a number of natural arches formed, highlighted by Natural Bridge that provides a perfect setting with the Ponderosa forest in the background.

bryce canyon tour natural bridge

The contrast in colors from the red rock to the distant greenery throughout the forest provides a very different look but still attracts visitors looking to capture the moment the sunlight passes perfectly through the arch.

Ponderosa Canyon

Taking a Bryce Canyon tour wouldn’t be the same without stopping at Ponderosa Canyon to view the distinctive geology throughout this national park. The topography is mesmerizing and the distinctive features of the rock formations combined with the Ponderosa pines on the canyon floor make this a perfect overlook to capture all of the above.

bryce canyon ponderosa point

At over 8,900ft above sea level, Ponderosa Canyon is close to the summit of Bryce Canyon. From the vantage point here, you can literally see for miles and miles across Bryce. Just like many of the other lookout points here, I could see myself grabbing a book and finding a hidden spot overlooking the canyon and just relaxing for hours taking in the beautiful scenery.

ponderosa point bryce canyon tour

It’s just that type of place where you don’t want to leave.

bryce canyon tour

Rainbow Point

The aesthetic appeal of Bryce Canyon culminates with the stunning views from over 9,000ft at Rainbow Point. After the long, winding scenic drive that takes you past a number of awesome lookout points (see above), the final point is well worth the wait. Standing at 9,115ft above sea level, you have climbed over 1,500ft just from the Visitor Center to reach Rainbow Point.

rainbow point bryce canyon

The entirety of Bryce Canyon National Park can be seen from Rainbow Point so whether you decide to drive directly here and work your way back, or like us take your time exploring everything up to Rainbow, you will definitely want to spend some time here to gain a better understanding of the geologic formations throughout the canyon.

bryce canyon rainbow point

The Riggs Spring Loop Trail is a popular hiking option for those that want to plunge from 9100ft deep inside the canyon below Yovimpa Point (southern point accessible from Rainbow Point, so be sure to check out the views from here before you make the descent).

bryce canyon tour

Summary

Bryce Canyon is arguably the most breathtaking of all the national parks in Utah. Whether you agree with this statement or not, I am convinced that you will agree the scenery here is distinctive and provides a rewarding experience for all visitors at any time of the year.

bryce canyon national park utah

Our trip to Bryce lasted about four hours and we were able to take some time at each of the lookout points aforementioned. However, you could quite easily spend a week or two in this national park exploring all of the unique characteristics of the Bryce amphitheater, along with the hidden trails that lead to unheralded gems.

bryce canyon tour

Looking back on our Bryce Canyon tour, I would have to say that my favorite lookout point was Inspiration Point, probably because this location provided my first “Welcome to Bryce” view. But the real beauty at Bryce Canyon is the variety of attractions and natural landmarks that appear and are just waiting for you to uncover.

If you would like to join us and explore more of our pictures from our amazing trip to Bryce Canyon, you can check out our photo gallery here: Bryce Canyon National Park

Weekend Wanderlust


14 COMMENTS

  1. Great photos! We were just there for the first time and all the reviews I read said that Bryce was their favorite so my expectations may have been a little high but – my favorite (and all of those in my crew) was still Zion. Though I have to admit that Bryce was one of the most unique places I have ever been and I did love it – Zion still seemed more majestic. We also spent more time in Zion – 2 days – as opposed to only an afternoon in Bryce. A great trip no matter what!

  2. I completely understand your love for Bryce Canyon, Chris. I distinctly remember the day we visited Bryce while on a 16-day tour of the Western National Parks on the Green Tortoise Bus. I had planned to take it easy that day, until I walked to the edge of the Canyon and my eyes flooded with tears at the beauty. I said to myself, “I’m going down there!” Didn’t really enjoy the climb back up, stopping to catch my breath at every switchback, but it was totally worth it.

  3. Beautiful collection of photos! Love Bryce Canyon and glad you enjoyed your visit too. We were there during winter when there was a bit of snow dusting the hoodoos and some trails were closed. This makes me want to go for a return visit.

  4. Wow Chris your photos of this remarkable place are fantastic! I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t heard much about the Bryce Canyon before reading this… and now I am absolutely desperate to go. What breathtaking views – I’m not surprised you struggled to leave! Great post, thanks so much for inspiring me this Friday :).

  5. Amazing! I am dying to visit this park (only been to Zion). Thanks for the overview. There are viewpoints featured here that I have not seen in other sites.

  6. Ahhh! Utah and all it’s beautiful parks. You certainly captured the beauty of Bryce Canyon! Thanks for sharing, I am eager to get over the Utah for an epic adventure. 🙂

  7. Love all the helpful touring and driving details as well as the pictures and your impressions. I was planning to include Bryce in my Utah-Arizona itinerary I am thinking about some time in the near future. How challenging was the drive itself in terms of winding roads? (they spooked us at the entrance-exits to Yosemite last year)

  8. Such a spectacular place….it’s one of those places that makes me so amazed at how diverse and beautiful our planet truly is! Thank you for sharing these lovely photos. Utah is on my list of places to visit, and hopefully soon.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.