Looking for the best hikes that the Bryce Canyon has to offer?
Close to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, the Bryce Canyon is an area you simply cannot miss. With its towering hoodoos, and awe-inspiring rock formations, exploring the canyon should definitely be on your hiking bucket list.
We've put together this list of our top 5 Bryce Canyon hikes so that you can make the best out of your visit.
See Best hikes in America for a complete list of hiking trails in the USA.
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Bryce Canyon Hikes Overview
Best known for its interesting, crimson colored hoodoo rock formations, its natural bridges and towering fins, Bryce Canyon is really a geological phenomenon to behold.
Due to its high elevation, winter can bring quite heavy snowfall - which is strange considering it’s in a desert! Covering a vertical distance of over 2 000 feet, there is definitely no shortage of awe-inspiring sights and spectacular hiking.
Bryce Canyon’s rock formations are probably the reason over 1, 5 million people visit a year.
Hoodoo formations are large, irregular columns of rock and the largest concentration on Earth are found in the Bryce Canyon.
Unlike other canyons, Bryce Canyon is not formed by flowing water, but rather is formed by frost wedging - this is due to constant freezing and melting of water, as the temperature drops below freezing most nights of the year.
The most visited area of the park is the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, as it contains many of the famous structures in the park.
There are four main viewpoints, namely Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce, where one can view the canyon.
Surprisingly, although being very close to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon is very different in climate, topography and geology.
Wildlife and Plants
As the park transcends 2 000 feet of elevation, it exists in three distinct climate zones - namely juniper forest, Ponderosa Pine forest and spruce/fir forest.
Due to the diversity of habitat, many species of animals and birds call the alpine environment home.
The canyon and plateau are home to many different species of animals, from Pronghorn deer to Black Bear to the small Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, the canyon will be a delight to any wildlife or bird enthusiast.
With its breath-taking rock formations and canyons, Bryce really is worth exploring. With 80 km of trails, hikes vary from difficult to easy, so no matter you preference Bryce has something to offer you.
It is a good idea to consult a tour operator or spend some time researching which hikes will be best for you, as there are such a wide variety of Bryce Canyon hikes to choose from with varying levels of difficulty.
A few things to note is that all trails below the rim involve steep descents and climbs, and in winter it may be a good idea to use ski poles for extra grip.
Be aware that lightning is a danger all year around, especially in the summer months.
There is also the chance of encountering horses or mules along certain trails, as they also make use of the paths. Note that as a hiker you must always yield to them.
Bryce Canyon Quick Facts
- Due to the high air quality and distance from light pollution, the star gazing at Bryce Canyon is really spectacular.
- Bryce Canyon is home to Bristlecone pines, which are the oldest trees in the world. The oldest reaching the grand old age of nearly 5 000 years!
- The lowest recorded temperature is -29.0°F, which was recorded in a January.
- The canyon was settled by Mormon Pioneers in the 1850s, and was named after Ebenezer Bryce.
- Hoodoos (unique rock formations) can be up to 60 m high.
- More than 400 native plant species call the park home.
- Prime viewing time of the amphitheatre are around sunrise and sunset, with the two aptly named viewpoints (Sunrise and Sunset) being the best place to view them from.
Bryce Canyon is located in southern Utah, about 50 miles northeast of Zion National Park.
Although free information can easily be found in visitor’s centers and online, nothing quite matches up to having a hard copy on your hike.
We recommend National Geographic’s waterproof and tear resistant map of the Bryce Canyon National Park.
The map features area of key interest such as Rainbow Point, Ruby’s Inn and Natural Bridge.
5 Best Bryce Canyon Trails
1. Navajo Loop Trail
- Area: Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre, Sunset Point
- Permit: No, but you will need a 7 day pass to access the park.
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 1,3 miles round trip
- Elevation: 550 feet
- Time Hiking: 1 - 2 hours
- Best Time to Hike: April - October
Possibly the most popular of all the Bryce Canyon hikes, the Navajo Loop Trail begins at Sunset point and makes its way down the canyon.
You will pass through narrow corridors, and the Silent City (a huge number of hoodoos and spires) before reaching the Queen’s Garden intersection. Note that the hike includes a steep climb down, and then back up the canyon.
If you feel the Navajo Loop is too short, you can easily connect it to the Queen’s Garden for a longer, more varied loop. You can also connect the Peek-a-boo loop and both these trials will give you a 6.3 mile figure eight loop.
Sunset campground is closest. However, you can also find accommodation in the North Campground and the Bryce Lodge.
Hidden Falls Trail Pro Tips
- Lightning can be a safety hazard in summer, so take note of any possible storm before setting out.
- As it is the most popular hike, you can expect the path to be relatively busy.
- Be aware of loose rocks and rock slides. The largest number of rock falls occur of this trail, so caution is advised.
- There are portions of the trail that have no shade, so in summer it can get really hot.
- Remember to stay hydrated (especially in summer), it is a good idea to aim to drink 1 litre every hour.
Navajo Loop Trail Video Overview
Watch Pause the Moment’s video on Bryce Canyon to get a really good idea of the trail and the awesome views you can expect.
2. Queen’s Garden Trail
- Area: Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre, Sunrise point.
- Permit: No, but you need a pass to access the park.
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 1.8 miles out and back
- Elevation: 320 feet (if you hike down and back)
- Hiking Time: 1 - 2 hours
- Best Time to Hike: The trail is fully accessible between April and November, but the best time to hike is early summer and fall, to avoid summer heat and winter snow.
The Queen's Garden Trail is also a very popular choice among the various Bryce Canyon hikes. This trail is the easiest of the hikes that enter the canyon from the rim.
Beginning at Sunrise point, the path makes its way down a sloping ridge-line past famous hoodoo rock formations, such as Queen Victoria (where you can spot the queen if you use your imagination).
The route is not a loop, but rather an out-and-back. For this reason many people connect it with the Navajo trail to return along a section of the trail rim, or the Peekaboo loop, slightly further south.
The best viewing area on the trail are near the top of the Queen’s Garden Trail, where you will see a wide area of hoodoos the north and a closer formation of them to the south of you.
Sunset Campground, North Campground and Bryce Lodge. Bryce Canyon Lodge is probably the closest, but none of them are very far away.
Queen’s Garden Trail Pro Tips
- Can be quite crowded due to popularity, so plan your hike around peak times if you would like to avoid lots of people.
- Stay on maintained trails, don’t use ‘social’ trails that people have made along the way.
- The best time to hike is in the morning, as this way you avoid crowds and beat the heat.
- Dress in layers (especially if you have a start early) as it can be very cold in the morning and heat up quickly.
Queen’s Garden Trail Video Overview
Skipping through Masterworks Travel’s 22 min video can give you an idea of what to expect along the Queen's Garden trail.
3. Peek-a-boo Loop Trail
- Area: Bryce Canyon, Bryce Point
- Permit: No, but you will need a seven day pass to access the park.
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Distance: 5,5 miles
- Elevation: 1138 feet
- Hiking Time: 1 and half to 2 and a half hours
- Best Time to Hike: Spring, early summer and fall
One of the more difficult routes, the trail begins at Bryce point. When you start out you will have a panoramic view of hoodoo rock formations and the Tropic Valley.
Shortly after beginning you will descend quickly to the canyon floor, switch backing through hoodoo formations.
As the trail continues to wind its way down, you will reach a junction in the path. This is the beginning of the loop and it can be hiked in either direction.
If you travel in a clockwise direction, the beginning section undulating, followed by a steep climb at the end.
Sunset Campground, North Campground and Bryce Lodge. Sunset Campground is closest.
Peek-a-boo Loop Trail Pro Tips
- This trail is shared with mules and horses, be courteous and give the riders right of way.
- Due to the steep inclines and declines, foot injuries are common - so make sure that you are wearing proper hiking boots.
- There is a restroom at the bottom of the trail, shared by both hikers and trail riders.
- Parking is limited, and is a big stop for the busses - so get there early.
Peek-a-boo Loop Trail Video Overview
Steve LFZ’s informative video gives you a narration of the walk along the Peekaboo Loop, showing all the interesting rock formations along the way.
4. Bristlecone Loop Trail
- Area: Bryce Canyon, Rainbow Point
- Permit: No, but you will need a seven day pass to access the park. You will need a permit if you plan on staying in the backcountry.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 1 mile loop
- Elevation: 88 feet
- Time Hiking: plus or minus an hour
- Best Time to Hike: April until October
Beginning at Rainbow point, the Bristlecone Loop winds through a forest containing Douglas fir, Blue Spruce and White fir.
The loop is named after the Bristlecone Pine, which is found most frequently along the trail - regularly living up to 1 800 years old, these trees are definitely something worth seeing.
Following the edge of the mountain, the loop takes you to the highest elevation in the park.
Being a shorter, easier option, the hike does not descend below the canyon rim - so it is an ideal Bryce Canyon hike if you are looking for something quicker and easier that still delivers amazing views.
Sunset Campground, North Campground and Bryce Lodge. If you want to camp in the backcountry, there is Riggs Spring group site along the Riggs Spring Loop.
Bristlecone Loop Trail Pro Tips
- During winter, it may be inaccessible due to think snow
- It may be colder here than other areas of the park - due to this reason, snow tends to linger.
- It may be a good idea to check conditions, prior to heading out. This was you can be prepared for whatever weather and temperature.
Bristlecone Loop Trail Video Overview
Watch Erin & Scott’s video of the Bristlecone Loop to see what you can expect along the way.
5. Fairyland Loop Trail
- Area: Fairyland amphitheatre
- Permit: No, but you will need a seven day pass to access the park.
- Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
- Distance: 8 mile round trip
- Elevation: 1,545 feet
- Time Hiking: 4 to 5 hours
- Best Time to Hike: April through to October
Beginning at the Fairyland point, in the more northern part of the park, the route takes you from the along the top of the rim to descending into the canyon. At roughly 1,5 miles in the hike reaches its lowest point.
Along the way you will have spectacular views of hoodoo formations, such as the China Wall (which is an impressive fence of hoodoos) and the Sinking Ship.
The hike is one of the longer and more difficult in the park, so it has less foot traffic along the along the way.
Closest campsite is the North Campground.
Fairyland Loop Trail Tips
- Watch out for snakes along the trail
- Be sure to take along enough water, being a longer and more strenuous hike you’ll drink more along the way.
- If you enjoy quiet hikes, you love the Fairyland Loop. As the hike is longer, it is more remote than the shorter more popular ones.
- If you start out early or late you may be lucky enough to spot deer along the way.
- Hike a little later and get the chance to see the Milky Way galaxy from the trail (but remember to take your head torch!).
Fairyland Loop Trail Video Overview
Watch Explorist Life’s video of their hike along the Fairyland Loop. They hike in a counter clockwise direction and give you a good breakdown of their journey along the way.
For a fantastic book that covers not only the Bryce Canyon National Park, but also Zion National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park we recommend Zion & Bryce: Including Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante & Moab (Travel Guide).
The book will guide you along the way, not only to the Bryce Canyon hikes, but it will also give you strategies for getting to the other parks and travelling between them.
Definitely a handy guide if you plan on visiting more than just the Bryce Canyon.
Hiking insurance is not a mandatory requirement for hikes in Grand Teton, but in general we recommend having insurance.
Check out the World Nomads calculator for a quick calculation of the cost of travel insurance for your trip to the States.