Utah’s magnificent wind- and water-sculpted landscapes are unlike any other on earth. From deep canyons to towering pillars, from awesome arches to wide valleys, they have the power to enchant every visitor—to put a spell on anyone who decides to explore them on foot.
The highest of all Utah national parks, Bryce Canyon National Park forms the upper step of what’s known as the Grand Staircase. This vast part of the Colorado Plateau is sculpted by water and characterized by canyons, river systems, rock formations and valleys.
The name “Grand Staircase” is appropriate. When looking at a down-scaled cross-section of the Colorado Plateau, you can see the different “steps” of this giant natural staircase of rock. Bryce Canyon is the highest level, its elevation between 8,000 and 9,000 feet (2,400 and 2,700 meters). Going down, you’ll pass successively through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, which is the lowest step of the Grand Staircase.
This, in other words, is a region of absolute natural magnificence.
With its total area of 56 square miles (145 km²), Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the smallest national parks in America. Its relatively small size makes it a great day trip destinations. Often combined with nearby parks like Zion and/or Grand Canyon, this is one of the most visited parks in the system.
Note that, although its name has the word “canyon” in it, this isn’t actually a canyon at all.
Instead of canyons, the park’s landscapes consist of several natural amphitheaters, filled with rock formations, situated on the edge of a desert plateau. The flowing water that creates the deep canyons elsewhere in the region isn’t present in Bryce Canyon. However, water still is the sculptor in the park. Over countless centuries, it has chiseled the park’s iconic rock formations through chemical weathering and a physical event called “frost-wedging”.
Best of Bryce Canyon National Park
The majority of highlights in Bryce Canyon National Park are in and around Bryce Amphitheater, the park’s largest and most famous natural amphitheater. This page focuses mainly on this area. Bryce Amphitheater is its absolute star attraction and focal point, the place where you’ll find most of the hoodoos that so typify the park. There, you’ll see hundreds upon hundreds of these towering, narrow pinnacles and pillars of red rock. It’s a surreal sight, really.
All of the following highlights (formations, viewpoints and hikes) are in Bryce Amphitheater
Major Rock Formations
Rock formations characterize this fantastic desert park. They’re the number one reason people go there, and their sheer magnificence is hard to exaggerate. It’s also difficult to pick the most striking rock formations out of a total of literally many hundreds of them. The following, however, have names, which usually means they’re more “special” than others. Note that you can see all of them from the hiking trails listed further down this page.
- Thor’s Hammer
- Queen Victoria
- Wall of Windows
- Wall Street
- Two Bridges
There are four spectacular viewpoints on the rim of Bryce Amphitheater. All of them offer a (slightly) different vantage point. The views from each overlook extend over and beyond this sensational natural amphitheater, but because of their different angles, you’re encouraged to visit all of them. All hiking trails into the amphitheater start at one of these overlooks.
- Sunrise Point
- Sunset Point
- Inspiration Point
- Bryce Point
There’s a number of hiking trails in Bryce Canyon National Park, but only four you should focus on. They’re the following.
- Navajo Loop Trail (1.3-mile (2.2-kilometer) loop past some of the park’s most famous rock formations and hoodoos)
- Queens Garden Trail (1.8- mile (2.9-kilometer) child-friendly descent to an area filled with hoodoos)
- Peek-a-Boo Loop (superb 5.5-mile (8.8-kilometer) circuit into the heart of Bryce Amphitheater)
The beauty of these three trails is that you can link them together to create longer and more challenging hikes. Together, individually and their various combinations, the three trails make for a total of six different hikes in and around Bryce Amphitheater.
- Rim Trail (scenic stroll along the edge of the plateau, distance varies from 1 to 11 miles (1.6 to 11.7 kilometers) depending on your own preference and ability)
Bryce Canyon National Park Map (Bryce Amphitheater Area)
This map highlights all overlooks, accommodations and recommended hiking trails in the Bryce Amphitheater area. Specifically, the yellow line outlines the Navajo Loop Trail, the blue is the Queens Garden Trail, and the red one traces the Peek-a-Boo Loop.
Location: Southern Utah, United States
Nearest Town: Tropic
Area: 56 square miles (145 square kilometers)
Features: Hoodoos, red-rock formations, desert landscapes
Main Attractions: Bryce Amphitheater, Silent City, Thor’s Hammer, Wall of Windows, Queen Victoria, Wall Street, Two Bridges, Natural Bridg, Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive, scenic overlooks
Main Activities: Hiking, horseback riding, stargazing, sunrise and sunset watching, snowshoeing
Suggested Stay: 1 day / 1 night
More Information: National Park Service
Nearby/Similar National Parks
Bryce Canyon National Park Photos
Visit my national parks photography portfolio for a bunch of awesome photos of Bryce Canyon National Park.