Bryce Canyon National Park Facts and Fun Things to Do
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Over 1 million visitors a year come to Bryce Canyon National Park to see the breathtaking scenery, unique geological structures, and rock formations. Bryce is located in Utah near Bryce Canyon City. Named after the Mormon pioneers Ebenezer and Mary Bryce, the area was designated a national park on September 15, 1928. Let’s look at more Bryce Canyon National Park facts…
Ebenezer Bryce and his wife Mary came to Clifton, Utah in 1875 but soon after moved to Henderson Valley. Bryce helped with a seven-mile irrigation ditch that the settlers in the area built. He also built a road to make timber easier for the setters to access. The Bryce amphitheater where the road ended began to be called Bryce Canyon. Even though the Bryce’s moved on to Arizona, the name of the canyon stayed.
The Bryce Canyon area has the largest collection of hoodoos that erosion has sculpted from the pink underbelly of the Eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. You will see notable gems of the National Park Service like Thor’s Hammer, Queen’s Garden, Natural Bridge, and ET, just to name a few. They are created by the extreme temperatures of the weather in the area and they are a major feature of the park.
Before the settlers arrived, it was known to be inhabited by the Paiute Indians starting around 1200 A.D. These Native Americans didn’t live in the area but hunted there – part of a nomadic existence. There are also the stories of the “legend people.” These were said to be animals of different forms that could look like people – and then they angered someone or did something bad and were turned into the statures of red-painted rocks that we see today. The legends aren’t clear, but that seems to be the general consensus. There really is a lot to this particular one of the National Parks and it has spectacular views.
Weather in Bryce Canyon National Park
The average high during the month of July is 83F but it has been known to be as high as 96F and as low as 25F. The average high of the winter months is in January is 39F with an extreme high of 62F and an extreme low of minus 30F. Thunderstorms develop most often during July and August.
Bryce Canyon is not an actual canyon as a canyon is carved by flowing water. Although water helped change the landscape in this area, it was in the form of ice. Most of the year, the temperature goes above and below freezing every day. When that happens, water from snow or rain seeps into cracks and then turns to ice as the day gets colder. This shatters and pries the rocks apart. Rainwater also rounds off the rocks to help create a distinct shape.
These tall skinny spires of rock are called Hoodoos. Although Hoodoos are found in other areas, no one place has more than Bryce Canyon National Park. Many visitors can find shapes of people and things in the rocks similar to seeing shapes in clouds.
Many people only see the canyon from the top viewing area, but the best way to view them is by going to the bottom by way of the Navajo/Queen’s Garden Combination Trail. It is a 2.9-mile loop trail. The best time of the day to see them is sunrise and sunset as the sun causes the limestone rock to glow beautifully.
Bryce exceeds 2,000 feet and because of that has three distinct climatic zones. They are spruce/fir forest, Ponderosa Pine forest, and Pinyon Pine/juniper forest. This creates high biodiversity where you can see over 100 species of birds, dozens of mammals, and over one thousand plant species.
Activities in Bryce Canyon National Park
Some activities are prohibited in certain areas. Check the Visitor’s Center for more details.
- Snowshoe hikes
- Ranger-led programs
- Astronomy programs
- Cross-country skiing
- Visitor’s Center with exhibits and film
Bryce Canyon National Park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Visitor’s centers and fee booths are closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Winter storms may sometimes close the road temporarily until plowing is completed and the road is considered safe for travel.
There is a $35 per vehicle or $20 per person (when arriving on foot, by bicycle, or by motorcycle) fee. The admission fee is good for seven days. This park offers Fee-Free days five times a year.
Although most of the facilities were built over 50 years ago, some areas have been upgraded for accessibility. Accessible areas include the Visitor’s Centers, camping at sites 233 and 224 in Sunset Campground, lodging at Bryce Canyon Lodge, Ranger programs, and talks.
Restroom areas at the Visitor’s Center, Bryce Canyon Lodge, General Store, Loop A of Sunset Campground, Farview, Point, and Rainbow Point are all accessible. Sunset Point is accessible with assistance. In addition, people with a strong sense of balance and some upper leg muscle control can take a two-hour horseback ride at Canyon Trail Ride.
For the hearing impaired, a captioned version of the film shown at the Visitor’s Center can be requested.
The Bryce Canyon Shuttle
The park provides a shuttle system to allow the visitor easy access to various viewpoints. Each point is more awe-inspiring than the next. The shuttles run every 10-15 minutes. Visitors are encouraged to make their visit more relaxing by using the shuttles.
In a quick visit, ride the shuttle into the park. Make a stop at the Visitors’ Center for an orientation to the park. Then, re-board the shuttle for a ride to Bryce Point. After enjoying this view, hop aboard the next shuttle for a ride to Inspiration Point.
The next shuttle stop is Sunset Point. After viewing Sunset Point, think about a hike to Sunrise Point. The rim trail from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point is basically flat and paved, making it an easy one-mile trail to Sunrise Point. Along the rim the views are fantastic. After this hike, the shuttle can be taken out of the park.
If time permits, hike inside the rim. The Queens- Navajo loop trail is listed in the Bryce Canyon newspaper, the Hoodoo, as the world’s best 3-mile hike. A warm-up for the day of hiking or an easier alternative can be the Mossy Cave Trail which also gives the experience of being inside the canyon. With all the hikes remember: to carry ample water, wear good lug traction shoes, use sunscreen and be aware of the altitude.
The rim of Bryce Canyon is about 9,000 feet. This and the distance from any major light pollution makes this national park an ideal sight for Astronomy observations and throughout the summer the ranger-led night hikes, by the light of the full moon are popular activities.
The famous mule rides are yet another way to enjoy the ever-changing canyon. In the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are major activities. They offer different views of the hoodoos and colors of Bryce Canyon.
Camping Options at Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah offers overnight visitors two maintained year-round campgrounds near the visitor’s center and 12 designated backcountry campgrounds scattered throughout the remote 56-square-mile park. The area attracts relatively few visitors compared to the region’s more popular Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National.
Bryce Canyon National Park centers around a natural amphitheater created not by rivers but by erosion from wind and freezing, according to the park website. Its most distinctive features tall, skinny, eroded pinnacles called hoodoos populate the landscape and appear to stand guard over the park.
The U.S. government designated the area around the canyon as a national monument in 1923 and made it a national park five years later, according to the park website.
Campgrounds in Bryce Canyon National Park
The North and Sunset campgrounds both offer easy access to the park’s amphitheater and Bryce Canyon Lodge, the visitor’s center. The park provides flush toilet facilities and potable water at both campsites. The nearby general store offers showers and a coin-operated laundry only in the summer.
The North Campground includes 13 recreational vehicle sites that accept advance reservations. Another 86 recreational vehicle and tent sites in the campground operate on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the park website. The South Campground includes 20 tent sites and one group site available for advance reservations and another 80 vehicle and tent sites offered on a daily basis.
Bryce Canyon National Park Facts and Features
Neither campground provides hook-ups for recreational vehicles, but a pay dump station operates during the summer at the North Campground. The park provides picnic tables and fire grates at both campgrounds. Deep snow or ice may close some of the campsites during the winter.
The North Campground lies closest to the general store while the Sunset Campground provides the easiest access to hiking trails, according to the park website. Both campgrounds loop through Ponderosa pine forests, providing both shaded and sunny campsites, according to the Bryce Canyon Camping Guide website.
Wildlife at Bryce Canyon National Park
What kind of animals can you expect to see at Bryce? Everything from prairie dogs to mountain lions is there! From 59 species of mammal like mule deer and black bears to 175 species of birds like the peregrine falcon or golden eagle.
Then there are the reptiles! While the weather isn’t conducive to them generally, you can find a few here. You can see the side-blotched lizard and even the short-horned lizard at Bryce. Add in endangered species like the Utah Prairie Dog, the California condor, and the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and you have an amazing place to experience nature.
The native plant species include a fir forest with a variety of Ponderosa Pines, Pinyon pines, and even Great Basin Bristlecone Pine.
Backcountry of Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park limits backcountry camping to eight sites along the rugged 23-mile Under the Rim Trail and four sites on the 9-mile Riggs Spring Loop Trail. Permits for overnight backcountry trips must be purchased from the visitor’s center. The park allows in-person reservations as much as 48 hours in advance.
The park limits backcountry camping to no more than seven consecutive nights. Ten of the backcountry sites limit visitors to no more than six people at a time. First-come, first-service sites usually fill up by early afternoon in the summer, according to the Bryce Canyon National Park website.
Backcountry campers should purify water taken from creeks and springs by boiling it for at least 10 minutes, filtering the water, or using iodine treatments.
All in all, Bryce Canyon Park is a place that makes for beautiful photos and incredible memories.
Where is Bryce Canyon National Park located?
Garfield County and Kane County, Utah, United States