Our Subaru pulled into the Bryce Canyon Sunset Point parking lot just as the sky shifted from solid blue to an artist’s palette. As the name and the size of the crowd would suggest, this was the place to be at sunset. We made our way toward the trail, and the scenery turned from pine trees to an expansive, otherwordly orange chasm. This was the amphitheater.
No photo could match he scale, color, and shape of the space. It felt sacred. The legend told by the Paiute natives is that the tall rock spires, hoodoos, were evil spirits turned into rock by Coyote for their bad deeds. The hoodoos really did resemble a mass of eerie people in different positions. We were transfixed. Our family would spend the next week exploring the amphitheater from high and low, north and south.
Where to Go in Bryce Canyon (and nearby!)
The first place we stopped after setting up camp was not actually Bryce itself.
Unfortunately, the park was at full capacity upon our arrival, so we looked for somewhere else to explore instead. On our drive into the area, we passed through vibrant canyons which looked like they deserved a better look.
So I used my Alltrails app to look for an easy hike that the family would be up for after a long drive. I found an option that looked scenic and low-key, so we set off to complete the Pink Ledges Trail.
If you’re looking for a gorgeous view and a place to stretch your legs after a drive to the Bryce Canyon area, I highly recommend coming here. Red Canyon really offers a taste of what’s to come once you enter the national park itself. It also reminds your body that you’re at a high altitude. So no matter your skill level, these hikes will all be more challenging.
This was our first stop within the park and the perfect introduction to the beauty of Bryce Canyon. The amphitheater of hoodoos is the main attraction of the park, and this is only one spot you can view them from. It also is one of the only places in the park dogs are welcome to walk the trail.
Sunset Point would also make a wonderful spot for a dinner pinic. There are some benches along the pathway where you can sit to take it all in, but you may want to show up a bit early to grab one. But beware the ground squirrels. They have become very persistent and will come right up to you to beg. You can also take a stroll from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point on the paved pathway and take in the gorgeous views the whole way. It’s about a mile one way.
This is one of the busier trails in Bryce, but it offers a little bit of all the scenery. The Sunset Point parking lot is also at the trailhead for this hike. Even though this hike is a bit more than three miles round trip, we were pretty winded. The altitude in this park is killer (7600+ ft)! We also chose to take the loop counterclockwise. But going the opposite direction would have been much easier with the way the elevation gain is spaced.
Bryce Canyon also offers a “Hike the Hoodoos” program, which involves traveling to certain checkpoints throughout their network of hiking trails. By completing this loop, you can complete the challenge and get a little card from the visitor center as a little reward. But for us, these views were what made it worth it.
All Around on an Ebike
Bryce Canyon is a relatively small national park. One awesome feature is a bike and pedestrian path that stretches from Red Canyon through most of the beautiful viewpoints within the park. My daughter and I decided to rent ebikes for half a day to travel from their shop to the end of the bike loop within the path.
We chose Outta Here Ebikes which apparently has several locations in different national parks. Their prices were comparable with the area, and the employees were really friendly.
We had enough electric charge to do a round trip of the entire trail, but with four hours, we only biked from the shop to Bryce and back. If we had paid for the full 8 hours, I would have loved to travel the other half of the trail.
On our way back from the park to return our bikes, we stopped at a rock shop to appease my rockhound daughter. She enjoyed checking out a variety of petrified wood and eventually settled on some fossilized coral. Then we enjoyed some ice cream next door before returning the bikes.
Unfortunately, we didn’t absolutely love many of the places we ate out on this trip. Most of what we found was overpriced and underseasoned.
We also got a little lazy with the grocery shopping and mostly bought stuff from Ruby’s Inn General Store. It was a cute shop with the best selection in town, but most of the food was pretty expensive, and the store is a minefield of souvenirs, which for my kid almost guarantee tantrums.
If I had a do-over, I would have bought more groceries in Loa at the Royal Market. It had much more variety and lower prices a twenty minute drive away.
Camping and Lodging
Where We Parked
This was a favorite of ours. We chose to boondock at Tom’s Best Spring on BLM land (free for up to two weeks!). The area had a variety of types of sites and lots of them. Some were shaded with plenty of trees. We chose an open spot in a meadow so we could get the most use out of our solar. Plus the road in was decent for our motorhome.
The internet reception and speed varied throughout the camp, but our spot in the meadow had awesome download and upload, enough to work remotely on without issue.
We could also see the Milky Way almost every night we were there! A few pronghorn antelope also moseyed through our campsite. I highly recommend this location.
Other Camping Options
According to Campendium, here are some other options on where to stay–some free BLM land, some paid RV parks. We found that booking well in advance was imperative for RV parks, so we preferred to camp on free land to accomodate our travel flexibility.
Hotels in the Area
We usually don’t stay in hotels, but when we do, we prefer close by and breakfast included. So here are some hotels in the area that fit that description:
Water, Dump, Trash
We arrived into town desperate to dump our tanks, and boy should we have picked a different spot than we did. We were closest to the Sinclair gas station in town. As of this post, it’s $10 for both dump and water. The water was great, but the dump… it was a grate in the ground. That you have to dump your sewer through. But the grates are not wide enough to fit the elbow of your hose through. I’ll just let you imagine that scene. Never again. For trash disposal when boondocking, there is a local rest stop with dumpsters that worked well for us.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Bryce Canyon National Park. The magical scenery, hiking, and relative solitude of our camp made for a memorable family trip. Although you could see most of Bryce in a day or two, I’m glad we got to stay a week to give our bodies time to adjust to the elevation so we could do more activities. We’ll be back for sure.
Have you ever visited Bryce Canyon? What was your favorite part?