navajo loop bryce canyon

Visiting Bryce Canyon: The Best Things To Do That Aren’t Hiking

Next up in my “things to do that aren’t hiking” series is Bryce Canyon!  I think Bryce Canyon is a park that a lot of people either skip in favor of nearby Zion National Park or just drive through and don’t hike into.  If you’re limited on time and will just be doing a park drive-through or you don’t like to hike or don’t feel like it or can’t, then look no further.  This is the guide for you.  These are the best things to do in Bryce Canyon that aren’t hiking.

As usual, most of these things don’t involve much walking and if they do, they’re easy and under a mile round trip.  Most of the pictures in this guide won’t match up with the spot because I won’t lie, I can’t always tell which is from where.  The ones I know though, I’ll put where they belong.

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What to bring to Bryce Canyon National Park

Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side.  They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.

Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry!  I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese.  There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must, especially with the strong desert sun.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking.  This isn’t the exact one I have, but it’s similar and if I needed to replace mine, I’d probably get this one.

For Camping

Tent – I love the REI Passage 2 tent for one or two people.  It’s small and fairly light.  If you need a four-person tent, I’d go with this one, the REI Half DomeYou can check out my tent here.

Sleeping pad – Gotta make the tent comfy!  The one I have isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  It’s self-inflating and just needs a little help filling all the way.  Buy the sleeping pad here.

Sleeping Bag – I have the Nemo Viola 35 and love it because it’s not as restrictive as the mummy bags.  It has ventilation slits for those warmer nights.  Check out my sleeping bag here.

Puffy quilt – If you’re a really warm sleeper and visiting in the summer, a puffy quilt might be a better option.  I prefer this for hotter nights.  Check out the Rumpl camp quilts here.

Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow.  This is a good non-inflatible option.  Here is a good inflatable option.

Camp chairs – If you plan on doing a lot of camping outside of this trip, and backpacking especially, the REI Flexlite chairs are great choices.  Check out the camp chairs here.

Lantern – I love having a lantern for in the tent at night, reading in the dark, or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  The LuminAID is my favorite and you can charge your phone on it.  Buy the LuminAID lantern here.

Mossy Cave Trail

The Mossy Cave Trail is outside of the main scenic drive in Bryce Canyon but it’s super easy to get to.  If you came from the Escalante area, you probably passed it.  There is a small parking area on the side of the road with a short trail (0.8 miles round trip) to get to the Mossy Cave.  The cave is more of an alcove and not that exciting, but the waterfall is worth the short, easy trek to see.  If you’re planning a trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park, this is a great stop on your way there.

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Try horseback riding

I have not done this because horses freak me out, but if you like horses and want to get among the hoodoos, try a horseback trip into Bryce Canyon.  This could be a great way to see a lot of the park below the rim without having to walk.  I do remember seeing some evidence of horses on the Peekaboo Loop Trail, the part we went on, and think that would be an awesome area to explore by horse.  If you’ve done this, let me know how it was!

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Photo by Barton Davis Smith Flickr

Go stargazing

Bryce Canyon is officially an International Dark Sky Park now making it the perfect stargazing destination.  They offer night sky ranger programs that you can join, just check at the visitor center for availability.  If that’s not your thing, head up to one of the overlooks and set up shop for a while to enjoy the milky way in all its glory.  I promise it’s worth it.  They also offer moonlight hikes (when the moon is full) if you are interested in doing some hiking.  I think this would be cool to try.

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Bristlecone Loop

This is a 1-mile loop that will take you to a Bristlecone Grove.  There are 200 feet of elevation gain taking you through sub-alpine forests with stunning views.  This trail is at the end of the scenic drive, so make sure you stop at all of the overlooks on your way there (or back.)  I haven’t don’t this trail but would like to next time I’m there.

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Admire Bryce Amphitheater

There are quite a few overlooks to stop at in the Bryce Amphitheater area and you should stop at all of them.  This is also where you’ll find some of the most popular hiking trails in Bryce Canyon and it’s where you’ll leave from if you’re doing a horseback trip.  Take a peek in the Bryce Canyon Lodge while you’re here to get a break from the heat.

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Stop at the Natural Bridge

Arches and Natural Bridges aren’t the only places to find arches in Utah.  Right along the 18-mile scenic drive, you’ll find a pull-off for the Natural Bridge.  And that’s just what it’s called, Natural Bridge.  There isn’t a way to get under the bridge but it’s cool to see one made out of something other than the usual sandstone.

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Sunset to Sunrise Point

This is a great, easy hike in Bryce Canyon.  It’s a one-mile round trip and actually the easiest hike in Bryce Canyon according to Park Service.  I’ve done this hike and it was a really nice walk along the rim of Bryce Amphitheater.  As you can tell by the names, this would be a great place to watch the sunset or rise.  Part of the trail is paved, but a lot is not.

navajo loop bryce canyon

Rainbow Point

This is another really popular overlook in Bryce Canyon along the scenic drive, but instead of mostly seeing hoodoos here, you’ll get a splash of hoodoos among a sea of pine trees.  This is almost at the end of the scenic drive but the views are definitely worth at least a quick stop.

navajo loop bryce canyon

Fairyland Point

Finally, Fairyland Point.  I think this overlook gets overlooked (hah) a lot because people want to get to the good stuff, but this view is still really awesome.  It’s the start of the Fairyland Loop trail (which is strenuous and long) but the views are just as stunning.  It was a lot less busy in this area compared to everywhere in the amphitheater, so if you want to escape the crowds a bit, consider this.

I didn’t want to list every overlook as things to do because that feels like cheating but just know that I think you should stop at all of them.  There are ranger walks and talks available every day, just stop into the visitor to see what is when.  These are a great way to learn about the park and I would definitely recommend one, especially if it’s a topic you’re actually interested in.

Have you been to Bryce Canyon?  What was your favorite thing about it?  Do you want to go?

4 thoughts on “Visiting Bryce Canyon: The Best Things To Do That Aren’t Hiking

  1. This is a great guide to a stunning park. We visited Bryce on a chilly and very windy autumn day, and drove the scenic road to the end, stopping at almost every overlook. We also hiked (cannot remember the trail, Queen’s something?) from one of the first overlooks. It seems like 99% of the visitors to the park do not drive beyond the second overlook, which means the rest of the park was wonderfully uncrowded – a good thing to know (along with your tips) to make the most of our second visit one day. It was so cold at night that we didn’t camp there, and cloudy during our visit anyway so we wouldn’t have been able to see that starry sky. But one day I will be back to do some stargazing there!

    1. My first visit was really cold and foggy and I totally agree about most people not going all the way into the park! I bet it was teh Queen’s Garden Trail, which is an awesome one! I need to go back to do some stargazing there.

  2. Of all the activities, I’d like the stargazing the best, if I ever reach the location! Until such time, thanks for experiencing it though your wonderful photos!

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