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National Parks of the American Southwest

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Best National Parks in the American Southwest

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Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

The Queen, overlooking the Queen's Garden in Bryce Canyon National Park

When you arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park it seems as if you have entered  Wonderland. The unusually shaped pillars of rock are called "hoodoos" and they do seem to cast a spell on the visitor. Their shapes and sizes come in thousands of variations, accompanied by a dizzying array of colors.   Shades of brown, orange and red occur in so many variations as to be unnamable.

The layers of rock in this park are part of what is called the Wasatch formation,  although it is popularly known as the Pink Cliffs.   It is  part of an area known as the Paunsaugunt and Table Cliffs Plateaus.  Crustal faulting and erosion over ten million years have resulted in the scenic wonderland that we know as Bryce Canyon National Park.

 

Displaying over two thousand feet (650 meters) of vertical relief, the park experiences three climate zones including spruce/fir forests, Ponderosa Pine forests and Pinyon Pine/juniper forests. The range of zones promotes biodiversity. Over 100 species of bird inhabit the Bryce, as well as dozens of mammals and thousand of plant species. Due to the clarity of the atmosphere near Bryce, it is one of the best areas in the United States for star gazing and amateur astronomy – so bring your binoculars or telescope, if practical,

As is usual for the National Park Service, Bryce has a marvelous Visitor Center that can help get you on track for a great visit, including a useful film that overviews the park.

Areas that you should see include these viewpoints: Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce. Rainbow point is also spectacular, if you have time. While you can drive to these overlooks during an 18-mile scenic drive of the park, you should take the time to hike along the rim or though one of the amphitheaters. If you prefer you can take a horseback or muleback ride through the area by Canyon Trail Rides, the only company licensed by the Park Services to perform this function. See this website for the official provider of  trail rides in Bryce (as well as in Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon).  

     The Bryce Ampitheater from Bryce Point


There are a large number of hikes available in the park.  If you are considering walking the canyons of Bryce, see its official website  for more detail

up-close you can see the layers and the details of the erosion that carved these amazing shapes in Bryce Canyon National ParkBy the way, the name Bryce came from a Mormon settler named  Ebenezer Bryce.  Ebenezer apparently was not lured by the beauty of the areas amphitheaters. In a quote that is probably apocryphal, but humorous anyway, he is reputed that have said only this about Bryce Canyon “Helluva place to lose a cow.”    

Bryce Canyon National Park is relatively small and  located in southwestern Utah in a  remote location.   Many travelers are disappointed by its size, but we think the views are spectacular and unique. See the National Park Service website for a great deal of useful information on visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. 

Most of the Park is at or above 8,000 feet elevation, so be sure you can handle the altitude if you choose to visit. As noted previously, much of the Park can be observed from the scenic road, but there is no substitute for hiking to see the details of Bryce Canyon's amazing ampitheaters.

Availability and Admission Fee

The entrance fee to the park is $25 per private vehicle, $12 for pedestrian or cyclist. Admission is for 7 days. Discounts are available for seniors (aged 62 and older).

Open year round, 24-hours per day. Roads may be closed on a temporary basis in winter due to storms and year round due to road maintenance. The Visitor Center and fee booths are closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving Day.

For those interested, the Park has a shuttle in summer, which, although not mandatory ,is highly recommended.

 
 

Camping

Bryce Canyon has two campgrounds, both near the Visitor Center.  More information on camping can be found in this section of the Park's official website.

Best Time To Visit

The Arch in Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National ParkNormal precipitation varies slightly though the year and snow is possible from September through May.  The warmest months are June, July and August and these are considered by many as the best time of year to visit the Bryce Canyon National Park, although thunderstorm activity peaks in July and August.

Lodging and Nearby Places

The nearest major airports to Bryce Canyon is Las Vegas, Nevada (254 miles) or Salt Lake City, Utah (272 miles).

Lodging is available in the park from the Xanterra Parks and resorts which operate the Bryce Canyon Lodge from April 1 to October 31.  See this official website for more information on lodging including making online reservations http://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/lodging.htm

Thor's Hammer is shown in the mid-background of this photoThe Best Western Ruby's Inn, a landmark of sorts and located in Bryce Canyon City, is a favorite stop for many.   It is located relatively close to the park and open year around.  Other lodging is available in Tropic (12 miles),  Escalante (50 miles) and other local towns.

Zion National Park is nearby (about 78 miles) and Canyonlands National Park is approximately 130 miles. (We do not cover Canyonlands National Park  because access is limited to 4-wheel drive vehicles and even then the roads to the Park may not be passable).  

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is approximately 160 miles south and if you want to see the  South Rim, you should know that it is a 300 mile drive from here. 

One of the many scenic views at Lake PowellLake Powell and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area can be accessed from Page, Arizona (156 miles south).  The access here is by boat and if you think there may be houseboat vacation in your future, consider spending a  a week exploring Lake Powell's amazing scenery.  For more information on this delightful area visit the Bryce Canyon Country website provided by  the Garfield County Office of Tourism.

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Availability and Admission Fee
Camping
Best Time To Visit
Lodging and Nearby Places

 

 

 

 

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 Park Rating

One of the best travel destinations in the Unted States

See it – if you plan to visit Las Vegas, western  Colorado, New Mexico or Utah. 

Combine it with Zion Canyon NP, Arches NP or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon NP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other National Parks of the Southwest.

Utah
Arches NP
Bryce Canyon NP
Zion NP

Colorado
Great Sand Dunes NP
Mesa Verde NP

Arizona
Grand Canyon NP
Petrified Forest NP

California/Nevada
Death Valley NP
Joshua Tree NP

New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns NP

National Parks Quick-Guide

National Parks of the Southwest Introduction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We cover ten national parks in the American Southwest.

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