Bryce Canyon National Park

November 29, 2017

Instead of making a turkey and sitting around at home alone, we decided to go on a fun Thanksgiving weekend adventure! We still hadn't been to Bryce Canyon & Capitol Reef and thought that would be a fun way to explore more of Utah - hotels were cheap since it was off season, the weather was PERFECT (60s and sunny), it wasn't crowded, and we already had time off from work! Why not, right?

Early on Thanksgiving morning, we headed down to Bryce - it's about a 4 hour drive from our house in Salt Lake. We arrived around 11am and went straight for the park! We didn't have any set hiking plans and just followed our whims! We were immediately struck by our first view, not too far from where we parked our car.

Starting at Sunrise Point, we hiked down the Queen's Garden trail and back up the Navajo Trail Loop, ending at Sunset Point. According to Bryce NP, it's the "most popular" hike in the area. It's about 3 miles total. Since you're essentially hiking down into the canyon, no matter if you start at Sunrise or Sunset Point, you'll be climbing a big incline at the end of the hike. 

And no matter where you start the hike, the views are incredible from both Sunset and Sunrise Points.

Tip: You don't have to hike to get this view! If you don't feel like a moderate hike and just want the vistas, the paths from the parking lot to Sunrise and Sunset Points are VERY accessible to any ability level. So if you don't like hiking or can't get down in the canyon, you can still enjoy the major attraction of Bryce!

But hiking down into the canyon gets you up close and person with the awesome rock formations, specifically all of the hoodoos!

Did I mention the weather was incredible?! Normally there'd be snow in November, but it was 65 and sunny! Didn't even need a coat!

The trail continues to wind downward and eventually you reach a few tunnels carved out of the rock and some slots between the hoodoos.

The trail eventually flattens out at the bottom and you walk among the evergreens that dot the canyon. Being around all those trees felt like I was in Oregon for a minute!

Sidenote: Zach designed that shirt! People were complimenting him on it during the hike and it made his day! (You can buy it here in a bunch of colors.)

I really love the diversity of Bryce Canyon - the green trees mixed with the red rock is amazing.

And unfortunately, who hikes down...must hike up again. The hike had been so easy up until this point! And to be fair, the initial ascents weren't TOO bad.

And hiking back up in between the rocks was awe-inspiring. You feel SO small.

The ascent back up gets steeper on the Navajo Loop Trail and it ends with a bunch of switchbacks - this is really where we realized HOW out of shape we were. (PS: If you want to see us dying on the hike, debating if we should just live there and never come out, check out the video at the bottom of the post.)

But thankfully, we didn't die (or need to set up camp there forever) and made it to the top! The climb is steep, but the view from the top is fantastic.

And we were just happy to be back up there! Sweaty tired messes...

And the views near the end are incredible I GUESS it was worth it ;)

The hike took a few hours, since we stopped so often to take pictures and video. We made some PB&J's in the car and drove around the rest of the park, stopping by each of the vistas, notably Ponderosa Point, Natural Bridge, and Rainbow Point. Again - these are all accessible viewpoints to enjoy, no matter your ability level!

After our drive, we checked into our hotel and walked over to a Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant, so we still got our turkey! The next morning, we set out for Capitol Reef!

We made a little video of our Bryce trip, mostly us out of shape on the trail and begging people to send us tacos. So if you want the behind the scenes awkwardness of the trip, then this is the video for you!

If you've never been to Bryce Canyon, here are our tips:

- DON'T stay at our "hotel," the Bryce View Lodge. We WANTED to stay at Ruby's Inn, but it was booked, so we had to settle for this property. We paid about $60 for our room and you get what you pay for. Super old building, really creaky floors, rundown rooms, and they don't have staff around 24/7, which is weird to me. Thankfully we just needed the room to sleep in for the night, but if we go back, I'm booking Ruby's Inn early!

- We actually ate our Thanksgiving dinner at Ruby's Inn and it wasn't great. It was like a hospital cafeteria version of Thanksgiving food. Really bland, oversalted, overcooked, and CROWDED. It was the only restaurant in town open since it was a holiday, so it was our only option besides more PB&J sandwiches. I've heard mixed reviews about their normal menu, so if we come back, I'd go to another restaurant.

- If you are just driving through Bryce and not hiking, you can drive it and see everything in about a hour! It's a small National Park. So if you're just driving it, you can visit it along the way to another destination. I'd also recommend seeing Capitol Reef on the same trip (like we did), because they're about 2 hours apart by a beautiful scenic highway. 

- Again, this National Park is super accessible to all ability levels. Some others we've visited don't have such incredible vistas accessible, unless you want to hike (Zion is a good example of this). But what makes Bryce so great is easily seen and enjoyed without hiking. 

Have you been to Bryce? What should we see on our next trip down there? I want to see it covered in SNOW! Let me know in the comments below 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻

Next up on the Thanksgiving adventure, Day 2 at Capitol Reef...

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5 thoughts

  1. Your photos are incredible, Elyse! I took a trip to Bryce Canyon in 2015 and it is one of my favorite places to this day. Thank you for sharing!

  2. What incredible views!! This is on our bucket list for sure!!

  3. That sounds like an awesome way to spend Thanksgiving! I'd love to visit Bryce Canyon someday! It's on my travel bucket list! <3 These photos are gorgeous!

  4. This view is amazing! Definitely going to add this to my bucket list!

    Amanda ||

  5. I've never been to Bryce Canyon, but I definitely want to go exploring there eventually! It's a great spot for hiking and photography :) I'm glad you all had fun on your hike and you didn't have to move into the canyon! ��