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Everything You Need To See From Zion To Bryce
We just completed our third road trip to Southern Utah and we continue to be amazed at the natural beauty of this region.
We’ve hiked to the Emerald Pools in Zion, rode horses to the floor of Bryce Canyon, and admired the views of Red Rock Canyon. In between we’ve been stopped on the road by dozens of escaped sheep, slowed down to look for prairie dogs, and been surprised by a pronghorn grazing next to the road.
Without a doubt, both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are worthy destinations. But to stop there would be a shame. Southern Utah is full of hidden gems–both natural and man made–waiting to be explored, some equally as stunning as the two parks. And in my mind, what’s even better is that all of these lesser known sights are rarely crowded.
So if you’re planning a trip from Zion to Bryce Canyon, I hope to convince you to add time for a few stops in between and nearby.
(I’ve written previously about how to spend one day in Zion National Park, so I won’t be covering that park in this article.)
Jason and I are official ambassadors for Bryce Canyon Country this summer, and our most recent trip to the area was hosted. However, all opinions are our own. We’ve paid for our own trips in the past and will happily do so in the future.
Bryce Canyon National Park
We’ve now been to Bryce Canyon twice and can’t recommend it enough. It is much smaller than Zion, and far less crowded. Don’t get me wrong, everyone should definitely visit both parks, but I find many people skip Bryce, and that’s unfortunate.
Bryce Canyon is a fairly small national park, so if you’re just sightseeing, you can easily do it in one day. If you’re a hiker, you probably want to set aside two days so you can experience a few different trails.
Best Viewpoints in Bryce Canyon
If you’re driving through the park, here are some of the viewpoints to check out;
- Sunrise Point
- Sunset Point
- Inspiration Point
- Natural Bridge (pictured in the photo at the top)
- Rainbow Point (the highest elevation in the park at 9,115 feet)
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Hiking Trails In Bryce Canyon
Here are a few of the trails we recommend;
Navajo Trail–This moderately difficult 1.4 mile trail dips deep into the canyon where you weave your way through the hoodoos. The climb back out is steep, but you’ll be glad you hiked this trail.
Rim Trail–This moderately difficult 11 mile trail skirts the edge of the canyon providing a wide range of views. We hiked a portion of it and had it to ourselves for long periods of time.
Bristlecone Loop–An easy 1 mile trail that meanders through pine trees and offers a few epic viewpoints along the way. Keep in mind that this trail is at 9,000 feet, so if you haven’t acclimated to the altitude, it could feel a bit challenging.
Mossy Cave Trail–Named for the cave at the end of the .4 mile easy trail, the really fun part of this hike is the waterfall and river along the way.
If you’re headed to the Grand Canyon, check out our post, How To See The Grand Canyon In Two Days.
Be prepared for your trip to Bryce Canyon Country with our 10 Road Trip Tips You Need To Know.
Other Things To Do In Bryce Canyon
On our second visit to Bryce Canyon we had the chance to ride horses with Canyon Trail Rides. I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t eager to do this, but Jason really loved the idea, so off we went. Well it turned out to be a blast.
The 1.5 hour ride includes a steep descent, flat walk across the canyon floor, and ultimately a steep ascent back to the corral. All around us we had views of the rust colored canyon walls and spiky hoodoos. I definitely recommend this experience.
Where To Stay In Bryce Canyon
While there is one lodge in Bryce Canyon National Park, we’ve opted to stay just outside the park on both visits. The two hotels listed below have reasonably priced rooms, plenty of restaurants within walking distance along with shops and a gas station.
If you’re going from Bryce Canyon to Zion, you’ll be startled by the difference in accommodation rates. Zion hotels are seriously pricey while the ones in Bryce are affordable–yet another reason to go to this lesser visited park.
Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn–Ruby’s Inn will celebrate 100 years of operations next year with the same family still managing it. The rooms here aren’t fancy, but everything is clean and comfortable.
Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel–This hotel is a bit newer and the rooms are larger.
Bryce Canyon RV Park–If you’re visiting in an RV, here’s a spot with full hookups and access to all the services. Don’t have an RV? Don’t worry, you can try a RV rental, it’s just like AirBnB but for all types of recreational vehicles.
For most people the drive to Bryce Canyon will involve passing through Red Canyon. It’s impossible to miss because it includes two tunnels carved out of the red rock. The first time we were here we just drove along, admiring the views. But the second time we took a couple of hours to check out the Visitors Center and walk along the short trails behind it.
Red Canyon is part of the Dixie National Forest which is managed by the USDA–so it is a completely different system than the national parks. The only services are a small visitors center, bathrooms, and trails. There’s no entrance fee. And since this is just thirty minutes outside of Bryce, everyone should spend some time here.
After checking out the visitors center we headed out back to explore the short interpretive trail called Pink Ledges. This .4 mile easy trail meanders through a shady pine forest and offers gorgeous views of the red rock formations. Along the way are signs about the geology and animal and plant life.
The little town of Panguitch was such a fun surprise for me and Jason. After spending two nights in Bryce Canyon City, we moved to Panguitch for our final night in the area. With a population under 2,000, this is definitely a small town. However, it’s the Garfield County seat, so there’s actually a good amount of activity taking place here.
We arrived and checked into our bed and breakfast, The Panguitch House, a historic red brick home located along Highway 89. Our room was located in the cottage next door and was so warm and cozy. There’s a large lawn, small garden, and several outside seating areas.
After getting unpacked we walked a few blocks to Main Street which is lined with historic buildings. The city has provided signage along the street detailing the history of many of the buildings. Todays’ Main Street is lined with several restaurants, a theater, and boutique shops.
We found our way to Cowboy Smokehouse, a casual eatery featuring Texas style barbecue. While I mostly eat a vegetarian diet, I could not resist sharing a large plate of barbecued meats with Jason. We ordered the tri-tip, chicken, and beef ribs accompanied by coleslaw and baked beans. For dessert we enjoyed their blackberry cobbler. The prices were reasonable and the service friendly.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
One week before our second trip to Bryce Canyon, a friend posted pictures of Cedar Breaks National Monument on Facebook. I was already excited about our upcoming trip, but these photos made me extra eager.
Cedar Breaks is situated at an elevation of 10,000 feet and shaped like a giant colosseum. It’s a 2,000 foot drop to the canyon floor. I think the Native American description of this area as “Circle of Painted Cliffs” is so accurate. The views are similar to Bryce, but without the hoodoos. The massive numbers of wildflowers in bloom also made it stand out. We took a short walk through a grove of pine trees and saw white, purple, and yellow flowers everywhere.
We stopped at two of the viewpoints; Chessman and Sunset. Both are worthwhile for grabbing a few photos and gawking at the stunning scene.
There is no guarded entrance at the monument, so you will need to proceed to the Visitors Center to pay your entrance fee or show your national parks pass. There are also bathrooms at the center along with a nice gift shop.
Tips For Planning Your Zion To Bryce Canyon Adventure
Most people will be exploring Bryce Canyon to Zion by car. There are long stretches of open road, and at some point, minimal services, so here are some tips.
- Keep your gas tank filled–anytime you see a gas station, fill up your tank.
- Pack plenty of water and if you’ll be hiking, pack even more. You will be at high elevations much of this trip, so stay hydrated.
- Also pack some snacks because not all of these destinations offer services like shops and restaurants.
- You will often be without cell reception, so be prepared to use your navigation offline prior to starting your travel.
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