The towering hoodoos and red rocks of Bryce Canyon National Park impress and inspire millions of visitors each year.
If you are planning a visit to Bryce Canyon National Park, then you could easily find yourself surrounded by as many people as hoodoos.
We visited Bryce Canyon for several days overlapping with a weekend, and we were intentional about trying to find some quiet times and trail miles in what was a pretty crowded park.
However, we couldn’t just head to the backcountry since we had a four year old and one year old in our group.
Instead, we angled to find some elbow room in the popular spots.
Based on our experience in the park, here’s what I would recommend when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park for a weekend or a long weekend to get the wow factor and avoid thick crowds.
Hike the Queens Garden / Navajo Loop
Assuming you arrive on Thursday night, then plan on hiking the ‘Best 3 Mile Hike in the World”, the Queens Garden / Navajo Loop early on Friday morning. It will be slammed on the weekend.
There are a couple of places to start this hike. I suggest starting early at Sunrise Point, as it appears most people start at Sunset Point, which is about a half mile walk on the Rim Trail.
Start at Sunrise Point and start hiking the loop clockwise by starting on the Queens Garden Trail.
By starting in this direction early in the morning, you will find very few people in the first half of the loop. Those who started at Sunset Point will either be starting later than you (if you are early) or they are starting at the same time a half mile behind you.
After the first half of the loop, you will start to encounter more oncoming traffic from those who start counterclockwise from Sunset Point, but at least you got half of the hike in with some peace and quiet.
You’ll likely wrap up this hike in the late morning, so do what you want with the afternoon, visiting vistas in the park, looking for prairie dogs, or visiting the visitor center.
Photos of the Queen Garden / Navajo Loop trail:
Hike the Fairyland Loop Trail
On Saturday, you can find some room on the Fairyland Loop Trail.
The reason that this trail is less crowded than the trails found inside Bryce Canyon National Park is that it doesn’t start inside Bryce.
When you are approaching the park entrance, a couple miles short of the guardhouse, you will see a left turn that leads up to Fairyland Point.
At the top of that point, there is a small parking lot.
Park there, and hike the Fairyland Loop in a clockwise direction. This trail descends through spectacular hoodoos and then climbs to Natural Bridge and then ultimately rejoins the relatively flat Rim Trail.
The complete loop is about eight miles, and if you are starting early from Fairyland Point, you won’t see many people until you reach Natural Bridge about five miles into the hike.
This hike will likely take you through lunch to complete, so you will have some time in the afternoon to do what you want in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Here are some of our photos from Fairyland Loop:
Hike the Slot Canyon at Willis Creek in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument
On Sunday, you’ll likely have had your fill of hoodoos. If so, then drive about 45 minutes down Highway 12 to Willis Creek in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.
This hike will give you a completely different experience and perspective than that in Bryce Canyon.
Willis Creek is a narrow slot canyon with narrow canyon passages, rock hopping, and waterfalls.
At every turn, you’ll see impressive geological formations, each more interesting than the last.
For more details, read our full article on hiking Willis Creek.
Here are a few of our photos from Willis Creek.
Wrapping up the Perfect Weekend At Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park has a lot to offer, more than anyone can fully experience and explore on a long weekend.
But if you are looking for a near perfect weekend at Bryce Canyon, I would recommend you make the three activities above the cornerstone of your itinerary.
Got any questions? Ask away in the comments.
Katharine Eberhardt says
Don’t forget to stop in for chicken fried steak at the Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant!
Horseback Riding for adults is another great way to see areas (some that you can’t access by pedestrian path) or if your legs are weary from hiking. You can pick from 2hrs ($65/rider) or 3hrs ($90/rider). No experience needed and kids as young as 7 can ride, plus you still have the rest of the day for a hike! You can book in the Bryce Canyon lodge.