“A hell of a place to lose a cow.”
That was how Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce responded when a neighbor asked him back in 1875 how he liked that big red canyon at the back of his Utah homestead.
The canyon became known as Bryce's Canyon by other pioneers and the name has stuck. First as the Bryce Canyon National Monument (1923) and later as the Bryce Canyon National park 1928.
Since then, millions have tried to explain the grandeur of the park's 37,000 acres. It consists of a spectacular red rock canyon shaped like a natural amphitheater. The canyon is about 20 miles long, three miles wide, and up to 800 feet deep.
It is a place where erosion has carved delicate and colorful pinnacles and spires called hoodoos.
It was a must-visit for us and we drove over to see it from nearby Zion National Park, about 70 miles to the west. It's part of what is called the Grand Staircase, an immense sequence of sedimentary rock layers that stretch south from Bryce Canyon National Park through Zion National Park and into the Grand Canyon.
After visits to the Grand Canyon and Zion, Bryce was our final stop for what became our Grand Staircase tour. Like the other parks, we found Bryce unique and mesmerizingly beautiful.
Bryce Canyon Campgrounds
By mid-afternoon, both campgrounds were filled. Both campgrounds have restrooms with flush toilets, and drinking water and showers are available at a nearby general store.
The Bryce campgrounds do not have individual electric or water hookups. If you require them, there is a full-service campground just outside the gates at Ruby's Inn in Bryce Canyon, Utah.
Things to Do & See at Bryce Canyon
We first took a free shuttle trip to the canyon's main viewpoints. Shuttles run about every 15 minutes.
But unlike Zion, we noticed at each stop that there seemed to be plenty of open parking spots at the viewpoints so we returned in the evening, driving our RV.
We had no trouble fitting into a single parking spot. Class C RVs would find it considerably more difficult. Class A owners would find no place to park their big rigs.
There are lots of hikes you can take in and around the canyon. Paved trails along much of the rim are permissible for leashed dogs. Pets are not welcome on the dirt and gravel trails that drop below the rim.
Start out by driving to the far end of the canyon to Rainbow Point. Other view spots we liked were Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point, and Sunset Point. There are paths that connect all these viewpoints, or you can take the shuttle to each one.
Serious hikers who really want to explore the canyon have lots of long-distance treks they can make.
The Under-the-Rim Trail extends 23 miles from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point and has eight backcountry campsites. The Riggs Spring Loop Trail (8.8 miles round trip) from Yovimpa Point has four backcountry sites.
Both trails drop below the rim of the plateau and lead through forested areas.
I hung out till after dark, ranging between Sunrise and Sunset Points (about a half-mile), watching and photographing the changing colors as the sun set.
I imagine this would be a painter's paradise, with all the different hues of orange and red with pops of green and white.
We can also recommend the Bryce Lodge for lunch or dinner. It was built in 1925 using local materials.
Designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the lodge is an excellent example of National Park Service Rustic design. Check out the roof, where Underwood created an optical illusion that looks like rolling waves from the wooden shingles.
It also has a grand stone fireplace that exudes what Jennifer likes to call “rustic elegance.”
We ate dinner there and, though pricey, we found it quite good. It is consistently rated as one of the best dining experiences in the area. No reservations are required and casual attire is just fine.
Bryce Canyon: Great Place to Visit (If You're Not a Cow)
We spent two days at Bryce Canyon, walking most of the rim trails. When we return, I'll set aside a full day for the full under the rim hike.
Bryce Canyon National park might be a hell of a place to lose a cow. But it's a place well worth a visit by every RVer.
There are several other amazing places and lots of things to do in Utah. We've even written a complete RV itinerary and guide…
Our RV Adventure Guide outlines seven-day guided explorations of scenic areas of Southern Utah that we've explored. It would make an excellent RV trip for you!
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