Around the US,  National Parks,  Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park Scenic Drive

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of those places that is absolutely stunning when seen from above. So if you would prefer not to do any lengthy or strenuous hiking, there are still so many ways to enjoy Bryce Canyon.

There is only one entrance to Bryce Canyon, on Hwy 63. This highway can be accessed by either Hwy 22 or Hwy 12. Hwy 63 is the Bryce Canyon scenic drive, and continues for 18 miles through the park, ending at Rainbow Point. The road is situated in such a way that you can’t really see much scenery while driving, because of the trees, but there are multiple overlooks along the way to stop. All of these overlooks are situated on the left side of the vehicle as you drive towards Rainbow Point, and on the right side as you drive back to the entrance of Bryce Canyon. Because of that, it is slightly easier to drive clear to the end and see Rainbow Point first, then stop at the overlooks on the way back.

Alternately, you can choose to take the shuttle, but it does not go clear to Rainbow Point. It only stops at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point, as well as lodging venues and the Visitor’s Center.

We visited Rainbow Point on the third day of our Bryce Canyon vacation. We had hiked the previous two days, and some of the kids were about to mutiny if we hiked yet again.

The drive to Rainbow Point only took about a half hour from the entrance to Bryce Canyon. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot right away, but the lot does fill up, and after we had eaten lunch, cars were driving around waiting for other cars to leave.

Looking northward from Rainbow Point, you will see some of the Hoodoos that Bryce is famous for, but not as many as you see at Bryce Point or Inspiration Point. (For more info on Hoodoos, see my Hiking in Bryce Canyon post.)

The interesting shaped Hoodoos are carved out of the Pink Cliffs, which is the highest layer of what’s know as the Grand Staircase. If you look to the Southeast, you can see some of the other layers of rock in the distance, which are named for their color. The grey cliffs are directly under the Pink Cliffs, then the White Cliffs below that.

Also at this end of the Park is Yovimpa Point, which gives a better view of the Grand Staircase. We didn’t visit Yovimpa Point, because the kids were hungry, so we took advantage of the picnic tables to have lunch.

There are several overlooks on the way back to Bryce’s entrance. One of the best ones is Natural Bridge. It is about six miles from Rainbow Point. This is actually not a bridge, but an arch, and it is close enough to the road to get an excellent view!

The portion of Bryce Canyon that everybody recognizes is the Bryce Amphitheater. This is where you can see the most Hoodoos. The southernmost overlook of the Bryce Amphitheater is called Bryce Point.

The next overlook is Inspiration Point. This actually has three different levels to look out over the Amphitheater. This view is from one of the lower levels.

The overlook at the very top of Inspiration Point is amazing, but it requires climbing a steep hill. It’s hard to capture the majesty of the Bryce Amphitheater in a single photo. Here is a video I took panning from the south to the north at inspiration Point’s highest level.

The next overlook is Sunset Point. This area also provides picnic tables. This is where we started our hike on the first day of our visit. You can read about our hike in my post, Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sunrise Point is a short half mile walk from Sunset Point, where you can see some fabulous views. If walking is not your thing, you can also drive from one point to the other.

The least crowded overlook for us was Fairyland Canyon. It is the northernmost overlook, and is located just inside the park between the Bryce Canyon sign and the fee station. This is not a view of the Bryce Amphitheater, but still has awesome formations.

There is one more place that is worth mentioning, even though it is not an overlook. If you drive out of the Park on Hwy 63 and turn South on Hwy 12, you will actually be inside the Park for a short stretch of Hwy 12. Along this road you can find Mossy Cave. It’s a fairly popular spot, so you may not find a parking spot, but if you can, it’s worth stopping.

Mossy Cave is a .4 mile hike up a slight incline along a river. The end is a little steeper, but not very long. Up the river by the cave you can find a small waterfall. There are trails both to the top and the bottom of the waterfall.

I’m so glad we decided to stop at Mossy Cave. All of the kids us had a great time in the shallow river!

Do you love scenic drives with stunning overlooks? If so, Bryce Canyon National Park needs to be on your bucket list!