The 15 Viewpoints of Bryce Canyon - A Travel Guide
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its many view points - 15 seperate points along the canyon rim to be exact. Many people ask "What are the viewpoints with the prettiest views?" or "Which viewpoints are a must-see?" You could visit all the view points in Bryce Canyon and it would be worth your time, especially since most require very little walking from the parking lot to the viewpoint. For those who are pressed for time or busy with hiking and other activities, here is a summary of each viewpoint with a recommendation of the "must-sees" at the end.
1. Fairyland Point - just inside the border of the park and before you get to the park fee station is Fairyland Canyon. At 7,758 feet the viewpoint provides a sweeping view of Fairyland Canyon below. Fairyland Canyon is still in its development stages when compared to the Hoodoos in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and gives visitors an idea of what Bryce Canyon looked like in the past. From this view point you can hike the Fairyland Loop Trail, an 8 mile hike down into the Canyon that ends at the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, or take the 2.7 mile rim trail to sunrise point.
2. Sunrise Point - perhaps one of the most majestic views in Bryce Canyon, Sunrise Point is the first of 4 official viewpoints in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. Sunrise Point is on the northern edge of the amphitheater and provides great views of the entire amphitheater looking south. Known for its great lighting for photos at sunrise, it is appropriately named Sunrise Point. The popular hike, Queens Garden Trail begins at Sunrise Point and is a 1.8 mile out and back hike down into the Hoodoos of the amphitheater. Sunrise Point has an elevated view point above the rim of the amphitheater and is just a short walk from the Bryce Canyon Lodge.
3. Sunset Point - half a mile walk on a paved trail from Sunrise Point is Sunset Point. Sunset point has a designated turn-off and parking area off the main road, but as it is one of the busiest viewpoints in the park, parking is often scarce. Sunset Point is known for its view of the Hoodoo formation Thor's Hammer as well as the trailhead for the Navajo Loop Trail, a 1.3 mile trail that descends into the amphitheater providing an up close view of theWall Street and Two Bridges Sections in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. You can learn more about this hike and connecting to the Queens Garden Trail and Sunrise Point here.
4. Inspiration Point - sandwiched between Sunset Point and Bryce Point, this viewpoint can easily be overlooked, but in my opinion it offers one of the best views of the number and scale of all the different hoodoo formations in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. Inspiration point can be reached by following the rim trail for .7 miles south from Sunset Point or by starting at Bryce Point and traveling North 1.5 miles. This viewpoint also can be accessed by the road and has dedicated parking and a shuttle stop. The viewpoint starts at street level, but then ascends offering 3 different viewpoints as you walk up the rim trail. The best view, as you might have guessed, of course, is at the top. While it can be somewhat steep, it is only a 150 yards and is doable by just about everyone.
5. Bryce Point - the most southern viewpoint in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, Bryce Point provides views of the Hoodoos and the pine forests that make up much of Bryce Canyon. Bryce Point is unique in that it offers views of not only the amphitheater, but the pine forests and other geological features in Bryce Canyon. It is also the starting point for the Peekaboo Loop Trail, a 5.5 mile hike below the rim that leads to the Wall of Windows and the Under-the-Rim Trail that goes all the way to Rainbow point. If you are only going to visit a couple of the viewpoints in the Bryce Amphitheater, be sure to include Bryce Point as it offers a much different view than Inspiration, Sunset and Sunrise Points.
6. Paria View Point - while the Hoodoos in the Bryce Amphitheater don't get much of the setting sun for photography, Paria View does offer some hoodoos that get hit by the setting sun making for some great photos. You also get a good view of the Paria River Watershed. The Paria river is formed from creeks and streams that lead into Paria Canyon and is responsible for the creation of many slot canyons during the last ice age. Peregrine Falcons can also be spotted from this viewpoint and while the road to the parking area is closed in the winter, it makes for some great cross country skiing.
7. Swamp Canyon - at 7,998 feet the Swamp Canyon view point offers a view of swamp canyon, but admittedly is more a back country access point than a destination view point. The Swamp Canyon view point is one of only two places you can access the Under-the-Rim Trail outside of the Bryce Amphitheater. It also offers access to four different backcountry camping sites for backpackers. While it lacks in beauty compared to the other viewpoints, Swamp Canyon is an important access point for those that want to explore under the rim and the backcountry of Bryce Canyon.
8. & 9. Fairview Point and Piracy Point - these viewpoints are accessed by the same parking area and are joined by a .2 mile dirt trail. While this viewpoint offers a little more than Swamp Canyon, it is appropriately named as I'd rate the view as "fair." Walking the .2 mile trail to Piracy Point offers a bit more interesting view, but there is no explanation as to how it got this rather unique name. An important feature of this viewpoint however, is that it has the only restroom between the Bryce Amphitheater and the end of the road at Rainbow Point. It also had a food truck in the parking lot last time I visited, so may be worth a stop if you are hungry and can't wait to make it back to the lodge.
10. Natural Bridge - this viewpoint is definitely worth a stop. Natural Bridge is located literally right off the main road making the walk from the parking area to the arch less than 200 feet. Technically Natural Bridge is actually an arch, since it was formed by wind and other natural forces and not by a water.This viewpoint is one of the higher points of Bryce Canyon at 8,819 feet above sea level, or about 800 feet higher than the Bryce Amphitheater. Natural Bridge is about a 2 mile drive from Fairview point.
11. Agua Canyon - this viewpoint is also just right off the road so from where you park it is less than 100 feet to the viewpoint. This viewpoint is a little more unique as it has some large hoodoos that are very close to the view point and also provides a good view of Agua Canyon below the rim of the Canyon. A small stream forms seasonally in Agua Canyon that eventually feeds into Willis Creek. While not a "must see" viewpoint, it is worth a quick stop if you have time.
12. Ponderosa Canyon - provides a good view of some Hoodoos and is another viewpoint located just off the road making it a quick and easy stop. Similar to Agua Canyon, it is worth a quick stop if you have time, but if not, don't feel bad about missing this view point. Ponderosa Canyon used to be the start of the Agua Canyon Connecting Trail that would allow hikers to connect to the Under-the-Rim trail, however the trail has been closed for sometime due to rock fall. There is no indication if and when this trail will re-open.
13. Black Birch Canyon - this is viewpoint worth stopping at. It is different from many of the other viewpoints along the rim and offers a good view of Rainbow Point in the distance as well as a good look of the pines in Birch Canyon. The downside of this viewpoint is that parking is very limited. There is some room to park on the side of the road near the viewpoint if the parking lot is full. Outside of the viewpoints in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and Natural Bridge, this might be my next favorite view point.
14. & 15. Yovimpa & Rainbow Point - these viewpoints share the same parking area with Rainbow Point looking North along the rim of Bryce Canyon and Yovimpa Point looking South into the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. Both views are quite unique and worth making the short walk between the two. At this parking area is the trailhead for the Bristlecone Loop, a 1 mile easy loop hike that takes you between the viewpoints and to a very old Bristlecone Pine. Rainbow point also provides access to other longer trails including the Riggs Spring Loop Trail and the Under-the-Rim Trail that would take you all the way back to the Bryce Amphitheater. Be aware that Rainbow Point is one of the busiest viewpoints in the park and parking can be an issue.
If your goal is to stop and enjoy every view point, you could likely accomplish this task with a full day of sightseeing. However if you have hikes and other things to do, you likely won't have time to stop at all of them. With limited time I would recommend visiting Sunrise point and Bryce Point in the amphitheater and then Natural Bridge and Rainbow and Yovimpa point. Given a little more time I would add Inspiration Point and Sunset point in the amphitheater, than add Black Birch Canyon and Fairyland Canyon to the mix and then if you still have time maybe Fairview and Piracy Point for a quick look and bathroom break.
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