Bryce Canyon National Park is a natural wonderland of towering rock spires. One of Utah’s “Mighty 5” National Parks, Bryce features unique geological formations carved by erosion and known as hoodoos. This unusual landscape offers scenic views, stunning hikes, and epic recreation for all ages. Watching a sunrise over the amphitheater of golden rock hoodoos is sure to be a remarkable family memory. Today, Sara Lesire, mom of two and founder of Midwest Nomad Family, shares how your family can plan an unforgettable adventure while exploring Bryce Canyon National Park with kids.  

Planning your visit to Bryce Canyon National Park

Location of Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah. The park is easily reachable by car on major highways, although snow can cause closures in the winter months. Most visitors combine a visit to Bryce with other National Parks in the area, such as Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, or Canyonlands National Parks. The park is within a few hours drive of major airports in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. Don’t miss a drive along nearby scenic Highway 12 if you have the chance!

Bryce canyon inspiration point

Inspiration Point overlook

Best time of year to visit Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park remains open year-round, 24 hours a day. May through September is considered peak season with the warmest temperatures but also the highest crowds. As a higher-elevation park, the temperature is often cooler than the surrounding area.

Late fall through spring can bring snow and icy conditions on the trail. July and August are part of the rainy season with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. We visited in early October and found fewer crowds, beautiful fall colors, cool nights, and pleasant daytime temperatures.  

Things to pack for Bryce Canyon National Park

With the elevation of Bryce Canyon ranging from 7,800 to over 9,000 ft above sea level, it is important to pack for the weather. Dress in layers as the days often start cool before warming by the afternoon. A good combination of breathable base layers and outer weatherproof jackets or coats is recommended. The hiking trails often require steep climbs in and out of the canyon, where well-fitting hiking shoes or even sneakers can provide comfort and stability. 

The area is quite a distance away from any major towns. It is important to bring along any food, medicine, or special items you may need during your visit. There is a general store near the park’s lodge and a couple of smaller stores just outside the park, but their supplies are limited. The park does offer a restaurant, and there are several more options just outside the park’s entrance. However, bringing along plenty of snacks or supplies for a picnic in the park can be more convenient and more fun.

Bryce Canyon Queen's Garden

Bryce Canyon park fees and access

While there are no reservations or timed entry requirements for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, all visitors must have an entrance pass. The pass may be purchased online in advance or at the park entrance booths. Since the pass costs $35 per car for 7 days of use, it is often better to purchase an annual America the Beautiful pass for $80, which gives you admittance to all U.S. National Parks for one year. Other passes, such as the 4th grade, military, or disabled access passes, are also accepted. 

Bryce Canyon National Park operates a shuttle system within the park to help with crowds and traffic. The shuttle is free and operates between the most popular park destinations. However, riding the shuttle is not required, and you can still drive your own vehicle along all of the park roads. 

Safety tips for exploring Bryce Canyon National Park with kids

The higher elevation means that it is even more important to stay hydrated and protected from the sun. Be sure to pack refillable water bottles or hydration packs to prevent dehydration and altitude sickness. It may be best to take it easy when first arriving to give your body and your kids little bodies time to acclimate. Sun protection such as hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen can be extra important since you will be closer to the sun.  

Most of the trails offer very wide surfaces; however, remind kids to keep to the trail for safety and to protect the park’s delicate ecosystem. Keep an eye on children and remind them to keep back from the canyon’s edge. Most of the main viewpoints do have railings, but just beyond the viewpoint may be dangerous drop-offs. 

Bryce Canyon Navajo Loop trail

Kid-friendly hikes at Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon has amazing hiking trails. Every trail offers stunning viewpoints and unique views of the hoodoo rock formations. There is something for all ages and some trails are even stroller or wheelchair accessible. The park even has a special hiking challenge, called Hike the Hoodoos. Keep an eye out for special signs with survey benchmarks. Make a rubbing of the marker or snap a selfie while also hiking at least 3 miles to collect a prize from the Visitor Center. 

Bryce Canyon Hike the Hoodoos

Rim Trail (easy)

The Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon is the easiest trail in the park, but it still offers quite the view. The entire trail is 5.5 miles each way, with multiple access points. As the name states, this trail follows the rim of the canyon and offers panoramic views of the hoodoos below. The most popular portion of the trail is the fully paved and flat 0.5-mile stretch between Sunrise and Sunset Point. The Rim Trail is combinable with other trails in the park, such as Queen’s Garden and the Navajo Loop. 

Bryce Canyon Rim Trail

Bristlecone Loop Trail (easy)

The Bristlecone Loop trail is a less crowded option as it requires driving the scenic drive all the way to the southern end of the park at Rainbow Point. This one-mile round-trip hike wanders through the trees at the highest portion of the park, over 9,000 feet in elevation. One of the park rangers told us this was her favorite hike in the park. 

Bryce Canyon Bristlecone Loop

Mossy Cave Trail (easy)

The Mossy Cave trail is a short and beautiful hike that offers both a cave and a waterfall. The trailhead is located outside of the main area of the park along Highway 12. Instead of viewing the hoodoos from above, this trail gives you a view of them from below. The total trail is about 0.8 miles long and starts by crossing a bridge over the creek. After the bridge, the trail splits, with the left leading to a view of the cave, and the right leading to a view of the waterfall. 

Bryce Canyon Mossy Cave Trail

Queen’s Garden Trail (moderate)

The Queen’s Garden hike is a popular way to descend down into the canyon from the rim at Sunrise Point. With a steep elevation change of 450 to climb back up, you may all be breathing a little heavily at the end. The trail is an out-and-back to the Queen Victoria hoodoo viewpoint with a total roundtrip distance of 1.8 miles. Kids will love the tunnels carved into the stone along this trail. It is also combinable with the Navajo Loop to make an even better hiking loop. 

Bryce Canyon with kids Queen's Garden Trail

Navajo Loop (moderate)

Similar to Queen’s Garden, the Navajo Loop descends from the rim to offer an up close view of the hoodoos and Thor’s Hammer formation. Starting and ending at Sunset Point, this trail is normally a 1.3-mile loop for the loop with a 515-foot elevation gain. The loop option can normally be hiked in either direction, with one portion of the loop passing through a narrow canyon known as Wall Street and the other half of the loop passing by natural rock bridges known as Two Bridges.

However, at this time, the Wall Street portion is closed due to damage from a rockfall. You can still climb in and out down stunning switchbacks to view Two Bridges or combine the trail with the Queen’s Garden for a longer loop.

Navajo Loop Trail with kids

Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop (moderate)

If you can only hike one trail at Bryce, do this loop! The combo of the Navajo Loop with Queen’s Garden is one of the best 3-mile hikes we have ever done in a national park. The park service recommends starting the loop at Sunrise Point and descending Queen’s Garden first, but you can hike the trail in either direction. If you are able to hike this trail just after sunrise, you can enjoy amazing golden light and fewer crowds.

We first started by watching the sunrise at Sunset Point and descending down the Navajo Loop. Navajo is a little steeper descent, while Queen’s Garden is more gradual. The two trails connect together at the spur to the Queen Victoria hoodoo. When you ascend back up to either Sunrise or Sunset Point (depending on where you started), you will then walk the paved 0.5-mile Rim Trail to connect back to where you first began the loop. 

Bryce Canyon Navajo Loop Sunset Point

Tower Bridge (moderate)

Tower Bridge is more rugged hike than the other hikes listed above. This trail is a 3.4-mile total out-and-back hike with 800 feet of elevation gain.  The trail leads to a spur with a viewpoint of Tower Bridge. We ran out of time to complete this hike but saved it for next time.

Other activities and recreation in Bryce Canyon National Park 

Bryce Canyon is one of the smaller national parks in Utah. This makes it easier to explore Bryce National Park with kids, even if you have a short time to visit. While hiking is one of the most popular activities, there are several more adventure options to check out during your stay. 

Explore the Visitor Center

Bryce Canyon National Park has a nice and helpful Visitor Center. The center includes restrooms, a gift shop, and a theater showing a movie about the park. There is also a fun area for all ages with interactive exhibits. Be sure to ask a ranger if you have any questions or to obtain a Junior Ranger book.

Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center

Complete the Junior Ranger program

Our kids love collecting Junior Ranger badges at each of the different national park sites. Bryce Canyon has a cute and fun book suitable for all ages. Return your completed book to the Visitor Center for a wooden badge. (Bonus tip: The badges are wooden here, so you can use the park passport stamps in the gift shop to stamp the date you visited on the back of the badge!)

Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center

Drive the Scenic Drive

The Southern Scenic Drive extends from the north entrance of the park for 18 miles to the end of the road at Rainbow and Yovimpa Points. The first 3 miles of road connect to the Bryce Amphitheater. The last 15 miles offer 9 more scenic overlooks and fewer crowds. The elevation will increase as you drive this stretch.

If you are planning to drive the entire road, I would recommend driving all the way to the end at Rainbow and Yovimpa Points first. On your return trip, all of the pullouts and parking areas for the overlooks will be on your right. 

things to do in Bryce Canyon NP with kids

Take a guided horseback ride

Back in 1931, the National Park Service completed 4.5 miles of horse and foot trails that are still in use today. The company Canyon Trail Rides offers guided horse and mule rides into the Bryce Amphitheater along a dedicated horse trail and the Peekaboo Loop Trail.

Go stargazing

Bryce Canyon is a night star sanctuary due to the lack of light pollution. While you can star gaze on your own, the park also offers over 100 astronomy and night sky programs each year. Although you can see thousands of stars at any time of year, the week before and the week of a new moon offer the darkest skies. If you visit during a full moon and have kids over 7, check out the guided Full Moon hikes. 

Bike or walk the shared-use path

If you need another paved trail option, check out the shared-use path. The path contains 5 miles of trail throughout the park and continues for another 13 miles to nearby Red Canyon. If you don’t have your own bike, rentals of both normal bikes and e-bikes are available at the historic service station in the park. 

Bryce Canyon National Park with kids

Watch a sunrise

While getting up before the crack of dawn on vacation might not sound appealing, you don’t want to miss watching a sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park! The amphitheater of hoodoos glows orange as the sun slowly peeks over the horizon. It’s truly spectacular and worth it!

The most popular places for sunrise views are Sunrise, Sunset, Bryce, and Inspiration Point. Sunrise Point will most likely have the biggest crowds, but we preferred the higher views from Inspiration Point. However, since almost all of the park viewpoints face east, there really isn’t a bad spot. 

Bryce Canyon National Park sunrise

Sunrise at Inspiration Point

Bryce Canyon National Park Sunset Point sunrise

Sunrise at Sunset Point

Visit a playground

My kids just love it when we find a great playground while traveling. The town of Bryce has a nice one along the main road in town. This playground has fun climbing equipment, slides, and swings. There is a restroom nearby as well. 

Bryce Utah playground

Explore other area parks

In case you have a longer stay or are seeking more adventures, there are several other parks nearby. Red Canyon is part of the adjacent Dixie National Forest and offers many kid-friendly hikes. Willis Creek Slot Canyon is an amazing and family-friendly slot canyon about 45 minutes away down a well-graded gravel road. Kodachrome Basin State Park is about 20 miles from Bryce and offers more unique rock formations.

Further away, you can find more explorations at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Zion National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. The opportunities for adventure are endless in this region! 

Willis Creek Slot Canyon

Willis Creek slot canyon

Where to stay near Bryce Canyon National Park with kids

While the Bryce area is fairly remote, there are still several lodging choices both in and just outside of the park boundaries. The closest option is the historic Lodge at Bryce Canyon within the national park.  The lodge offers hotel rooms and cabins just a short walk from the main amphitheater viewpoints. The lodge also has a dining room for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Just outside of the the National Park, the towns of Bryce and Tropic offer more hotel and cabin options. These two towns also have some great restaurant options. I highly recommend the Pizza Place in Tropic for affordable and delicious food. 

Camping and glamping options near Bryce Canyon

If you are looking for camping options for your tent or RV, the park offers two different campgrounds. The North Campground is located across from the Visitor Center and is open year-round. The Sunset Campground is only open seasonally but is located close to the popular viewpoint and trailhead at Sunset Point. 

If you want to escape the crowded hotels, but want more luxury than camping, I highly recommend Bryce Glamp and Camp (hosted). This unique lodging option offers glamping domes with electricity, heat and air conditioning, a mini kitchen, bathrooms, firepits, Wi-Fi, and TV. The domes are located outside of town and offer amazing star gazing and views. They even have extra activities such as horseshoes, volleyball, disc golf, and a hiking trail. 

Bryce Glamp and Camp

Bryce Glamp and Camp

Bryce Glamp and Camp

Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park with kids

Planning an adventure to Bryce Canyon National Park with kids is an exceptional opportunity to create lasting memories and instill a love for the outdoors. The park’s unique geology and hoodoo formations are unlike landscapes you may have seen anywhere else in the world. The family-friendly hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and junior ranger program allow children to discover the park’s natural wonders at their own level. Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park with kids offers a chance for families to connect with nature in a truly remarkable setting.

Are you ready to plan a visit to Bryce Canyon National Park?

About the author

Sara Lesire has been married to her high school sweetheart for 17 years, and together they have two children. Sara spent many childhood hours outside on her grandparents’ farm and strives for her kids to have similar carefree kid adventures. Based in the St. Louis area, she loves to share on her blog and social media all the scenic and fun places to explore around the St. Louis area and beyond. Hiking is the most popular activity for her whole family, followed by hitting up the best local playgrounds. Photography is also a passion of Sara’s, and she continues to be amazed at the natural beauty and wonder of God’s creation. When she is not hitting the trail, Sara works as a civil engineer.

You can find more from Sara online in the following locations:
Instagram: @midwestnomadfamily
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