We spent a month at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah and loved every minute of it. There is SO much to do and see. If you love being outdoors as much as we do, Bryce is a great place to be! We have traveled to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Escalante/Grand Staircase, The Arches National Park and Canyonlands and Bryce is by far my favorite! If you are taking a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, we highly recommend that you take these 15 essentials with you to the park.
It may have something to do with the fact that we visited Bryce in April and it wasn’t very busy yet. Full-time traveling allows us to get in and out of certain places before they get too busy. Bryce was one of those places and I loved being able to ride the bus without any hassle, get in and out of the park any time of the day without massive traffic jams and enjoying some hikes without bumping into too many people. It’s not that I don’t like people, I do, I really do, I just don’t like being in places where it’s super busy. That stresses me out.
Rainbow Tour Bus
The Rainbow Bus Tour is the only official tour thru Bryce Canyon. It is administered by the Parks Service and is held twice per day at 9:30 am and 1:00 pm. We highly recommend you try to take it if you have the time. Once you are in the park, the tour is free. We took the 9:30 bus tour, please note you do have to book in advance. We called the day before, but my guess is during the summer, you will need to call at least a few days in advance.
The entire tour takes about 4 hours. They can pick you up along the way at the various bus stops – Ruby’s Inn, the campground, and the Visitor’s Center. We started at the shuttle station in Bryce City because the kids wanted to get some seats up front. The bus ride goes all the way to Rainbow Point, which is as far as you can go in the park, and you are 9100 ft up in elevation. The views from here, as from anywhere in the park are spectacular.
We were lucky enough to take the bus tour on the day that Ms. April was leading. She was an amazing tour guide and was very engaged with the kids. Ms. April walked us out to both Rainbow and Yovimpa Points and talked about each. She also pointed out her beautiful ranch down in the valley. You were given enough time to check everything out and have time to enjoy it. She and the kids had fun telling jokes back and forth, which kept them engaged. We stopped at various viewing points all the way down and again Ms. April would share her knowledge with us, pointing out many fascinating sights and filling in some history. I highly recommend the tour. If you have chatty kids like us, I recommend getting seats up front.
We passed by Red Canyon on the way to Bryce Canyon National Park, to be honest, we almost drove off the road, the view was so mesmerizing. We were staying in Panguitch so we were lucky enough to pass by Red Canyon all the time on our way to and from Bryce. Red Canyon is located on Highway 12 just a few miles west of Bryce. The kids were dying to hike it so we visited the Visitors Center and decided on a hike. We choose the Pink Ledges Trail and it was perfect. What I loved the most about this trail is that it was such a great introduction to the hoodoos for all of us.
The kids were immediately fascinated by all the different rock formations, there was constant oohing and ahhing. This trail is only 3/4 miles long, so it’s not a big hike by any means. However, there are several trails that run off to the side and you can check them out also. We loved getting out into the hoodoos and wandering around. It really gives you a feel for what you will see at Bryce Canyon and the hikes are nice and easy for the kids and they can run around and get rid of some excess energy.
Ride the Shuttle Bus
One of the kids favorite things to do is to ride a bus. Go figure right? However being from South Florida, they never had a chance to ride buses, not even a school bus. So if they see a bus in the park, they want to jump on. Again we were lucky because we were in Bryce Canyon during April, so the buses weren’t too full yet.
After a long hike and lunch, we would jump on the bus and ride it around the park, it also gave us a chance to see some things we might have missed because we were driving. Certain bus drivers were awesome at shouting at where the animals hang out and we got to see mule deer, turkeys, prairie dogs and even a bear (of the “Smokey” variety) – that’s a “Mr. George” joke, if you have a chance to take a bus ride with him, do it!
Junior Ranger Program
If you haven’t begun the Junior Ranger Program with your kids you absolutely should. Be prepared for it to take on a life of its own, and you will need space to store all of the badges- or buy a vest and pin them on there. The kids will love that.
Our first stop at every National Park is the Visitors Center so the kids can get their Junior Ranger book. The book will be filled with interesting facts, games, and tasks for the kids to complete in order to get their certificate and badge.
Sometimes they get so into them, we have to remind them to look up and enjoy the scenic views. But I love that they have so much fun doing them and sometimes they actually work together – teamwork and no fighting- that’s a win-win for mom.The Bryce Canyon ranger programs are some of the best we’ve seen.
So far they have badges from about a dozen National Parks. They gain so much from completing their Junior Ranger books and attending the Ranger talks and programs. It’s not just the knowledge they are learning, it’s the confidence and pride that comes with attaining the prized badge.
I swear they grow an inch each time they get a new badge. They are so proud of themselves and recently the kids have been required to make up their own pledge, which they were thrilled to do and did a great job (proud mom moment).
Biking Through the Park
From the moment we got to Bryce Canyon and saw what animals were around, we all wanted to go for a nice long bike ride through the park. There is a “Shared Use” paved path that runs through a good deal of the park and then all the way to Red Canyon.
That sounds nice in theory but once you get started, it’s hard work, especially when you don’t have a bike with gears (quite frankly it was hard work even with gears).
We quickly learned the best way to go was to take the bikes on the bus, the bus hooks can take up to 3 bikes and the driver very nicely allowed us to take Aine’s bike on the bus with us – again the bus was empty in April so I don’t know if this is possible during the summer.
We got off at Inspiration Point (top end of the trail) and rode all the way down, back to the bus shuttle station.
It was a blast, just remember to keep an eye on the kids because the paths cross the main road frequently and there are cars and people all around. Either Frank or I went first and it worked out well. We also did another bike ride just outside the park starting at Ruby’s Inn, we went for several miles toward Red Canyon. Again it was a beautiful ride, we didn’t get to see any animals, but we didn’t care to be honest. It was so peaceful and a beautiful Utah day for a bike ride.
Guided ATV Tour
Since arriving in Utah, I have seen ATV rides advertised and they looked so much fun. We decided a few days before we left to go for it. We signed up for a one hour guided tour at $140 for the 4 of us. There were 4 ATV’s in our group, plus the guide. This was one of the best experiences we have had so far on our journey.
Hand kids a helmet, goggles and put them in an ATV and they’re happy little campers. The ride goes around the grounds that Ruby owns adjacent to Bryce Canyon, it’s an hour-long thrill ride, with some history thrown in. Even though you’re not right in Bryce Canyon, but along the rim, the views are awesome.
Please note, this is not a guided tour of the views, this is for people who want to have some fun, and we did – lots of it. This is the one we enjoyed.
You start off slowly, they stop at the rim and take some individual photos of your family, and then they take you into the backcountry where you can let loose a little bit and have some fun. I loved it when we went through some gullies and then across the river (you hardly get wet at all). I would do this again in a second.
Gene was our guide and he was a lot of fun, but he was also careful to make sure we were safe. We got to see some pronghorns up close on the way back, this was the perfect way to end our ride. The experience from start to finish was amazing, everyone went out of their way to ensure we had a fun time.
Quick Tip: I sat in the back of the ATV during the first half of the trip and then I switched with the kids and they sat in the back. I have to say it was much more comfortable sitting in the back because of the dust!
Bryce Canyon National Park Hikes
We had so many enjoyable hikes while we were visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. From the Fairyland Loop Trail, to the Navaho Queens Garden Loop, these trails are spectacular! We saw families of all sizes hiking with kids. Our kids are 7 and 8 and were able to do all of the hikes at Bryce. Some were definitely harder than others, but the views were so incredible and we kept them engaged talking about all of the different things we saw, and they trudged right through.
We also fed them chocolate along the way, which helped. Some hikes might be a little difficult if your kids are younger than ours, but you could always go halfway and turn back so that everyone experiences a little bit of the canyon. The rim trail is a nice, easy trail. You can read more about our hikes HERE.
Bryce Canyon Trail Map
Bryce Canyon Animals
Several times we got up early (6 am) and traveled to the park, to see what animals we could spot before it got too hot out. We have done that all around the country, it’s one of our absolute favorite things to do. One morning we were lucky enough to come across a herd of deer eating by the side of the road.
We could have reached out and touched them, they were so close…(we didn’t but we could have). You don’t realize as you walk around the park how many animals are close by. We came across at least three deer when we were at Inspiration Point.
They were snuggled up by some trees maybe 20 feet from the fence, one was only 10 feet away. We came across a whole herd of deer during our Rim Trail hike, we sat and watched them for quite a while.
Riding the bus is a great way to see some animals, the bus drivers know where these guys hang out, so they will point out the various places and usually you’ll see some deer, prairie dogs, and at least one turkey.
If you are lucky enough to be there in the spring, the Pronghorn Antelope come in to foal, so it is a very exciting time in the park.
Canyon Trail Horse Rides
We did not do this, but we were lucky enough to come across a group one day and it was awesome to watch them go by. You can take either a 2 hour ($65 pp) or a 3 hour ($90 pp) horse ride down to the canyon. We did talk to some people who took the 4-hour ride with their 9 and 11-year-olds.
They said that although some of the trails look a little narrow and steep, the horses are so well trained it was no issue at all. They absolutely loved it and said that it was a great way to see the bottom of the canyon. They did mention that after three hours, their butts were a little sore, but other than that it was an awesome experience. Their kids were pretty much beginner riders too.
I think the next time we go, we will definitely give it a try, but maybe opt for the 2-hour ride. We have gone horse riding several times previously and it’s amazing how sore your butt gets if you’re not used to it. Just sayin’ . You can find out some more information here.
I highly recommend that you include Bryce Canyon on your bucket list, the hoo doo’s are a must see and not to be missed. Have you been with your kids? What was your favorite hike? Let us know in the comments below?
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