Exploring Bryce Canyon
Allow a full day to see the visitor center exhibits, enjoy the viewpoints along the scenic drive, and take a few short walks. Photographers usually obtain best results early and late in the day, when shadows set off the brightly colored rocks. Memorable sunsets and sunrises reward visitors who stay overnight. Moonlit nights reveal yet another spectacle.
Bryce Canyon Visitor Center
At the visitor center (435/834-5322, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. May-Sept., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Apr. and Oct., 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Nov.-Mar.), geologic exhibits illustrate how the land was formed and how it has changed. Historic displays interpret the Paiutes, early explorers, and the first settlers. Trees, flowers, and wildlife are identified. Rangers present a variety of naturalist programs, including short hikes, mid-May-early September; see the posted schedule. The staff sells travel and natural history books, maps of the park and adjacent Dixie National Forest, posters, postcards, slides, and film. From the turnoff on Highway 12, follow signs past Ruby's Inn to the park entrance; the visitor center is a short distance farther on the right.
Bryce Canyon Tours
The most basic tour of the park, which comes with the price of admission, is a ride on the park shuttle bus. Of course, the beauty of the shuttle is that you can get off at any stop, hike for a while, then catch another bus.
Beyond a shuttle ride, Ruby's Inn, a hotel, restaurant, and recreation complex at the park entrance, is a good place to take measure of the opportunities for organized recreation and sightseeing excursions around Bryce Canyon. The lobby is filled with outfitters who are anxious to take you out on the trail; you'll find representatives of each of the following companies, along with other vendors who organize hayrides, barn dances, and chuck wagon dinners.
Ruby's Horseback Rides (435/834-5341 or 866/782-0002, www.horserides.net, Apr.-Oct.) has horseback riding near Bryce Canyon. There's a choice of half ($65) and whole ($100 including lunch) day trips, as well as a 1.5-hour trip ($45).
Short rides (as well as half- and full-day trips) are offered by Scenic Rim Trail Rides (435/679-8761 or 800/679-5859, www.brycecanyonhorseback.com), which also operates out of Ruby's. An hour-long ride is $30.
Horseback rides are also offered by a concessionaire inside the park, Canyon Trail Rides (Bryce Canyon Lodge, 435/679-8665, www.canyonrides.com); a 2-hour ride ($40) goes to the canyon floor. During the summer, Ruby's also sponsors a rodeo every Wednesday through Saturday at 7 p.m. across from the inn ($9 adults, $6 children 3-12).
You can also explore the area around Bryce Canyon on a noisier steed. Guided all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tours of Red Canyon are offered by Great Western ATV (866/866-6616, $35 for a one-hour trip).
If you'd like to get a look at Bryce and the surrounding area from the air, you can choose to take a scenic flightseeing tour from Bryce Canyon Airlines (Ruby's Inn, 435/834-8060), which offers both plane and helicopter tours. There's quite a range of options, but a 35-minute airplane tour costs $139 per person (two-fare minimum) and provides a good look at the surroundings.
Bryce Canyon Shuttle Bus
During the peak summer season (early May-early Oct., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.), tour buses depart from the front of Ruby's Inn (just outside the park entrance) every 12-15 minutes and stop at all the major viewpoints along the main amphitheater, as well as at the campgrounds, the visitor center, and Bryce Canyon Lodge. Passengers can take as long as they like at any viewpoint and catch a later bus—a straight-through ride takes about an hour. The shuttle bus service also makes it easier for hikers, who don't need to worry about car shuttles between trailheads.
Use of the shuttle bus system is included in the cost of admission to the park, but it is not mandatory; you can still bring in your own vehicle. However, park officials note that there is generally one parking space for every four cars entering the park.
Bryce Canyon Services
The general store at Ruby's has a large stock of groceries, camping and fishing supplies, film and processing, Native American crafts, books, and other souvenirs. The Bryce post office is at the store, too. Horseback rides, helicopter tours, and airplane rides are arranged in the lobby. In winter, cross-country skiers can rent gear and use trails located near the inn as well as in the park. Snowmobile trails are available (snowmobiles may not be used within the park). Western-fronted shops across from Ruby's Inn offer trail rides, chuck wagon dinners, mountain bike rentals, souvenirs, and a petting farm. Rodeos take place in the nearby arena nightly Monday-Saturday in-season.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition