The second half of my Utah adventures with my friend Julie (read about our stop at the Coral Pink Desert and Zion National Park) were to visit Bryce Canyon National Park and other sights in this area of the state.
On the drive from Zion, we passed through the Red Canyon & Dixie National Forest. It’s definitely a worthwhile place for a stop to go on a brief walk or hike for a day, or enjoy on the drive through.
Accommodation: Bryce Canyon Log Cabins
Charming, affordable, and close to the park entrance – this is a great mid-range budget stay near Bryce Canyon. Comfortable beds, very clean rooms, good Wi-Fi, and it was right in the center of Tropic, Utah. We could easily walk to all the bars and restaurants in the town. The total cost was $250 for 2 nights, so $125/person. Not a bad deal!
Bryce Canyon National Park
Before coming to Utah, I didn’t know anything about Bryce Canyon National Park. It wasn’t on my radar as a place to check off the list, but since it was in close proximity to Zion and would fit with our itinerary, we penciled it in. I am SO GLAD we did because I loved every minute of exploring here.
Bryce Canyon Drive Stops & Short Walks
Unlike many National Parks, Bryce Canyon has one entrance/exit point, and you can drive the whole length of the park and then turn around to head back out. There are many stops on this 18-mile drive, so enjoy pulling over for photo stops along the way. It doesn’t take that long, so I’d totally recommend starting your visit in Bryce Canyon by doing the drive, then picking out which hikes you want to do.
Sunrise to Sunset Point
You can park in the lots at either of these points and enjoy a walk between the two. It’s about one mile and you can marvel at the amazing hoodoos in the canyon. It’s a great way to get acquainted with Bryce when you first arrive. There are bathrooms and places to fill water in all the parking lots which was great.
Queens Garden & Navajo Loop Trail
This is a must-do hike in Bryce Canyon. To start, you’ll descend into the valley, surrounded by hoodoos and super cool rock formations, leaving from Sunrise Point. This is the Queen’s Garden and it offers some gorgeous views. You can either do it as an in-and-back-out trek, or continue on and do the Navajo Loop, which will take you back up at Sunset Point, and from here, walk back to your car at Sunrise Point (a 1-mile walk). It’s a bit strenuous on the way up, but totally worth it for the canyon views and there is a decent portion of the walk in the shade so you won’t get scorched on a sunny day.
More Hiking – Lower Calf Creek Waterfall
This was a great gem we discovered thanks to social media and a little research! After a day of exploring Bryce Canyon, we wanted another hike that wasn’t too grueling. Lower Calf Creek Falls is in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area of Utah, a huge expanse of different rock formations and points of interest. The trailhead is at the Calf Creek Campground, and its a mostly flat walk to the falls, 3 miles each way. We went later in the day and completed the roundtrip hike just before sunset, and had a few moments totally to ourselves at the waterfall. The water is absolutely freezing but it felt good to wade in after a long, sweaty walk!
Desert ATV Tour with Kanab Tour Company
This was one of the highlights of the trip! If you want to do an ATV tour on your visit to Utah, my recommendation would be to book in advance. We almost missed out since we waited until the day before, and had to re-arrange a few things on our itinerary. It was 100% worth it and was a reminder to keep things “loose” so you can always fit in the top activities you want to do while traveling.
Kanab Tour Company provided a top-notch experience from start to finish. Our guide was awesome and the vehicles were well maintained. It was so much fun, racing over the dunes and seeing some gorgeous terrain in Grand Staircase-Escalante region.
Peekaboo Slot Canyon
On our ATV tour, the primary landmark we stopped at was the Peekaboo Slot Canyon. While originally we had really wanted to see Antelope Canyon, due the pandemic it was closed. Peekaboo was so awesome though, and likely had far fewer crowds so I’d definitely recommend it!
While you can reach Peekaboo without a tour company, it’s a very long hike/walk over sand dunes just to reach the canyon. If you decide to tour it this way – make sure you bring plenty of water. I believe our guide said it was several miles and there’s almost no shade along the way. With our ATVs, we were able to reach it within a short (and exciting!) drive over sand dunes.
Restaurants & Bars near Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon Coffee Company
Right across the street from our log cabin, this place was perfect for breakfast. My sausage, cheese, and egg biscuit sandwich was so delicious, and they have a good selection of different items. They open early too which is a plus if you’re looking to get a jumpstart on your day!
This spot is the place to go for live music and fun in the evening! We started here for a drink and appetizer before going to IDK BBQ for dinner, then came back to enjoy dessert and more drinks around a bonfire. It was a great atmosphere. The Utah wine was NOT the best that I’ve ever had, but I’m glad I tried it to support local. I’d stick with their local beers instead. Our quesadilla appetizer was yummy, as was our dessert of a chocolate chip cookie “pie” served with vanilla ice cream.
If you’re in Tropic, Utah, you HAVE to eat at IDK BBQ. The line was insane but it’s easy to understand why. The barbecue and sides were absolutely delicious. They had the option to have your barbecue meat on a bed of greens instead of a bun, and considering we hadn’t had many vegetables in several days, we opted for this and it was great. Barbecue salads are my new thing and I’m all about it. And who can say no to a side of Mac and Cheese?
Utah was such an overwhelming adventure, and is a place I definitely want to return to to explore more National Parks. So many people who I talked to before my trip mentioned other places like Moab, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef, all looking stunning in their own right. I’m glad we spent more time enjoying two of the main parks rather than trying to rush through a bunch of them, and now I have many reasons to return to Utah on a future trip.
Have you been to national parks in Utah? Which ones were your favorite?