The Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive: A Complete Guide

One of the top things to do on any visit to Bryce Canyon National Park is the Bryce Canyon drive, which runs the length of the canyon.

But what can you do along the way, what’s the best way to get there, when is it open, and what can see from each of the viewpoints?  That’s what this guide is here to answer.

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All You Need to Know About the Bryce Canyon National Park Scenic Drive
Complete Guide to the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive

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Guide to the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive

The Bryce scenic drive goes for 18 miles from the park entrance along the rim of the canyon to Rainbow Point, where it dead ends. The first three miles are around the Bryce Amphitheater. The remaining 15 miles are called the Southern Scenic Drive.  

If you are planning to visit Bryce Canyon National Park by yourself, make your planning easy and stress free with a detailed itinerary. I have 1-, and 2-day itineraries for Bryce Canyon that include all the park highlights, give you choices based on your preferred activity level, and take all the stress out of planning your trip. 

Check out the two Bryce Canyon itinerary options

Bryce Canyon Driving Tour Options 

This guide is designed to give you all the information you need.  However, there are a couple of options if you prefer to take a tour. 

Rainbow Point Tour: Bryce Canyon Shuttle 

Free 3-hour shuttle bus tours are offered twice a day, at 9:00AM and 1:30PM.  The tour stops at Yovimpa Point and Rainbow Point, Agua Canyon, Natural Bridge and Farview Point along the scenic drive, as well as Fairyland Point, which is another viewpoint not on the scenic drive. 

You can make reservations up to 7 days in advance in person at the shuttle office at Ruby’s Inn, Ruby ’s Inn Campground, the Shuttle Parking and Boarding Area or by calling 435-834-5290. The shuttle tour only runs in shuttle season. Check the NPS website for dates and to confirm the tour is running.  

You can board at Ruby’s Inn, Ruby’s Campground, Shuttle Parking and Boarding area, Bryce Canyon Lodge, North Campground and Sunset Campground. 

Bryce Canyon Drive Tour (Self-Guided) 

The other option if you wanted a ‘tour’ is to drive yourself but download an audio tour. All the information you need is included in this guide, but the audio tours include a lot of extra information about Bryce Canyon’s history and geology.  


Bryce Canyon: Driving Yourself 

The rest of this guide will focus on driving in Bryce Canyon National Park by yourself. 

There are nine viewpoints along the southern Bryce Canyon scenic drive route and an additional three on a spur road along the southern edge of the Bryce Amphitheater.   

For all of the best views in the national park, also read my guide to the Best Viewpoints in Bryce Canyon.

The National Park Service (NPS) advise everyone to drive out to Rainbow and Yovimpa Points first and then stop at the viewpoints on the way back. That way you’re on the right side of the road, and you can safely pull in and out without needing to cross the road or traffic.   

The drive straight through from the park entrance to Rainbow Point takes about half an hour. 

There are no vehicle restrictions on the Bryce Canyon National Park scenic drive.  The road is open all year, but the 15-mile Southern Scenic Drive section may be temporarily closed in winter due to wintery conditions. Check the NPS Current Conditions webpage before setting out. 

The Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive Viewpoints

1. Bryce Canyon: Rainbow Point 

Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon

At the end of the 18 mile scenic drive, Bryce Canyon has two viewpoints and a short hike. Restrooms are available here.  

At more than 9,100 feet in elevation (1,100 feet higher than Bryce Amphitheater), Rainbow Point is the highest point in the park. Looking north, you can clearly see the pink cliffs that the hoodoos form from. These Pink Cliffs are one of the steps in the Grand Staircase

Bristlecone Loop  

You’ll see a trailhead for the main Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon hike nearby. The Bristlecone Loop Trail is an easy, mostly flat 0.8-mile loop through spruce, fir forest and pine forests. You’ll pass by Bristlecone Pines up to 1,800-years-old.  The forest is home to plenty of birds including cheeky ravens and Steller’s Jays, as well as squirrels and chipmunks. 

>> READ MORE: Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon 

2. Yovimpa Point  

Yovimpa Point Bryce Canyon

The other lookout in the area faces south. It’s a short walk from Rainbow Point. 

This is a great place to get a perspective of the Grand Staircase. The different steps in the Grand Staircase are named for the dominant color of rock.  

The top step is the Pink Cliffs you’re standing on. Directly below you are the Grey Cliffs. The White Cliffs are below that – you can see Molly’s Nipple in the distance.

If you look even further, near the horizon, you can see some red rock beneath the White Cliffs. These are the Vermilion Cliffs. Below them (out of sight) are the Chocolate Cliffs.

The tree-covered hills on the horizon are Kaibab Plateau – also known as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  

3. Black Birch Canyon

Black Birch Canyon Bryce Canyon

The first stop on the Bryce National Park scenic drive has great views of orange, pink and white hoodoos and cliffs.  

4. Ponderosa Canyon 

Ponderosa Canyon Bryce Canyon

Ponderosa Canyon is named after the huge Ponderosa Pines on the Canyon floor. Some of them are more than 5 feet in diameter and more than 150 feet tall!

From here you can see canyons through the Grey Cliffs and White Cliffs. You may notice that the Grey Canyons are wider and less deep. This is because the White Cliffs experience more flash floods.  

5. Agua Canyon

Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon

There are two prominent hoodoos here. The taller one on the left is called “The Hunter” and the smaller one on the right is called “The Rabbit” or “The Backpacker”. You may struggle to see why – many of the hoodoos were given names before they eroded into unrecognizability. In the distance, you can see Navajo Mountain.  

You may see a California Condor. These enormous birds disappeared from the area many years ago, but have recently been reintroduced.  

6. Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

Natural Bridge Bryce Canyon

The highlight here is the eponymous red-colored natural arch. The Bryce Canyon natural bridge is a good example of how hoodoos start. The softer stone in the middle has eroded, forming the arch. 

Eventually the top of the arch will collapse and the two sides will become hoodoos.  

7. Farview Point

Farview Point Bryce Canyon

There are more great views of the Grand Staircase from here. From north to south, you can see the Aquarius Plateau (Pink Cliffs), the Kaiparowits Plateau (Grey Cliffs), Molly’s Nipple (White Cliffs), and even glimpses of the Kaibab Plateau/ North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  You can see up to 160 miles on a clear day! 

Keep an eye for osprey. A pair of them nest at Tropic Reservoir and can often be seen flying here.  

There are pit toilets available here.  

8. Piracy Point  

Piracy Point Bryce Canyon

A very short (0.15 -mile), flat but unpaved trail leads from the Farview parking lot to Piracy Point. From this point, you can start to see the Rainbow Point amphitheater.  

9. Swamp Canyon

Swamp Canyon Bryce Canyon

This is a relatively small canyon bound on both sides by fins and hoodoos. The Canyon gets its name because of the ‘wetland’ created by two tiny streams and a spring. There is water year-round, so grasses, irises, and willows grow there. 

That’s the end of the southern rim road scenic drive. Bryce Canyon Amphitheater is next up. 

Take a short spur road to the right along the southern edge of Bryce Amphitheater to the following additional viewpoints:  

10. Paria View

Paria View Bryce Canyon

Most of the viewpoints around Bryce Amphitheater face east, but Paria Point faces west.  While this means that it doesn’t have views of the main amphitheater, it does make it an especially great place to see the sunset. 

There’s a very prominent castle-like hoodoo that is especially photogenic in the Golden Hour before sunset.  

Keep an eye for Peregrine Falcons here.  In late afternoon, you may also see mule deer, elk and even pronghorn antelopes in the nearby meadows. 

11. Bryce Point

Bryce Point Bryce Canyon

This has one of the best views of Bryce Amphitheater, which has the largest collection of hoodoos in the park (in the world, in fact!).   

It is also on the shuttle route, so doesn’t need to be included on your scenic drive if you’d prefer to visit another time of the day.    

Looking north, you can see the full length of the amphitheater. You can see the Wall of Windows near Inspiration Point and the flat top of Boat Mesa in the distance. Look east and on a clear day you can see the town of Tropic in the Paria Valley nearly 3,000 feet below. 

12. Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point Bryce Canyon

The views of Bryce Amphitheater from here are also stunning. There are three viewpoints over three levels. The views at the top level are the best. 

Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive Map 

Bryce Canyon Drive Map

If you are planning to visit Bryce Canyon National Park by yourself, make your planning easy and stress free with a detailed itinerary. I have 1-, and 2-day itineraries for Bryce Canyon that include all the park highlights, give you choices based on your preferred activity level, and take all the stress out of planning your trip. 

Check out the two Bryce Canyon itinerary options

Driving through Bryce Canyon National Park FAQs 

Can you drive through Bryce Canyon National Park?

You actually can’t drive in the canyon, but you can drive along the entire rim until Rainbow Point. 

How long does it take to drive through Bryce Canyon? 

From the park entrance to Rainbow Point takes half an hour with a clear run. However, you should allow about three hours for the scenic drive, to give yourself time to stop at all the overlooks and enjoy the views.

Can you drive an RV through Bryce Canyon National Park? 

Yes. The entire scenic drive road is open to RVs. However, there are some parking restrictions for longer vehicles.  
Vehicles longer than 20 feet cannot park at the Visitor Center 1-hour Parking Lot, Sunrise Point, Bryce Lodge, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, or Bryce Point during shuttle hours. They are also prohibited from parking at Paria View at all times because the parking lot is too small.  

Subscribe to regular updates with tips for planning, travel inspiration and trip ideas and get instant access to the free PDF of this
Guide to the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive

Enjoy the Bryce Canyon scenic drive! 

What are your favorite Bryce Canyon scenic drive viewpoints?  Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).   

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Complete Guide to the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive
All You Need to Know About the Bryce Canyon National Park Scenic Drive

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About the author

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.

He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and most of the national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks. 

Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.

As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including USA Today, Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.

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