Sunrise and Sunset: Winter at Bryce Canyon

One of the most magical national parks to visit in winter is Bryce Canyon. It feels like you are on Mars with its bright orange colors, towering hoodoos, and contrasting snow. The rock formations seem to light on fire, both at sunrise and sunset. Best of all, there aren’t that many people there this time of year, so we could have many of these places all to ourselves. Below, you’ll find some of the best spots for sunrise and sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sunset Point

It may be named sunset point, but this is one of the best places to see sunrise for two main reasons. For starters, most people will flock to Sunrise Point thinking that the name matches the best viewpoint. Second, the view is just stunning! Here you can avoid the crowds, get an amazing view, and check out this wonderful tree hanging on by its roots. Since Bryce Canyon faces mostly east, this is a wonderful place to camp out and watch the colors pop. There is also an easy hike down into Queens Garden near this spot.

Sunrise Point

Head over to Sunrise Point for a marvelous view of sunset. There is a splendid view of the Amphitheater, Thor’s Hammer, and even Bryce Point in the distance as the sun hits just the tips of the hoodoos. For a different perspective, you can easily switch between the two points on the same day as they are only 1/2 mile apart.

Sunrise Point is also a good launching point for an early morning hike to both Inspiration Point and Bryce Point. We did this, and it was a fantastic hike. You will walk right along the rim through the trees with an excellent view from above. It is all uphill to Bryce Point, but you can enjoy the downhill on the way back.

Fairyland Loop Sunset

We hiked a portion of the Fairyland Loop, and it blew our socks off. If we had time, we would have hiked the whole 8 mile loop, but we only made it to Tower Bridge because we were tired from earlier hikes. The rock formations were insane and there was pure gold around every corner. Even hiking a portion of this trail was well worth it, and we had a pleasant resting spot near the Tower Bridge.

Others in our group continued on to complete the whole trail, only to find they hiked it backwards. Apparently, it is easier to go clockwise, and they went with us counterclockwise. If you don’t go clockwise, you are in for a very steep climb up to the highest point of the trail instead of going down from the highest point and getting back more gradually.

The trick is to hike north along the rim trail from around the North Campground lot. Once you get to the Fairyland Loop trail, you will discover a place that is completely unbelievable. This hike is a major highlight of the park if you are comfortable with a more strenuous hike.

Scenic Drive

We drove the 18 mile road through the park to see Natural Bridge, Agua Canyon, Ponderosa Canyon, and Rainbow Point. It was a pleasant break from all the hiking, as most of these are viewpoints are visible from the road. There are some hikes near some of these points, but we were just happy having an afternoon to make various stops and relax a little.

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One of our favorite stops is Natural Bridge, which is especially beautiful with snow. Located right next to the parking lot, it is easy to access. The other points have some similarities, but were still worth checking out. This is a more relaxing way to see a lot of the park quickly if you need a break from the hiking.

For our Next Visit

We would love to do the full Peekaboo trail on our next trip. We did the start of it and saw one window, but there is so much more to see. This trail covers the area below Sunrise Point through Bryce Point in the park. Most of the magic is just down from the rim.

Next time, we will also do the full Fairyland Loop trail. Bryce Canyon is full of what I call “rock candy,” as it is pure bliss around every corner, especially in winter. This is definitely a highlight of the park and it is far less crowded than the rim trail.

Useful Tips

  • Since you are at high altitude in a dry climate, carry extra water for any hiking here.
  • For any strenuous hikes, get back before sunset. Keep some snacks on you to hold you over until you get back.
  • Bring layers of clothing. On hikes, you may not need much on a sunny day in winter, but if you stop off the trail for a break, you may get cold. Most of Bryce Canyon is at nearly 9,000 feet of elevation.
  • Wear appropriate rugged shoes and not flip-flops. If there is ice, make sure you have ice cleats. We didn’t need them, but brought them just in case. There were some slippery spots so use your best judgement.
  • Go for a drive down to the end of the park, especially if you are done hiking for the day. There are many viewpoints and access to other hikes which are truly unique.
  • Stay nearby so you can be there for sunrise and see more of the park.

NPS Map of Bryce Canyon

Hiking in Bryce Canyon

What is your favorite sunset spot? Let us know in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “Sunrise and Sunset: Winter at Bryce Canyon

  1. Truly one of my favorite places in the world. We visited in the summer and had a magnificent few moments after a huge lightening storm which happily drove away the rest of the tourists :-). Can’t image how lovely it must be in the snow – beautiful captures all.

    1. A lightning storm would be pretty crazy. We had near perfect weather for our time there and lucked out because there was a snowstorm shortly after we left. Thanks for stopping by!

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