Bryce Canyon National Park is a geological wonderland located in southwestern Utah. The park is known for its breathtaking views of hoodoos, which are unique rock formations that resemble tall spires or pinnacles.
While hiking is a popular way to explore Bryce Canyon, the park also offers several scenic drives that allow visitors to experience the beauty of the area from the comfort of their own vehicle.
In this guide, we’ll explore the best scenic drives at Bryce Canyon and provide you with tips for an unforgettable trip.
Best Bryce Canyon Scenic Drives: Main Route
The Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive is a must-do for any visitor to the park. The 18-mile route winds through the heart of Bryce Canyon, offering stunning views of the hoodoos and other rock formations.
The drive begins at the park entrance and follows the rim of the canyon, with several overlooks and viewpoints along the way. Some of the highlights of the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive include:
- Sunrise Point: This overlook offers a spectacular view of the canyon at sunrise. The hoodoos are bathed in a warm, golden light, and the colors of the rocks change as the sun rises higher in the sky.
- Bryce Point: This overlook is one of the most popular in the park. It offers a panoramic view of the canyon and is a great spot for taking photos.
- Natural Bridge: This natural arch is located along the drive and is a popular spot for hikers. However, you can also see the bridge from the road.
- Rainbow Point: This is the end of the scenic drive and offers a stunning view of the canyon from 9,100 feet above sea level. On a clear day, you can see for over 100 miles.
The Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive is open year-round, but it can get crowded during peak season (May-September). We recommend driving the route early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. The drive takes approximately 2-3 hours, depending on how often you stop to take photos and enjoy the views.
Cottonwood Canyon Road
Some of the highlights of the Cottonwood Canyon Road include the Grosvenor Arch, a massive natural sandstone arch that spans 150 feet, and the Cottonwood Narrows, a narrow and winding canyon that offers a unique driving experience.
The road is generally passable by most vehicles, but it can be bumpy and dusty at times, so be sure to bring a sturdy car and plenty of water and snacks.
Hell’s Backbone Road
Another scenic drive that is not to be missed in the area is the Hell’s Backbone Road, which connects the towns of Boulder and Escalante. This 38-mile-long dirt road offers breathtaking views of the surrounding canyons, forests, and plateaus. The road winds along the narrow and steep Hell’s Backbone Ridge, which rises more than 1,500 feet above the deep canyons below.
One of the highlights of the Hell’s Backbone Road is the Hell’s Backbone Bridge, a historic and scenic bridge that spans a deep canyon and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The road is generally passable by most vehicles, but it can be narrow and winding at times, so be sure to drive slowly and carefully.
Burr Trail Scenic Drive
The Burr Trail Scenic Drive is another must-do scenic drive in the area, offering spectacular views of the Waterpocket Fold, a unique geologic feature in the region. The 68-mile-long paved and dirt road winds through some of the most scenic and remote areas of southern Utah, offering views of towering sandstone cliffs, colorful rock formations, and pristine wilderness.
Some of the highlights of the Burr Trail Scenic Drive include the Burr Trail Switchbacks, a series of hairpin turns that offer stunning views of the surrounding canyons and cliffs, and the Strike Valley Overlook, which offers panoramic views of the Waterpocket Fold and beyond. The road can be narrow and steep in some areas, so be sure to drive with caution and take your time to enjoy the scenery.
As you can see, Southern Utah offers some of the most scenic and adventurous drives in the country. Here are a few summarized tips for a great scenic drive plan through Bryce Canyon:
Tips for a Memorable Scenic Drive at Bryce Canyon
- Choose the Right Time of Day
- Bring Plenty of Water and Snacks
- Stop at the Scenic Viewpoints
- Drive Slowly and Safely
- Take Advantage of the Ranger Programs
- Check Weather Conditions Before You Go
From the iconic Scenic Byway 12 to the lesser-known Cottonwood Canyon Road, Hell’s Backbone Road, and Burr Trail Scenic Drive, there’s no shortage of breathtaking vistas, unique geological formations, and awe-inspiring landscapes to explore. So pack your car, bring plenty of water and snacks, and hit the road for an unforgettable scenic drive adventure in Southern Utah.
Can I drive the Cottonwood Canyon Road with a regular car?
While the Cottonwood Canyon Road is generally passable by most vehicles, it can be bumpy and dusty at times, so it’s best to bring a sturdy car with high clearance.
How long does it take to drive the Hell’s Backbone Road?
The Hell’s Backbone Road is approximately 38 miles long and takes about 2-3 hours to drive without stopping, due to its narrow and winding nature.
Are there any camping options along the Burr Trail Scenic Drive?
Yes, there are several campgrounds and primitive camping sites along the Burr Trail Scenic Drive, including the Deer Creek Campground and the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch.