A Long Weekend in Bryce Canyon for the Family
May 24, 2016
By: Ann Whittaker
Bring the kids + grandparents because Gma & Gpa make everyone happier
Overview: Rodeo, Hiking, Rock Shops, Ice Cream, Star Gazing, Mountain Biking, Ranger Talks, Western Show, Horseback Riding
DAY ONE: Travel + Rodeo
Salt Lake City → Bryce Canyon National Park: 268 miles | 3 hours 57 minutes
Las Vegas → Bryce Canyon National Park: 259 miles | 3 hours 55 minutes
Departure Time: 9:00 A.M.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 1:00 - 1:30 P.M.
PLACES TO STAY
Ruby’s Inn - Best Western: Their doors were open before the national park--established in 1916, and it’s still in the family. This charming inn is in the center of town where gathering is constant.
Ruby’s Inn RV Park & Campground: Located just 0.5 miles from the park entrance. Stay in a teepee, a tent, a cabin and go swimming when the summer heat gets you down.
Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel: Family-run luxury within walking distance of restaurants, rock shops, the rodeo, and a grocery store to boot.
Bryce View Lodge: Part of the Ruby's Inn resort area. Sits at the edge of a pine forest on a high plateau just down the road from the national park. You’ll definitely appreciate the pools, spas, restaurants and shopping.
Driving is pretty great when your windows are rolled down, and you’re singing along to Johnny Cash like you were the Man in Black himself...but (understatement of the year) it gets a little tricky with kids in tow. You’ll be in the car for 4 hours with a pit stop here and there, so pick your poison: endless games of “I Spy,” audiobooks (preferably narrated by Eric Idle), technology a-la-your-favorite-screen-size, movie marathon that will hopefully put the littles into a stimulation coma.
4 hours later you arrive. And you’re tired. Thank goodness Bryce is a small town, and you’ll probably see your hotel or campground from the road. Check in.
The tiniest of your littles might need a nap. So will Grandma. All the nappers can watch over basecamp while you go check out the town, buy some groceries, check out the rock shop without everyone begging you for all the shiny rocks, and buy some of Grandma’s favorite candy because you’re gonna owe her big time over the next few days when she saves you from family vacation insanity.
DINNER & A RODEO
You’ll have enough picnicking and brown-bag lunches throughout the trip, so you might as well take the chance to go out to eat now--like about 5:30 P.M. now.
7:00 P.M. Wednesday - Saturday, Memorial Day - middle of August
Get ready to watch a classic western competition with cowboys and bronco busters at the Ruby’s Inn Rodeo Grounds. You can even sign up (by 5:00 P.M.) to ride a bull yourself (probably shouldn’t have eaten that entire steak earlier at the grill).
DAY TWO: Bryce Canyon Hiking + Rock Shops + Ice Cream + Star Gazing
Navajo Loop Trail
Peek-A-Boo Trail, The Windows
Navajo Loop Trail
(Older Kids) PEEK-A-BOO LOOP TRAIL: 5.5 miles round trip |
Strenuous Worth It
Start off the trip with the hike that will be the longest because no one’s tired yet (hopefully). This is a great trail that loops around and gives you incredible views of the variety of Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos and rock formations. The perfect introduction to the park.
(Little Kids) NAVAJO LOOP TRAIL: 1.3 miles round trip | Moderate
This is for sure one of the park’s most popular hikes. Popular also means pretty and awesome and everything you wish you could be. Your kids might complain on the switchbacks, but those short steep sections do come to an end, and one day they’ll thank you for it. I thanked my mom and grandpa years later. It really works. Other than the switchbacks, your kids will forget they’re working and feel like they’re playing in a magical desert desert landscape. Because they are.
LUNCH WITH A VIEW
Take a picnic lunch to Bryce Point at the south end of the park.
AFTERNOON ROCK SHOPS + ICE CREAM
Summer afternoons in the desert were made for siestas...or browsing air-conditioned rock shops and walking around town with an ice cream cone. There’s a fantastic rock shop located in the old west shops just east of Ruby’s Inn. You won’t regret going in there. Shiny objects and rare fossils abound, and you won’t leave empty-handed. Just remember to take the rocks out of your pack before you go on your next trail adventure.
And there’s an ice cream shop right next door. It’s the best way to embrace summertime temperatures.
Siesta optional. This time you might want to take a little snooze while Grandma & Grandpa brush up on their Bryce Canyon history and souvenirs at Ruby’s Inn.
BROWN-BAG DINNER + STAR GAZING at PARIA VIEW
Pick up some groceries for dinner at the General Store at Ruby’s, and then head back into the park. If you’re there on a new moon count yourself very lucky indeed--it’s better for star gazing without the light of the moon to interfere.
Pack your food and the entire crew into the car--you’re headed back into the park. You’ll be able to eat dinner at Paria View while you watch the sunset. Watch out for the ravens--they’re huge and giant and huge--don’t feed them. Don’t feed any other animals besides the ones you brought with you in the car that are pretty darn cute, aren’t they?
When the sun goes down, you’ll want a sweater or a jacket--even in the middle of summer. Bryce’s high elevation gives all the people her hottest days and cool nights. Bryce Canyon’s Dark Skies are some of the darkest in the country. Prepare to be amazed. Bring your star chart and your best sense of awe.
Bonus: The national park provides free telescope viewing. Check in with the visitor center to find out more.
DAY THREE: Mountain Biking + Ranger Programs + Western Dinner Show
MORNING: Mountain Bike
Mountain bike rentals are available at Ruby's Inn, and there’s a shuttle that can take you to any of the nearby trailheads. Trails for biking:
Dave’s Hollow Trails
Casto Canyon (Red Canyon)
Pine Lake/Powell Point
Waterfall on the way to Mossy Caves
Bridge to Mossy Caves
LUNCH: Pick a viewpoint you haven't seen yet, and feast on another lovely picnic.
RANGER PROGRAMS - Check in at the visitor center for daily information and to sign up.
GEOLOGY TALK: Daily | Year-round | Sunset Point (Summer) | Visitor Center (Winter)
Duration: 0.5 hours
Ever heard of the Paunsaugunt Plateau? What makes hoodoos ombre-colored? Is Bryce Canyon really a canyon? Well, you’ll know all of this after hanging out with a smarty-pants ranger.
RIM WALK: Daily | Spring, Summer & Fall | Sunset Point
Duration: 1.5 hours | 1 mile round trip
Listen to stories about wildlife, geology and cultural history while taking in gorgeous views.
KIDS PROGRAMS: Almost Daily | Summer | North Campground Picnic Area
Duration: 1 hour
Rangers present on a variety of programs with all kinds of interesting stuff. Check in at the visitor center to find out what’s going on the day you’re in the park.
If you finish well before dinner, here’s some options: go swimming in your hotel/campground pool, get more ice cream, visit the Wildlife Museum, or take another nap.
DINNER & WESTERN SHOW at EBENEZER'S BARN & GRILL
This is totally how you want your last night in Bryce to go: a delicious and satisfying meal, live music that will have the entire family grinning and probably dancing, and just good ol’ fashioned entertainment. It’s better than watching TV because nobody’s cranky and everyone gets along...mostly, but only if you’re really, really good parents.
DAY FOUR: Ride Into the Sunset
HORSEBACK RIDING + GO HOME
You’re not truly western until you experience the area on horseback. Guides will take you through Red Canyon with its hoodoos and ponderosa pine terrain. Kids have to be at least 7 years old for this one. If you give Grandpa a candy bar, he might be willing to stay back with the littles who are too little. They can hang out at the pool, while you try to look as John Wayne as possible on your horse in the desert.
Now, go home.
Annual Events to Consider:
• Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival (1st weekend in June)
• Bryce Canyon Half Marathon (2nd weekend in July)
• Bryce Canyon Geology Festival (3rd week in July)
• Bryce Canyon Fly-In & Car Show (last weekend in August)
Ice Skating Rink | Ruby's Inn
Cross Country Skiing | Fairyland Point
Queens Garden Trail
The locals all agree: winter is Bryce Canyon’s best season. You can cross-country ski, ice skate, snowshoe with a ranger, hike through hoodoos frosted with snow and pay a heck-of-a-lot less for the whole trip. Here’s a winter itinerary to tempt you.