A Foggy, Soggy Day at Bryce Canyon National Park

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I knew that the weather was probably going to be crappy.

In fact, the forecast had looked so poor for southwestern Utah that Elliot and I decided at the last minute to swap our time at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in hopes of getting a semi-clear morning to hike at Zion.

Which meant that we were definitely in for some rain at Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park

But I suppose that's to be expected when you're traveling in April – which, after all, is known for its showers.

RELATED: The Mighty 5: Utah's Stunning National Parks

A scenic evening

We arrived to our hotel near the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park after driving straight from Las Vegas. It was still a couple of hours until dinner time, and since the park is open 24 hours a day, I insisted on going to see at least one of the viewpoints before it got dark. It was drizzling lightly, but the clouds were high enough that I figured we would still be able to see some of the area's famous rock formations.

After stopping off quickly at the visitor's center, we drove to Sunset Point, one of the most popular viewpoints at Bryce Canyon. The rain backed off as we arrived, and our first glimpse into the canyon was simply breathtaking.

Sunset Point at Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon isn't really a “canyon” at all – instead, it's a series of natural amphitheaters that have been carved out of the Paunsaugunt Plateau by Mother Nature. The amphitheaters are filled with orange and white hoodoos, or weathered spires of rock. It basically looks like you've left Earth and landed on Mars.

Sunset Point at Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunrise Point at Bryce Canyon National Park

Other than the incredible rock formations, the thing that struck us the most was the fact that it was COLD at Bryce. This was partially because of the time of year we were visiting (early April), and partially because the park sits 8,000-9,000 feet above sea level.

In order to warm up, we set off on the short canyon-rim trail that connects Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, stopping every few feet to take more photos.

Sunset Point at Bryce Canyon National Park

After an hour spent between the two viewpoints, we decided to head back out of the park and grab some dinner before the dark rain clouds hanging over the canyon decided to break. We'd be back the next morning, and crossed our fingers for dry weather.

A foggy hike

We returned to Sunset Point early the next morning outfitted in waterproof gear and prepared to hike down into the hoodoos. I'd seen amazing photos from the Navajo Loop hike, and was excited to get up close to some of the famous rock formations like Thor's Hammer for myself.

But when we arrived in the parking lot, the entire amphitheater was just bathed in fog. Luckily, we found humor in the situation and decided to hike anyway since this was our only chance to do it.

Thor's Hammer at Bryce Canyon National Park
Thor's Hammer in the fog

We headed down the Navajo Trail from Sunset Point, and were quickly extremely glad for our hiking boots since the trail was basically one giant mud puddle.

Queens' Garden trail in Bryce Canyon National Park
SO MUCH MUD

Ideally, you would take the Navajo Trail in a loop back up to the Sunset Point viewpoint via a section of canyon know as Wall Street. But that section of trail was still closed from the winter, so we decided to link up with the Queens Garden Trail instead, ending our hike at Sunrise Point.

The hike was actually kind of cool in the fog, especially when we got below the fog layer deeper down in the canyon.

Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park

Navajo Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park
Me decked out in waterproof clothing

And the fog lifted and re-set a few times along the Queens Garden Trail, making for some interesting photos.

Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park in the fog

Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park in the fog
(And look how tiny the people are!)

It started raining again towards the end of our hike (which ended up being just over 3 miles and took us nearly 3 hours with photos stops/going slow because of the mud), so we decided to head back to the car to regroup before deciding what to do next.

A clearer view

Once we had hosed off our muddy boots (thanks, Bryce, for providing a hose and brush in the parking lot!), we noticed that the sky to the south was actually clearing up and the sun was trying to poke through.

So instead of heading to lunch, we headed for the viewpoints further in the park.

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point

Unlike some of the other national parks in Utah where you have to hike to get to the best views, you can drive to all of them in Bryce Canyon. There are a series of pull-offs and viewpoints lining the edge of the main amphitheater along the 18-mile scenic drive.

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point

Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce viewpoints are the most popular in the park, but we also loved Natural Bridge and Rainbow Point – especially because there was still some lingering snow at those high elevations.

Natural Bridge at Bryce Canyon National Park
Natural Bridge
Rainbow Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Rainbow Point

We spent the next hour chasing the sunshine and visiting as many viewpoints as possible.

All I have to say? Whoever named Inspiration Point certainly chose the right description.

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point up close

Even though I was slightly bummed that all those hoodoos we weren't able to see in the morning thanks to the fog were now out in the sun, I think our foggy, soggy hike followed by some clear hoodoo viewing actually made for a perfect day at Bryce.

So in case you find yourself at Bryce Canyon National Park in the rain and fog, don't let that stop you from exploring – the park is pretty incredible no matter what the weather is like!

IF YOU GO

Getting there – Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah off of UT-63. You'll drive through Red Canyon on UT-12 on the way, which is also worth a stop if you have time.

Getting around the park – From mid-April to November, Bryce offers a free shuttle service to all the major viewpoints in the park. You aren't required to use the shuttle here like you are at some other parks (like Zion and the Grand Canyon), meaning you can still choose to drive your own car if you want. But, if you're visiting during high season (when the shuttle is running), just be aware that the parking areas at most of the viewpoints are very small and fill up quickly.

Amanda and Elliot at Bryce Canyon
Elliot and I at Inspiration Point

What to bring – I would recommend bringing some snacks, good hiking boots, and warm/waterproof layers. Since Bryce is at such a high elevation, it can often be chilly – even during the summer months. If you'll be doing any hiking, I would bring a water bottle or hydration pack, too, and make use of the water fountains you'll find throughout the park.

Where to stay – There are not too many hotels right near the entrance to Bryce Canyon. But if that's where you want to stay, your best bets are Ruby's Inn and the Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. Both are just minutes from the entrance to the park. If you're visiting in the off-season like we did, be aware that the restaurant at Ruby's Inn may be your only dining option.

For more info – Check out the Bryce Canyon Country website for more info.

Have you ever been to Bryce Canyon?

 

Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in the fog and rain

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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28 Comments on “A Foggy, Soggy Day at Bryce Canyon National Park

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  1. Beautiful photos! I’m loving all your tips. I’m heading to the Mighty 5 with my family in August and have been trying to slowly to put together an itinerary. Glad to know about Bryce getting cool – I would have assumed it was still hot even in August!

      In August, Bryce will definitely be warmer – but it will still be cooler at night, I would imagine. (And it was downright cold when we were there in April!) You’ll have an awesome trip, though – the Mighty 5 are amazing!

    Foggy hiking expeditions are always 1000 times cooler, (especially in pictures) 🙂

      It WAS pretty cool. And then we still got to see all the major viewpoints sans fog, giving us the best of both worlds, I think!

    I have never even heard of Bryce Canyon up until now! It looks absolutely stunning!

      Glad I could introduce it to you, then! It’s one of the 5 amazing national parks in Utah.

    Oh, we struggled a lot with bad weather in national parks this summer in Europe… And yeah, fog can give such a mysterious feeling to everything, but after a foggy hike in the sometimes drizzling, sometimes pouring rain we are usually just happy to have a hot shower in the end, haha. But fog definitely could be a good opportunity for cool pictures, we especially love your shot about Thor’s Hammer in the fog!

      We luckily had pretty good weather for the rest of our trip, and the foggy hike WAS pretty cool. But the fact that we got to see a lot of the amphitheaters without fog helped, too. If we had been fogged out both days, I think I would have been much more disappointed!

    First of all I want to appreciate your stunning photography. These are incredible shots, which clearly tell that how wonderful the place is. We have seen so much beautiful lush landscapes but this place is really awesome. Secondly, hiking in fog is an amazing experience. Keep travelling and share your adventures with us.

      Thanks so much for the kind words!

    Like so many National Parks in the US, Bryce Canyon looks beautiful. I’m always sad when it’s a rainy day, because my pictures turn out quite crappy; yours are still beautiful! It’s unfortunate it was raining, but the views you experienced are still spectacular!

      I had plenty of crappy photos in the fog, too… haha. We lucked out in that we had some time when it wasn’t raining to see most of the viewpoints. The benefit of quickly-changing weather!

    I camped at Bryce at the beginning of April this year – one of the coldest nights of my life! We didn’t have great weather but at least it didn’t rain on us and we enjoyed it nonetheless

      We were there just after you, then! I imagine that would have indeed been very cold – glad you still enjoyed it, though!

    Even covered in fog, Bryce Canyon is gorgeous! I actually loved the photos where you are looking up and see the fog up above. So cool!

      It was definitely cool to see it in a way that you don’t always see in photos. And we didn’t get rained on tooooo much, so I really can’t complain!

    The one good thing about bad weather is that it tends to thin out the crowds a bit! I think Bryce is a good side trip from Springdale which was a cute little town with a lot more lodging/dining options. I’m looking forward to visiting in the winter – the photos I’ve seen of white snow, red hoodoos and blue sky are pretty tempting!

      I would love to see Bryce covered in snow, too, but for now I’ll just have to be satisfied with the little bit we saw in April. 🙂

      And yes, Springdale is great! We stayed there for two nights to visit Zion.

    I just love the coloring of the rocks, especially at Inspiration Point. The way they change from orange to white to red is beautiful! Definitely going on my bucket list!

      It’s pretty incredible to think that it was all formed naturally!

    How cool that you got to go hiking there in the fog! I used to live in the southwest and fog was not a normal occurrence. I’m just glad it didn’t rain on you guys, I’m assuming that would be a scary place to be with flash floods. Beautiful pictures!

      It rained lightly on and off, but nothing heavy or scary, thank goodness!

    I loved the photos with snow. So awesome. Glad the days turned out ok and you got some excellent photos. The fog ones are my favorites.

      Thanks, Heather! I had no idea how those fog photos would turn out (and actually ended up deleting plenty because you just couldn’t see anything), so I’m happy to hear that people like them!

    Definitely on my list of places to visit soon! Great photos, thanks for sharing!

      Next time I think I would allow two days instead of just one overnight – it’s such a cool park!

    Looks beautiful anyway 🙂

      It was! Then again, this part of Utah is just universally stunning!

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