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Exploring Bryce Canyon with Kids: A Fun Filled Family Adventure in 2024


Bryce Canyon National Park, with its stunning rock formations and breathtaking views, is a wonderland for families. Hiking trails, educational programs, and comfortable accommodations make it an ideal destination for a memorable family adventure. In this article, we’ll guide you through an exciting tour of Bryce Canyon with kids, highlighting the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail, the Junior Ranger Program, Mossy Cave, the Scenic Drive, and a stay at the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn.

The Majestic History of Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon, a stunning natural amphitheater located in southwestern Utah, is renowned for its striking geological structures known as hoodoos. These spire-like rock formations, created through the process of frost weathering and stream erosion, paint a vibrant and unique landscape that captivates visitors from around the world. The history of Bryce Canyon, both geologically and culturally, is as fascinating as its landscapes.

Bryce Canyon with Kids

Geologic Formation: A Timeline Spanning Millions of Years

The story of Bryce Canyon’s formation begins millions of years ago. The area was once part of a vast lake system that stretched over large parts of the Colorado Plateau. Over time, layers of sediment accumulated at the bottom of these lakes. These layers were later solidified into limestone, siltstone, and mudstone, forming the foundation of the park’s unique geology.

Around 50 million years ago, the Colorado Plateau began an uplift process, a geologic phenomenon that raised the region several thousand feet. This elevation exposed the rock layers to the forces of nature, particularly the freeze-thaw cycle. Water seeps into the cracks of the rocks, freezes, expands, and eventually breaks the rock apart. This process, combined with erosion from wind and water, sculpted the park’s distinctive hoodoos and intricate canyons.

Human History: Ancient Peoples and European Settlers

Long before it became a national park, Bryce Canyon was home to several Native American groups, including the Ancestral Puebloans and the Paiute tribe. The Ancestral Puebloans lived in the area from approximately A.D. 200 to 1200, leaving behind artifacts and clues about their lifestyle. The Paiute tribe arrived later and had a profound connection with the land, developing rich folklore around the hoodoos, which they believed were ancient people turned into stone.

The name “Bryce Canyon” actually originates from a settler rather than any geographic or natural feature. In the 1850s, Mormon pioneers explored southern Utah. Among them was Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area around 1875. Bryce famously described the canyon behind his home as “a hell of a place to lose a cow.” The locals started referring to the area as Bryce’s Canyon, which eventually evolved into Bryce Canyon.

Establishment as a National Park

The stunning beauty of Bryce Canyon drew increasing attention in the early 20th century. Efforts to preserve the area gained momentum, leading to its designation as a national monument by President Warren G. Harding in 1923. It wasn’t until 1928 that Bryce Canyon was officially established as a national park.

Today, Bryce Canyon National Park is a testament to the natural forces that shape our world and the human histories intertwined with this landscape. It stands as a monument not only to the geological processes that carved its spires but also to the cultures that revered it and the visionaries who fought to preserve it for future generations. This combination of natural and human history makes Bryce Canyon a mesmerizing place, offering both awe-inspiring scenery and a rich, storied past.

Traveling to Bryce Canyon National Park from Various Starting Points

From Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon

The journey from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Bryce Canyon with kids is about 270 miles and typically takes around 4 hours by car. The most direct route involves taking Interstate 15 South to UT-20 East, and then US-89 South to UT-12 East, which leads directly to the park. This scenic drive takes you through a variety of landscapes, including mountains, valleys, and red rock formations. Along the way, you might consider stopping in towns like Provo or Richfield for a break or to explore local attractions. This route is particularly popular among road trip enthusiasts who enjoy a combination of easy highway driving and scenic landscapes.

From Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon

Traveling from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon with kids is a relatively short and scenic journey, covering about 72 miles and taking approximately 1.5 hours. The route typically follows UT-9 East to US-89 North, then turns onto UT-12 East towards Bryce Canyon. This drive offers a stunning transition from the deep canyons of Zion to the expansive vistas and hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. The route is well-traveled and offers a few small towns along the way for refreshments and fuel.

From Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon

The trip from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Bryce Canyon with kids covers about 260 miles and takes approximately 4 hours. The usual route involves taking Interstate 15 North into Utah, then transitioning onto UT-14 East and finally onto US-89 North, which leads to UT-12 East and the park. This journey traverses a variety of landscapes, from the Mojave Desert’s arid expanses to the lush forests and red rock formations of southern Utah. The drive is a great way to experience the dramatic changes in landscape that the American Southwest has to offer.

From Denver to Bryce Canyon

Traveling from Denver, Colorado, to Bryce Canyon with kids is the longest of these journeys, covering about 630 miles and taking approximately 10 hours by car. The most common route is taking Interstate 70 West across Colorado and into Utah, then heading south on US-89 to UT-12, which leads directly to Bryce Canyon. This extensive road trip is ideal for those who enjoy long drives and the opportunity to experience a wide range of landscapes, including the Rocky Mountains, the high desert of eastern Utah, and the unique geology of Bryce Canyon. It’s a journey that showcases the diverse beauty of the American West.

Hiking with Kids: Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail

Bryce Canyon’s trails are a treasure trove of adventure, and two of the best for families are the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail. These trails offer a manageable challenge for young hikers and a feast for the eyes with towering hoodoos and natural amphitheaters. The journey through the Navajo Loop descends into the heart of the canyon, winding through the famous Wall Street—a narrow canyon within the canyon. Merging with the Queens Garden Trail, it forms a loop that showcases some of the park’s most iconic formations, including Thor’s Hammer and the Silent City. Remember to pack plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection for your little explorers.

You can park at Sunrise or Sunset point depending on which loop you want to start with first. The ranger recommended we go counter clockwise so we started at Sunset.

Thors Hammer off Navajo Loop in Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon in Winter

We visited Bryce Canyon in winter where snow dusted the canyons making it even more picturesque. There was some ice build up in the shaded areas of the trail so be careful. Yaktrax are popular during this time but wasn’t required when we went, however many hikers we passed said they liked the extra feeling of the chains. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on trails and can only stay in the parking area where it’s paved. Our boys Chase and Jax were enjoying the comforts of Ruby’s Inn while we went hiking.

Bryce Canyon in Winter

Junior Ranger Program: Learning and Fun

The Junior Ranger Program is a fantastic way for kids to engage with Bryce Canyon’s natural wonders. This educational adventure encourages children to complete activities that teach them about the park’s geology, wildlife, and history. On completion, they’re sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive a badge, making for a proud and unforgettable moment for your young adventurers. Our goal is to collect all 63 Junior Ranger badges for the girls.

Discovering Mossy Cave

Mossy Cave, a lesser-known gem in the park, is a perfect spot for families. This easy, short trail leads to a small waterfall and a mossy cave tucked away in the Tropic Ditch. It’s an excellent place for kids to cool off in the summer and a great spot for a family picnic. Parking is right at the trailhead entrance.

Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive

Don’t miss the Bryce Canyon National Park Scenic Drive. This 18-mile drive offers stunning vistas of the park’s unique geology. There are numerous pullouts where you can stop, stretch your legs, and take in the views. Sunrise and Sunset Points are must-see stops, offering some of the most spectacular views of the park. We made it up to Rainbow point at a whopping 9115 ft above sea level.

View from Rainbow Point at 9115 ft

Here’s are views from Bryce Point

Bryce Point at Bryce Canyon National Park in the Winter

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park in the Winter

Staying at Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn

Ruby’s Inn, an iconic landmark near Bryce Canyon, has a rich history dating back to its founding in 1916 by Reuben (Ruby) and Minnie Syrett. The couple, along with their family, originally settled near the rim of Bryce Canyon and were immediately captivated by its natural beauty. They began hosting travelers in their home, and as the popularity of Bryce Canyon grew, so did the need for accommodations. Ruby’s Inn was officially established, offering a warm, hospitable gateway to the wonders of Bryce Canyon.

Over the years, Ruby’s Inn has expanded and evolved, playing a significant role in the development of tourism in the area. It has become synonymous with the Bryce Canyon experience, providing generations of visitors with a comfortable and scenic base to explore the park’s majestic landscapes. Ruby’s Inn remains a family-run establishment, reflecting a legacy of hospitality and a deep connection to the history and natural beauty of Bryce Canyon.

After a day full of adventure, relax at the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn. Located just outside the park, this family-friendly and dog-friendly hotel offers comfortable accommodations, a pool, and dining options. It’s the perfect basecamp for your Bryce Canyon in winter exploration, providing a cozy retreat with all the amenities your family needs.


Bryce Canyon National Park is an extraordinary destination for families seeking adventure, education, and unforgettable memories. Whether you’re hiking through breathtaking landscapes, participating in the Junior Ranger Program, or enjoying the comforts of Ruby’s Inn, your family is sure to have a magical experience. So pack your bags, grab your hiking boots, and get ready for an adventure in one of America’s most beautiful natural playgrounds! If you have any questions feel free to hit me up!

Bryce Canyon in Winter with Kids: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Is Bryce Canyon open during the winter?

Yes, Bryce Canyon National Park is open year-round, including during the winter months. However, some facilities, roads, and trails may be closed or have limited access due to snow and ice.

2. What should we pack for a winter visit to Bryce Canyon with kids?

Pack warm, layered clothing including waterproof outer layers, gloves, hats, and insulated boots. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses, as the sun can be quite bright reflecting off the snow. Also, bring plenty of water and snacks.

3. Are there any kid-friendly activities in Bryce Canyon in winter?

Yes! Bryce Canyon offers several winter activities suitable for kids, such as ranger-led snowshoe hikes, sledding in designated areas, and wildlife viewing. The visitor center often provides educational programs ideal for families.

4. Is it safe to hike in Bryce Canyon in winter?

Hiking can be safe if you are well-prepared and stick to trails that are appropriate for your family’s skill level. Check with the visitor center for trail conditions, and consider using traction devices for your shoes, as trails can be icy.

5. Can we still see the hoodoos in the winter?

Absolutely! The hoodoos, Bryce Canyon’s famous rock formations, are visible year-round. In fact, many visitors find them especially striking against the snowy landscape.

6. Are there any special events during the winter months?

Bryce Canyon occasionally hosts special events in the winter, such as the Winter Festival at Ruby’s Inn. Check the park’s website or contact the visitor center for current event information.

7. How do we prepare our car for the trip?

Ensure your car is winter-ready with good tires (snow tires or chains may be necessary), a full tank of gas, and an emergency kit that includes blankets, food, water, and a first-aid kit.

8. Are there places to warm up in the park?

The visitor center is a great place to warm up, learn about the park through exhibits and films, and speak with rangers for up-to-date information and safety tips.

9. Can we rent winter gear nearby?

Yes, there are several places near Bryce Canyon where you can rent winter gear like snowshoes and cross-country skis. Check in towns like Bryce Canyon City or Tropic.

10. What are the best viewpoints for families in the winter?

Sunrise Point and Sunset Point are accessible and offer stunning views of the park. The Rim Trail between these points is often kept clear of snow and is an easy walk for families.

Remember, winter conditions can change rapidly, so always check the weather forecast and consult park rangers for the latest information to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to Bryce Canyon with kids.

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