Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks One Day Itinerary (2024)

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Want to know the best Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks itinerary? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know!

Bryce Canyon And Capitol Reef National Parks Itinerary

This itinerary takes you to two of Utah’s most popular national parks, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef.

Explore the otherworldly hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, and hike through the orchards and canyons of Capitol Reef.

Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park 4 Day Itinerary

Bryce Canyon National Park

Plan to arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park around 8 or 9 am to get started before the heat kicks in.

During Summer and other busy travel times, parking can fill up by 10 am.

You may want to stop at the Visitor Center on your way in as well to get a map and any souvenirs you may want.

Bryce Canyon National Park visitor center

✅ Sunset Point

We started by parking at Sunset Point.

Which had plenty of empty spots still.

We only saw a couple other people at this point.

So it felt like we had the whole park to ourselves.

From there, we walked the rim over to Sunrise Point.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The photo above was our first look at Bryce Canyon.

We were just completely mind-blown.

Bryce Canyon National Park

We could have just roamed around the rim of the canyon all day looking at the views.

Bryce Canyon is easily one of the most amazing places we’ve ever visited together.

And we’ve been to a lot of amazing places!

Bryce Canyon National Park

We took our time walking this part of the trail.

It’s only about a mile.

But the reason we did it is so that when we finished our hike, we would end right where our car was parked.

We much preferred this walk at the beginning of our day than at the end.

✅ Sunrise Point

We packed a bag to take with us since we didn’t know how long the hike would take us.

The weather was supposed to be sunny and in the high 80s.

Bryce Canyon

So we brought about 5 ice cold waters with us.

Most importantly we brought sunscreen with us too.

Bryce Canyon National Park

✅ Queen’s Garden Trail

We started our descent here at the Queen’s Garden Trail.

Our plan was to combine it with the Navajo Loop Trail, which is the most popular hike in the park.

Anyone that hikes into the canyon takes one or both of these trails.

It was a little slow going getting down into the canyon because of all of the loose dirt and rocks.

It felt like you would just slip and fall at any time, so we walked pretty slowly.

We had also hiked the Narrows the day before so our legs were a little shaky.

Luckily we weren’t really sore.

hiking the Queen's Garden Trail at Bryce Canyon

The Queen’s Garden Trail had these cute little arches throughout.

Queen's Garden Trail in Bryce Canyon

This area here is one of the lowest points of the hike so we stopped for a little break.

It’s also one of a handful of spots where you can actually sit and take a break without having to just sit on the ground.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Once you get down to the bottom of the canyon the scenery changes to this more woodsy kind of hike.

The trees smelled so good, provided some shade, but it was also pretty dry and hot.

You could feel the dryness with every breath.

Around this time we started passing by a handful of other families.

It still wasn’t crowded yet though, which was great.

Bryce Canyon National Park

At this point we had merged with the Navajo Loop Trail and started to make our way back up.

This part of the trail has majority of the photo op spots and iconic sites.

This is also where it started to get busier.

There were some large groups on this part of the hike and we sometimes had to wait a couple minutes to get a photo, but it was nothing compared to crowds at places like Zion or Yosemite.

Here is where the hike got difficult.

See all of those switchbacks?

We had to climb up all of them.

We took our time with this part and took lots of breaks and drank lots of water.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Here’s the view when we got most of the way up.

At least a lot of it was shaded.

Bryce Canyon National Park

This is where we made it to the top of the switchbacks.

We were very disappointed to find out that this was not the end of the hike.

There was still plenty more uphill walking to go, but at least we found Thor’s Hammer.

Thor's Hammer at Bryce Canyon National Park

✅ Lunch Break

We finally made it!

We started on Queen’s Garden trail at exactly 9:30 am.

By the time we made it up to the top of Navajo Loop it was 11 am.

We were ready for lunch and drove over to the lodge to see what they had.

But they didn’t start serving lunch until noon and we didn’t want to wait that long.

So we went back to our car and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We also had a couple different snacks in the car like protein and granola bars and veggie chips.

✅ Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point is one of the most popular viewpoints in Bryce Canyon National Park, offering stunning views of the otherworldly hoodoos that make the park famous.

The hike to Inspiration Point is short and easy, making it a great option for visitors of all ages.

Inspiration Point is located on the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park, about 1.5 miles from the Bryce Canyon Lodge.

The hike to Inspiration Point is short and easy, with an elevation gain of about 100 feet.

The trail to Inspiration Point is paved and wheelchair accessible.

Inspiration Point offers stunning views of the Bryce Amphitheater, which is home to thousands of hoodoos.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway

This is one of the most scenic highways in the US and has even been designated as an “All American Road”.

We highly recommend working this into your trip when you visit the Utah Mighty 5 National Parks.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway Utah

This drive was a little less than 3 hours.

We also had to stop for gas as we got close to Capitol Reef.

When I originally planned out the trip I mapped out every 300 miles or so and made sure we would never be low on gas.

I also downloaded the Gas Buddy app to compare prices and convenience of different gas stations.

On road trips out West this part of the planning is so important because there are many times you will be in the middle of nowhere and you don’t want to get stuck.

Sometimes we had to fill up when we had 3/4 of a tank because we would need that little bit extra to make it all the way to our next stop.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

We made it to Capitol Reef National Park at around 2:30 pm.

We once again stopped at the visitor center to get our souvenir ornament and a map.

Since we were camping here for the night, the map was super important because there was no cell service at all throughout the park.

Capitol Reef National Park

✅ Gifford House

Our next stop was the Gifford House.

They serve fresh homemade pies and other desserts daily.

By the time we got there they were sold out of everything.

But they said to come back right when they opened the following day and they would have all of their pies in stock again.

This happened on a fairly low capacity day.

So whenever you visit, plan to stop at the Gifford House first thing in the morning because they will sell out!

Capitol Reef National Park

✅ The Scenic Drive

It was still a little early to set up our camp site for the night, so after stopping at the Gifford House, we kept driving to “The Scenic Drive”.

It’s about an 8 mile drive and the website said to plan for about an hour and a half.

We did it in about 30 minutes.

We only passed a couple other cars the entire time, which is probably why we were able to get through it so quickly.

Capitol Reef National Park

This wasn’t the most amazing drive ever, but it had some fun twists and turns and it was a good way to pass time.

✅ Camping At Capitol Reef National Park

After the Scenic Drive we decided to find our camp site because the road circled back to the camping areas.

We made dinner early since we had a small lunch and decided to make tuna and noodles.

This was a perfect camping meal because none of the ingredients need to be refrigerated and it can all be cooked in one pot.

All you need is egg noodles (half a bag), a can of cream of celery, and a can or bag of tuna.

You just have to boil water and cook the egg noodles until they’re as soft as you want them.

Then drain the water and add in the cream of celery and tuna.

Mix it all together and add as much salt and pepper as you need and that’s it!

Since we didn’t have any cell service we couldn’t do any work.

So after our early dinner we decided to go see a couple more places.

We knew that the following day would be a lot of driving, so we decided we should try to get on the road as early as possible.

?? Click Here To Book Your Campground At Capitol Reef National Park Today!

✅ Petroglyphs

The first place we went was the Petroglyph site.

They had a little quarter mile boardwalk trail along the side of the rocks so you could see all of the petroglyphs.

We’ve visited a lot of petroglyph sites this year and they never get old.

Each one is different and it’s fun to find them.

Petroglyphs at Capitol Reef National Park

✅ Hickman Bridge Trail

Our last stop was the trail to Hickman Bridge.

We weren’t sure if we wanted to do it because the sun would be setting and it was a little longer than we felt like hiking.

It also had a bit of an incline and we were not ready for that again.

We decided to just see how far we could make it.

Hickman Bridge Trail at Capitol Reef National Park

You can see we eventually made it to Hickman Bridge, but it was actually a bit of a letdown because the sun had already set and it was harder to see.

I would imagine it looks amazing at sunset.

That’s probably why we saw so many people leaving as we were going in!

Hickman Bridge Trail at Capitol Reef National Park

The walk back had some nice views though because the sun was still shining on some of the higher peaks in the park.

There was also a nice river running along the start of the trail.

Hickman Bridge Trail at Capitol Reef National Park

Frequently Asked Questions

Planning a trip to multiple National Parks can be overwhelming.

These are the most frequently asked questions we see about planning a Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef visit.

☑️ Can You See Bryce Canyon And Capitol Reef In One Day?

Yes!

This itinerary is proof that you can see the highlights of both parks in a single day.

It helps if it’s Summer time where there are longer day light hours.

☑️ How Far Apart Are Bryce Canyon And Capitol Reef?

The distance between Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park is approximately 122 miles.

The drive time between the two parks is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

The best way to get between the two parks is to take Utah Scenic Byway 12, which is a beautiful drive that takes you through some of the most scenic parts of Utah.

☑️ Is One Day Enough For Capitol Reef?

For most visitors, one day is plenty of time to see the highlights of Capitol Reef.

What’s most important in planning your visit is being able to pick up some pie from the Gifford House, which sells out each day.

So you either want to start your day here or camp in the park overnight so you can stop there first thing in the morning on your way to your next destination.

☑️ Is There A Scenic Drive From Capitol Reef To Bryce Canyon?

Yes!

The Utah Scenic Byway 12 is the drive you want to take between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon no matter which direction you’re going.

We’ve highlighted it above in this post.

More Great National Parks To Visit In Utah

Utah has 5 National Parks that are commonly visited as part of one big road trip.

We’ve visited some of these parks multiple times as part of different trips, and these are the itineraries we recommend.

✅ Zion National Park One Day Summer Itinerary

Visiting Zion in the Summer is a vastly different experience than visiting in the Winter.

The park is crowded, you have to take a shuttle pretty much anywhere you want to go, and the availability of hiking trails is completely different.

The Narrows at Zion National Park

✅ Zion To Bryce Canyon + The Narrows Hike

This itinerary was part of a larger road trip where we hiked the Narrows all day, then took the scenic byway toward Bryce Canyon National Park.

The Narrows at Zion National Park

✅ Zion National Park One Day Winter Itinerary

Visiting Zion in Winter is a very different experience than visiting in the Summer.

Staying in a cozy cabin in a near empty park surrounded by falling snow just can’t be beat.

Zion National Park in Winter

✅ Arches and Canyonlands National Parks Itinerary

Arches and Canyonlands are both right next to each other in Moab, Utah.

Pairing these for a weekend getaway or as part of a larger road trip is the best way to see these parks.

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks Weekend Getaway Itinerary

Conclusion: Bryce Canyon And Capitol Reef National Parks One Day Itinerary

This Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks one day itinerary allows you to see all the highlights of both parks in a short amount of time.

It pairs well with a trip to Zion National Park or all 5 National Parks in Utah.

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Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks Itinerary