by Mrs. DeJong

Bryce Canyon National Park is by far one of the most unique of all of the national parks. The word "canyon," in the park's title is somewhat misleading. Most canyons are formed when river water erodes the landscape around it. Bryce Canyon, however, is formed by freeze-thaw cycles that split and carve the orange colored limestone into unusual wedge and column shapes.

Rainbow Canyon
Location, Size, & Distance:

Bryce Canyon is in southwestern Utah, about 270 miles south of Salt Lake City. The park covers approximately 56.2 square miles, making it a fairly small national park in comparison to others. The park is located 1,294 miles from my hometown (Oskaloosa, Iowa) and would take 19 hours and 28 minutes to get there.

Park Hours:

The park is open 24 hours a day through out the year. Operating hours for the visitor center are as follows:

Summer 8am - 8pm (May - September)
Fall (October) 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Winter (November - March) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Spring (April) 8:00 am - 6:00 pm


At an elevation of 1000 feet, Bryce Canyon is slightly cooler than most of the state of Utah. Yearly temperatures vary from an average minimum of 9 °F in January to an average maximum of 83 °F in July. Extreme temperatures occur occasionally and range from −30 °F to 97 °F. The average precipitation totals range from 15 to 18 inches per year.


The first "visitors" to the canyon were believed to be the Paleo-Indians that wandered the earth during the Ice Age. Other natives to the canyon were the Anasazi, Fremont, and Paiute Indians who hunted and lived in the canyon. Early settlers called the canyon "Unka-timpe-wa-wince-pockich" which means "red rocks standing like men in bowl shaped canyon."

In the 1870s a group of Mormon pioneers settled in the area, among them a man named Ebenezer Bryce. Ebenezer worked with the other settlers to complete a seven mile irrigation ditch from Paria Creek and built a road into the cliffs to make timber more accessible. When he settled in the area, people began referring to the area as Bryce's canyon, and over time the name stuck. Early reports say that when asked about his thoughts on the area, Bryce would comment "It's a heck of a place to lose a cow."

Bryce Canyon was named a national park by President Warren G, Harding on September 15, 1928.


Bryce Canyon is a favorite place to see the stars because the sky is dark. In most rural places around the United States
2,500 stars can be seen on a clear night, while at Bryce Canyon, 7500 stars can be seen. Because of this, many astronomers visit the park throughout the year just to stargaze.

One of the most famous legends about the park was from early geologists who thought the hoodoo rock formations could cast a spell on you with their magical spires and towering arches.

Bryce Canyon is home of the Bryce Canyon Paintbrush a rare wildflower found only in southwestern Utah.
Thor's Hammer

Things to See:

Visitors to the park are most thrilled to see the amazing rock formations throughout the park. Some of the most well-known formations are Thor's Hammer, the Natural Bridge, and Inspiration Point. Hundreds of "hoodoos" dot the landscape throughout the park. Hoodoos are the white to pink to red stone "statues" that rise from the floor of the canyon to the rim. These are natural wind, rain, and time structured stone wonders. Many visitors especially enjoy viewing the park at sunrise or sunset to watch the changing light and colors of the canyon. On clear days, visibility at Bryce canyon can stretch for more than 100 miles.

Wildlife that can be seen throughout the park include: mule deer, bobcat, fox, mountain, lion, coyote, marmot, ground squirrel, and prairie dog. Over 160 species of birds, including swifts, swallows, jays, ravens, nuthatches, eagles, and owls can be seen in the park.

Things to Do:

The most convenient way to view Bryce Canyon is to drive the many roads that run throughout the park. The best way, however, is to hike the trails down to the bottom of the canyon. Two to four hour guided horseback and mule rides are also available during the peak tourist season. In winter, many visitors will snowshoe hike or cross-country ski the many trails along the plateau. A variety of educational ranger programs are offered at various times throughout the day as well. Many visitors to the park enjoy visiting or staying overnight at the historic Bryce Canyon Lodge.