My visit to Bryce in early May was fairly brief - one full day and two half days, giving the chance of two sunrises and two sunsets. There weren’t a lot of people in the park, allowing for fairly unimpeded shooting. Temperatures were comfortable and the wind for the most part at the gentle breeze level. The weather a mix of sun and clouds and fortunately no rain. We stayed in the park itself, at Bryce Lodge. This isn’t the cheapest option, but it does put you within a five minute walk of the amphitheater rim.

We flew into St George airport, this provided a much shorter drive than the nearest major airports of Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. St George is very well placed for Zion as well as Bryce. In addition to the big name parks, nearby Snow Canyon and Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forrest are worth a visit too.

Bryce Locations Visited

For shooting locations I focused on the four viewpoints around the main Bryce amphitheater, these are Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce Point. Bryce Lodge is approximately half way between Sunrise and Sunset. It’s about a half mile walk on level ground between these two viewpoints and great shooting all the way between them. There are plenty of rocks and trees clinging to the rim that can provide some nice foreground interest. Sunrise point is the trailhead for the Queens garden trail and Sunset point is the trailhead for the Navajo trail. Proceeding down these trails a short way will provide you some more vantage points.

View of the Bryce Amphitheater at sunrise

Inspiration Point is approximately ¾ mile beyond Sunset point. You can walk it on the rim trail, but elected to drive there. There are three overlooks at Inspiration point, accessible by a fairly steep walk. The walk can leave you short of breath due to the thin air at eight thousand feet. From the these viewpoints, the plateau and curve of the amphitheater rim is clearly visible and there are some nice nearby rock formations.

Bryce point is a about a mile further and the highest of the overlooks. Aside from the highest viewpoint, it also gets you close to the wall of windows rock formations. There are additional viewpoints on the park road. As you move away from the amphitheater, there are still great views, but the number of the hoodoos declines significantly. The furthest viewpoint, Rainbow point. About half way to Rainbow point is a pull off with a good size natural arch.

During the day, we did the Queens garden hike. This descends part way into the canyon and provides some closer shooting opportunities of the hoodoos and other rock formations. It’s the easiest of the hikes at Bryce and two hours round trip should give you enough time for some good shooting and a few pauses on the way back up to catch your breath.

On the Queens Garden trail

I found I was getting better light at sunrise than sunset. The main amphitheater is oriented east and catches the sun, lighting up the hoodoos, as soon as the sun crosses the horizon. Golden hour in the evening was good, but much of the amphitheater fell into shade well before the sunset. I only had one successful sunrise, but the light was beautifil bringing out detail on the hoodoos and the trees on the floor of the amphtheater. Light in the middle of the day was not bad either. The sandstone takes on an almost luminous quality in bright sunlight and you can get some interesting contrasts, if you are fortunate enough to have a few clouds crossing the sky.

Red Canyon

Just east of the crossroads of Scenic Byway 12 and Scenic Highway 89 is Red Canyon, a part of the Dixie National Forest. There is a small visitor and some relatively short walks through some interesting sandstone formations you can walk through. The Canyon provides similar landscapes to Bryce, but on a smaller scale. Since the Canyon is on the way to Bryce its definitely worth a stop.

Red Canyon Hoodoos


For moe shooting ideas please see my full Bryce gallery.

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