We visited Bryce Canyon on our Southern Utah trip last month. I think Bryce is the most user friendly national park that I have visited. No matter where you start, it is quite a drive to get there. However, upon arrival, you will find several Best Western Hotels and a few decent restaurants. The Bryce Canyon Lodge is not very big, but it is in a great location and has a nice restaurant. The drive along the rim is really easy and each viewpoint is no more than a few steps from the parking lot. If you do not want to do any hiking and see nature, this is the park for you. The problem, of course with this, is the crowds. Because of the easy access, you will have more than the usual crowding, even if you are getting out really early or staying out late.
When we were there, it was very cold and wet, and it snowed one night and morning. Also being at over 8,000 feet caused a little bit of pain on the hikes up to Inspiration Point. As I always recommend, make a plan, be patient, and be flexible. Here are a few highlights.
Drive to all of the Lookout Points
Rainbow Point is at the end of the road along the rim. At the lookout you look Northwest back into Bryce Canyon.
On the way back North, stop and take a look at the Natural Bridge. Again, right on the road and easy to see, but not easy to photograph. Don’t tell anyone, but this angle is achieved by jumping the stone fence on the right side of the parking area and moving to your right as far as you feel safe. This is a much better angle than staying on the viewing platform.
There are many beautiful images to be made in Bryce. The iconic and most popular shot is taken at Bryce Point and its hard not to pick this as a favorite. Bryce faces almost dead East, so it is really a sunrise and early morning shot if you want to get the sweet light on the red hoodoos. However, you can also get some nice shots at sunset.
Inspiration Point was my favorite sunset spot because you can get the Amphitheater in the foreground and have some very interesting light on the “Sinking Ship” and the Table Cliff Plateau. I recommend getting here at least an hour before sunset and just watch as the light changes as it sets behind you. You can watch it creep out of the canyon and move up the sinking ship until you get the exact spot light you want.
Sunset Point and Sunrise Point are very popular, crowded, but also have good facilities, parking, and the lodge nearby. It is hard to make a bad photo here. My advice is to take a variety of compositions…sky in; sky out; go wide; use a telephoto to get some details. Pay attention to the quality of the light. Again, flatter indirect light in the afternoon will give the red stone a dark rich color,but watch out for dark shadows. In the morning, the red stone lights up bright orange and is of a completely different look. Both are beautiful, but in a slightly different way.
Fairyland Point and the Fairyland Loop Trail are in a small self-contained valley. This is not where you will get the big landscape vista shots like at Sunrise and Sunset Point. Think about close-ups of the hoodoos and making some natural abstracts here.
Hike Inside the Amphitheater
There are several trails within the Ampitheater that provide good shooting and great scenery. Unfortunately, on this trip we did not do any hiking because of the weather. On previous trips we have hiked the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queens Garden Trail. These are the most popular, busy, but also most scenice. If you do not want to deal with the ups and downs of these trails, you can always hike the paved and relatively flat Rim Trail which will go all the way from the Fariyland Point to Bryce Point. Doing this will enable you yo see the Canyon from almost every angle.
We used Photographing the Southwest by Laurent Martres as our main guidebook on our trip (see this month’s book review), and as always, Robert Hitchman’s newsletters. To see more of our photography, please go to www.pamphotography.com.