Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park  is a United States National Park that is located in Utah's Canyon Country. Some 35,835 acres (14,502 ha) or 56 mi² (145 km²) in extent, the designated area around the spectacular Bryce Canyon (not actually a canyon, but rather a giant natural amphitheater created by erosion) became a United States National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a National Park in 1928. The park is one of the most popular in Utah with nearly one million people visiting each year.
The area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1875 and was known to have described the canyon as "a hell of a place to lose a cow". President Warren G. Harding proclaimed Bryce Canyon a national monument on June 8, 1923. On June 7, 1924, Congress passed a bill to establish Utah National Park, when all land within the national monument would become the property of the United States. The land was acquired and the name was restored to Bryce Canyon. On February 25, 1928, Bryce Canyon officially became a national park.
LandscapeBryce Canyon consists of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock of the Claron Formation into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called "hoodoos." The varued colors of the rocks and rock formations contribute to the spectacular views.
Bryce lies at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, varying from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,440 to 2,740 m), whereas the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000 feet (2130 m) above Sea Level. Bryce Canyon National Park therefore has a substantially different ecology and climate, offering a contrast for visitors to the south west (who often visit all three parks in a single vacation).
Flora and fauna
Bryce Canyon is home to 59 species of mammals including mule deer, elk, gray fox, black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, marmots, ground squirrels and pronghorn antelope. 175 different species of birds have been documented to frequent Bryce Canyon National Park, including swifts, turkeys, red-tailed hawks, swallows, jays, ravens, nuthatches, ravens, eagles and owls.
When visiting, do not, under any circumstances, feed the wildlife or allow wildlife to obtain human food. Animals which obtain food from humans often become aggressive, will sometimes get ill or even die due to a change in diet, and most seriously stop foraging for natural foods and frequently starve to death in winter months when human food is no longer available.
From April through October the park's weather is relatively mild, with pleasant days, cool nights and occasional thunderstorms. Temperatures drop during winter months, with many clear sunny days reflecting off of the deep snowpacks. The park boasts some of the world's best air quality, offering panoramic views of three states and approaching 200 miles of visibility. This, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates unparalleled opportunities for stargazing.
The park is accessible from highway 63. The road into the park is open year-round, although it may be impassable during heavy winter storms.
Private, non-commercial vehicles must pay a $25 entrance fee that is good for 7 days. Holders of the National Park Pass ($80), which allows access to all National Parks for one year, do not have to pay this fee. For individuals (applies to motorcycles, bicyclists, or individuals traveling on foot) the fee is $12 for 7 days (National Park Pass holders are again exempt). The entrance fee includes free and unlimited use of the park shuttles during the summer.
The eighteen mile long park road is easily accessible to automobiles, although it is closed beyond Rainbow Gate during winter storms. Traffic may be heavy during the summer, and some viewpoints may not have parking available.
A park shuttle runs during the peak summer months, allowing people to park their cars outside of the park and then travel to the overlooks along the road. Shuttles run from well before sunrise until after sunset and ensure that a full parking lot won't prevent a visit to any of the park's sights.
Tour buses often stop at the overlooks in the park; a travel agent can help with arrangements.
For backpackers there are multi-day trails that run the length of the park. Permits are required for all overnight camping.
Bikes are not allowed on most of the park trails, but they are useful for avoiding traffic around the sometimes busy viewpoints. Be aware that much of the park lies between 8,000 and 9,000 feet of elevation, making travel by bicycle much more difficult than it would be at lower elevations.
By guided tour
A number of companies provide guided tours of Bryce Canyon National Park that include transportation from the surrounding areas. Some companies will provide bus travel from nearby towns while others begin in Bryce Canyon National Park. Some will provide just a brief tour with small stops, while others may take you on a hike, and arrange all your meals.
The park is a mecca for landscape photographers, with clear air and incredible scenery making for amazing photographs. Offseason trips may be best in order to avoid crowds, although the best light for photographing the amphitheatre occurs during the long days of summer. The best light to bring out the colors of the rock are at sunrise and sunset.
Guests wanting to join a guided horse riding trip can do so during the spring, summer and fall.
The visitor center has a well-stocked gift shop featuring books, posters, and numerous other souvenirs. The general store (located near Sunrise Point) offers food, camping supplies, and more souvenirs. There is also a gift shop located within Bryce Canyon Lodge.
Outside of the park is a mind-numbing array of shops catering to tourists and offering treasures ranging from pop-tarts to bumper stickers.
The general store located near Sunrise Point offers basic food supplies. Bryce Canyon Lodge has a dining room offering breakfast, lunch and dinner; reservations for dinner are required.
If you're staying late in the park to watch the sunset, keep in mind that nearly all restaurants close at 9 o'clock; the grocery store stays open for about an hour later.
The only hotel within the park is Bryce Canyon Lodge, located between Sunrise and Sunset Points.
Additional lodging is available just outside of the park border near the intersection of highway 12 and highway 63.
There are two campgrounds within the park. Facilities at the campgrounds include drinking water and restrooms, and pay showers are available during the summer at the general store.
Additional campgrounds cluster outside of the park's borders:
All backcountry camping is by permit only. Permits can be obtained for a $5 fee at the visitor center and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Overnight camping is allowed only on the Under-the-Rim trail and and Riggs Spring Loop trail.
Be especially careful with children around the canyon edges; drop-offs are steep and not all areas are protected by railings. During thunderstorms avoid isolated trees and open areas and, if possible, stay in your vehicle to protect against lightning strikes. There is little danger from mountain lions, but should one be encountered gather small children, back away slowly, and make yourself look as large as possible.
Altitude in the park reaches as high as 9,100 feet, so most visitors will experience some shortness of breath while hiking, and in extreme cases headaches and respiratory problems may be experienced. For those not used to the elevation, pace yourself and take a few days to acclimate before attempting any strenuous physical activity.
Unlike the other national parks of southern Utah, heat is not a major problem due to the park's high elevation. Temperatures rarely reach 90°F (32°C), even during the height of day in summer months.