National Park Guide

How to Plan a Bryce Canyon National Park Stargazing Trip in 2024

Bryce Canyon is one of the more underrated national parks in Utah, according to many travelers. It’s often overshadowed by its extremely popular neighbor, Zion National Park. While Bryce Canyon might seem like it doesn’t have as much to offer, it definitely does. From hiking among the hoodoos to stargazing at night, Bryce Canyon has it all, including one of the oldest astronomy programs in the nation – all of which make it one of the best national parks for stargazing.

Bryce Canyon National Park Stargazing & the Milky Way
Photo credit: Barton Davis Smith via Flickr

Stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park is a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else. Seeing the Milky Way (and up to 7,500 stars!) glowing above the hoodoos is something you literally can’t go anywhere but here. So, how, where and when can you go stargazing in Bryce Canyon? Read on!

Now, here’s everything we learned about taking a stargazing trip to Bryce Canyon National Park.

In this post, I promote traveling to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute), Pueblos, and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally published in September 2018, and was updated most recently in January 2024.

How to Travel to Bryce Canyon National Park

If you’re flying to Bryce Canyon National Park for your stargazing trip, the most convenient airport is located in Las Vegas. It will be about a four-hour drive from Vegas to Bryce Canyon. From Vegas, take I-15 N to exit 95 towards US-89/Panguitch. From there it’s a few back highways, a right on UT-20 E, another right onto US-89 S, a left to stay on US-89 S, a left onto UT-12 E, and a right onto US-63 S, then voila, Bryce Canyon National Park!

If you’re coming from the Moab area, take the scenic route. From Moab, take I-70 W and take the exit for UT-24 towards Hanksville and Capitol Reef. In Hanksville, turn right towards Capitol Reef. In Torrey, take the left turn for Scenic Byway 12. There should be signs from there. Google Maps may not offer this route, but putting in directions from Moab to Capitol Reef, then Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon will bring it up.

How to Go Stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon will have some areas better than others for stargazing since the park isn’t as wide open as others and does have a lot of trees in certain areas. It also has a lot of great overlooks that are perfect for admiring the stars. There are several ways to go stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park Stargazing & the Milky Way - Three Wisemen formation
Photo credit: Barton Davis Smith via Flickr

Attend a Regular Ranger Program

There are a few options for different astronomy-related ranger programs in Bryce Canyon. The first is a basic astronomy program, which is offered about 100 times per year, featuring a multimedia program followed by stargazing. Check in at the visitor center to see which program topic sounds of most interest to you to figure out where it’s being held. There are no reservations, just show up 15-30 minutes before to get a good seat.

Attend a Special Stargazing Event

Occasionally there will be special guest astronomers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society during the regular programs. Every June, there is an astronomy festival featuring a star lab, guest speakers, solar viewing, and more. There is solar viewing three times per week, seasonally, as well. If you want to get out, the park offers full moon ranger-led hikes on full moon nights. There are a limited number of tickets available for each 2-3 hour hike. The location is announced only to ticket holders and flashlights are prohibited.

Go Stargazing On Your Own

If ranger programs aren’t your jam, then you can go stargazing on your own just as easily. Find a pull off or overlook with a clear view of the sky and set up shop. If there is little to no moon, trust me, the overlooks will be just fine. It gets dark. After three summers living at Lake Powell in Utah, it still blows my mind how dark it gets.

Where to Go Stargazing in Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park Stargazing Panorama including the Milky Way
Photo credit: Barton Davis Smith via Flickr

While there are quite a few overlooks great for stargazing in Bryce Canyon, some are better than others. These overlooks will offer similar but different scenery, especially the first and last.

Natural Bridge Overlook

This overlook will offer a different view than most others. Instead of just hoodoos, you’ll get to admire the stars over (and under!) the natural bridge.

Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, or Sunrise Points

These are all great views over the Bryce Amphitheater, the most iconic area of the park. The skies are wide open. You can’t go wrong here.

Farview Point

This viewpoint can be appreciated best during the day offering views of Arizona 160 miles away, but that just means there is plenty of open skies to see the stars. It may be less busy than the Bryce Amphitheater area.

Mossy Cave Trail

This is the place to escape the crowds since it isn’t on the main scenic road. Back out on Highway 12, you’ll find the Mossy Cave Trail and parking area. There is also a waterfall here offering a different foreground for stargazing that stands out from the rest of the park scenery.

While there are plenty of places within Bryce Canyon National Park to go stargazing, you can find stellar stargazing in the whole area. The skies are incredibly dark in this area making it a prime stargazing destination.

Where to Stay near Bryce Canyon National Park

From private cabins to rustic lodges, camping to more rustic lodges and cabins, Bryce Canyon has plenty of accommodation options. If you want to splurge (and probably book way in advance) a night or two at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon, just steps from the iconic Bryce Amphitheater. This is the only lodging, other than camping, in the park boundaries.

Outside of the park, you’ll find a lot more options in all price ranges. From Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon City just outside the park entrance is a great option if you plan to visit the park a lot, coming and going during the day and night.

Bryce Pioneer Village or Bryce Country Cabins in tropic are both great options if you want to be a little farther from the action. Even near the lights of the sleepy village of Tropic, you’ll be able to admire the stars; you will also be closer to the Mossy Cave area. You can find a lot of cabins and rustic lodging in Tropic.

If you choose to go camping while visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, there are two campgrounds in the park near the visitor center that fill up by mid-morning. There are plenty of other camping options nearby. Kodachrome Basin State Park is about 30 minutes from Bryce Canyon and offers camping. You can also camp for free on National Forest and BLM land in the area, or pretty much all over out west.

What to Do During the Day in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park - Inspiration Point at Sunrise
Photo credit: Daniel Knieper via Flickr 

In between nightly stargazing sessions, you might want to plan some activities to enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park by day. The number one thing to do? Strap on your hiking shoes and hit the trails! There is plenty of hiking in Bryce Canyon to keep you occupied during the day.

  • Queens Garden/Navajo Loop is a great option if you have one day in the park and want to get into the canyon and walk among the hoodoos, which I would highly recommend. While this may be the #1 hike I recommend, it’s also the most popular in the park, so get started early. It is two trails (Queens Garden and Navajo Loop) combined into one. You can also add in the Wall Street hike. This is a great day hike because you can add a lot to it. You can even do part of the Peek-A-Boo trail if you’d like to really get away from people.
  • Sunset Point to Sunrise Point is a great option if you’re limited on time and just passing through the park. It’s also a great filler if you have a spare hour. This is a nice, short, one-mile hike round-trip. When it’s really clear you can see Navajo Mountain 80 miles away.
  • Fairyland Loop is an eight-mile hike with 2,300 feet of elevation gain. This is a great option if you want a full day hike that takes you into the hoodoos. If you don’t want to do the whole loop, consider just an out and back trip to the Tower Bridge.
Bryce Canyon National Park - Navajo Loop Trail
Photo credit: Megan Johnson
  • Peek-A-Boo Loop is a great alternative to the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop trail. It comes in at 5.5 miles round-trip, making is a good option for a hike to take a good portion of the day without being too long. It gives you time to do another short hike, too.
  • Mossy Cave is more of a mossy alcove and not necessarily worth the trip over since this stop is out of the park (still part of the park) on Highway 12. The real attraction here is the waterfall cascading through the fiery landscape. The hike is just under a mile, but you can wander a little at the top of the waterfall, too. This is a good stop on your way in or out of the park or on your way to Kodachrome Basin.
  • Kodachrome Basin State Park may not be in Bryce Canyon, but it is just a short drive outside of the nearby town of Tropic. If you want to see more of the area without the crowds, this is a great option. There is plenty of hiking here as well.

If hiking isn’t your thing, you can also spend some time exploring the park by car, as well as the surrounding region.

Other FAQ about Stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park

When is the best time to visit Bryce Canyon?

Summer will be the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, as the weather is great and they offer astronomy programs multiple times a week. This, however, brings the crowds with it; you’ll need to plan ahead to secure campsites and expect more people on the trails.

If you want fewer people and slightly cooler temperatures, fall would be perfect. Spring can be a bit windy. Winter is great for a totally different experience seeing the snow-covered hoodoos, but astronomy programs will be held a lot less frequently.

Can you see the Milky Way in Bryce Canyon? What time of year?

As you can see in the photos above, it’s definitely possible to see the Milky Way in Bryce Canyon National Park. As long as the sky is clear. It will be more pronounced in the summer but is still visible in the winter.

Are there guided night tours in Bryce Canyon?  

There are a few options for guided stargazing tours in Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon Country offers astronomy/night sky tours from the nearby town of Tropic. There are also ranger-led full moon hikes with limited tickets available.

Bryce Canyon National Park Stargazing - Inspiration Point at Sunset
Photo credit: James Faulkner via Flickr

Other Tips for visiting Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park Stargazing Panorama including the Milky Way
Photo credit: Barton Davis Smith via Flickr
  • Prepare for any weather. The weather varies considerably, from 90°F and sunny to 50°F, cloudy, and rainy. It can get pretty chilly at night because it’s at a higher elevation. If you arrive on a cold and foggy day, still go into the park! This can make for a totally awesome experience and you’ll probably see fewer people.
  • If you plan to visit more than three national parks on this trip (or during the year), purchase the ‘America The Beautiful’ National Park pass for $80. This pass offers free or reduced admission at most U.S. National Parks, and you’ll likely save money over the course of a year.
  • Make sure you have time to hike into the canyon on your trip. It makes the experience a million times better than just driving by all the overlooks.
  • Make sure to drink lots of water and wear lots of sunscreen. The desert is a tough place, and it’s best to have at least one gallon of water per person with you at all times.
  • Give yourself one full day in the park by day – along with your nighttime activities. Bryce Canyon really is a unique park with a lot to offer that you can’t find anywhere else.

Do you have other questions about visiting Bryce Canyon National Park for a stargazing trip? Let me know in the comments!

Share this to help others enjoy the night sky!

✭ Favorite Planet: Venus
✭ Favorite Stargazing Spot: Lake Powell, Utah
✭ Best Space Tourism Experience: the Solar Eclipse in 2017 (even though I didn’t get to see it in totality!)


  • Sharon

    Which is a better night sky gazing experience in Bryce – full moon tour or star-gazing tour? Can those two experiences be combined in one 3 night trip or seapareted out due brightness of a full moon?
    Thanks, Sharon

    • Avatar photo

      Valerie Stimac

      If you want to see the stars, you wont to go when the moon *isn’t* full, so I would do a stargazing tour when the moon is near its new phase, and I wouldn’t try and combine these tours into one trip since the moon is still very bright on the nights near the full moon.

  • Kate Boczar

    Plan on being in Bryce canyon May 11,12 ,13 . Can I sign up now for a nite time tour with park ranger ?????Any of those nights would work but preferable the 12 or 13th.

    Thank you

  • Tencia Sajkich

    We are planning a visit to the Bryce Canyon during day and would love to see the milky way at night. I looked up the day 9/27/23 and it’s a Waxing Gibbous phase which it says 50 ilumination. Will we see the starts and milkyway? Also do I need a professional camera to get a good photo? One last question, how crowded does the areas get? Do we need to go before sunset to set up camp with chairs? We are excited about this trip.

  • Shirlyn Kim

    Hi, would April 3-5, 2024 give me a decent chance of seeing the milky way at Bryce Canyon, which would be a few days before the new moon (April 8)?

  • Marissa Ciliberto

    Hi there! Im visiting Bryce Canyon in May and want to go stargazing. I don’t want to go with a guide, but rather by myself. Do they allow you to drive the park at night? Is there an extra fee and am i allowed to pull over and stargaze by myself? Thank you so much!

    • Avatar photo

      Valerie Stimac

      Megan did point out, you can go stargazing within the park wherever you pull over – just be aware to not block roadways or drive off onto the landscape.

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