Bryce Canyon Photography: Sunrise, Sunset, Hikes and Viewpoints

by Mark and Kristen Morgan
Beautiful sunrise at Bryce Canyon amphitheater one of the best sunrise photography locations in Utah

Bryce Canyon photography begins with a bang as a beautiful flaming red sunrise fills an amphitheater made of needle-like sandstone hoodoo’s, before a day of hiking, a calming sunset and a crystal clear night sky transform the atmosphere into a relaxing arena for photographers.

If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon based entirely around photography, you can get all the images you need in one full day from sunrise to stars. Based on our own experiences, we will talk through some Bryce Canyon photography tips in this article to help you plan your visit.

If you’re just here to look at the best of Bryce Canyon through imagery, ignore the tips, scroll through and enjoy the photos!

Bryce is a relatively small and compact National Park along the popular Utah Mighty 5 National Park road trip circuit. But size isn’t everything. Bryce Canyon packs a hefty punch in staggering beauty, a unique landscape and most importantly – fantastic photography opportunities.

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Serious hobbyists and professional photographers visit Bryce Canyon to capture an extraordinarily staggering sunrise as Bryce amphitheater glows as though molten lava is seeping through its pores.

There is no lava, or volcanoes for that matter. But an unimaginably bright red glow illuminates camera lenses, sensors and eyes behind each viewfinder.

A line of two legged photographers entangled with three legged tripods stand firm at Sunrise Point before first light each morning. A Sea of legs waiting impatiently for an Ocean of burning reds and oranges.

Last minute settings checks, filters being changed, compositions being adjusted, test shots snapping. The brilliant blue of civil twilight turns yellow and the Rim of Bryce Canyon amphitheater absorbs the first rays of Sun to mark a new day.

Relentless shutters clicking for 5 minutes as the amphitheater burns before it all ends and deep dark shadows cast across the canyon signaling the end of another sunrise extravaganza at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Amazing blues and purples of civil twilight just before sunrise over bryce canyon amphitheater with tree and exposed roots

Vibrant blues and purples in the sky at Civil Twilight in Bryce Canyon – Sunrise Point.

Spectacular sunrise at Bryce Canyon national park amphitheater perfect photography opportunity

Bryce amphitheater illuminating under intense sunlight – Sunrise Point.

Photography Tips For Capturing A Bryce Canyon Sunrise

  • Sunrise Point is the best and only place to set up your tripod for sunrise at Bryce Canyon. The ‘viewing platform’ is only 20-30 feet long and that means first come first served.
  • If you visit in Summer and want to get a prime spot, you must arrive before civil twilight (check sunrise times here). We visited in October and the line was filled before sunrise. There are always a few disgruntled photographers who didn’t plan in advance and skulk around behind those who did plan effectively!
  • Bryce Canyon is located at around 8,000 ft, which means it is very cold before sunrise in Fall, Spring and Winter. It was sub-zero the morning we visited in October and we were wrapped up in full ski suits.
  • Take a wide angle lens (anywhere between 16-24 is perfect) to capture as much of the amphitheater as possible, including the famous tree with its roots exposed.
  • If you arrive first, stand just a few feet to the right of the information board for the best spot. It goes without saying but you will need your tripod for Bryce Canyon sunrise!
Yellow sun creating a staggering red burning effect on the sandstone rocks in Utah

Wider canyon shot to show deep shadows and vibrant yellow glow of the sun – Sunrise Point.

Burning red color at sunrise in amphitheater Utah sandstone

A few minutes later shadows begin to lighten and rocks turn from red to orange – Sunrise Point.

Photography Inside Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

Photography inside Bryce Canyon amphitheater is unique, even for the varied and mind-boggling landscapes in Utah. Vibrant orange sandstone ‘hoodoo’s’ – tall thin spires of rock – appear in all manner of shapes and sizes.

The best place to start is by hiking the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trails between Sunrise and Sunset points. You will follow a dusty and sandy trail through a maze of impressive rocks cutting interesting shapes against a clear blue sky.

A series of fun switchbacks were formed in order to access the canyon floor more directly from Sunset Point and this area is the most photographed part of the trail.

Look out for the three favored formations of Thor’s Hammer, Twin Bridges and Wall Street on the Navajo Loop.

where are those morgans about to hike the queens garden trail on a cold morning in utah

Mark and Kristen about to hike Queen’s Garden Trail with Northern Bryce Canyon in the background – Rim Trail, Sunrise Point.

Melted wax sandstone hoodoos in utah national park against a deep blue sky

Wonderful sandstone shapes like melting candle wax contrasting against deep blue sky – Queen’s Garden Trail.

Open flat expanse at the canyon floor in utah

Bryce Canyon floor flattening and smoothing out – Queen’s Garden Trail.

Bryce canyon photography awesome landscape hiking queens garden trail and navajo loop trail

Rugged sandstone landscape – Queen’s Garden Trail.

Orange sandstone hoodoos creating a needle like landscape

Needle-like towering spires reaching for the sky – Queen’s Garden Trail.

Epic sandstone hoodoo formations like melted candlewax

Three spires with balancing rocks showcasing Bryce Canyon’s impressive hoodoo’s – Queen’s Garden Trail.

Green oasis in an ocean of orange trees in utah national park

Welcome change of color as green trees dwell on the canyon floor  – Queen’s Garden Trail.

Tips Inside the Amphitheater

  • Shoot from underneath looking back up at sandstone formations to contrast against the blue sky.
  • The canyon is quite open and exposed on Queen’s Garden as far as Navajo Loop, so you’ll need plenty of water and sunscreen!
  • Shadows are inevitable inside Bryce Canyon’s amphitheater but you can use them to add drama in your images.
  • A good 24-70 or 24-105 lens works well in the canyon because you can switch from wide angle landscape to telephoto of a specific formation easily.
  • Head into the canyon early if you want to avoid people in your images but expect it to be busy any time after 9am, especially in Summer.
  • The best thing you can do here is explore every nook and cranny of the landscape, find short dead end spur trails and see if you can create a new perspective.
mark and kristen where are those morgans posing for photograph in bryce canyon national park but shadows make portraiture difficult

Mark and Kristen warming up as mid morning approaches the canyon  – Queen’s Garden Trail.

Mask and Thor's Hammer inside sandstone amphitheater in utah

Venetian mask with deep blue eyes and Thor’s Hammer perched atop a spire  – Navajo Loop Trail.

Thor's Hammer made of sandstone hoodoo rock formations in utah

Mother Nature, how is that one solitary spire still standing? – Navajo Loop Trail.

Mark grabbing Thor's hammer to see if he is worthy in bryce canyon national park utah

Odin deciding if Mark is worthy of Thor’s Hammer – Navajo Loop Trail.

Navajo loop trail switchbacks in bryce canyon make for awesome photography opportunities but shadows are cast all day

Awesome lung bursting switchbacks descending into Bryce Canyon – Navajo Loop Trail.

Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive Viewpoints Photography

If you have enough time, take 63 Bryce Canyon scenic drive route to the end.

You will pass numerous overlooks offering different perspectives of Bryce Canyon, including more varied landscapes outside of the hoodoo dense amphitheater.

Natural bridge is definitely worth a stop if you won’t be visiting Arches National Park when in Utah. Once almost back, take the right turn to Bryce Point and Inspiration Point for yet more diverse takes on the intriguing topography.

Admittedly, we didn’t have much time left as we needed to make tracks for Zion. However, we we did make all the stops along Bryce’s scenic drive and it’s well worth the extra effort.

Viewpoint along scenic drive in bryce canyon ideal for photography

Wide open landscapes and huge blue sky surrounding Bryce Canyon – Rainbow Point.

Photography of natural bridge in bryce canyon national park utah

Natural Bridge in the dark shadow of late afternoon – Natural Bridge.

Viewpoints along scenic road in utah of valley and rocks

Impressive U shaped canyon surrounded on three sides by sandstone cliffs – Black Birch Canyon.

Late afternoon sun casting deep shadows with deep blue sky in utah

More sandstone needles and deep canyons below – Ponderosa Canyon.

Tips for the Scenic Overlooks

  • Go early to avoid crowds or go at midday to avoid the deepest shadows.
  • This road is far less busy in general than the Rim and best hikes into the canyon floor.
  • Drive the full length of the road and stop only on the way back to Bryce Canyon Rim because all the pull offs are on the amphitheater side of the road.
  • Wide angle lens works better to capture the wide open landscape surrounding Bryce Canyon.
Kristen at Bryce point posing for a photograph in front of metal barrier

Kristen on the Bryce Point observation platform, the only viewpoint with a metal barrier – Bryce Point.

Scenic overlook walkway with barrier overlooking valley in utah

Not too busy by National Park standards! But this was October – Bryce Point.

Amazing photography at bryce canyon scenic overlook bryce point entire canyon in valley below

The alternate view they’re all here to see – Bryce Point.

Orange sandstone rocks as far as the horizon in utah

Slightly different perspective of the same canyon – Inspiration Point.

Bryce Canyon Sunset Photography

Sunset at Bryce Canyon is not like sunrise. The sun sets behind you as you look at the amphitheater, which means the hoodoo’s are out of the picture. You won’t have to worry about crazy battles for position or limited spaces as you have the entire Rim to enjoy.

Sunset Point is (unsurprisingly!) the best place to be around sunset. Not because there is a magical sunset image from here but because you can walk down slightly into the canyon as though you are going to descend the switchbacks into Wall Street.

As the sun gets lower in the Western sky, it strongly illuminates the sunset facing wall of Navajo Loop trail. Extremely dark shadows and abyss-like black holes make the canyon appear incredibly eerie.

The best action you’ll get at sunset in Bryce Canyon is watching as distant hills are illuminated a golden yellow. A nice contrast between cooling orange rocks in foreground darkness create a cool image but you need luck with clouds.

If you can only do one – pick sunrise.

Bright orange rocks at sunset navajo loop bryce canyon photography

Dark shadows forming atop the switchbacks just before sunset – Navajo Loop (Wall Street side).

Kristen at sunset with a starburst over her head bryce canyon sunset photography

Using Kristens head to create a starburst as we wait for the sun to set – Sunset Point.

Tips for Sunset

  • Stand anywhere along the Rim close to Sunset point for best view of distant hills.
  • Be sure to go inside the canyon to see the walls glowing brightly an hour before sunset.
  • After sunset stay for astrophotography, the stars and night sky are very clear at Bryce Canyon.
  • Don’t forget a high quality head torch if you do stay for a Milky Way display.
  • Wide angle lens again is the better choice to give perspective of valley size.
Sunset at bryce canyon photography interesting as shadows on hoodoos below with yellow sun lighting up distant hills

Bryce Canyon amphitheater thrust into darkness as distant hills soak up the final rays of day – Sunset Point.

Incredible colors in the sky for Bryce Canyon sunset at sunset point over the impressive hoodoo valley below

Stunning colors forming around the clouds in the final moments of sunset across Bryce Canyon – Sunset Point.

Two Bonus Extras

Deer play fighting at dawn in utah

On the way back to our campground after sunrise we saw two deer play fighting at dawn so we pulled over and watched them quietly from afar for 5 minutes.

Milky Way and stars above Bryce Canyon astro photography

Visiting Utah in Fall means the Milky Way is prominent as early as 8pm. We walked down into the canyon right above the Navajo Loop switchbacks to capture the Milky Way as it appeared over the Rim trail.

We should have waited longer for a darker sky but it was freezing cold!

Read More About Bryce Canyon National Park

Are you planning a trip to Utah? Our Ultimate Utah Road Trip Planner covers all of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, plus crosses into Northern Arizona to complete the most amazing loop route.

More Photography Inspiration
We hope this helped you plan your Bryce Canyon photography from sunrise to sunset!

Have you been to Utah? Which is your favorite National Park? 

Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your visit.

-Happy Snapping-

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