Hoodoo Bryce Canyon and Free Camping? We do!
“A vast landscape of mini cities that have been etched into the canyon walls, and over the centuries have been brutally attacked by all the ferocity that mother nature could throw at it, yet this supreme creation still stands, quite possibly more beautiful than ever“.
…yep, that’s how I’d describe Bryce Canyon National Park in one sentence or less.
With only one day to explore the park we drove in after a quick sunrise breakfast and started our day hike at Sunset Point, a strenuous yet rewarding drop deep into the canyon. We started on the Navajo Trail, took a piece of the Queens Garden Trail and finished up with the Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail.
With this hike we experienced multiple elevation changes, some extreme, which offered vastly different scenery. We began our hike with coffee and pastries around 10am and ended as the sun was dropping behind the cliffs with a cold beer and nuts (thanks to the inventors of backpacks and insulated coolers)…now that’s what I’d call a successful day hike.
At some spots the Hoodoo’s seem to reach miles into the sky, while other locations provide endless symmetry and repetitive shapes. I wonder if this is where the famous architect Antoni Gaudi captured his inspiration for La Sagrada Familia?
The photo-ops are never ending (kinda like this photo essay) and when you’re there in-the-flesh the majesty is amplified 10-fold compared to the images I’ve captured. For the amateur photographer, and the professional alike, Bryce provides a wonderland of enchantment and a post trip headache for editing!
The weather was cooperative, but a little on the chilly side in the wee hours: Low of 21 and high near 60 with plenty of sun (well, until 3:30 when the shade starts taking over the canyon walls). We’ve heard November can be hit or miss when it comes to exploring Bryce, so make sure you plan well (unlike us) and have a backup plan in case the roads close due to bad weather. The big plus side of exploring in early winter: We hiked all day and only saw a few people, the temperature was beautiful at the bottom of the canyon, and the snow can add some drama to photographs. (we visited November 2013)
Free Camping Near Bryce Canyon National Park Entrance Gate
We arrived late, much later than we should have, and the Bryce Canyon website specifically recommends NOT to arrive at the campground after dark. So Nikki put her Free Camping search skills to the test and found us a safe place to wild camp just a few miles north of the park entrance. We pulled in safely around 9pm and the kicker is we had great cell service, so we uncorked a bottle of wine, flipped open the laptop and watched an hour of online TV…this is why we love RV Camping.
Here is the exact GPS location of our free overnight camping spot: 37.731608, -112.094469 Travel EXACTLY 4.3 miles northeast on Johns Valley Road from UT Highway 12, and there will be a dirt road on the left. The short dirt road was clear and opens into a large grassy area near a cattle fence with plenty of room for a few class A motorhomes, for us it was easy to locate even in the extreme darkness of night.
A Friendly Warning – We woke up just after sunrise to some rather exciting commotion in the living room…we have a mouse! The cats were on full alert as we listened for the pitter-patter of those little feet. Fortunately Singa was able to snag the mouse as he tried to run from under the chair to inside the engine compartment; then we were able to snatch the mouse (alive) from Singa, put him in a box, and release him back into the wild with only a tiny scratch. The mouse hopped off then turned back and had that “I’m never going in an RV again” look on his little face! Ha.
Have you been to Bryce Canyon National Park? If not, are you thinking about adding it to the list? We could have spent days exploring this park so I’m sure we’ll be back, if you have any favorite spots share them in the comments below.
They closed all the forest service areas near the park to overnight camping. Didn’t notice till too late. This just saved me. There was a camper in your spot already, but there is another forest service road directly east, with a few options.
Please don’t give people ideas to climb on the hoodoos … it’s illegal, and for a good reason: they break very easily. Even so-called “boulders on the side of the trail” could collapse, or worse: YOU could fall down in the canyon. Hope you stay on the trails next time you visit the park!
Can we tent camp here?
Vaya Con Perros
Thanks so much for providing the GPS coordinates for this location. We stayed here last night and are enjoying our coffee right now while looking at the gorgeous view. –Suzanne and Kevin
We have the first two weeks of May , a 20′ travel trailer and are starting the first 3 nights just outside the SW gate of Zion Park. Your story on Bryce makes that the next stop but I am wondering what other Southern Utah we should see and ones we should avoid. Thanks. Hope you find a boat.
Wow!! Thank you for including the GPS coordinates! Just scoped the area and what a private, beautiful camp site. Thanks again!
Fantastic! So glad you found it and happy wild camping!
We must have just missed you guys. We were there Oct 16-19, 2014. We then headed to Zion for a week. We did a few trails in Bryce as well and yes, the weather was nice that time of year. Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll actually meet in person. Til then, safe travels!
Love these pictures! I have never heard of this place and I hope my family and I can see it soon. I so enjoy your website.
Thanks for sharing. We’re headed here next month and were looking for a spot to boondock.
You’re spot on about the difficult task of editing the Bryce photos to just the best few. I just returned from a trip to the UT national parks. Bryce was by far my favorite. I, too, did the Queens Garden trail and it was spectacular. An even prettier sight at every turn. It makes my thighs burn just looking at those switchbacks! I took the same exact photo
It was a challenging and great day of hiking for sure.
Awesome photos of an awesome place. Thanks so much for sharing. We highly recommend nearby Zion National Park as well. One of our favorite spots on the planet.
We love Zion and the Narrows Trail is one of our top hikes: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/zion-national-park
Nice search skills Nikki. This area was part of the loop to Colorado we did in November last year in the Jeep. For anyone planning to visit, it is a huge place and I would recommend spending a few days in the area if you can. If you only have a small amount of time, at least to the whole loop inside the park. Lots of photo ops and things to see. If you like back roads the 12 and the 24 east to/from the 70 are great also.
We did drive the loop as well, but everything was in shadow so the photos weren’t as pretty 🙁
Beautiful rock formations!! Reminds me of stalagmites in a cave.
Great article..!! Thanks for sharing. Your comments and pics are spot on. Having just picked my daughter up at Grand Tetons, we did a extra 1,000 miles on the trip home to Oklahoma covering Bryce, Zion, Lake Powell, South Rim Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Santa Fe, and home.
Your point about late arrival struck a cord with me. Unfortunately, this was such a quick trip we had to stay in motels, and when we arrived like you at 9pm the Hotel in Hatch Ut was closed and they were not answering the phone and we had no place to stay. We did find a hotel in Panguitch which was not the greatest one to stay in. No mice, but had a spider friend in the bathroom…LOL
Anyway, keep up you good work and lots of us are following with high levels of envy…
Last minute hotel bookings on road trips is one thing I’m happy we don’t deal with thanks to the RV!
We have it on our schedule for a trip next year! Your pics are inspiring!
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.
Is that the fleetwood? It looks different if so what RV is this and do you like it better?
That’s our last RV: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/windy-the-rv
Great photos and camping advice. Thank you. Don’t know about the mouse thing. I saved a mouse from drowning by lifting him from circling water by the tail. Boy was I surprised when the little creep reached up and bit me. Now I would give them up to the cat. Unfortunately, our cat is a lazy vegetarian who can’t be bothered. So, how did you get the mouse in the box?
The morning mouse experience was more exciting than coffee, I wish we would have captured it on film because it was hilarious! Singa picked up the mouse and we had a big shoe box that we were able to force him to drop the mouse into. Teamwork for sure!
That is funny.
We went to Bryce Canyon a few years ago while we were on a 3 week tour of the National Parks in the West. You’re right – the photo ops are unending! Like you, the skies were crystal clear, and we got some beautiful pictures.
I thoroughly enjoyed your mouse experience too. It’s a good thing your cats were on patrol!
How did a mouse get in your coach?
A mouse can squeeze into any tiny gap and trust me most RVs have plenty of gaps.
How can you stop mice from getting inside your rv
Don’t know, mice are always a problem for RVers.
Thanks for the tip on the free camping site. When we visited Bryce, we camped at Kodachrome State Park. This is a beautiful campground with similar rock formations and lots of hiking options. It is located about 30 miles east of Bryce.
This is beautiful, you guys. Thanks for posting. You are living my dream.
great photos thanks for the share,are you staying in the national park?
We stayed outside of the National Park, we give the exact location at the end of the article.
Wow! So amazing! I must see this in person some day. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos!
Bryce is a fragile landscape. Staying on existing trails is paramount to the preservation of this magnificent place. Leaving the trails for photo oops or any other reason not sanctioned by the NPS is frowned upon and should be avoided.
Not sure why you feel we left the trails, other than hopping on top of a boulder next to the trail for one shot we stayed on trail the entire day.