The Best Viewpoint to Watch the Sunrise at Bryce Canyon

Sunrise at Inspiration Point

Plan to get up early at least one morning to watch the sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park.  Morning light is the best time to see the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. You will be amply rewarded for your lack of sleep as you see the first rays glimmering over the tops of the hoodoos and bathing them in a gorgeous glow of light.  The yellows and reds seem to sparkle, and the whole canyon comes alive!  

In this post, I tell you my pick for which viewpoint to see the sunrise at Bryce Canyon, as well as two other options that make my top 3 choices for watching the sunrise when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park.

My Pick for Watching the Sunrise at Bryce Canyon

Although there are several options for watching the sunrise at Bryce Canyon, Inspiration Point was my first choice when deciding where to photograph the sunrise during my visit. I love getting up to see the sunrise. There’s something special about greeting the beginning of a new day. Morning light is also one of the best times for photography.  This is especially true at Bryce Canyon!  The canyon glows in the morning light, and the hoodoos are on full display, whereas later, they will be encompassed by the afternoon shadows.

Inspiration point Bryce Canyon

Why Choose Inspiration Point?

I like that Inspiration Point has multiple designated viewpoints along the half-mile climb to the top.  You get a closer look at the canyon from the lower viewpoint, then as you make your way to the upper viewpoint, you also pass a midpoint viewing area for an additional perspective.  

Inspiration Point is also less busy at sunrise.  Most people generally head for Sunrise Point, which is a good option, but a more crowded option.  By choosing Inspiration Point, I was the first person there, and there was only a total of 6 of us up there for the entire sunrise!  This made it a very leisurely and enjoyable way to photograph the sunrise and enjoy the views.

Inspiration Point allows you to look to the right toward Bryce Point and the left at Sunset Point and Sunrise Point.  The smaller crowds, expansive views, along with the multiple viewpoints are why I chose Inspiration Point for my first option to photograph the sunrise at Bryce Canyon.

Getting to Inspiration Point

  • Trail Length: 0.6 miles (one-way)
  • Hiking Time: ~10 minutes to upper Inspiration Point
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 140 feet
  • Trail Difficulty Rating: Easy (It’s a little steep at the top, but it’s a wide trail and a short hike.)
  • Features: 3 different viewpoints of the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, it’s also situated along the Rim Trail for those looking for a longer hike. It is wheelchair accessible to the lower viewpoint. 
  • Restroom Facilities: Yes. There are pit toilets alongside the parking lot.

Tips for Photographing the Sunrise at Inspiration Point

What Time to Arrive

45-minutes before sunrise

I typically try to get to a destination at least 1-hour before sunrise. However, 45-minutes was plenty of time at Inspiration Point during my visit in spring.  With 1-hour, you are assured of having the first pick of spots, even in the summer.

What to bring?

  • Camera
  • Wide-angle lens
  • (A smartphone camera works too!)
  • Tripod
  • Flashlight (For the hike up in the dark.)
  • Warm Layers (Gloves & a hat were really nice to have in the spring.)
  • Hiking Poles (This hike is short but steep at the upper viewpoint, so hiking poles are handy to have.)

Upper Viewpoint

What to expect?

 There is a railing around the upper viewpoint so bring a tall tripod, or you’ll need to hold your camera to avoid the railing in your shots.  

You are at a higher elevation, so the weather is typically colder than you would expect before the sun comes up. I visited in April, and there was still snow in spots along the trail. The Rim Trail to Bryce Point was also closed due to snow.  

If, for some reason, you arrive and upper Inspiration Point is crowded, then walk back down the trail for a slightly lower vantage.  There is plenty of room along this trail for you to find a spot to watch the sunrise.  Be careful, though, as only the designated viewpoint areas have a railing. Keep small kids away from the canyon edge and watch your step, especially in the dark.

I think this is fairly well-known, but no drones are allowed in any of the U.S. National Parks. However, while I visited, someone put a drone in the air at Inspiration Point, and a ranger was there within 5-minutes.  I have no idea how the ranger knew about it so quickly, but they did.  I think they only gave the person a warning, but I assume you could be fined, so I wouldn’t take any chances.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon

Photography Tips

Photograph it from various vantage points and angles.  I didn’t get a chance to scout out Inspiration Point the day before. Instead, I went directly to the upper viewpoint to set up my tripod for the sunrise.  Then I later photographed it from the midpoint and lower viewpoint.  Walk around the upper viewpoint and try some views on both the left and right sides of Inspiration Point.  Use trees and vegetation to create depth and interest.  

Try shots from up high and down low.  Also, stick around a little while after the sunrise as the glow in the canyon gets brighter, and the colors really start to come out. 

Lower viewing area
Hoodoos and Spires at Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon hoodoos and spires.
The midpoint viewing area.

More Great Options for Watching the Sunrise at Bryce Canyon

My other top choices for watching the sunrise at Bryce Canyon are Sunrise Point & Bryce Point. Both of these have gorgeous views! I especially liked the view from Bryce Point. Partly I think, because the viewing platform jutted out, and it felt like I was suspended over the canyon.  The trail to Bryce Point is completely paved, so although a little steep in spots, it is wheelchair accessible.  There are also restrooms at both Sunrise Point and Bryce Point.  Sunrise Point is popular for a good reason. It gives you sweeping views over the Queen’s Garden trail and canyon and makes a great (and popular) choice for photographing the sunrise at Bryce Canyon. 

What to do After Watching the Sunrise

After watching the sunrise at Bryce Canyon, you are ready to hike into the canyon and see it up close!  The morning light (and temperatures) make it the perfect time to hit the trails.  If you only have time for one hike in Bryce Canyon, I recommend the Navajo Loop Trail & Peekaboo Loop combination hike.  My hubby and I loved this hike, and it was the perfect way to see the canyon up close after viewing it from above at Inspiration Point.  It really added to the experience to see it from a birds-eye-view first to the ground level.

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