Bryce Canyon National Park Turns 100

Celebrating a century of natural wonders, preservation, and exploration

Six weeks after we settled at the ranch, Claude Sudweeks, a rancher from Tropic, stopped by for a neighborly chat. He asked us if we had seen Bryce. I said ‘No, what is it?’ Claude replied, “oh, just a hole in the ground, but you should see it.’ ….What a surprise the hole turned out to be! We thought everyone should see it, so from that time on we took our friends there and we told everyone we met about Bryce.

—Ruby Syrett

Bryce Canyon is a small national park with a huge wow factor. The moment you step up to the rim and gaze across the hundreds of hoodoos, spires, and rock formations, it will take your breath away.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park is a fantasyland of hoodoos, sandstone pillars, and bizarre looking rock formations. It is an extraordinary place to visit and its unique landscape sets it apart from other national parks.

Bryce Canyon is small and easy to visit. Take in the views from the rim, hike a trail or two, or fill your camera’s memory card with beautiful photos.

The thousands of hoodoos in Bryce are what attract so many visitors every year. Hoodoo can be defined as a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin. Geologically, hoodoos are found all around the world but they occur in the most abundance in Bryce Canyon. Here, hoodoos are the main ingredient of this unique landscape.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

June 8, 2023 marks the centennial celebration of Bryce Canyon National Park. Over the past 100 years things have definitely changed and the number of visitors to this park is one of those things. Visitors numbering in the thousands visited Bryce Canyon in 1923; that number surpassed two million visitors by 2022.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A lot has happened here in the last 100 years: the rim of the Bryce Amphitheater has retreated an average of 22 inches, 18,000 freeze and thaw cycles have shaped and toppled countless hoodoos, the sun has risen 36,889 times over Thor’s Hammer (not to mention innumerable stars every night), a beloved national park was created, and perhaps you got to see it for the very first time. Rangers like to call a person’s first view their Bryce Moment when the forested plateau rim suddenly gives way to a vast, sublime, and chromatic expanse. Some have described it as a cave without a ceiling, others a forest of stone or red painted faces. What do you see in this landscape? What words could ever do it justice?

With descriptive phrases such as a cave without a ceiling, red rocks standing like men, and nature’s most delicate jewel, the Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah is definitely one of wonder. The park is filled with ponderosa forests and limestone hoodoos. And nightly pitch-black dark skies have been viewed by citizens around the world.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A brief history

Bryce Canyon National Monument was originally established by President Harding on June 8, 1923 and administered by the U.S. Forest Service to preserve the “unusual scenic beauty, scientific interest, and importance.” On June 7, 1924, Congress would establish Utah National Park with the stipulation that all state and private land within its boundaries must first belong to the United States. On February 25, 1928 “Utah National Park” was changed to “Bryce Canyon National Park”. Conditions of the 1924 congressional bill were met later that year and Bryce Canyon National Park was officially established on September 15, 1928.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 “Bryce Canyon’s centennial year is an opportunity to celebrate not only the rich past but also the present and future of this national park,” said Superintendent Jim Ireland. “2023 will be a year of celebration and yet we also want it to be a year of connection between the park and its local communities, affiliated tribes, partners, visitors, and staff.”

A variety of virtual and in-person activities and events will occur in Bryce Canyon National Park throughout 2023. Browse the list of events below, follow on social media, and use #BRYCE100 to share your centennial experiences. Events and details will be added and updated throughout the year, so check back often!

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Events planned for the centennial year include:

  • Historic Photo Exhibit: April 1- October 30 at Bryce Lodge
  • Utah Prairie Dog Day: May 11
  • Centennial Ceremony and Concert featuring The Piano Guys: June 8
  • Astronomy Festival: June 14-17
  • Bryce Canyon Butterfly Count: July 8
  • Geology Festival: July 14-15
  • All Employee Reunion: August 24-26
  • Plein Air “Paint Out” in participation with with Escalante Canyons Art Festival: September 18
  • Bryce Canyon Heritage Days Festival: September 28-30
  • Annular Eclipse: October 14
  • Christmas Bird Count: December 16
Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ways to explore Bryce Canyon National Park

Explore the wonder and beauty of this national park any day of the week and explore all the components. Take a scenic drive to see the Bryce Amphitheater. The first three miles of the drive provide unobstructed views of the largest group of hoodoos on Earth. This is the main park road and it stretches for 18 miles. Throughout this section, there are nine scenic overlooks that display more beauty of the Bryce Canyon.

Bike paths, day hiking trails, horseback riding, and the visitor center museum are all possibilities for enjoying the national park.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Humble beginnings of Bryce Canyon National Park

The Syrett family was not only advocates for the location but they actually become hosts. In 1919, Ruby and his family obtained the state’s permission to build a lodge near the brink of the canyon; Tourist Rest was open for travelers to stay on the property for four years.

By 1923, the canyon became a national monument causing Ruby to move the Tourist Rest to his ranch. With a new location came a new name, Ruby’s Inn. As more visitors flocked to Bryce Canyon, the national monument was upgraded to national park status. Ruby’s Inn upgraded as well growing into a successful business.

Over the past 100 years, Ruby’s Inn has transformed from tent houses and a place for meals to today’s modern facilities that provide everything a traveling family will need. Ruby’s hospitality has been passed down through generations to his son Carl. He has furthered the tradition by passing it on to his children and grandchildren. They continue to offer the same quality service and hospitality as Ruby did keeping the legacy alive for four generations.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground

Many RVers camp at Ruby’s Inn RV Park and campground and have provided some high-praising reviews of the location. According to RV Life Campgrounds, the campground has a solid 4/5 star review based on over 450 reviews. Good Sam has rated it 9/9*/9.5.

Today’s guests staying at the pet-friendly Ruby’s Inn are appreciative of the oversized campsites. They can also take advantage of the shuttle to the park and the country music dinner show. Other amenities include a pool, restrooms with showers, and pull-through sites. Campers have direct access to off-roading trails and nearby destinations such as Red Canyon, Escalante, Utah Scenic Byway 12, Cedar Breaks National Monument, and Zion National Park. And the sunrises that give a pleasant glow to the rock formations are a great start to every day.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your visit

Worth Pondering…

When lighted by the morning sun the gorgeous chasm is an immense bowl of lace and filigree work in stone, colored with the white of frost and the pinks of glowing embers. To those who have not forgotten the story books of childhood it suggests a playground for fairies. In another aspect it seems a smoldering inferno where goblins and demons might dwell among flames and embers.

The Union Pacific System, 1929