Sunrise at Bryce Canyon
This started as a quick anecdotal story, but the truth is I love Bryce Canyon so much I want to share as much about it as I can so this will be a quick guide to experiencing sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.
Bryce Canyon is one of Utah's Mighty 5 National Parks that are all incredible, unique landscapes not just to Utah but the world
First off, Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, it is a series of natural amphitheatres containing amazing stacked rock formations called Hoodoos. As a park it is very much like the Grand Canyon, you drive up to the rim and explore a series of viewpoints over these amazing landscapes. A few of the viewpoints have footpaths down into the formations which vary from a few hours hike to multi-day backpacking trails; so it is by no means a place to go and see, it is place to explore.
When you have a landscape as unique and textured as Bryce Canyon being there in golden hour is the best time to appreciate it. The direct light brings out the forms of the rocks and pushes the shadows to give a better sense of depth and scale than during the middle of the day when the light would otherwise flatten it.
As usual sunrise allows for fewer crowds and is a great start to the day! It just so happens that the rising sun can be viewed from the rim over this landscape whereas sunset falls behind with the view blocked by the forests behind you.
What makes it particularly confusing for visitors is that the parks many viewpoints have some not-so-helpful names. Whilst you would think that Sunrise Point would be the spot to go to, just south of that is Sunset Point and both point eastward over the amphitheatres of stone. The next viewpoint along the park is Inspiration Point and beyond that Bryce Point, a titular spot which is higher up and overlooks all of the amphitheatres and their respective viewpoints.
So when making the effort to get there for sunrise you want to know you'll be at the right spot for when it happens. You can see on the full park map there are many spots below the main amphitheatres worth visiting too. We were lucky to have the day before to explore all the viewpoints and catch sunset meaning we knew exactly where we wanted to be for sunrise.
I chose Inspiration Point because it is still low enough to be within the landscape, but it overlooks most of it, giving the widest view of all the rim-level viewpoints. This worked for me because it meant I would get an amphitheatre below my feet but also have the landscape extending beyond.
So whilst Sunrise Point does put you right in the scene, if you want to catch the light hitting the landscape, you have to look back into the amphitheatre and up at the rim.
Here are some my my shots from Inspiration point, from the actual sunrise into golden hour.