The Rainbow Point Tour is the best way to see Bryce Canyon, short of being there on a week-long backpacking adventure! The tour is 4 hours long and is FREE with your admission to the National Park. The shuttle takes you 20 miles south along the winding and climbing roads all the way up to Rainbow and Yovimpa Point (elevation: 9100 feet).
The tour will stop at multiple vistas up to Rainbow Point and back down with the longest stop being the one at Rainbow / Yovimpa, allowing time to those that would like to do the 20-minute walk around the short loop trail (highly recommended!).
As with other National Park guided tours, the Rainbow Point tour was extraordinary. Our bus driver, Cliff, was a master story-teller and took advantage of his captive audience to tell as the real story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He told it so well that we would jump back on the bus after each vista, and wait patiently for the next ‘chapter’.
Cliff grew up in the hills of Utah, and his story was accentuated with all of his experiences and his ancestor’s experiences of the true wild west. So we learned of young Richard Parker, oldest of 12 that took the name of his wrangler boss – Butch Cassidy, who came home one evening slumped over on his horse having succumbed to “lead poisoning”. The stories touched on so many areas we had just driven through, like the Big Rock Candy Mountains, Robber’s Roost, and the Hidden Hills of Maryvale – his stories really brought our roadtrip to life.
When we got out to Rainbow and Yovimpa Points, Cliff pointed out that we were standing atop the Grand Staircase. The Grand Staircase refers to the layers of sedimentary rock that start at the top with the Pink Cliffs of Bryce Canyon, followed by the White Cliffs of Zion, the red rock of Vermilion Cliffs, the Chocolate Cliffs, all the way down to the Grand Canyon. As we gazed southward, it was amazing to think that the visible horizon was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon – 150 miles away!
He also noted that many of the large Bristlecone Pines in the area of Rainbow Point were almost 1,800-years-old…Unbelievable! Having our picture taken on the pine log bench with an incredible vista (and drop off!) just feet to our backs was also a highlight of the tour and a memorable keepsake.
With each stop along the way, Cliff would tell us stories about the Hoodoos and the ones that looked like famous cartoon characters, kings, and queens. He even told us about a pair of ravens that said would be waiting for us at Ponderosa Canyon…and there they were! Too funny.
After the tour, we enjoyed a picnic lunch at the Bryce Amphitheater (another must-see attraction), and went back to the Visitor Center for the boys to complete their Junior Ranger badges.
I’m so glad that we took the Rainbow Point Tour as part of our trip. If you have just one day to spend at Bryce Canyon, I would highly recommend that you include this in your itinerary. You can make a reservation up to 24 hours in advance of your visit, which I would also recommend as this is a very popular tour with limited seats. Check out the Bryce Canyon National Park Service website for the phone number and tour times.