Last updated: March 1, 2023
Check out the Park App's "Tours" section for a guided walkthrough of how to take a driving tour of this area.
The main park road is 18 miles (29 km) from the park entrance in the north to the end of the road at Rainbow at Yovimpa Points. While the Bryce Amphitheater area is found along its first 3 miles (4.8 km), the next 15 miles (24 km) to the road's end are known as the Southern Scenic Drive.
Along this section of the main road are 9 scenic overlooks that display a lesser-seen beauty of Bryce Canyon. One aspect that makes the Southern Scenic Drive unique is that the park's elevations increase the further south you travel. While the Visitor Center is situated at 7,894 ft (2,406 m), Rainbow and Yovimpa Points exceed 9,000 ft (2,743 m). This change in elevation is the result uneven tectonic forces that uplifted this region over the last 20 million years, and creates a dramatic contrast--with exceptionally long views and unique features--between the north and south ends of the park.
The high elevations along this section of the main road also lead to temporary winter closures at the Mile 3 gate, so be sure to visit the Conditions page for the latest road status.
Planning Your Drive
It takes about 40 minutes to drive to the end of the Southern Scenic Drive from the Visitor Center. It is recommended that you begin by first doing this all the way to Rainbow and Yovimpa Points. After enjoying these viewpoints, those you will have passed along the road can be visited on the way back. This way, everything will be on the right-hand side of the road; much safer than pulling across traffic everytime you want to see a viewpoint. Typically a trip of only driving and viewpoints will take around 2-3 hours.
It is easy to enjoy all the views along the road, as none of them require much walking to reach. That said, most visitors would likely agree that Rainbow Point, Yovimpa Point, Agua Canyon and Natural Bridge are not to be missed.
As you drive south and gain elevation, you'll notice the park's forest community changing from ponderosa forest to a mixture of colorful quaking aspen and denser stands of white fir and Douglas-fir.
Pull-outs and viewpoints along the Southern Scenic Drive also give opportunities for wildlife watching. Species seen further south in the park may include elk, black bears, mule deer, birds associated with mixed-conifer forests (such as Clark's nutcrackers and dusky grouse) and high-elevation cliffs (such as peregine falcons).
Walks and Hikes
All the viewpoints along the Southern Scenic Drive are located a very short walk from their parking lots, so no hiking is required to enjoy this trip. That said, very little can be seen from the car, so you will want to walk the short distances to the railings to enjoy the view. There are two popular day hikes located along this drive: the easy Bristlecone Loop at Rainbow and Yovimpa Points (usually takes about an hour to hike) and the Swamp Canyon Loop at Swamp Canyon overlook (often takes 3 to 4 hours).
Backcountry hiking options also exist, with the Under-the-Rim Trail running approximately 22.9 miles (36.9 km) from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point. Connecting trails offer access from along the Southern Scenic Drive and intersect the Under-the-Rim Trail at Swamp Canyon, and Whiteman Bench. The Riggs Spring Loop is an 8.6 mile (13.9 km) hike beginning and ending at the Rainbow and Yovimpa Point parking lot at the south end of the Scenic Drive. Either the Yovimpa or Rainbow Point trailhead may be used to access this loop. A backcountry hiking map with mileage is available at the Visitor Center. More information
Depending on whether you just enjoy the drive and the viewpoints or choose to take a hike along the way, the Southern Scenic Drive can be a relatively short excursion or your whole day.
This trip provides opportunities to see 9 unique viewpoints along the southern, higher elevation stretches of the main park road. These viewpoints not only overlook unique geologic features, but the grand landscape of the Paria Valley and the Grand Staircase beyond.
- Pets are permitted on all paved surfaces in the park: campgrounds, parking lots, paved roads, paved viewpoint areas, on the paved trail between Sunset Point and Sunrise Point, and on the paved Shared Use Path between the park entrance and Inspiration Point.
- Pets are not permitted on unpaved trails or viewpoints, in public buildings or on public transportation vehicles. These regulations also apply to pets that are carried.
- Pets must be on a leash at all times; the leash must be no longer than 6 feet.
- Pet owners may not leave pet(s) unattended or tied to an object. Pets may not be left in vehicles while their owners hike. Be aware that idling and generator use is not permitted in park parking lots.
- Pets may not make unreasonable noise.
- Pet owners are required to pick-up after their pets (excrement and other solid waste).
Park admission provides access to this activity.
All viewpoints along the Southern Scenic Drive are paved and provide relatively flat access to the views. The exception to this is Piracy Point, which is reached via a flat 1,000 foot (39m) unpaved path that provides good access when dry. Visit our Accessibility page for more information.