A lovely morning walk at Bryce Canyon National Park

As with most national parks, Bryce Canyon has restrictions on where you can bring your dog. The biggest restriction is that dogs are not allowed on hiking trails. My dog Murphy and I are avid hikers. After reading these rules I wasn’t expecting to have a great experience during our visit. Either way, I still wanted to keep an open mind and experience it for myself. I’ve always been pleasantly surprised when I think that I’m not going to enjoy myself at a National Park because of their dog restrictions.

After arriving early to watch the sunrise, I was in fact surprised. My morning at Bryce Canyon quickly became one of my favorite national park experiences, and I didn’t even do a single hike with my dog.

Our Morning Experience

Murphy and I arrived at the Sunrise Point parking lot of Bryce Canyon National Park at 6:30 am. There were only about 15 or so other vehicles. For a Saturday morning that seemed quite good. I guess we were among the few who decided that the sunrise on a cold 12-degree winter morning was more appealing than the comfort of a warm bed.

I parked my camper van and decided to make coffee to enjoy during the sunrise. I left my driver’s seat and walked into my living quarters which was still being warmed by my diesel heater from the night before. The living space was adequately warm but I could feel the winter chill make its way into the van. If I describe the interior of my camper van, I always say it resembles a modern Maine cabin.

I placed my camp stove on the kitchen countertop, brewed some coffee, and grabbed my travel mug. I poured the hot coffee and splashed in some french vanilla creamer. Brewing coffee on a cold morning in my mobile cabin and Murphy patiently waiting in the passenger seat creates such a burst of happiness and humility for me. It’s such a simple experience, yet it fills the heart with warmth. The cold weather and my cozy mobile Maine cabin had this parking lot feeling like home.

With coffee in one hand and Muphy’s leash in the other, we left through the van sliding door. The air was frigid but I was warm in my winter gear and Murphy in his fleece-lined orange overcoat. The walk to Sunrise Point was short, less than half a mile. We reached the fenced viewpoint area and found two people there, a couple. They were also there to enjoy the sunrise.

The view of orange spiked-rock formations from Sunrise Point
The view from Sunrise Point

The sun had just risen over the mountains on the horizon and was shining down on the pine trees and spike-shaped rock formations below. The glow from the sun, forest green pine trees, soft-orange colored rock, and white snow surrounding the rock formations made for a beautiful combination of colors. I sipped on my french vanilla flavored coffee. The warm coffee in my body and vibrant colors of the landscape below created strong feelings of what I can only describe as a calm happiness.

Murphy and I continued walking on the paved trail to Sunset point. A short distance in, I realized there wasn’t anyone else on the trail. We had the trail to ourselves. This beautiful moment at sunrise was ours to enjoy and ours alone. We stopped several times, observing the unique beauty of every rock formation we passed. It was as if the sun was intentionally shining down on notable areas of rock to show them to us. We continued our walk to Sunset Point without seeing a soul. The rock formations were just as beautiful from this new perspective. Murphy and I admired the view for several minutes before heading back to the warm van for breakfast.

A scenic view of Bryce Canyon National Park from the Sunset Point viewpoint
The scenic view of Bryce Canyon National Park from the Sunset Point viewpoint

Be sure to read our guide so you can share the same experience as Murphy and I: Bryce Canyon National Park – a guide for visiting with your dog.