Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
To get up close and personal with the park's hoodoos, set aside a half day to hike into the amphitheater. There are no elevators, so remember that after you descend below the rim you'll have to get back up. The air gets warmer the lower you go, and the altitude will have you huffing and puffing unless you're a mountain native. The uneven terrain calls for sturdy hiking boots; no below-rim trails are paved. For trail maps, information, and ranger recommendations, stop at the visitor center. Bathrooms are located at most trailheads but not down in the amphitheater.
Escalante Outfitters. Guided fly-fishing excursions and natural history tours of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument are offered here, as well as more adventurous day and overnight hikes. The business also has an outdoor store with camping gear, café, and a few homey sleeping berths out back, including some rustic private cabins and campsites. 310 W. Main St., Escalante, UT, 84726. 435/826–4266. escalanteoutfitters.com.
Bristlecone Loop Trail. This 1-mile trail with a modest 100 feet of elevation gain alternates between spruce and fir forest and wide-open vistas of the Paunsaugunt Plateau and beyond. You might see yellow-bellied marmots and blue grouse, critters not found at lower elevations in the park. The most challenging part of the hike is ungluing your eyes from the scenery long enough to read the signage at the many trail forks. Plan on 45 minutes to an hour. Easy. Trailhead at Rainbow Point parking area, 18 mi south of park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Queen's Garden Trail. This hike is the easiest way down into the amphitheater. Three hundred feet of elevation change will lead you to a short tunnel, quirky hoodoos, and lots of like-minded hikers. Allow two hours total to hike the 1.5-mile trail plus the ½-mile rim-side path back to the parking area. Easy. Trailhead at Sunrise Point, 2 mi south of park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Navajo Loop Trail. One of Bryce's most popular and dramatic attractions is this steep descent via a series of switchbacks leading to Wall Street, a claustrophobic hallway of rock only 20-feet wide in places with walls 100-feet high. After a walk through the Silent City, the northern end of the trail brings Thor's Hammer into view. The trail leads to a well-marked intersection offering a shorter way back or continuing on the longer Queens Garden Trail to Sunset Point. For the short version allow at least an hour on this 1½-mile trail with 500 feet of elevation change. Moderate. Trailhead at Sunset Point, 2 miles south of park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Navajo/Queen's Garden Combination Loop. By walking this extended 3-mile loop, you can see some of the best of Bryce; it takes more than two hours. The route passes fantastic formations and an open forest of pine and juniper on the amphitheater floor. Descend into the amphitheater from Sunset Point on the Navajo Trail and ascend via the less demanding Queen's Garden Trail; return to your starting point via the Rim Trail. Moderate. Trailheads at Sunset and Sunrise points, 2 mi south of park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Fairyland Loop Trail. Hike into whimsical Fairyland Canyon on this trail that gets more strenuous and less crowded as you progress along its 8 miles. It winds around hoodoos, across trickles of water, and finally to a natural window in the rock at Tower Bridge, 1½ miles from Sunrise Point and 4 miles from Fairyland Point. The pink-and-white badlands and hoodoos surround you the whole way. Don't feel like you have to go the whole distance to make it worthwhile. But if you do, allow at least five hours for the round trip with 1,000 feet of elevation change. You can pick up the loop at Fairyland Point or Sunrise Point. Difficult. Trailhead at Fairyland Point, 1 mile off main park rd., 1 mile south of park entrance; Sunrise Point, 2 miles south of park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Peekaboo Loop. The reward of this steep trail is the Wall of Windows and the Three Wise Men. Horses use this trail in spring, summer, and fall and have the right-of-way. Start at Bryce, Sunrise, or Sunset Point and allow four to five hours to hike the 5-mile trail or 7-mile loop. Difficult. Trailheads at Bryce Point, 2 mi off main park road, 5½ mi south of park entrance; Sunrise and Sunset points, 2 mi south of park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Riggs Spring Loop Trail. One of the park's two true backpacker's trails, this rigorous 9-mile path has an overnight option at the Riggs Spring campsite. You'll journey past groves of twinkling aspen trees and the eponymous spring close to the campsite. Start at either Yovimpa or Rainbow points and be prepared for 1,500 feet of elevation change. Campers need to check in at the visitor center ahead of time for backcountry permits. Difficult. Trailheads atYovimpa and Rainbow points, 18 mi south of park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Tower Bridge. This short, uncrowded hike on the Fairyland Loop Trail takes you to a natural bridge deep in the amphitheater. Walk through pink and white badlands with hoodoos all around on this 3-mile trip that takes two to three hours. Some navigation required; it's not quite a loop. Difficult. Trailhead at Sunrise Point, 1 mi off the main park road, south of the park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Trail to the Hat Shop. The sedimentary haberdashery sits 2 miles from the trailhead. Hard gray caps balance precariously atop narrow pedestals of softer, rust-colored rock. Allow three to four hours to travel this strenuous but rewarding 4-mile round-trip trail, the first part of the longer Under-the-Rim Trail. Difficult. Trailhead at Bryce Point, 2 mi off main park road, 5½ mi south of park entrance, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Under-the-Rim Trail. Starting at Bryce Point, the trail travels 22½ miles to Rainbow Point, passing through the Pink Cliffs, traversing Agua Canyon and Ponderosa Canyon, and taking you by several springs. Most of the hike is on the amphitheater floor, characterized by up-and-down terrain among stands of ponderosa pine; the elevation change totals about 1,500 feet. Four trailheads along the main park road allow you to connect to the Under-the-Rim Trail and cover its length as a series of day hikes. Allow at least two days to hike the route in its entirety, and although it's not a hoodoo-heavy hike there's plenty to see to make it a more leisurely three-day affair. Difficult. Trailheads at Bryce Point, Swamp Canyon, Ponderosa Canyon, and Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 84764.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Fodor's Go List 2014: Where we are going in 2014
- World Cup Fever: Start planning your trip to Brazil!
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe