To get up close and personal with the park's hoodoos, set aside a half day to hike into the amphitheater. Remember, 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 very fit. The uneven terrain calls for lace-up shoes on even the well-trodden, high-traffic trails and sturdy hiking boots for the more challenging ones. No below-rim trails are paved. For trail maps, information, and ranger recommendations, stop at the visitor center. Bathrooms are at most trailheads but not down in the amphitheater.


Escalante Outfitters. Guided fly-fishing excursions as well as natural history tours of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and Boulder Mountain are offered here. The business also has an outfitter store with camping gear, café, small sleeping cabins, and campsites. 310 W. Main St., Escalante, Utah, 84726. 435/826–4266; www.escalanteoutfitters.com. From $45.


Bristlecone Loop Trail. This 1-mile trail with a modest 200 feet of elevation gain lets you see the park from its highest points of more than 9,000 feet, alternating between spruce and fir forest and wide-open vistas out over Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and beyond. You might see yellow-bellied marmots and dusky grouse, critters not found at lower elevations in the park. Plan on 45 minutes to an hour. Easy. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764. www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/bristleconeloop.htm.

Queen's Garden Trail. This hike is the easiest way down into the amphitheater, with 350 feet of elevation change leading to a short tunnel, quirky hoodoos, and lots of like-minded hikers. It's the essential Bryce "sampler." Allow two hours total to hike the 1½-mile trail plus the ½-mile rim-side path and back. Easy. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764. www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/queensgarden.htm.


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 slightly 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. A well-marked intersection offers a shorter way back via Two Bridges Trail or continuing on the Queen's Garden Trail to Sunrise Point. For the short version allow at least an hour on this 1½-mile trail with 550 feet of elevation change. Moderate. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764. www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/navajotrail.htm.

Navajo/Queen's Garden Combination Loop. By walking this extended 3-mile loop, you can see some of the best of Bryce; it takes a little 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 Sunrise Point on the Queen's Garden Trail and ascend via the Navajo Loop Trail; return to your starting point via the Rim Trail. Moderate. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764. www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/qgnavajocombo.htm.


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 round-trip with 1,700 feet of elevation change. Difficult. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764. www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/fairylandloop.htm.

Peekaboo Loop Trail. 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 double-loop. Difficult. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764.

Riggs Spring Loop Trail. One of the park's two true backpacker trails, this rigorous 9-mile path has overnight options at three campsites along the way. You'll journey past groves of twinkling aspen trees and the eponymous spring close to the campsite. Start at either Yovimpa or Rainbow Point 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. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764. www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/riggsspringloop.htm.

Tower Bridge. This short, less-crowded 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 and has 800 feet of elevation change. It is not in itself a loop trail if you start and return to Sunrise Point rather than continue on the Fairyland Loop. Moderate. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764. www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/towerbridge.htm.

Hat Shop Trail. The sedimentary haberdashery sits 2 miles from the trailhead. Hard gray caps balance precariously atop narrow pedestals of softer, rust-color rock. Allow three to four hours to travel this somewhat strenuous but rewarding 4-mile round-trip trail, the first part of the longer Under-the-Rim Trail. Moderate. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764. www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/hatshop.htm.

Under-the-Rim Trail. Starting at Bryce Point, the trail travels 23 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. It's the park's longest trail, but 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. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 84764.