In southwest Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is a collection of natural amphitheaters famous for being home to the world’s largest collection of hoodoos. A hoodoo is a tall, thin rock spire (sometimes called a tent rock or fairy chimney) formed by erosion and Bryce’s vast collection of them can be found on a high plateau at the top of the Grand Staircase. The best hikes in Bryce Canyon take you from the rim trail to the amphitheater floor to survey endless glowing orange and cream striped rock spires
Though you should prepare for desert hiking, Bryce Canyon is mostly above 8,000ft above sea level, making it cooler than surrounding areas, and even in summertime you should pack a good base layer for early morning and evening hikes, in addition to hiking boots with good tread. Though it’s one of the lesser visited Utah National Parks, do consider visiting Bryce in winter, when the crowds will be even thinner and you may be treated to the unusual sight of red rock spires capped by snow and perhaps some of the best snowshoeing in Utah.
Bryce Canyon is an hour and a half drive from Zion and two hours from Capitol Reef and really lends itself to a short visit, so you may find that a single day here is enough, especially if you’re travelling between the two other parks. The best hikes in Bryce Canyon range from short, easy rim strolls that you can do during a pit stop on a road trip to more demanding full day hikes.
Sunset Point to Sunrise Point
Distance: 1 mile
If you’re just making a pit stop in Bryce or looking for a short, family friendly hike, do this one. This easy stroll on a paved path takes in a portion of the 11-mile Rim Trail and delivers sweeping views of the amphitheater where you can enjoy the banded spires rising up from the amphitheater floor and on one of Utah’s many clear days, you’ll be able to see Navajo Mountain 80 miles in the distance.
Distance: 0.8 mile
It seems unlikely that you’ll find moss or even moisture in such a dramatic desert landscape but indeed this short and easy hike takes you to a mossy grotto via a streamside walk. In the summertime you can enjoy views of small waterfalls in the shade and in the winter these become spectacular icicles dripping from the moss. This hike begins with a short climb followed by a descent to the cave.
Distance: 3 miles
Almost any time you see a reference to a tower or bridge in this type of landscape, you know there's going to be some kind of exciting rock formation and this hike delivers in that regard. Tower Bridge is a naturally formed red sandstone spectacle that rather resembles London’s Tower Bridge in shape and you reach it by hiking a portion of the longer and more strenuous Fairyland Trail past the Chinese Wall before taking a short spur to Tower Bridge.
Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop
Distance: 1.8 miles or 3.1 miles
If you’re looking to get down into the amphitheater and wander amongst the hoodoos, the least challenging hike is to head down to Queen’s Garden from Sunrise Point. The garden in question is of the rock – not plant – variety and is so-named because some people are able to see a likeness of Queen Victoria in one of the rock formations. You can return the way you came or for a longer hike, this can be combined with the steep Navajo Loop trail back up to Sunset Point which takes you by Thor’s Hammer, the most famous hoodoo in the park.
Distance: 5.5 miles
Peek-A-Boo Loop is a strenuous but spectacular journey down to the amphitheater floor from Bryce Point. On this beautiful hike, you’ll get a feel for the magnitude of these hulking rocks and a highlight is the Wall of Windows which is full of rock arches where you can enjoy the red rock against blue sky. To make this hike even more adventurous, it can be combined with the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop trail above which would be a great way to take in a lot of the park’s best sights if you only have a single day.
As the name suggests, this hard-packed trail really showcases the enchanting effect of Bryce Canyon’s scenery, as you wind through cream and orange striped hoodoos topped with balanced rocks and spectacular ridgeline views. The trail is listed as strenuous due to its length, not so much its technical nature, so while you’re on it, you may well want to take the short spur to Tower Bridge. This is another longer hike in Bryce that is extremely satisfying if you only have one day to spend here.
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.
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