In Bryce Canyon National Park, the work of wind and ice over time has created something more fascinating than the remains of the Greek and Roman Empires. With masterful strokes, nature has crafted amphitheaters that leave Rome’s Colosseum far behind. Rising from a landscape of sandstone, limestone, and mudstone in southern Utah’s Paunsaugunt Plateau, are haunting towers ranged over acres like cathedral spires or humans turned to stone. In fact, the Paiute Indians believe that these formations, known as hoodos, are ancient people who were entombed for their misdeeds. Interspersed with evergreen forests that cradle diverse animal life, the park’s many wonders make it a paradise for hikers and night gazers. Pick your hike from our list below of the best hiking trails in Bryce Canyon.
1. Rim Trail
This trail gives hikers a vantage point from which to view the main amphitheater. This trail has two routes; one going between Sunrise and Sunset Points which is paved and fairly level. On the second route, which goes between Fairyland and Bryce Point, hikers can expect dramatic changes in elevation and rough surfaces. It’s a popular trail and offers spectacular views making it well worth the hike.
Address: Fairyland Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Website: Rim Trail
If you’ve decided you can’t have enough of the magical hoodoos, then the Queen’s Garden trail is for you. You get to walk under arches, through tunnels, and among all manner of towering spires on this short-distance hike. On a clear day, you may also catch a glimpse of the peak of the Navajo Mountain in the distance. As for why it’s called the queen’s garden, there’s one particular formation that could pass for an abstract sculpture of Queen Victoria, so look out for it. It’s best to take this hike as early in the day as possible as the route doesn’t offer much shade.
Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef 6-Day Tour
Duration: 8 days
3. Navajo Loop Trail
This popular, snappy trail gives visitors a lot to gawk at. Nordic legend and high finance get their representation with features named after them; Thor’s Hammer and a canyon referred to as Wall Street. Another favorite hoodoo formation on this trail is the Twin Bridges. Don’t miss the 750-year-old Douglas firs standing in the Wall Street canyon. With its tunnels and archways, you have many opportunities to frame your visit on Instagram.
Navajo Loop Trail
Address: Navajo Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Website: Navajo Loop Trail
4. Bristlecone Loop Trail
Have you met any living thing that can claim to be more than a thousand years old? On this loop, you get to see some of the country’s oldest trees. At least one bristlecone pine you’ll see on this trail is more than 1500 years old. But these aren’t the only things to admire - there are White Firs and Douglas Firs, and you’re likely to catch flashes of chipmunks and woodpeckers darting past. Moreover, as this trail stays above the rim of the canyon, it gives panoramic views of the many levels of the Bryce Canyon.
Address: Bristlecone Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Website: Bristlecone Loop
5. Mossy Cave Trail
A popular, family-friendly hike, is taken by following the path of a stream that forks. The path to the right leads to a mini waterfall that is really part of a canal that was created by 19th-century settlers. The path to the left leads to a cozy overhang (cave). The cave/overhang itself offers a stunning display of mosses in summer, and dramatic icicle formations in winter. This trail has the added benefit of allowing you to appreciate the hoodoos without tiring yourself out from elevation changes.
Mossy Cave Trail
Address: Mossy Cave, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Website: Mossy Cave Trail
6. Sunset Point to Sunrise Point
This hike along a section of the Rim Trail offers the most impressive vistas of the colorful Bruce Amphitheatre at the edge of the canyon. It starts right from the parking area and gives a great view of the Queen’s Garden Trail from the vantage of Sunrise Point. There are benches along the way for tired legs. The walk will take you further south along the edge to Sunset Point from where you can view the stunning depths of the Navajo Loop.
Sunset Point to Sunrise Point
Address: Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Website: National Park Service
7. Fairyland Loop
It’s scenic, meandering, and strenuous, and that’s what makes it popular among hikers with heart. Aptly named Fairyland Loop, this trail brings you up close and personal with the hoodoos and takes you into the multi-hued canyons. You get imposing views of Sinking Ship Mesa, Boat Mesa, and the Fairyland Canyon, and apart from encounters with human traffic, you also stand a good chance of running into local wildlife.
Address: Fairyland Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Website: Fairyland Loop
8. Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail
Ever wondered what it feels like in the cradle of these amphitheaters built by nature? The Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail takes you into the belly of the beast and extracts a price on your energy stores as it’s a fairly strenuous trail if you choose to go on foot rather than hoof. Hike through arches, tunnels, and right under a range of hoodoos known as the Wall of Windows.
Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail
Address: Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Website: Peek-A-Boo Loop
9. Tower Bridge
After a few hikes, you might end up feeling like you’ve had enough of the hoodoos which is where the Tower Bridge hike comes in. You’ll still see some formations such as the Crescent Castles, Sinking Ship, and the Chinese Wall and, of course, the eponymously named Tower Bridge, but you’ll have the comfort of brushing past bristlecone pines or resting by a creek. This is a moderate hike and the limited crowds will allow you to enjoy the scenery better.
Address: Tower Bridge, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Website: Tower Bridge
10. Bryce Horse Trail
There’s nothing like hiking horseback for taking in this fairytale landscape at a measured pace that spares your feet. Bryce Canyon has a dedicated trail for horse rides; this option is unavailable only for winter on account of the conditions. The guides not only match you up with the horse/mule best suited to you, but they give you a lowdown on the fascinating geological features as well as the flora and fauna.
Bryce Horse Trail
Address: Highway 63, Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, UT 84764
A living museum
Looming sandstone statues, arches, tunnels, caves, and ancient forests - Bryce Canyon is like the set of an Indiana Jones movie - only these sets have been chiseled by nature. Make sure you pick the trail that suits your energy levels and make sure you’re kitted out in hiking boots and carry plenty of water.
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