Bryce Canyon National Park is located in Southwest Utah and is best known for its unusually shaped orange rock formations called hoodoos. While hoodoos can be found on almost every continent, Bryce houses the largest collection of them in one place, in the world. And they are magnificent! Having seen hundreds of photos of these gorgeous structures, I knew I had to make a stop to experience them in person. However, while they are truly beautiful to see from a distance, in order to really appreciate their beauty and magnificence, you must venture down into the depths of the hoodoos and experience them from below. In my opinion, the best way to do that is by combining these 3 hikes in Bryce National Park.
1. Navajo Loop Trail – Moderate
The Navajo Loop Trail is the most popular trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. It is normally a moderate 1.3 mile/2.2 km round trip hike, but we’re going to modify it a bit with this recommended combination of hikes. You’ll start your hike at Sunset Point, where you’ll be treated to a gorgeous panoramic overview of the valley below. Most people do the loop by heading left and going clockwise, but my recommendation is to head to the right and go in the opposite direction. As you approach the top of the steep chain of switchback trails, you’ll be glad you did! It’s much easier descending down the 800 ft into the rim than it is going up, as you’ll hear hikers on their way up comment endlessly as you pass them by. (Note: You’ll still have to go back up approximately 800 ft. at the end of the hike, but the end of what I’m suggesting is slightly less intimidating than this group of switchbacks, I promise!).
Once you get to the bottom of the switchbacks the landscape changes dramatically and you will feel like you have entered into a whole new world. First, you’ll approach “Wall Street,” a narrow slot canyon with a lone pine, which after the hoodoos, is the most popular attraction in Bryce Canyon.
As you continue along this trail you’ll enter what is called “The Silent City,” a metropolis of spires and hoodoos crowded together like an urban sprawl of pink, orange, and brown limestone. Your mind might start playing tricks on you. Some of the hoodoos might start to resemble buildings, people or animals. It’s fun to let your imagination run wild! After a short while, you’ll come to a clearly marked intersection in the trail where you can either continue along the Navajo Loop or continue this amazing adventure. I recommend following the signs for the Queen’s Garden Trail to see more of this amazing place.
2. The Queen’s Garden Trail – Easy
Normally, the Queen’s Garden Trail is a 1.8 mile/2.9 km round trip hike, but since we’ve combined it with the Navajo Trail, we’re only doing about half that distance. The trail is mostly flat and easy to navigate. And this is where it gets really amazing! You will literally feel as though you have left earth and have been teleported to a magical land where there are stunning vistas in every direction, stone arches and doorways to venture through, and you never know what you’ll find around the next corner. Keep your eyes open for the “Queen’s Castle,” a collection of hoodoos and spires that rises out of the garden like a fortress. Perhaps she’ll invite us in for a spot of tea?
Eventually you’ll start to feel the elevation begin to rise and the hike will get slightly harder. The Queen’s Garden is the described as the least difficult descent into the canyon, so it stands to reason it’ll be the easiest way back up as well. You can thank me later! Don’t be fooled by the photo below, that’s just the beginning, you’ll still have a steep climb at the end, so be prepared. Save some of your water and go slow. It’s so worth it!
You will re-emerge from the Canyon at Sunrise Point, a gorgeous place to find a bench, take a short break after the climb up and enjoy absolutely spectacular panoramic views of the stunning hoodoos. When you’re ready, begin the final leg of your hike.
#3. The Rim Trail – Easy
The entire Rim Trail extends 5 or 6 miles, but the section from Sunrise to Sunset point is just 1 mile/1.6 km. It’s also flat and paved so the rest of your trip is going to be a piece of cake. You can probably do this section in about 30-40 minutes, but I have no doubt you’ll want to stop several times along the way to admire the view and snap a few photos.
In total, I’d recommend allowing about 2-3 hours to complete the entire 3-hike round trip. At the end, you’ll have walked 3.9 miles/ 6.3 km. It’s a perfect way to spend the morning or afternoon and still save time for a few more scenic photo stops along the way!
A couple of tips for this hike:
- Make sure you have plenty of room on your phone or camera because I assure you, you will want to take a lot of photos!
- If you time this correctly, you can arrive back at Sunset Point for a stunning sunset. Sadly, I didn’t, but next time I most definitely will!
All told, I spent a day and a half exploring the masterpiece that is Bryce Canyon National Park. I did the scenic drive through the park and stopped at all the photo stops. I did the hikes above and truly fell in love. It was all breathtaking. Everything that I had heard about Bryce was true and it was even more magnificent in person than any photo. I would not recommend visiting Utah without making time for a stop in this National Park. And I would not leave Bryce without doing these three fabulous hikes!
Did you know? Paiute Indian history says the colorful, wildly-shaped hoodoos were “Legend People” who were turned into stone by the trickster god Coyote.
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