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Bryce Canyon’s Towering Technicolor Hoodoos

Photo by Todd Petrie

Hiking, stargazing, camping, and touring for first-timers to Bryce

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Bryce Canyon National Park is a series of natural amphitheaters sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock “hoodoos.” The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun. Summertime offers a myriad of walking/hiking trails and a 37-mile scenic drive overlooking incredible vistas. Bryce Canyon Lodge, a national historic landmark, is open April through November.

How are those hoodoos formed? It starts with rainwater seeping into cracks in the rock. The water freezes during Bryce’s cold nights, expands and breaks apart the rock. The deep, narrow walls called “fins” result from rain and snow melt running down the slopes from Bryce’s rim. Eventually the fins form holes (called windows), and when the windows grow larger they collapse and create the bizarre hoodoos that we see today.


Hiking

Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park is the best way to immerse yourself in the amazing geography. Day hikes range from easy 1-mile loops to challenging 11-mile round-trip adventures. As you hike, be sure to check out the bristlecone pine trees for which Bryce is known. Bristlecone pines are the oldest trees in the world, even reaching 5,000 years of age in some places.

There are many trails within Bryce Canyon National Park, from easy to strenuous, with varying backdrops. You can choose a hike to a waterfall, redrock hoodoos, spruce tree forests, the Bryce Amphitheater, and other famous landscapes. Navajo Loop Trail is a 1.3-mile hiking path that wanders through rock formations and draws you into the mystical hoodoos’ perspective. If you have time, continue along the Queen’s Garden trail for the best round-trip access to Bryce Canyon. The trail adds about 1.8 miles (3 km) and rises 320 feet back up to Sunrise Point. Alternatively, the park recommends taking the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop combination from Sunrise Point to the canyon floor then returning up the Navajo Trail. Depending on your pace, the approximately 3 miles (4.6 km) of the combination hike will take about three hours.


Camping

An overnight stay in one of Bryce Canyon National Park’s campgrounds is highly recommended to experience the early morning and late evening in Bryce, when the pink-orange sandstone goes through a dramatic transformation of light, shadow, and color. A view of Bryce under a full moon is also an experience you will never forget. And when the moon is dark, Bryce is one of the best places in the nation for stargazing because of its pristine air and lack of surrounding development.


Winter Recreation

Since Bryce Canyon National Park is at an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, there are opportunities for winter sports like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing — something you might not have expected in the Utah desert.


Drives

Easy drives within the park have spectacular views of redrock and pine forest scenery. Stop along the way at the Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, and Bryce view points.


Night Skies

Stargaze under incredibly dark skies at 9,000 feet (2,700 m). The longest active astronomy program in the National Park Service inspires unforgettable awe.


Ranger Program

Park rangers share interesting facts and activities about the park, including wildlife stories, geologic history, kids interests, full moon hikes, astronomy, and snowshoeing.


Stay and Ride

Tour guides offer 2-hour and 4-hour horse/mule rides along dedicated park trails for a different take on Bryce Canyon.

For more information on Bryce Canyon, go to the Visit Utah and the Bryce Canyon National Park websites.


At A Glance

Price Range:
budget
Most Suited to:
single
couples
families
groups
Season:
winter
spring
summer
fall
Length:
weekend

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