Who knew there were so many hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park? We did not! We visited Bryce Canyon for one day in early February and the beauty we found there completely awed us. Even though a snowstorm rolled through the night before our visit, we hiked 3 different amazing trails and drove along the 18-mile scenic road. The sights and rock formations we saw from the observation points down into Bryce Amphitheater blew us away with their magnificence. Check out these 3 unique trails and the scenic drive and learn how to see Bryce Canyon in a Day!
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah in what's called the Grand Staircase. This park offers an outstanding variety of hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) and the most in one area on Earth! The hoodoos were shaped by a combination of dissolving rainwater and frost. There are 60 miles of trails to explore and no matter what time of year you visit, you will not be disappointed with the stunning beauty of this national park!
In the summer months, there is a free shuttle to help with controlling the congestion during the busy hours of 10:00 am to 4:00 pm but it is not mandatory. There are places to park all along the entire canyon road. Just after you go through the main gate, there is a very well-stocked bookstore where you can get supplies, souvenirs, and snacks. Next to the store are natural history exhibits and you can watch a 24-minute film about Bryce Canyon. Did you know that Bryce Canyon was named after Ebenezer Bryce who lived in the canyon for 5 years? He said the canyon “is a hell of a place to lose a cow. ” You'll see why in the trail and scenic drive photos below!
The Queen's Garden Trail and Navajo Loop are the most popular trails at Bryce Canyon. We decided that with only one day, we would do them both, especially since they combine into a really nice hike! The recommendation is to hike in a clockwise direction, starting at Queen's Garden and working your way out. We suggest that as well, mostly due to the steepness of the switchbacks on Navajo Loop. Before we started hiking, we stopped at the Visitor Center to get crampons for our boots so we wouldn't slip. Definitely, a worthwhile purchase because it was slick in spots from snow the night before!
The Queen's Garden Trail starts at Sunrise Point and is a beautiful 1.8-mile hike down into the hoodoos of Bryce Amphitheater. Wow! ! What an amazing hike this was! It's a nice easy hike with gradual switchbacks leading you slowly down into the amphitheater. Along the way, you can see the tops of the hoodoos and light shining through them. And you can see for miles at some points! The trail leads through small tunnels which have magnificent views as you pass through. The end of the trail has a large hoodoo named Queen Victoria who is overlooking the hoodoo garden before her.
This 1.3-mile trail continues from Queen's Garden Trail back up to Sunset Point. On this trail, you are weaving through the hoodoos, trees, and other rock formations, ultimately working your way up along the edge of the amphitheater. You will see Two Bridges, Thor's Hammer (most famous hoodoo), and Wall Street (closed in the winter). The zigzag back up through the red rock limestone walls to Sunset Point is challenging but worth the views. The reflection of the snow off the hoodoos and evergreen trees contrasts with the bright blue sky and is something you'll only see if you visit in the winter.
This is a ½ mile, paved part of the Rim Trail that completes the Queen's/Navajo Combination Loop and will bring you back to your vehicle if you parked at Sunrise Point. You can view the Bryce Amphitheater the entire way. You can also see parts of the Queen's Garden and Navajo Loop trails as you go along the edge. It's cool to see how far down you actually went into the amphitheater! ! At the Sunset Point overlook, Thor's Hammer is visible in all its glory. The view from Sunrise Point shows the Boat Mesa, rising above all the hoodoos of the Fairyland Canyon. While the Rim Trail continues in both directions, the views alone from Sunrise and Sunset Points will totally astonish you!
The Bryce Canyon Southern Scenic Drive is 18-miles of awesome, endless vistas. There are 13 overlooks and they all offer a completely different view of the Bryce Amphitheater and its rock formations. As with most national parks, you should drive all the way to the end and then explore on your way back. We drove first to Rainbow Point which is the final overlook along the scenic drive. The whole park and more are visible from this overlook. You can see the many layers of rocks called the Grand Staircase; pink, grey, white, and red with green trees scattered throughout.
Natural Bridge overlook is an arch sculpted from red rock with the dark green evergreen trees in the background.
Our favorite overlook is Inspiration Point. The views from the 3 different levels at the overlook are so different and get more striking the higher you go. The number of hoodoos in this one area makes it look like a giant army of rock men. It's very cool and inspiring. If I could paint, I would definitely try to paint this beautiful landscape. I settled for many pictures instead.
If you're in the area, you must take the time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. You can do so much in just one day! Never-ending views from the vistas, beautiful hikes, and inspiring rock formations make this a must-do on your national park list!
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