Bryce Canyon is a relatively small, yet striking park. No where else in the world is there such a high concentration of beautifully colored red, grey, white, and pink hoodoos carved by years of erosion, predominately in the form of frost wedging. Looking out from the rim, you are greeted by miles and miles of beautiful hoodoos. It is a relatively small park with only one road. The Official Bryce Canyon National Park Page will provide you with an abundance of information to help you tailor your trip to your specific purposes. Our purpose was to see as much of the park as we could in a day.
Recommended Trails and Areas:
Navajo Loop: See tons of hoodoos in a short amount of time! Time: < 1 hour
Fairyland Loop: Enjoy never ending changing landscapes full of hoodoos! Time: 3-4 hours
Rainbow Point: Viewpoint with fantastic views of less well known area of the park with fewer crowds.
(we walk fast so these time estimates might be a little on the low side)
We left Vegas after noon, after stopping by REI to pick up stove fuel. I got pulled over for speeding. Apparently 4 lane highways and exits on both sides of the road and driving a brand new SUV that doesn't shake at 80 mph like my truck does is a bad combination. Well fuck.
The cop on the motorcycle then sent us on our way... We got the fuck out of town and into the country. We stopped at Valley of Fire State Park for most of the day before heading toward Bryce Canyon in the early evening. The drive from Vegas is about 250 miles. That said, we got into the park near midnight. We were lucky and able to find a camp site in the park. We set up our sleeping gear in the car for the night. We had planned to spend the next day in Bryce Canyon.
We got up and packed up around mid morning. Our plan was to drive down the park road and pull off at whatever looked interesting and go from there. First stop was the pull out near the North Camp ground and the General Store. We bought some pizza for breakfast before heading out to Sunrise Point overlook. We were greeted with miles of fantastic hoodoos--the highest concentration of hoodoos in the world to be specific. After enjoying breakfast and taking our first hoodoo photos, we continued down the road.
Our next stop was Sunset Point. We took more photos before embarking down the Navajo trail. This is steep, 2 mile loop trail switchbacks down into the amphitheater. You walk along under and through towering hoodoos. We reached the bottom and realized that the loop to the top was closed for the season. (Note: the complete loop is closed in the winter/spring.) We headed back up the way we came, noticing new intricacies to the landscape as we wound back up the switch backs.
We headed back to the car and continued down the road. I soon realized that the entirety of the park is not hoodoos. The famous photos from Bryce Canyon come predominately from the area known as the "amphitheater", which is only the first 4 miles of the 18 mile park road. The rest of the park is beautiful in a different way. The arid desert feel of the hoodoos gives way to a heavily forested landscape. A multitude of ancient bristle cone pines and birch trees induce a different feel in this section of the park.
From the park entrance to the end of the road, you gain over 1000 feet in elevation. As we drove toward Rainbow Point at the end of the road, the weather changed from light rain to snow. In May. At over 9000 feet in elevation, the southern part of the park was chilly. And windy. We briefly left the safety of the car to look out over the rim and onto the now heavily vegetated landscape of Bryce Canyon. The wind and rain quickly drove us back to the shelter of the car. We left Alaska to be warm dammit. Enough of this cold already!
We headed back toward the main gate, making a stop near Black Birch Canyon pull out. We climbed up a nearby snow covered hill for a better look from the the southern end of the park. Deep orange and red canyon walls plunged into the heavily vegetated canyon floor. The hoodoos of the northern end of the park were barely visible in the distance. It was getting to be mid afternoon and we still had one objective left: hike Fairyland loop for a backcountry experience in an afternoon.
We headed back to the park gate; fairyland point, the northern trail head, is just outside the park gate. We started down the 8 mile trail, as clouds started to thicken in the sky. Ok, maybe hiking in a storm wasn't the best idea. I know Alaskan weather patterns well enough to have a reasonable idea of when to push it and when to fall back. Utah storms though... that was a little out of my league. There were hoodoos to see though, so we pushed on.
The trail gently lowers you into the fairyland canyon. It winds around two distinctive land forms: the boat mesa and the China wall. The boat mesa loomed on our right for the first mile or two. Once we wound our way around the mesa, I could make out a land form that could only be the China wall. Half way between the boat mesa and China wall, we saw a turnoff for tower bridge. Despite concerns about the worsening weather, we decided to follow the short trail to check out tower bridge, an interesting landform that resembles the historic bridge spanning the Thames River in London. It was kind of cool, but maybe not as impressive as some of the other sights the park has to offer.
As the clouds thickened, we reached the junction with the rim trail. After a quick stop for a snack at the general store (I know it's kind of cheating) and a chat about the impending storm with the salseman, we were on our way for the last part of our hike. The rim trail provided sweeping views of the canyon. Far across the way, we made out an odd shaped cloud that looked kind of like an atomic bomb went off. As we traversed over the rim, a small heard of deer appeared.
We made it back to the car in one piece, free of lighting strikes. Luckily, the storm missed us and blew off to the north. We packed up the car for our next adventure as the final rays of the day dropped below the horizon.
Fairyland Loop Slideshow