Coming off of the exhilaration of summiting Angels Landing, one would think that there would be little that could compare to that thrill. Just a 1 1/2 hour drive from Zion National Park, however, is the spectacular Bryce Canyon National Park. Known for its hoodoos, described by the National Park Service as “tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins,” Bryce Canyon is perhaps the most fascinating of all the natural wonders we experienced on this trip.
At an elevation of around 8000 feet, Bryce Canyon can be significantly colder than Zion, even though it’s only 70 miles away. There was still plenty of snow in Bryce when we arrived, which can arguably make the scenery even more remarkable.
One of the awesome things about Bryce Canyon (especially after tackling the massive Zion National Park) is that it is accessible. We spent one incredible day in Bryce, and despite the fact that it was probably my favorite of all the parks we had seen, I didn’t feel the need to stay longer. Sure, it would have been great to plan another day of hikes and explore the canyon a bit more, but I was satisfied with the time we had. Bryce Canyon is small enough to get the feel for in just 24 hours.
When you get to Bryce, pick up a map at the entrance gate or visitor center (or just pull it up on your tablet). Then, at your leisure, you can explore the rim of the canyon in your car, stopping at viewpoints that are of interest to you. The rim drive is only 18 miles long, so you can take your time stopping at the viewpoints, taking pictures, and not feel like you’re missing anything.
Some shots we got from various points in the park:
Sunset Point (mile marker 2)
Inspiration Point (mile marker 2.5)
Natural Bridge (mile marker 12):
After driving around the rim for a while, we decided to go on the Navajo – Queens Garden loop hike. This moderate hike combines two of Bryce’s most popular trails into a three-mile loop that takes you through some of the more spectacular hoodoos in the park. Although most people start at Sunrise Point, we decided to avoid the crowds and go the opposite way, starting at Sunset Point instead. Unfortunately, Wall Street, a slot canyon at the end (or beginning) of the Navajo Loop, was closed. So we went down a series of switchbacks to the side of Wall Street that were able to bring us down into the canyon.
We soon found out that the trip down was a balancing act – not because of any sort of steep descents or cliffs – but because we were walking through a significant amount of slippery mud. We had to be very careful going down, or else we were going to slip and get quite muddy (as we saw a couple of people do).
Once we got to the bottom of the canyon, we were able to hike around the trail and enjoy an up-close view of the hoodoos.
The hike has roughly a 500-foot descent and subsequent ascent, so it takes some fortitude, but is a manageable workout.
All in all, Bryce Canyon was a tremendous experience. Of all the outstanding experiences we enjoyed on our trip out West, Bryce was probably my favorite. The unique landscape we experienced there was beyond compare – I had never seen anything like it. There are very few places on earth that are like Bryce Canyon, so make sure to go and see it. By the way, The Lodge at Bryce Canyon is an excellent choice for dinner – we really enjoyed the bison stew. It’s really about as good as a National Park restaurant could possibly be.
Leaving Bryce meant that our trip was winding down. Our next and final stop – Monument Valley.