Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is a fantasy wonderland, there’s just no doubt about it – it’s a crazy fun place to explore.
Unlike Zion where your neck gets a little stretched looking up, at Bryce you begin on the rim and hike down into the formations.
Even if you don’t have the energy to go all the way down any one of the trails, I really recommend that you at least drop down over the edge. Don’t miss the chance to go down at least one or two switchbacks to get the feel of the formations.
Bryce is a long narrow park, with a central amphitheatre where most of the established hikes are located, and a beautiful scenic drive that takes you much farther south along the rim. On that drive, begin by going all the way out to Rainbow and Yovimpa Points, do the small loop hikes and catch the rim overlooks on your way back. That way you’re not crossing traffic every time you stop.
In the amphitheater I really like to hike down the Queens Garden trail and back up Wall Street (if it’s open. It can be closed in the winter and spring for icy trail conditions) or the Navajo Loop.
This is a tip I learned from another guide, after many trips in the other direction. If you hike UP the Queens Garden trail, there are multiple false summits and on a hot day it can seem like you are climbing forever…going up Wall Street, you can see exactly where you are going and how much further you’ve got to go.
Additionally, while it looks steep (and it IS steep) the trail itself is not steep. It’s very well graded with switchbacks, and while it is a climb, it’s also just a wonderful walk.
For longer trails, both the Peekaboo complex and the Fairyland loop are magical journeys. On the Peekaboo loop, be aware that you’ll be sharing part of the trail with horses and on a hot dry day that can mean flies.
Bryce is about two hours north of Zion, and is a long but beautiful day trip. Another wonderful option is to leave Zion, head to Bryce and then light out across Highway 12 in the Escalante/Grand Staircase country.
On that trip, you can check out Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley, the San Rafael Swell country…there’s lots of great backcountry to explore in this part of Utah, and you’ll find much of it very expansive and uncrowded.
A thing to keep in mind about Bryce:
Stay Aware of your personal energy, and that of your group.
Bryce is the opposite of Zion, in that you begin at the top and work your way down. So pay attention, and monitor your energy and resources.
Stay awake to the fact that when you get to the end of your stamina, you may be in the BOTTOM of the canyon., and will have to go UP at the end, not down.
A point of interest: Because of this, they’ve implemented a really great extension of the Search and Rescue operation there, which is PSAR, or PREVENTATIVE Search and Rescue. Their team of volunteers wanders the trail system, keeping an eye on folks, reminding them to drink and eat, offering water and bars.
This has DRAMATICALLY reduced the need for rescues in the park.
You can do the same thing for yourself and your group.
Have fun out there!!