Favorite thing: I don't know how they got the names Sunrise and Sunset Points, but Sunset Point is supposed to have a better view of the entire Bryce Ampitheatre. To make things even more confusing, the name Sunset Point is misleading because the viewpoint faces east and doesn't have a view of the sunset. But from here, you can see Thor's hammer, a rock formation which looks like a hammer rising into the sky and take one of the trails leading to the Silent City.
Bryce Ampitheatre is the largest ampitheatre in the park and probably one of the most photographed spots. It is here that you'll find the views that make Bryce one of the most scenic national parks. Seeing Bryce Ampitheatre is much like your first view of the Grand Canyon. It is a view that will leave you in awe.
The picture doesn't do the Amiptheatre justice, but there are rows and rows of hoodoos that appear to stretch on forever.
This is supposed to be one of the best hikes in Bryce, and even all of Utah. The Queen's Garden trail starts at Sunrise Point. It travels through Bryce Ampitheatre passing en route the formation of Queen Victoria, which is how the trail got its name.
Queens Garden is about twice as long as the Navajo Loop Trail. The two trails intersect, providing an easier option for returning to the rim than completing the entire trail.
Thirteen years later, I was happy to be driving around the southwest once again and this time with my wife when Bryce came up on the horizon. I had mixed feelings about the place but one doesn't travel around Utah and not make a call at Bryce. It's just too damn pretty and despite an almost Disney-like “can this place be real?” aura about it, it is perhaps the most splendid conglomeration of colorful rock formations in the world. I know one thing. If there is any competition, it's not too far away and it's also in Utah.
We'd been tooling around the Kodachrome state for a few weeks and were happy our Utah adventure was only half over. Many of the upcoming stops would be new and those that were not I had been on my own. In other words, they didn't have any baggage. Bryce was a place of surreal beauty but a sadness hung over it for me that I hoped would be lifted. Ironically, it was to be a rushed visit due to an impending snow storm but in a small park like Bryce, one can do an awful lot in two action-packed days.
We did all the hikes I'd done alone and then some. We even managed to find ourselves on a trail with very few other hikers, no small feat in a place as deservedly popular as Bryce. We did just about every trail in the main part of the park but we never seemed to find that elf without his snowy cap. He might have eroded away in the 13 years that had passed but maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. I guess I didn't need to. I'd already found what I was looking for. I had found my partner in crime and we were on an amazing road trip that had little room for sadness, elves, or snow ball eyes.
If you want to explore below the Rim, but don't want to hike too far or for too long, the Navajo Loop Trail gives you the most bang for your buck. The trail is very short (just over a mile), but it passes the Silent City, which, next to the hoodoos themselves, is the most amazing feature in the park.
Under non-snowy conditions, this trail can be done in less than an hour. On day one of visiting Bryce in the winter, the trail was closed due to all the snowfall. The park rangers reopened the trail in time for day two of my visit, but it was quite a slippery walk down all those switchbacks. Still, like the rest of Bryce, seeing its natural wonders in the solitude and snow encrusting of winter is worth enduring a bit of snow and ice.
The Rim Trail is a great way to get an overview of the park's ampitheatres and hoodoos. The trail is flat and level in most parts, which makes it an easy walk and allows you to focus on the scenery without laboring down and uphill.
The Rim Trail runs from Fairyland to Bryce Point, which many visitors and rangers say is the best scenery of the park. Personally, I found Rainbow Point at the end of the scenic drive to be my favorite spot, but the views of Fairyland and Bryce canyons from along this trail are photo worthy and incredible.
The entire trail is about 5.5 miles one way. Most people do only a segment or two and the portion of the trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points is the most popular, although neither of these points in and of themselves are the most scenic of the park. Hiking the entire Rim trail roundtrip would take an entire day and is probably not the best way to spend your time in Bryce, if your time is limited. But, at the very least, do a portion of this trail. My personal recommendation would be Sunrise to Fairyland Point. Although this is not the easiest portion of the Rim Trail, the views are pure magic.
One other thing to note: the portion of the trail between Sunrise and Sunset viewpoints is paved and flat and accessible to persons with disabilities.
Fondest memory: A chilly deserted morning stroll, postholing along on the Rim trail near Sunrise Point. It was about 10 degrees (that's fahrenheit) and few people were out and about in Bryce. The sun was out, the sky was pure blue, and, despite the near freezing conditions and the virtual impossibility of heading into the canyons on foot, it was a great way to enjoy the view of the ampitheatre from above.
My favorite thing about Bryce Canyon would have to be the hoodoos. They are so unusual, and everywhere you turn in the park, there they are.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory is overcoming my fear and being able to walk down the Navajo Loop trail. I didn't know if I was going to be able to make it.
One of the most interesting things about Bryce Canyon is that, contrary to what its name suggests, it is not one single canyon. Instead, it is a series of ampitheatres or small canyons all carved by the same river. Despite their common source, each canyon is unique in its landscape and the colors contained within.
Aqua Canyon has some of the best color contrasts in the park. The name is misleading as there's no aqua coloring. You won't find rows of hoodoos lined up like infantry or the seemingly endless views found elsewhere, but the douglas firs contrast sharply with the red rocks and almost clash with the pink cliffs seen in the distance.
Bryce Point is considered by many to be one of the most scenic spots in the park. It has an excellent view of Bryce Ampitheatre, teeming with hoodoos. From here, you can take the Peekaboo Loop Trail into the ampitheatre to see the scenery up close. You can also take the Rim trail and towards Fairyland.
The view from here is one of those quintessentially Bryce Canyon images often found on postcards. It is absolutely stunning, but, in my opinion, the best spots in Bryce are those that are a bit more remote. This is a worthy stopping point and one which you should not miss. But don't let your Bryce Canyon journey end here.
Rainbow Point is located at the end of the 18 miule Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. At 9,000 plus elevation, it is the highest spot in the park.
There are two short trails starting at Rainbow Point which lead to even better views. The Bristlecone Loop Trail is only a mile and has some wide open views. There's also a side trail to Yovimpa Point, where a series of cliffs descends in hues of pink, gray and white.
Fondest memory: Sitting on a wooden bench staring into the canyon on a deserted early morning. There are many spots along Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive that are ideal for a moment of quiet reflection. Getting off the main path will allow you to find even more.
It's amazing the difference a well-placed thrown snowball can make. I had stood in this very spot a little over a year prior looking up at the same red rock formation but it was then capped with snow and my the long-time girlfriend had tossed a snowball to make an eye on what hence looked like one of Santa's elves. We had what is normally a popular trail in Bryce Canyon National Park all to ourselves after a huge snow storm had hit that morning. It looked incredible but it made any real hiking impossible.
A year later, I had returned on my own after our break-up to do all I had missed but it was turning out to be not nearly as much fun as I had imagined. In this moment of looking up at the old elf sans his snowy cap and eye, I realized how alone I was and nearly started to cry. Though I later did some solo travels around the world, it was the last time I did a road trip in the US that way. I decided after that sojourn that cruising the open roads of the US necessitated a partner in crime. I just had to find one. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Favorite thing: They don't call it Farview for nothing. From this elevation, the view stretches for miles and miles. On a clear day, it is possible to see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, over a hundred miles away. Below, scores of lush Douglas firs rise from the gently rolling hills leading out to the plateau. Its such a serene setting, especially at this early morning hour.
Favorite thing: Quite a different view six months later. The Firyland Trail is used primarily by skiers in the wintertime, for obvious reasons. Its still possible to hike the 8 mile loop in the winter, if you can brave the elements. Just remember that it usually takes twice the amount of time and considerable amount of energy to hike back up after hiking down, so plan accordingly.
The Fairyland Trail is an 8 mile loop trail. The trail descends about a thousand feet into Fairyland Ampitheatre, passes the Silent City and winds past some of Bryce's most striking rock formations.
I was able to hike only a bit of the trail in my first trip to Bryce. I'm planning to return in November and, snow permitting, hike the entire trail, so I'll have more to say on it later.
Fondest memory: There's a sense of peace in being away from it all. It brings me back to the center and makes me realize what is or is not important. Hiking does that. Moving under my own power, striding along a dirt trail away from everything and everyone with nothing to focus on except the effort of continued movement and the surrounding scenery is exhilarating. Each stride is a release of negative energy and a step closer towards bringing me back to the center.
My favourite rock formations are in Bryce Canyon.
Although it is called Bryce Canyon, the structures you see are not “real canyons” and not carved by flowing water. Instead, water forms the structures in the form of "frost-wedging" and chemical weathering.
For 200 days a year the temperature goes above and below freezing every day. During daytime temperatures, melt water seeps into fractures and then it freezes during the cold night, expanding the cracks (“frost-wedging” which slices the rocks). The acidic rain water also dissolves the limestone.
I am glad this phenomenon is not very significant in Egypt as such frost-wedging would cause catastrophe to the Sphinx!