There’s a lot of really funny words that we make up to describe things, but honestly “Hoodoo” has to take the cake. Hoodoos are giant irregular columns of rock and, situated on top of the Grand Staircase, Bryce Canyon’s high elevations include the largest concentration of these formations on the planet. These formations are caused by frost, weathering, and stream erosion which bring it out red, orange, and even white rock colors to provide a tapestry only nature could re-create.
Interestingly enough, Bryce canyon isn’t even actually a canyon but rather a long string of natural amphitheaters along the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Originally settled by Mormons in the 1850s, it was designated as a national monument by President Warren G. Harding in 1923. In 1928 Congress re-designated it as a national park.
It covers 56 square miles of rugged desert terrain and receives only about a third of the number of visitors that Grand Canyon gets every year. The nice thing about Bryce Canyon is that it’s easy to do a lot of the park in one day! It’s ideal for people passing through the area to take a detour and still get on their way by mid-afternoon. (Although we recommend spending an additional day to get the fullest experience).
Top Things to do in Bryce Canyon
Things to do in the park include hiking, camping, horse trail riding, and plenty of picture taking. They also have ranger run astronomy presentations and even occasional full moon hikes! Aside from the many amphitheaters, such as Bryce Amphitheater, there are also several points of interest worth swinging by.
Bryce amphitheater is by far the largest and most picturesque of the hoodoo formations in the park. It has several viewing points, or vistas, including Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. This area is referred to as the pink cliffs due to the natural colors and the rock formations. If you don’t make it to Sunrise Point by sunrise don’t worry; you can still catch a beautiful view from that exact same location at sunset. It’s really all up to your personal preference and where you would like to spend some time. There are no bad spots to take pictures at this amphitheater.
The Rim Trail
The Rim Trail is a 5 1/2 mile scenic trail that runs along the edge of Bryce amphitheaters cliff. It connects all of the points that overlook the amphitheater and has a shuttle service that stops from point to point with the exception of Fairyland Point. It’s a very picturesque trail with a total elevation change of 1,754 feet and takes about 2 to 3 hours to walk depending on how out of shape you are! There are several steep sections so just be careful and make sure that you have comfortable shoes that won’t give you blisters!
Bryce Canyon is a fantastic place to hike but it’s even better when you’re on the back of a horse. There’s nothing quite like to rain an area known to give birth to the romantic Wild West stories we all grew up with. In the spring, summer, and early fall there are two hour and four hour horse and mule rides into Bryce amphitheater from Canyon Trail Rides, an independent service that operates within the park. There are some requirements for riding however, so make sure you check out their website and book in advance to make sure that you can comply with all of the necessary precautions.
While some might consider it’s remote location a downside, one of the bright sides to being so far away from civilization is that this “canyon” has extremely low light pollution. This makes it ideal for stargazing and astronomy presentations which the Rangers at the park happily oblige visitors with. It’s a great place to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way as it stretches from horizon to horizon and thousands of stars light up the night sky. They even have an annual astronomy festival in the park including guest speakers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society. While attending a program does require being there at sundown, it is completely free and no reservations are required.
The Prairie Dog Festival
They have a festival on Utah’s prairie dog day which usually occurs during National Park week in April. Prairie dogs are a keystone species in Utah that help balance out the ecosystems of Utah’s southern Meadows. They are unique creatures to the American west in a real joy to view in the wild. Rangers at the visitor center often know the best locations for viewing prairie dogs. So grab your camera and a water bottle and head out to the Meadows to take some fantastic photographs of these amazing little creatures.
Our Favorite Things to do in Bryce Canyon
We spend 2 full days hiking in Bryce Canyon and it was just enough time for us cover the major trails and viewpoints without feeling rushed. Our favorites in the land of the Hoodoos were:
- Bryce Amphitheater: Panoramic view of the Hoodoos from Bryce Point, Rim Trail and Inspiration Point)
- Wall Street Trail: A walk down the canyon to visit the Hoodoos up close
- Navajo Trail: A short hike at the bottom of Bryce
- Queens Garden Trail: Hike back up to Sunrise Point with amazing views of Hoodoos
- Bryce Scenic Drive: Scenic drive not covered by the shuttle bus system with several panoramic viewpoints
- Fairyland Point: Panoramic views of Hoodoos and lesser crowds than Bryce Point
Are You Ready?
They have immaculate campgrounds that provide a great solitude for those of us looking to escape. But most of all it’s a fantastic example of the diversity that America offers in its picturesque landscapes. It reminds us that often times being unique is beautiful in its own little way no matter how far off the beaten path you might be.
Bryce Canyon National Park may not be the most famous compared to parks like Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. But the unique geological formations and Ranger program put on by this park make it a must-stop if you plan on seeing the more unique parks that are off the beaten path. It is a landscape filled with color and majesty both in the blazing sun or in the light of a silver moon.