Somewhat overshadowed by the vast gravitational pull of Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon has its own share of awesomeness and provides a unique take on Utah’s canyon ensemble.
Bryce is easily conquerable in one day, as long as you don’t get too sidetracked. Stop off at Bryce village, stock up on food and goodies, then park up at the Bryce Canyon visitor centre overflow and jump on one of the regular park shuttles. Here’s a quick rundown of highlights you shouldn’t miss:
1. Bryce Point
Bryce Point is the last stop on the regular shuttle route and the logical first port of call for your Bryce jaunt. It also provides arguably the best views of the Canyon, with the canyon’s famous hoodoos stretching as far as the eye can see. It’s pretty darn mesmerizing.
Hint: walk part way down the Under the Rim Trail to get away from the crowds and be rewarded with some of the best photo opportunities in the park.
2. Walk the rim
Even though it was rather wet when we were there, we still recognized the value that can be gained by simply strolling through the heart of an otherwise vehicle-oriented park. Walking along the rim of the canyon is easy, relatively flat, largely free of seething crowds, and offers some of the best up-close views of the Canyon. Typically, the walking distances between shuttle dropoff/pickup points are around 20 minutes, so if you get tired of walking or one of your group members gets struck by lightening (apparently a common thing at Bryce), you can easily hop back on the band wagon.
3. Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Trail
Viewing the vast marching columns of hoodoos from up high is one thing, but walking amongst them is quite another. To get an impression of just how crazy this landscape is, we suggest walking down the Queens Garden trail from Sunrise Point then taking the Navajo Trail via the iconic Thors Hammer to Sunset Point. The steep descent takes you right past hundreds of towering rock columns, while at the bottom you’ll find yourself suddenly in a surreal mounded landscape sporadically dotted with stunted trees. Salvador Dali would have a field day down here.
4. Inspiration Point
A close contender for the best view in the park, Inspiration point offers three different perspectives of the canyon from three different viewpoints. Make sure you’ve got plenty of battery left in your camera for this one!
5. Mossy Cave
On the outskirts of the National Park and accessed via Highway 12, this would be a good one to do either before or after you enter Bryce Canyon. The cave itself is a short but pleasant walk from the parking lot, meandering along beside a sprightly stream which contrasts nicely with the surrounding arid landscape. While the cave itself is not overly exciting, there’s a very picturesque waterfall a little further up the trail and good views of the surrounding hoodoos. The plaques also tell you about the curious history of the area, so they’re well worth reading (we won’t spoil the surprise!).
For further ramblings on our canyon jaunts in Bryce and Zion, check out this post.