When it comes to being blessed with natural splendour, southern Utah is practically divine. The region is home to five first-class national parks, all of which are within five hours of one another: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches. Each one is unique but Bryce Canyon is especially breathtaking.
Most trails in Bryce cover substantial elevation, leading hikers from the rim down to the canyon floor and back again. Here are 12 hiking trails to experience the best of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Tip: Time your visit to coincide with sunrise or sunset when the changing light illuminates the red rocks.
Easy hiking trails in Bryce Canyon National Park
Mossy Cave section of Bryce Canyon. Photo Credit: -ted | Flickr cc by 2.0
Length: 1.3 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 300 feet (91 m)
Trailhead: Just beyond Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre on Highway 12 as you approach Tropic. (North end of the park.)
Mossy Cave trail follows an artificial stream created by pioneers for irrigation before reaching a mossy overhang and a relatively small waterfall. This trail offers a peaceful way to experience Bryce Canyon's trademark hoodoos, however, the waterfall itself sometimes runs dry.
Length: 9.16 km one-way; 17.7 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 1754 ft (535 m)
Trailhead: Fairyland and Bryce Point; can be done in either direction. You'll need a shuttle if you're completing this hike one-way
The Rim Trail is anchored by Fairyland (north end) and Bryce Point (south end) and leads hikers along the grandeur of the amphitheatre's rim. The trail is varied with some steep changes in elevation. Add an additional 1.6 km round-trip if including the scenic Sunset Point to Sunrise Point Trail (a paved and level section) to your excursion.
Length: 1.6 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 195 ft (59 m)
Trailhead: Rainbow Point
Bristlecone Loop weaves through some of Bryce Canyon's highest elevations (up to 9,100) offering hikers expansive views of Grand Escalante Staircase. The loop traces through an evergreen forest, dotted with 1,800-year-old bristlecone pines.
Length: 3 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 320 ft (98 m)
Trailhead: Sunrise Point
A family friendly hike, Queens Garden is considered the easiest route that descends into the canyon from the rim. The trail leads to a rock, that, with some imagination, resembles Queen Victoria.
Moderate hiking trails in Bryce Canyon National Park
Traversing Navajo Loop | Photo credit: Andrew Smith Flickr cc by sa 2.0
Length: 2.2 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 550 feet (167 m)
Trailhead: Sunset Point
Navajo Trail is one of the busiest trails in the park thanks to its proximity to Sunset Point, one of the most popular viewpoints. It is short yet demanding, leading from rim to canyon floor. Wind down a series of switchbacks where you'll find a stand of tall Douglas fir trees. Spot Two Bridges and Thor's Hammer before venturing through Wall Street, the park's only slot canyon. Navajo Trail can be combined with Queen's Garden to make a longer loop.
Length: 4.8 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 950 feet (290 m)
Trailhead: Sunrise Point; head northeast along Fairyland Loop Trail.
Tower Bridge trail descends nearly 1,000 ft from the amphitheatre rim into the canyon. (This one is an out-and-back hike, so yes, you'll have hoof your way back up.) Bristlecone pines and views of China Wall are features of this trail.
Note: Tower Bridge shares the same route as Fairyland Loop Trail. Take the quarter-mile spur trail to reach the Tower Bridge site. From here, hikers can head back or complete Fairyland Loop for a total of 12.8 km.
Length: 6.5 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 1,436 ft (438 m)
Trailhead: Bryce Point
This steep out-and-back trail leads hikers to a stunning visual treat: a cluster of delicately balanced stone hoodoos dubbed the "Hat Shop". Thanks to a dramatic descent and return ascent, Hat Shop can be a challenging trail for hikers with weak cardio or bad knees.
Hat Shop is part of the 36.9-km Under the Rim Trail.
Length: 7.2 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 800 ft (244 m)
Trailhead: Swamp Camp viewpoint
Swamp Canyon is also part of the Under the Rim Trail (more on that below). While tourists flock to popular panoramic viewpoints, Swamp Canyon hikers are enveloped in a more intimate setting, bound by fins and hoodoos. The National Park Service recommends doing this trail in a clockwise direction.
Challenging hiking trails in Bryce Canyon National Park
Fairyland Loop | Photo credit: Nicolas Vollmer via Flickr cc by 2.0
Length: 12.9 km round-trip
Elevation gain: 2,309 ft (704 m)
Trailhead: Fairyland Point (northern portion of Bryce Canyon NP)
This long trail leads hikers through a smorgasbord of natural splendour: hoodoos,Tower Bridge and China Wall. Fairyland Loop brings hikers down to the canyon floor before looping back in a dramatic ascent that's sure to get your calves burning.
Length: 8.8 km round trip
Elevation gain: 1,555 ft (473 m)
Trailhead: Bryce Point
There's a reason that horse and mule trail riders follow Peek-A-Boo Loop: it leads right into the breathtaking heart of Bryce Amphitheatre. This trail is considered challenging because of the steep descent from rim-to-canyon-floor. Peek-A-Boo hikers enjoy the best of Bryce, from panoramic views at the rim's edge to being enveloped by towering hoodoo clusters at the canyon's base. As you trek, don't miss the stunning Wall of Windows.
Long-distance overnight backcountry hikes in Bryce Canyon
Under the Rim Trail | Photo credit: Jerome Bon via Flickr cc by 2.0
Length: 36.9 km
Elevation gain: Varies; see here
Trailhead: Bryce Point to Rainbow Point
Load your pack for adventure, Under-the-Rim is Bryce Canyon's longest hiking trail. There are eight campsites along this route, which can be completed in three days. Read a first-person account of this hike here: kateontheroadlesstraveled.com
Riggs Spring Loop
Elevation gain: 2,248 ft (685 m)
Trailhead: Yovimpa Point
- Shuttle service: Bryce Canyon Shuttle runs between Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, and Bryce Points in summer. Private transport must be arranged if hiking in/out of the south end of Bryce Canyon National Park.
- Permits: If you venture into the Bryce Canyon backcountry you must purchase a permit. Permits cost $5 USD per person (16+) and are mandatory for all overnight hikers. Purchase your permit at the Visitor Center. Advance reservations can be made 48 hours in advance.
Have you hiked in Bryce Canyon National Park?
Comment below and tell us which
trail(s) you enjoyed most.