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Bryce Canyon National Park - Utah

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Hoodoos and More!

Unlike in most of the other parks in southern Utah, Bryce Canyon activity doesn't come to a halt during the summer months. Most of the attractions are at or above 8,000 feet, and temperatures are moderate if not slightly chilly.

The prime season for visits to this amazing hoodoo repository is from late April to mid-October. This isn't to say that the park is closed in winter. Far from it! Winter brings cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and even overnight camping, so depending on your preferences, a visit is worthwhile any time of year.

Bryce Canyon's rangers have just about the simplest and best description of hoodoos that I've heard: "A hoodoo is a pinnacle or odd-shaped rock left standing by the forces of erosion." You'll know what a hoodoo is when you step inside the park. Although this is just one of the many scenic sections of Utah's Canyonlands, there is no finer display of pinnacles and castellated cliff tops anywhere. The canyon is situated in a series of twelve bowls that dip nearly 1,000 feet into the earth, revealing myriad layers of colored sandstone.

The park is situated in a region that includes several other national parks and monuments, including Cedar Breaks National Monument (to the west), Capitol Reef National Park (northeast), and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (along the Colorado River, to the southeast). Canyonlands, Arches, and Zion National Parks are a half-day's drive from Bryce Canyon. All in all, there are 10 other units of the national parks system within a five-hour drive. A vacation in this area should include several of these superb preserves.

To get there from the west, drive on U.S. 89 7 miles south of the town of Panguitch. Turn east at the junction and drive along Utah Highway 12 for 14 miles. Turn right on Utah Highway 63 and head 3 miles south to the park entrance. This road leads 18 miles through the park, and four major sideroads run to 13 overlooks. The visitor center is located just inside the park entrance.

Bryce Canyon is a hiker's paradise, attracting people from around the world. There are 23 marked hiking trails and all are self-guided. It's also a special place for drivers, who can travel the rim of the canyon for almost the entire length of the park, finding almost everything there is to see along the route. The canyon itself can be explored by foot or by horseback.

Bryce Canyon Lodge offers overnight accommodations inside the park. The lodge features motel-style rooms and western cabins, and there is a a dining room (435-586-7686). The complex is closed during the winter period. Ruby's Inn, a motel complex with a restaurant and store, is just outside the park and is open year-round.

What to See & Do

Park Road

An extension of Highway 12, the road runs 18 miles to the south end of the preserve. The most popular places to stop for gazing at the canyon and pinnacles are Fairyland, Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, and Bryce viewpoints. In addition, Rainbow and Yovimpa viewpoints (at the south end of the road) provide fine panoramic views of the plateau and adjacent canyons. Trailers are not permitted on the park road south of the Sunset Campground (near the north end and the visitor center). A parking lot is available for trailer parking, for those who are not unhooking at the campground. You can explore the park on horseback. Morning and afternoon trips are organized by wranglers from the concession based at the corral near the lodge, (435) 679-8665.

The park is popular with cross-country skiers who come to ski on the Paria and Fairyland sideroads that are closed to car traffic during winter months and also to ski the Rim Trail. Snowshoes are available at the visitor center when there is enough snow to use them. The visitor center provides a trail brochure as well. Cross-country ski rentals are available outside the park, as are groomed trails. The Dixie National Forest, next to the park, is accessed by Highway 12 and also by Highway 143.

Hiking Trails

Two backcountry trails are open during summer months. Under the Rim Trail leads from several points along the rim, providing a walk of up to 22 miles along the canyon. The Riggs Spring Loop departs from Rainbow Point, is 7.7 miles in length and takes between 1 and 2 days.

Both trails are considered strenuous. The majority of the trails in the park are suitable for day hikes and most, including the following are considered easy-to-moderate:

  • Rim Trail -- Traverses the rim and is accessible at several points. The total round-trip distance is 11 miles, taking 4 to 5 hours.

  • Bristlecone Loop -- Begins at Rainbow Point and leads 1 mile, climbing only 100 feet; an easy, short walk of about 1 hour.

  • Queen's Garden -- Trailhead at Sunrise Point; a 1.8-mile (one-way) walk, climbing 320 feet. The round trip takes about 2 hours.

  • Queen's Garden/Navajo Loop -- A combined trail beginning at Sunrise Point or Sunset Point, 1.3 miles climbing 521 feet and taking between 1 and 2 hours to walk.

The following hikes are considered strenuous:

  • Peekaboo Loop -- Access at Bryce, Sunrise, or Sunset Points; length between 4.8 and 6.8 miles with a climb between 500 and 800 feet. This walk takes between three and four hours.

  • Tower Bridge Trail -- Access north of Sunrise Point, with a length of 3 miles and a climb of 800 feet. The walk takes about 2.5 hours.

  • Fairyland Loop -- Begins at Sunrise Point, climbing 900 feet in 8 miles. The trail takes 5 hours to walk.

  • Trail to the Hat Shop -- This linear trail begins at Bryce Point and leads for 3.8 miles, climbing 900 feet; 4 hours.

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

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Bryce Village Resort
(435-834-5351)
The resort is open year-round for RV and trailer camping, with 26 full-service sites plus a dump station, laundry ,and showers. Ruby's Inn Campground and Trailer Park (435-834-5301) has 200 sites (100 hookups for trailers and 100 tent sites); it is open from early April until late October.

Bryce Canyon Lodge and Cabins,
P.O. Box 400, Cedar City UT 84721
(435) 586-7686
What a wonderful setting for a lodge and cabins, on the rim of the spectacular canyon, at 8,000 feet! The lodge is now a National Historic Landmark and was completely renovated in 1989. There are 4 suites available in the lodge, 106 double rooms in the motel and 40 cabins&emdash;all with gas fireplace and private bath. Facilities also include a restaurant, bar, gift shop, and general store. There are many activities available here, including bus tours, horseback riding, and hiking the many trails that descend into the canyon. Open late April to mid-October ($$ to $$$+).

Best Western Ruby's Inn
Bryce Canyon UT 84764
(435) 834-5341 or 800-528-1234
Ruby's is a huge complex with 216 rooms and lots of amenities. Among them are an indoor swimming pool and spa, a dining room with a seasonal buffet and deli, a gas station and an enormous general store that alone can provide hours of entertainment: it's loaded with minerals, jewelry and books, among other things such as groceries. There are other activities available as well: in summer there are trail rides, helicopter flights and chuckwagon dinner rides; in winter there is snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. And best of all, it's located just minutes away from the amazing Bryce Canyon National Park ($ to $$).

Bryce Canyon Pines
Scenic Route 12, Box 43, Bryce UT 84764,
(435) 834-5441
Also located minutes away from the national park, this motel has 50 units, some with fire places, plus an indoor heated pool, restaurant, cocktails, coffee shop, and laundromat ($).

Camping

There are two campgrounds in the park, and all of the 215 sites are available on a first come, first served basis. North Campground is just inside the park gate. Loop A of this campground is open year-round, providing winter camping possibilities. There is a dump station near the campground. Sunset Campground is located south of the visitor center. Campers should be aware of the crush to get into the campgrounds between mid-May and mid-September, when the two campgrounds are generally full every night.

It is best to arrive at the park early in the day to secure a site. A store, laundry, and showers are located near Sunrise Point (between the campgrounds). These are open between mid-April and mid-October. There are stores, motels, and cafes located on Highway 12, outside the park.


Nearby Places

Cedar Breaks National Monument
Capitol Reef National Park
Arches National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Zion National Park
Glen Canyon NRA

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