Bryce Canyon Hiking Trails
Bryce Canyon's small size, by national park standards, would seem to make it a good choice for the casual dayhiker. However, with a few exceptions, the hikes require a serious descent into the canyon, and another serious climb to get back. When that is combined with the park's high altitude, the hikes can become quite difficult. That said, there are still a few hikes that stay above the rim that make good choices for those looking for an easy trip. Hiking distances given below are total, roundtrip distances unless otherwise stated. Difficulties are only a general guideline, for an adult in good condition, and do not take into account trail length.
(click map to open very large locator map of the hikes below)
This hike begins from the Rainbow Point parking area, located at the end of the Bryce Canyon Road, 17.4 miles from the entrance. The hike to Bristlecone Point has a different character than most other hikes in Bryce. It winds through mostly level forest, never straying far from the mostly hiddem canyon rim. After half a mile, the trail emerges from the forest onto a viewpoint. A gnarled bristlecone pine tree is protected by an enclosure. These amazing trees have been dated to ages as old as 4,000 years. On the way back to Rainbow Point, the trail crosses the Under-the-Rim Trail. Those not wishing to take a 23 mile detour should follow the signs keeping them on the Bristlecone Loop Trail.
#2 - Fairyland Canyon parking area
This hike begins from the Fairyland Canyon parking area, located on a side road off of the Bryce Canyon Road, just inside the entrance. It combines the Fairyland Trail with a portion of the Rim Trail to form a complete loop. It can also be taken as a one-way shuttle hike ending at Sunrise Point, for a total distance of 5.8 miles. It offfers great up close views of Fairyland Canyon. Since the road to Fairyland Canyon is before the entrance station most people drive right by it, so during very busy periods this may be a bit less crowded than the more popular hikes in Bryce Amphitheater. Don't be deceived into thinking this is an easy trail at the beginning. It drops over 700 feet in the first mile, and most of that height will not be regained until more than 3 miles into the loop.
This hike begins from the Sunset Point parking area, located on a side road off of the Bryce Canyon Road, 2.3 miles from the entrance. This is probably the most popular hike in Bryce that drops below the rim. It descends about 500 feet, and regains this again, all in 1.4 miles. It can be connected with either the Queen's Garden Trail, or the Peekaboo Loop, both covered below, to form a longer hike among the hoodoos. The most noted formations seen are Thor's Hammer and Wall Street.
This hike begins from the Bryce Point parking area, located on a side road off of the Bryce Canyon Road, 2.8 miles from the entrance. This may be the premier dayhike in Bryce Canyon. If one can handle the 5.5 mile distance and the steep climb back to the rim, it is a great choice to spend a day. A short connector trail drops from Bryce Point to meet the loop section, and the same route is used to regain the rim. Prominent features seen up close include the Wall of Windows, the Cathedral, the Organ, and the Hat Shop.
0.9 miles one way
#5 - Sunrise Point parking area
This hike begins from the Sunrise Point parking area, located on a side road off of the Bryce Canyon Road, 1.5 miles from the entrance. The trail descends 320 feet below the rim from Sunrise Point. It ends down among the hoodoos. Although the path can be reversed for an out and back hike of 1.8 miles, nearly everyone who does this hike connects to the Navajo Loop via the connector trail.
The Rim Trail is the only path that follows the rim of Fairyland Canyon and Bryce Amphitheater without dropping beneath it. It runs between Fairyland Canyon parking area and Bryce Point (shown at left), crossing several other access areas in between. Most people hike only a section of the Rim Trail, or hike it all in one direction, meeting a second vehicle at the other end. Most of the trail is easy, but there are a few steep sections. Some parts of the trail are paved.
Water Canyon & Mossy Cave
#7 - Water Canyon parking area
The hike through Water Canyon to Mossy Cave is the only hike covered here that is not accessed from the main park road. Instead, it is found a little over a mile west of UT-63, the road to Bryce's main entrance. Water Canyon is Bryce's overlooked gem. Outside of the main park access area, it is little visited and more intimate. The trail follows along a man-made stream that settlers dug in 1890 to divert water from the Sevier River. Despite its non-natural origin, the stream is very beautiful, even creating a sizeable waterfall at one point. The trail ends at Mossy Cave, an unusual overhang covered in vegetation due to the rare presence of moisture here. While the cave is generally considered the destination, Water Canyon is the real attraction. Photographers could easily spend several hours here.