Located on the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park attracts more than two million visitors every year. Although it does not receive as many visitors as the Grand Canyon National Park or Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon should be on your “must see” list.
Bryce Canyon became a National Park in 1928. Before becoming a national park, in 1923 it had been designated a National Monument. Although there were many American Indian groups who lived in the area, this canyon was named after Ebenezer Bryce. He was a Mormon settler who arrived with his wife in the area in 1875. He was industrious and built roads throughout the region. The people called the amphitheater were the road ended “Bryce’s canyon.”
Bryce Canyon National Park is most famous for its 12 mile long, 3 mile wide, and 800 foot deep amphitheater. Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon because there is no river that traverses it but rather it is an amphitheater. An amphitheater is a bowl-like shape formed by erosion caused by frost and rain. There are a series of these amphitheaters that extend 20 miles north and south within this national park but Bryce Canyon is the largest one. Also, Bryce Canyon has the densest collection of hoodoos in the world. Hoodoos are tall spires from arid basins. See the previous Scenic Byway post for more information.
Seeing Bryce Canyon for the first time is truly breath-taking. There is nothing quite like it anywhere else. There are several ways to explore the amphitheater. There are several overlooks from which you can look down into the canyon: Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Sunrise Point, and Sunset Point. Also there is an 11 mile long Rim Trail that goes along the top of the 8,000-9,000 foot canyon. In addition you can hike into the canyon itself.
David and I went to the overlooks and we also walked along the Rim Trail but we also wanted to venture down into the canyon and get a closer look at some of the hoodoos that can be 200 feet tall. David and I decided to hike both the Queen’s Garden Trail and part of the Navajo Loop Trail. It was about a 3 mile hike with a 550 foot change in elevation. We descended via the Queen’s Garden Trail. It was so named because there is a hoodoo called Queen Victoria on that trail. She’s looking over a green forest of pines that forms her “garden.” We hiked out of the canyon via the Navajo Loop Trail. There are two formations that are unique on this trail: the Two Bridges and Thor’s Hammer.
We were amazed by how much the canyon changed based on the time of day and the clouds that cast shadows on the hoodoos below. The multi-color formations bring a magical wonder to mind and to those who named the creations such as Fairyland, Silent City, Wall Street, The Cathedral, Peekaboo, and The Alligator. We thoroughly enjoyed our hike deep into Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon is definitely a unique national park. Its colors, land formations, and flora provide spectacular views. It is well-worth the effort to go and explore this geological marvel.
P.S. – Bryce Canyon is one of the darkest places on Earth due to the high elevation, the clean air, and the lack of light pollution. On moonless nights the Milky Way and other planets illuminate the darkness with their brilliant lights, over 7500 stars can be seen! The park service also has an active astronomy program, to take advantage of the especially dark skies, so if you can, plan your visit during the period of a new moon. It’s an excellent place to go stargazing.