We spent June 26th, day five of our family vacation to Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, exploring Bryce Canyon National Park. Of Utah’s Mighty 5 – Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef – Bryce Canyon is by far my favorite. There’s just a special place in my heart for those cute hoodoos.
Bill and I were first introduced to Bryce Canyon 36 years ago when we visited the park during our cross-country drive while moving from Utah back to Virginia and our old photo albums have more pictures from Bryce Canyon than any of the other places we visited. There are four main viewpoints – Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point – all connected by the Rim Trail and all providing magnificent views into the naturally formed amphitheater.
Planning Our Hikes
Using the maps we received as we entered the park and memories from our visit many years ago, we had an idea of what we wanted to see. Our first stop was a quick visit to the Visitor Center before heading to find a better place to park our SUV for the day. The shuttle system was new since our last visit making it easier to navigate around the crowded park and we were happy to have a shuttle available for our point-to-point hike later in the day.
Sunset Point to Sunrise Point
We parked near Sunset Point and began our first hike of the day making the very easy half-mile walk from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point following the Rim Trail which runs along the rim of the canyon (this particular section happens to be paved). It was only 66° when we started our hike and with the low humidity we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
We stopped frequently, mesmerized by the beautiful hoodoos reaching out of Bryce Amphitheater, and pulled out our cameras to capture the beauty below us.
Queen’s Garden Trail / Navajo Loop
Once we reached Sunrise Point, we started our hike down Queen’s Garden, a relatively easy dirt packed trail that descends about 1.7-miles and 320 feet into Bryce Amphitheater. Signs encouraged us to go clockwise on the Queen’s Garden Trail/Navajo Loop combination to keep traffic flowing in one direction; however, with hikers doing out-and-backs on both trails there were always hikers coming our way.
My four favorite hoodoos… 😀
Once near the bottom of the amphitheater, the trail flattened out making our knees happy to no longer be descending.
The highlight of the Queen’s Garden Trail is the Queen Victoria hoodoo, a picture I failed to take… Oops!
Once we completed the Queen’s Garden Trail, we continued on the Navajo Loop adding 1.3 miles to the hike. Continuing on allowed us to see Thor’s Hammer and Two Bridges.
Closeup of Thor’s Hammer…
Beautiful tree blooms along the Navajo Loop…
As we neared the end of the Navajo Loop, we passed under a tunnel as the rocks formations seemed to grow toward the sky…
By the time we got to Wall Street, the final segment on our loop hike, the temperature had climbed to 72°, still not bad for the Southern Utah desert in June. The spectacular towering rock wall formations which give Wall Street its name make it a popular tourist spot and keep it packed with visitors during the summer months (it’s closed during the winter).
Hoodoos high above kept us company during our steep .6-mile ascent (while gaining 550 feet) on switchback after switchback as we made our way out of the amphitheater. Each switchback created another sharp-edged cliff taunting this girl who’s afraid of heights.
Stopping to take a family selfie doubled as a quick rest from all the climbing!
And just like at Zion, Daniel found a squirrel to photobomb!
As we approached the last few switchbacks near the top of the canyon, Bill paused for just one more picture, and can be seen near the middle of the photo.
The final leg of the Navajo Loop took us along a cliff a little too steep for my liking and I might have left some skin on the rock wall as I rounded the corner.
Back at the top, we enjoyed the views from Sunrise Point…
The Rim Trail from Inspiration Point to Sunset Point
After lunch we caught the shuttle bus to Inspiration Point where we got on the Rim Trail to make the hike back to Sunset Point. The shuttle driver was a very friendly gentleman who chatted with passengers as he drove along. He made several recommendations of hikes we might want to take and we settled on getting off at Inspiration Point and hiking back to Sunset Point where our SUV was parked.
We immediately walked to the overlook at Inspiration Point and took in the views in several directions…
As expected, Bill pulled out his camera to take much better pictures than I could ever dream of taking so I did what I love doing, I sneaked a picture of him…
While Bill took pictures, I wandered along the Rim Trail in the opposite direction we planned to hike. The trail leading toward Bryce Point was described as having steeper drop-offs, something this acrophobic woman wouldn’t be able to handle, but I did muster up the courage for this picture taken safely away from the edge…
And then I dared to get a little closer to the edge to take another picture down into the canyon.
Jospeh joined me for a few minutes and then we turned to head back to join our family.
Once we were all together again, we continued on with our .7-mile hike back toward Sunset Point enjoying the views along the way…
Getting that Final Family Selfie
Before we started our hike earlier in the morning down Queens Garden Trail, we tried to capture a family picture, but there were too many other tourist milling around us and we didn’t want to hit someone with our selfie stick. As we walked back past the same spot at the end of our final hike, we noticed that if we hurried, we just might be able to get a picture without getting in anyone’s way. Luck was with us and we captured this fun family photo with Bryce Canyon and the infamous hoodoos below!
After exploring Bryce Canyon National Park all day on foot, we stopped at a few of the overlooks as we drove out of the park. Natural Bridge was beautiful and the most memorable with dark green evergreens making the red/brown rock formation pop with their contrasting color.
Seeing these yellow arnica flowers along the highway just before we pulled away from our final stop were the perfect cap to a wonderful day!
Final Thoughts on Bryce Canyon
I absolutely loved exploring Bryce Canyon with our family while remembering the various highlights from our trip many years ago. The vast 35,835-acre national park is filled with surprises at every turn. Even though there are steep drop-offs on many of the trails, the hikes didn’t leave me as nervous as in Zion.
- • Have you visited Bryce Canyon National Park?
- • Do you enjoy hiking or running on easy trails or do you like to be challenged?
- • Are you afraid of heights?