Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

Bryce Canyon overlook, Utah, USA

Hoodoo you do Bryce Canyon? Looking down into the National Park from just below the rim, at sunrise.

Visiting Bryce Canyon

Bryce is a totally magical place and one of Bugbog’s two favourite must-see national parks (the other is Arches), a Utah fairyland of madly eroded pinnacles known as Hoodoos that assume different forms according to the light and viewer’s elevation.

China Wall, Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

Another early morning view, this one of the China Wall.

Although there are hikes elsewhere in this park, the primary must-walks are a) around the rim and b) below the rim, in the bowl or canyon – though it doesn’t look much like a canyon to the BugForce.

A rim walk is fairly easy with no huge changes in elevation but constantly changing views and scenic overlooks, and can vary from a few hundred feet (400m) to 11 miles (18kms) long, depending on fitness and time available.

Hikes below the rim are a little more challenging since the hiker starts on the rim and descends a couple of hundred feet to Hoodoo ground level and needs to ascend later. But no big deal and the sights from below are even more spectacular than from the rim. Walks under the rim stretch from a mile or two (3kms) up to 23 miles (32kms).

Bizarre natural sculptures, Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

An early morning shot of bizarre sculptures by Mother Nature from below the rim near Sunrise Point.

Bryce Canyon Geology

This tiny part of the Colorado Plateau has been evolving for ten million years. It used to be a massive freshwater lake with colourful minerals being washed into the lake, then settled into layers. Iron contributes reds and yellows, while manganese brings pink and violet to the party. Later the water disappeared and the multicoloured Claron Formation remained. Then came erosion.

Although the area only gets about 18 inches of precipitation a year, the water enters cracks in rocks, freezes, expands and drives cracks further apart, eventually breaking. Rain – which is naturally acidic – dissolves limestone, washes away debris and cuts gullies, which develop into narrow walls of rock called fins. Fins then acquire holes which grow until the roof collapses and – bingo! – a new hoodoo is born.

Bryce Canyon Navajo Loop, Utah, Southwest USA

On Bryce’s Navajo Loop trail, down below the rim for a very different viewpoint.

Bryce Canyon’s main global competitor is probably Turkey’s ‘fairy chimneys’ in Cappadocia which are less shapely, less colourful, more commercial and crisscrossed with roads – though they do have historical interest in that they were used as fortress housing many years ago.

Getting around

Gulliver's Fort, Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

Gulliver’s Fort on the Queen’s Garden Trail.

Bryce has campgrounds and lodges nearby, but all are well hidden in trees beyond the rim, so even from high rim overlooks nothing is visible or audible but nature in all its weird glory. In the summer a free shuttle bus (mid May – mid Sept) runs visitors between key locations.

From late May to early October the free Bryce Canyon Shuttle takes visitors to the park’s most popular viewpoints, trails and facilities.

The park is open year-round. Roads are plowed and sanded after snowstorms. Some roads may be temporarily closed following winter storms but the park is never closed. Bryce is 86 miles from Zion Canyon in Utah and about 110 miles to the nearest tourist point of Grand Canyon.

Bryce Canyon, Queen's Garden Trail, Utah, USA

One of the odder shapes on Bryce’s Queen’s Garden Trail, below the rim.

The Queen’s Garden trail is the easiest walk below the rim, about 2 miles (3kms) long and taking a couple of hours. This combines perfectly with the lower Navajo Loop Trail ( total 3 miles/5kms for a day’s casual saunter below the rim, including a picnic and endless photos. Wear reasonable hiking footwear and take lots of water.

Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

From the rim and through the roots at Sunrise Point, Bryce.