Time for some National Parks Trivia!
Of the following four parks, which is the oddball:
Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, or Canyonlands???
If you guessed Bryce Canyon, you are correct.
Despite its name, and unlike the other three, Bryce is not a true “canyon”. While water was involved in the formation of its amphitheaters and iconic hoodoos, it was not in the sense of a river. It instead has chipped away at the rock through the timely process of freezing and expansion. Over thousands of years, this process has essentially eaten away the land. The hoodoos and lonely rock fins that remain represent where the rim of the amphitheater used to be.
But if it’s not a true canyon, how did it come to be called so?
In the 1870’s, the Mormons (who else right?) came to settle the area near the present day park. One pioneer, named Ebenezer Bryce, built a logging road further into the forest below the rim. Locals began to call the area north of the road, Bryce’s Canyon. Needless to say, the name stuck.
The Fairyland Loop (8 mile loop)
Driving from the Escalante slot canyons, we arrived to Bryce later in the afternoon and spent our first night in the park’s North Campground. The next morning, we set out on the 8 mile Fairyland Loop. Leaving our car at Sunrise Point, we hiked two miles or so on the rim trail out to Fairyland Point. From there, we dropped below the rim into Fairyland Canyon.
Hoodoos spread out before us like an orange alien army. They dotted the landscape, standing sentinel over every tower.
For miles the trail navigated through this unusual landscape. We crossed dry washes, circled rock spires, and followed the path along narrow fins. All the while the hoodoos watched over us.
After our hike, we bought some brats in town and found a nice dispersed campsite in the nearby Dixie National Forest. The entrance is just before the sign to Bryce National Park and the sites are great. We had visiting pronghorn antelope and lots of friendly cows.
The Figure Eight (6.5 mile loop)
The next day, we parked the car at Sunset Point and set out on a hike called The Figure Eight. It’s about 7 miles in length and combines the best parts of three loops: Navajo, Peekaboo, and Queens Garden. From the trailhead, we immediately went by the famous hoodoo known as Thor’s Hammer and into an area of steep canyon walls known as Wall Street.
The name is immediately evident. The towering vertical sandstone walls greatly resemble the sheer manmade skyscrapers of New York. Remarkably, the area even had its own central park, albeit a much smaller one. Several trees somewhere managed to grow in between the walls and ascend to even greater heights.
After Wall Street, we jumped on the Peekaboo loop. The loop led us by an interesting area known as the Wall of Windows.
The final section of the day brought us into the Queens Garden. This is a spectacular area of varying colored hoodoos. It is also the only area where visitors are allowed to climb around off trail. Pathways go every which way, allowing hikers to see the rock formations from every angle.
After Queen’s Garden, we climbed out of the amphitheater and drove the Rim Road, stopping at several different viewpoints including Natural Bridge.
Then it was time to say goodbye to this incredible place. Bryce Canyon is truly an amazing place to just get out on the trail and be mesmerized by the incredible landscape.
Or, as its famous namesake pioneer, Ebenezer Bryce, once said,