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Visit a Lesser Known Park: Bryce Canyon

Yosemite, Arches, Zion, the Grand Canyon. 

Those names immediately come to mind whenever people think of National Parks. 

Photo of hiker on high overlook with canyon and tall rock formations in background.
I ended hiking a LOT further than originally planned in Bryce Canyon. Not mad about it. **

I have yet to get to Yosemite, but I have been to the other three and can attest to how beautiful they are, and definitely recommend they be on your visit list.

Little tip, plan ahead. With the exception of the Grand Canyon, the others all now require reservations. 

That’s something you won’t encounter at some of the lesser known parks.

Bryce Canyon is most certainly one of those. 

It was on my radar as I began my most recent trip out West, but was pretty far down on the list. One of those places that, if I happened to be near, I’d visit, but wouldn’t veer out of my way to do so.

I was thinking about swinging through Zion instead, even though I have been there previously, and I was put off by having to try to schedule a time and get a reservation. You know I’m not good at planning ahead. Also, they no longer  allow vehicles in the park, you have to take shuttles through.

Photo of talk rock formations, looking out from beneath a pine tree in front.
The tall, narrow hoodoos in Bryce Canyon almost seem to defy gravity. **

(P.S. I don’t blame the parks for doing these things. Attendance, especially since Covid, has skyrocketed and the parks just aren’t big enough to handle all the tourists who want to come through at the same time. They’re doing the best they can.)

My thoughts about Bryce changes while walking through the Martinez Hacienda in Taos, New Mexico. I met a couple from Utah who were about my age, shared with them how I was kind of randomly traveling around, and asked if they had any suggestions. 

The first thing they both said, almost in unison, was Bryce Canyon. I knew it had to be fate and a week or two later I made the point of driving out of my way to get there.

I’m glad I did.

The Hoodoos

Two million visitors enter Bryce Canyon National Park every year, so it’s far from an unknown commodity.

What draws them there are the hoodoos. 

Photo of canyon filled with tall hoodoos, looking like a forest of rock trees.
It's a forest of hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. **

Hoodoos are tall, narrow, rock spires, created over millions of years by erosion of the sandstone. They look like needles, shooting up into the air, some of them more than 200 feet in height. 

You’ll find hoodoos on every continent, but none more than in Bryce Canyon with the highest concentration in the world.

The hoodoos give Bryce its unique and absolutely amazing beauty. 

There’s a great six minute video on the National Park Service website. If that doesn’t take your breath away, you must not be breathing in the first place.

Visiting Bryce

You can drive through Bryce and stop at different vantage points to take in the view. 

However, as with those more well-known parks, Bryce is also a popular destination for tourists. Traffic can be pretty busy in the summer vacation months of the year, making its free shuttle service a solid choice, allowing you to hop on and off at various spots throughout the park.

For hikers, the trails are great. They are wide and firmly compact, making it easy to walk through.

Here’s a little video I took while hiking through:

Be aware that you’re at a fairly high elevation, anywhere from 6,600 feet at the canyon bottom to more than 9,000 feet at the rim. Plus, there’s not a lot of shade, so that sun can beat down on you. Make sure you have sunscreen and plenty of water.

Something I found out the hard way.

I’m not the best at reading trail maps, at all. The main reason, I suppose, is I barely read them at all. 

I know, I’m gonna have to get better at that one.

Photo of rock formation that looks like a bridge between two tall hoodoo towers.
Tower Bridge along Bryce Canyon's Fairyland Loop. **

Planning on a short, three-mile hike, give or take, I threw a couple bottles of water into my backpack and took off.

My destination was Tower Bridge. It’s not a real bridge, just one that looks like it, formed by the erosion. It’s on what they call the Fairyland Loop trail and is 1.5 miles from the trail entrance.

Reaching it, I had to decide, do I go back the way I came, which would make my hike right around the three miles I originally intended, or go on down the path?

Well, for some reason, I thought I’d read the rest of the path was only another two miles or so, and decided I wanted to see more of the canyon.

Off I set and, four hours later, I finally finished the full loop, long after I’d drank those two bottles of water with nowhere to replenish them.

I had no clue how far I’d walked until now. As I’m writing this, I looked it up on Google maps and turns out, it was 7.7 miles, not counting the distance from where I parked to the trailhead, so pretty much eight miles.

Lesson learned, always bring one more bottle of water than what you think you’re going to need. 

Photo of tall rock hoodoos to left, and a wall of rock to right with large hole through middle.
Look closely, just right of center, and you'll see a hole eroded into the stone. **

And a trail bar or two.

I’m not sure if I’ve learned the part of the lesson about reading the trail map more closely. Time will tell.

The NPS does a good job of providing information about any of their parks you’re planning to visit.

For Bryce, there’s an entire area for those planning a shorter stop of less than three hours, and another if you’re going to be there for a longer period.

Just remember to bring water. I couldn’t wait to get to the general store. 

Which, by the way, is a fun little stop too, built back in 1932.


Inside photo of cabin, all wood, with two queen size beds.
Inside the tiny cabins in Tropic, Utah. **

For what it’s worth (I’m not getting paid anything for this), if you’re looking for a different kind of place to spend a night while visiting Bryce Canyon, I stayed in a small cabin at Bryce Valley Lodging in Tropic, Utah.

(The link is to AirBnB, but I booked through Expedia. If you Google it, you’ll find several links and places you can use to book it.)

It was a fun stay. The place has several of these identical cabins grouped together. The inside is about the same size as a regular hotel room.

Tropic is just 10 miles from the entrance to Bryce.


**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address,, or a link back to this page.


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