More than two million people visit Bryce Canyon National Park each year, and most take at least one hike among the hoodoos the park is known for. The park offers hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts of all fitness levels. Most of the trails are interconnected, so even if you start with one easy trail, if you feel up to it, you can easily continue on to a second or third.
Here are some of the best trails the national park has to offer.
Sunset Point To Sunrise Point Trail
By far the easiest trail in Bryce Canyon National Park is the Sunset Point To Sunrise Point Trail, the half-mile stretch of the Rim Trail between Sunset Point and Sunrise Point. Paved, with minor elevation changes, the trail is wheelchair accessible and the only trail on which pets are allowed. Benches along the way allow for frequent stops to enjoy the view of the Bryce Amphitheater below.
The Sunset Point to Sunrise Point Trail is part of the longer Rim Trail, which stretches 5.5 miles from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point. With just a few elevation changes, the rim trail is an easy hike and offers views of the Main Amphitheater from different perspectives. Other than the paved part between Sunrise and Sunset Points, the trail is quiet, and you’ll find yourself alone on some stretches of it.
Since the trail passes the major viewpoints where the shuttle stops -- Sunrise, Sunset, and Inspiration Points -- it is easy to hike only parts of it at any given time and take the shuttle back to the starting point.
Bryce Point Trail
The 0.2-mile Bryce Point Trail is a paved and wheelchair-accessible trail that takes you through a few views at Bryce Point.
Bristlecone Loop Trail
Accessible from Rainbow Point, the Bristlecone Loop Trail is a mile-long walk through an old bristlecone pine forest. Some of the trees are thought to be up to 1,800 years old! The forest is a good place for bird-watching -- look for blue jays, Steller’s jays, ravens, and woodpeckers. You’ll also see chipmunks and a variety of squirrels running up and down the trees and along the trail. Past the forest, along the rim, you’ll see not only Bryce Canyon, but vistas stretching as far as the Four Corners area.
The trail is located at the highest point in the park, at an elevation of 9,100 feet. You’ll experience up to 195 feet of elevation change, but you won’t have to make any steep climbs on this trail.
The Bristlecone Loop Trail is not accessible during the winter, when the snow is 2 to 15 feet deep.
Queens Garden Trail
The easiest trail that descends into the canyon, the Queens Garden Trail starts at Sunrise Point. The 320-foot descent into the canyon features long switchbacks and spectacular rock formations, including arches and a variety of hoodoos. The trail is not steep; it takes a roundabout way to the bottom, where it ends at a rock garden of hoodoos called the Queens Garden. With some imagination, and from the right angle, you can see Queen Victoria overlooking her garden.
From here, you can turn around and walk back to the rim or continue on a leisurely walk to the bottom of the canyon on the Navajo Loop Trail.
Navajo Loop Trail
The most popular trail descending into the canyon, the Navajo Loop Trail starts at Sunset Point and goes down into the Main Amphitheater. Steeper than the Queens Garden Trail, this trail runs through some of the most spectacular vistas in the park. It drops into the amphitheater and passes through Wall Street, a narrow passage between towering rocks. The trail has great views of Thor’s Hammer, a tall hoodoo with a narrow neck, supporting a large hammerhead-like rock. Other views include the Silent City, where the rock structures resemble buildings, towers, and temples.
The loop is 1.3 miles long and listed as moderate. At the bottom, it meets the Queens Garden Trail and the Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail, offering longer alternatives for a round-trip hike.
Be aware of temperature changes. Parts of the trail have no shade and can get hot, especially in the summer; other stretches are shaded by rocks and can get cold.
Also look out for loose rocks while walking this trail. They may roll under your feet or fall from the trail above. More rocks fall here than on any other trail in the park.
Navajo Loop And Queens Garden Combination Trail
These two trails are connected at the bottom of the canyon, making this combination a perfect round trip for a day hike. This combination hike is one of the best and easiest ways to see the hoodoos, both from above and from the bottom of the canyon.
The best way to do this loop is to start with the Navajo Loop Trail and ascend at the Queens Garden, though it is just as spectacular the other way around. You’ll walk through some forested and sandy areas on the bottom between the two trails, perfect for wildlife viewing and bird-watching.
This 2.6-mile trail is rated as moderate and is best done between March and October.
Tower Bridge Trail
The 3-mile Tower Bridge Trail starts at Sunrise Point and drops steeply to the Tower Bridge site. From Tower Bridge, it connects with the Fairyland Trail for a much longer and more strenuous -- but spectacular -- day hike.
Fairyland Loop Trail
Probably the most spectacular trail in the park, the Fairyland Loop Trail starts at the Fairyland Point, just off the Rim Trail. The 8-mile loop passes by fantastic hoodoos along the rim and into the canyon, offering incredible views at every turn. At least six elevation changes and its length make this trail difficult, though it’s not as steep as the Peek-A-Boo Trail.
Make sure you carry plenty of water, use sunscreen, and wear a wide-brimmed hat when hiking this trail.
Hat Shop Trail
The 4-mile round-trip Hat Shop Trail starts at Bryce Point and makes a steep descent to just under the rim. Less popular than other trails, it offers views of a cluster of balanced-rock hat-shaped hoodoos.
Pro Tip: Considering its very steep descent, this trail is hard on the knees. Use good walking poles if you decide to attempt it.
Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail
The 5.2-mile Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail is one of the most beautiful trails in the canyon. It starts at Bryce Point and drops quickly to the canyon floor. One of the most heavily trafficked trails, it offers fantastic views of the hoodoos. Lots of elevation changes keep it interesting, though challenging.
This trail is shared by the horse and mule riders, and they have the right of way. So if you’d rather experience this trail from the back of a horse, sign up for the ride. Unlike at other trails, restrooms are available at the bottom.
Pro Tip: If you have knee problems and take this trail, make sure you carry good walking sticks and use them. Wear hiking shoes that protect your ankles.
Tips For Hiking At Bryce Canyon National Park
All trails below the rim involve steep climbs out of the canyon, so they are never easy. If you have doubts about your ability to climb out, stick to the trails on the rim -- they are still spectacular and offer the best views.
Remember that you are in the high desert, and carry plenty of water. A good rule of thumb is to take about 1 quart for every 2 to 3 hours of hiking you’ll be doing. Water stations are set up at the trailheads where you can refill your reusable water bottle or CamelBak.
Park elevations reach 9,000 feet, so you might experience altitude sickness; exertion might give you a headache and leave you light-headed and nauseated. One of the best ways to counteract this is to take it slow, stop often, and drink plenty of water.
Wear good hiking boots with traction and ankle support, especially if you decide to hike into the canyon, where you’ll encounter rocky terrain.
As cute as they might look, stay away from the animals, and never feed even a squirrel. As much as they may like it, human food is not good for them. Feeding them will make them dependent on visitors, and they won’t learn to find food for themselves. It also encourages them to get too close to traffic.
If you are traveling with your pets, keep them on a leash, and only hike on trails where they are allowed.