Utah’s national park offerings are ridiculously diverse, and within a few hours drive we had been repeatedly bewildered by the geology of the landscapes we had encountered. Bryce Canyon, our fourth Utah park after visiting Arches, Canyonlands and Bridges, was no exception to this, and the forces of erosion, weathering and gravity had clearly been hard at work for the last few millions of years to bring about the incredible vistas we were greeted with.
The ‘Hoodoos’ – the rock tower formations the canyon is renowned for, are formed through erosion of the narrow canyon walls (fins). When water seeps into the cracks between these fins and refreezes with a temperature change, it expands to crack surrounding rock (frost wedging). This can create holes or windows (which are seen throughout the canyon). The windows then grow and eventually collapse leaving behind tall towers. The intricate shapes and colours of these towers are sculpted as rain dissolves the limestone that forms them.
The landscape that results reminded me of some kind of grand desert castle or cathedral straight out of a fantasy film (this vibe is exaggerated by the series of winding paths and tunnels we encountered during our walk).
We set off from ‘Sunrise Point’ and took the aptly named Queens Garden Trail before diverting up the Navajo Trail to go to the bathroom and check out the view from Sunset point (the trail up there is very steep and also was quite snow covered and most people (understandably) seemed to be travelling in the opposite direction to us!) We then returned down Navajo and took the Peekaboo Loop Trail until we hit the Bryce Point Turnoff, where we again climbed upwards (again quite steep and with some precarious ledges).
Having reached the Bryce Point Lookout, we discovered the under rim track (our intended route) was closed due to inclement conditions/repairs. Instead we followed the road back to Sunset Point before taking the rim trail towards our car at Sunrise Point. All in all this made for a satisfying 8.4 mile (13.5km) walk which took in a number of different vistas across the park.
As shadows shifted across the Canyon throughout the day, different hues in the rock were emphasised, such that each view was dramatically different from the last. If you aren’t up for much walking, there are car parks at each of the viewing points so you can still experience that remarkable feature of the park. However the views from within the Canyon are not to be missed so definitely head in if you are able.
- Map of the park and trail notes
- Bryce is known for having large differences between its daily high and low temperatures (due largely to its high elevation climate), so it is advisable to wear layers while exploring the park.