Bryce Canyon- An Inspiration to the Imagination
By Steve Cuff.
Bryce Canyon is truly one of those spectacular sights that you must see and needs to be near the top of your sightseeing list.
A sandstone canyon carved out through the ages of time shaped these many weird and wonderful spires called Hoodoos that search skyward and are blessed with dreamy colour schemes that excite the imagination.
You can see all of Bryce Amphitheatre in one day if you are on a strict schedule or take an extra day or two to witness the magnificent sunrise and sunsets that bring these majestical colours to life. The viewing points are clearly marked for Sunrise Point or Sunset Point along the Rim trail and are only 0.8km (0.5miles) apart. The extent of the Rim Trail runs from Fairyland to Bryce Point via Inspiration Point and is a total of 8.8km walk that is relatively easy for most people although uphill in some areas.
Once you have ticked this box of viewing the Rim Trail, hiking down into the canyon is a must do excursion and where your imagination is further inspired as you look up towards the sky at these magnificent Hoodoos. The hike is not overly strenuous even though it may appear otherwise. You can take your time and do a shorter journey on the Navajo loop or take the longer options expanding into the Queens Gardens or Peakaboo Loop. A fit person can do them quite quickly but the best option is to take your time and admire the scenic views along your journey.
The Navajo Loop descends on a switchback trail weaving its way through the awe inspiring Hoodoos. Starting and finishing at Sunset Point, walk past the legendary narrow slot of Wall St where a few random Douglas Fir trees endeavour to steal the limelight from their neighbouring Hoodoos.
Thor’s Hammer is one of the most photographed landmarks that stand out from the crowd with its large hammer head. There are grand views of the temple like formations that surround you and to the east, you can see the “Temple of Osiris.” (Osiris is the Egyptian god of the afterlife.). At the end of the Navajo Loop you can ascend back along the same path or continue along the Queens Garden trail for a more leisurely finish to your hike and different scenery.
If the steeper Navajo Loop descent is not your style you can start at Sunrise Point and take the more leisurely walk down into the Queens Garden area of the Canyon and when this trail meets the Navajo Loop you then have the same decision to make whether you take the steeper switchback of the Navajo Loop to the top or return along the Queens Garden trail with a lesser gradient. The Queens Garden trail also offer spectacular views of the canyon and the trail is wide enough for several people to pass and ample viewing points to stop and simply admire this Utah gem.
It is definitely worth hiking in both directions as there are scenic views you may have missed even though your neck muscles might be sore from turning your in case you might miss something.
Depending on what time of year you visit it will most likely be busy as it is a popular destination for people from around the world but if you have a flexible schedule arriving during the end of Autumn (Fall) you will find it less busy, although anytime is a good time to see this enchanting natural landscape that time and weather have created over millions of years.
There are two main hotels just down the road in Bryce Canyon City. These properties are ideally located and allow capturing photos of the impressive sunrise, very easy. This early start can be offset by taking an extended rest during lunchtime and then returning to capture the magic sunset if the weather prevails. Make sure your camera has extra batteries and memory cards as it is hard to not take photos continuously at every turn.
Bryce Canyon is on the Scenic Byway 12 and if you have ventured from Capitol Reef then Zion National Park, the St George area is your next stop on your National Park Tour through Southern Utah.