Among four contiguous national parks – the Grand Canyon North Rim in Arizona and the Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah – that I have been to, I would choose Bryce Canyon National Park as the place I would like to explore again. All four give a visitor the awesome feeling that he is looking at the majesty of our Creator’s kingdom. But the visitor of Bryce Canyon, particularly each individual who has hiked one of Bryce’s many trails invariably exudes the happiest smile after viewing the depths and heights of such magically spectacular creation. Eric Peterson, author several travel guidebooks on the American west including “Frommer’s Utah” and who has written about backpacking in Yosemite, and cross-country skiing in Yellowstone, had this to say, “If you could visit only one national park in your lifetime, make it Bryce Canyon.”
Bryce Canyon consists of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from a plateau. Inside these amphitheaters are thousands of standing “hoodoos” or colorful limestone rocks with bizarre shapes. Geologically speaking, the hoodoos were shaped after millions of years of water and wind erosion. These hoodoos and the cliffs of the amphitheaters grab your attention with their colors in shades of red, brown, yellow and white that glow with the rising and setting of the sun. When the Canyon was first promoted to tourists in the late 1920s, the Union Pacific Railroad wrote a description of the Canyon which I believe remains true to this day: “To those who have not forgotten the story books of childhood it suggests a playground for fairies. In another aspect it seems a smoldering inferno where goblins and demons might dwell among flames and embers."
A visit to Bryce starts with a drive by car to its many viewpoints which stretches 18 miles from beginning to end. Amazement kicks in as you take a stroll along the rim of the canyon or amphitheatres. The most thrilling part is the hike in one of Bryce’s many trails, the most popular of which is the combined Navajo and Queen’s trails.
Start your hike of Bryce’s trails just after daybreak and enjoy the morning light as the sunrise brings the Canyon to life, illuminating the radiant hues of the hoodoos and the Canyon’s walls. Narrow switchbacks will take you 1,755 feet straight down into hoodoo formations, which include an eerie narrow passage into the heart of the Bryce Canyon. While some trails are considered a moderate hike, all the final climbs up out of the canyon are tough so much so that every hiker who finishes the climb gasps with a wide “I made it” smile.
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah. It is 273 miles south of Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah and 256 miles going northeast from Las Vegas. It is 520 miles or almost 8 hours by car from Los Angeles. From Bryce, Arches National Park is 249 miles up north, Grand Canyon North Rim 160 miles south and Zion National Park is 78 miles south. The route coming from and to Bryce takes one through Utah State Highway 12, which has been designated by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration as a National Scenic Byway because of its numerous one-of- a-kind historical, natural, recreational, and scenic features that by themselves are exceptional destinations.