Arizona, Bryce Canyon National Park, Camping, Hiking, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, Nevada, United States, Utah

A BeaUTAHful Bucket List: Day 5 – Bryce Canyon National Park

Day 5 – March 30, 2022

The take aways…

  • Don’t crash the drone into a tree
  • All the orange, all the spiky
  • Bless our park rangers
  • VORS are not easily googled using the term “Mexican hat in the Nevada desert”

Another day of waking up in strange places, and we found ourselves this morning by the Escalante River. This was one of the chillier days of our trip, so we piled on the layers and sipped our coffee… and flew the drone into a tree in a dramatic crash. Oh, and confirmed in the daylight that the strange bag hanging from the tree at the campsite really was like some experimental bug gathering thing or something.

Not a bad place to wake up, not bad at all!
How much dry shampoo can be in one person’s hair type of selfie. So excited to shower later today!

We set out towards Bryce Canyon National Park, our main destination for the day before heading south to Nevada.

Heading towards Cannonville
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument visitor center in Cannonville was a nice stop for some passport stamps, restroom break, and to check out some exhibits.

Bryce Canyon National Park was first established as a national monument in 1923 and received park status in 1928. Bryce Canyon is actually not a canyon at all, but we can forgive them for messing up the geological name since it’s “one heck of a place to lose a cow.” Instead, this is an area where large amphitheaters have been eroded out of the rocks, resulted in bright orange hoodoos. The hallmark of the park is Bryce Amphitheater, which is twelve miles wide (that’s wide!) and 800 feet deep. This is also the top step of the Grand Staircase, which I discussed a bit in the previous blog post.

Heading towards Bryce Canyon from Tropic

To stretch our legs, we stopped at the trailhead for Mossy Cave, a part of the national park that isn’t at the heart of the rest of the park. This is an easy less-than-a-mile-round-trip hike to a cave that is mossy (hence the name). It also moseys past Water Canyon, which pioneers dug out to create an irrigation ditch. There is a seasonal waterfall here, but it was a trickle when we visited. This area is insanely busy, so expect a full parking lot during peak hours (parking along the road is not allowed). Luckily our morning visit meant we could get a spot and visit before the hoards awoke.

Where the waterfall should be, when there’s falling water.
We discovered the “Hike the Hoodoos” program here at Mossy Falls. To encourage visitors to be active, the park came up with this activity. If you take three selfies with the Hike the Hoodoos benchmark survey markers (or take rubbings), or hike three miles (with proof… I recorded my hikes on my Garmin watch and uploaded to Strava, and Eric used the All Trails app), you get a special prize at the visitor’s center!
Mossy Cave in its mossy and icy glory!
Heading back to the parking lot. This is one of the few hikes in Bryce Canyon that ends with a descent

Time for the main show!

Our first stop was the visitor center, where we checked out the exhibits (all the geology) and perused the gift shop for goodies.

The Adventure Dinos checked another one off the list!

There is one main road in the park, Scenic Drive, which is eighteen miles long. We decided we would first check out the Bryce Amphitheater, which is the most stunning and popular attraction in the park and knock out a hike before exploring the rest of the overlooks on the scenic drive.

We made our way to the Sunrise Point and found a parking spot near the lodge. Because some trails were still closed due to winter conditions (Bryce Canyon is quite high in elevation… 7500-9000 feet!), we opted to do the loop of Queen’s Garden and Navajo trails, which is about three miles total. We opted for clockwise, which is the direction recommended by NPS for the best views and experience with descending and ascending. This is touted as the most popular hike in the park, and the crowds made it seem that way for sure!

Bryce Amphitheater from Sunrise Point
So orange, so spiky!!!
Lots of hooooooodooooooooos. It’s a requirement to say it like that.
Start of the descent to Queen’s Garden.
Little bits of snow were hanging on from the recent storm
The texture of the hoodoos reminded me of an ice cream cone dipped in an orange sauce! They looked drippy, but were solid limestone to the touch.
There are a few tunnels on the trail
Just tall enough that I couldn’t make it through the tunnels without stooping
Queen Victoria hoodoo, which looks more like a witch’s hat to me, with a genie lamp.
View from the Queen’s Garden. I definitely see someone holding the genie lamp!
Another benchmark found!
As the trail headed towards the junction with the Navajo Loop, the hoodoos lessened and the trees increased. This was probably the least stunning part of the trail, though I feel bad for saying that it is still an amazing area.
Junction with the Navajo Loop. The Wall Street side of Navajo is closed in the winter months due to rockfall danger, but the Two Bridges side is open year around.
And another Hike the Hoodoos benchmark!
Two Bridges

Navajo Loop definitely climbs, and you leave the trees behind to reenter the hoodoo magicalness. The trail switchbacks like a folded spaghetti noodle. For some reason I found myself running up the switchbacks – can’t explain that, but hey… it’s a thing I do, ha!

The beginning of the steepest portion of Navajo on the Two Bridges side
From the top of the switchbacks looking down
Thor’s Hammer is one of the named features from the Navajo Loop
A wider look at Thor’s Hammer with some impressive clouds to accompany
Way too orange, way too spiky

We meandered over to an overlook at the top of Wall Street, which was still closed during our visit, and then did the final climb up to Sunset Point. I had a girl stop to compliment me on my Kula Cloth, which made me quite happy as I’m sure Eric is sick of hearing about my “super amazing pee cloth” by now, ha!

View from the top of Wall Street
Looking back on the Queen’s Garden trail
Sunset Point

Overall this hike took us about 1 hour 40 minutes to complete with our photo breaks. I’d love to come back and complete more of the hikes, and find all the Hike the Hoodoos benchmarks for sure! Several of the trails were still closed during our visit, so I’m venturing a guess pushing a visit out a little later in spring is more ideal if hiking all the trails is on the itinerary. (I do feel like this is one national park I could actually hike all the trails at!)

Another tailgate lunch!

I won’t lie, after the awesomeness that is the Bryce Amphitheater, the rest of the exploration was a bit bland. But I feel bad saying that… it’s all beautiful. It’s just that Bryce Amphitheater is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to!

Inspiration Point was our first quick stop on the scenic road.
Quick selfie at Inspiration Point, which provides a different view of the main amphitheater than Sunrise and Sunset Points
Bryce Point was up next!
Formations at Bryce Point
Panorama of Bryce Point
Rainbow Point is the highest elevation at Bryce Canyon National Park.
It was chilly at Rainbow Point. I had shorts and Chacos on, and heard the lady walking behind me say, “She must be cold!” I’d like to point out the guy who got out of a truck with Wyoming plates was also in shorts… we’re a strange breed, us Wyomingites!
Black Birch Canyon
The views from Black Birch Canyon were a bit snowier
Ponderosa Point
Closeup at Ponderosa Point
Natural Bridge
The natural bridge
I spied something cone-y in the distance!
Farview Point was our final stop, and we trudged through the snow and mud to Piracy Point
The view from Piracy Point was… disappointing 😦
The scenic drive went through some burned areas

Scenic viewpoint-ed-out for the day, we headed back to the visitor center to get our special prize for the Hike the Hoodoos program. There was a big line for the ranger, and we watched a woman get sworn in as a junior ranger after being grilled by the real ranger on every page of the book (eek, becoming a junior ranger is a serious endeavor!). Then the woman in line in front of us took to asking about ten times over the best area in the park to view sunset, and the ranger, bless her heart, patiently explained each time that the park faces east, and therefore is better at sunrise (so much patience for the questions!!). Finally it was our turn, and we told the ranger where we hiked and flashed our GPS tracks. We were rewarded with a special “I Hiked the Hoodoos!” decal and were probably the easiest customers of the day!

I hiked the hoodoos!!!
We bopped down to the Bryce Canyon Coffee Company in Tropic for a caffeine pick me up before beginning our long drive.

There was a long drive ahead of us once we left Tropic. Over four hours, to be exact. After days of backroads and lonely two-lane highways, popping on I-15 was a bit tedious in a way. Though the scenery was beautiful, and it is interesting to watch it change from forests back to pure desert from Cedar City to St. George, it was still filled with a lot of cars and billboards.

Views while heading towards I-15
The Adventure Dinos go to Arizona! (I didn’t grab a good photo of the sign going into Nevada.)

Long road trips always lead to the most random thoughts. Thanks to good cell service along I-15, this meant we could actually explore our random thoughts and curiosities. Upon spotting a VOR (Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Range device), Eric and I took to trying to figure out what they were called. I always assumed these random white sombrero looking things were part of gas lines or something, but Eric insisted they were part of airplane navigation. So began the googling… and I learned googling “Mexican hat in the Nevada desert” led to instructions on how to buy a sombrero in Mesquite. Eric had better luck with his keywords, and we landed on an article about VORs and learned all about basic airplane navigation, and I laughed way too hard about the results of my failed google search.

What exactly did we do before Google?!

Heading towards Las Vegas

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, we met up with a couple of Eric’s friends for dinner at SkinnyFATS before heading to Boulder. We grabbed groceries at Albertsons, and then took to packing for our two-day kayak adventure in the parking lot, spreading clothes, food, and gear everywhere. Finally we headed to Best Western, and I jumped into the shower, washed ten pounds of dry shampoo out of my hair, and hit the sheets in an actual bed.

Here’s to “fear and floating in Las Vegas” in a mere eight hours!

2 thoughts on “A BeaUTAHful Bucket List: Day 5 – Bryce Canyon National Park”

  1. I’m laughing harder than I probably should at the Mexican hat quip. Also, amazing photos! We went to Bryce last November and I was really hoping there would be some snow (but alas there was not). Looks like you had a little bit. It’s so beautiful dusted in white!

    Liked by 1 person

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