Bryce Canyon National Park Must-Sees: Hikes, Views, and Landmarks, from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point

by Amy Myers
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Utah is home to a total of five national parks within its borders, but none of them are quite as startling as Bryce Canyon National Park. Hundreds of hoodoos stand tall and proud, surrounded by patches of lush green conifers that stretch almost as high. To the everyday observer, you might almost believe that these structures were manmade. In reality, though, the conditions of the canyon were just so that these mystifying towers could collect in a red rock village.

There isn’t a single trail in Bryce Canyon National Park that won’t give you a breathtaking view of the hoodoos within the desert region. In order to access the park’s must-see geological gems, you’ll have to climb pretty high in altitude. Some of the park’s regions reach higher than 9,000 feet, which for those that live much closer to sea level, tests the limit of their lungs. That said, it’s incredibly important to give yourself time to acclimate to the higher elevation. You also need to know your body’s limits while exploring the park.

If you’re looking to see some of the park’s most famous formations up close without overexerting yourself, take a look at our recommendations for Bryce Canyon must-sees.

Thor’s Hammer at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. (Photo by: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Outsider’s Choice of Bryce Canyon National Park Trails, Easiest to Hardest

  • Sunrise Point to Sunset Point (easy)
  • Bristlecone Loop (easy)
  • Mossy Cave Turret Arch and Little Windows Trail (easy)
  • Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail (moderate)
  • Tower Bridge Trail (moderate)
  • Rim Trail (moderate to strenuous)
  • Hat Shop via Under-the-Rim Trail (strenuous)
  • Peekaboo Loop Trail (strenuous)
  • Fairyland Loop (strenuous)

Two Ways to Experience Bryce Canyon’s Rim Trail

The entirety of Rim Trail stretches 11 miles around the base of Bryce Canyon. This gives visitors a front-seat view of many of the park’s main attractions. There are two ways to experience all that the Rim Trail has to offer. You can take the first mile of the trail which is paved from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point. This is one of the most popular and heavily-trafficked routes in the park because it is an easy, flat trail to follow that gives incredible views of the hoodoos from the Bryce Amphitheater while also helping your body acclimate to the high altitude. In addition, this portion of the Rim Trail is the only pet-friendly and fully accessible route in the park, making it a prime spot for visitors of all kinds.

Sunrise Point to Sunset Point

  • Length: 1.0-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Elevation: 82 feet
  • Duration: 1 hour

Those that want to see more of the park from above can continue on Rim Trail as it winds past quite a few attractions, including Lower, Middle and Upper Inspiration points, and of course, Bryce and Fairyland points. You can also pick up several trails along the way for an even longer and more scenic trek. Just be sure that you stop at one of the water stations near Sunset Point before continuing on your way.

Rim Trail, from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point

  • Length: 11-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous
  • Elevation: 1,587 feet
  • Duration: 7.5 hours

Hoodoo-Central Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park

While the Rim Trail allows you to marvel at the sheer magnitude of the hoodoos, there are quite a few routes that give you a closer look at the giants that inhabit the park. From royal dedications to more comical titles, Bryce Canyon National Park visitors have helped name many of the more distinct hoodoos along the trails. The structures, themselves, have incredible color gradations, fading from rusty red into ivory and golden tops. Hoodoos, themselves, are a combination of mudstone, relatively loose sandstone and consolidated volcanic ash. Over the centuries, erosion ate away at the softer stones along the exterior of the structure. As a result, only tall, impossibly balanced towers remained. And now, more than a million visitors from all over the world come to see them each year.

Pro tip: Keep in mind that most trails in the national park begin with a descent into the canyon, meaning that the hike in will be much easier than the hike out. So, you’ll need to save up your energy and take sufficient breaks before heading back up the canyon. Additionally, with such high altitudes, your body will use more water to help oxygenate your blood. You’ll need to pack at least one liter of water per two-hour hike and frequently rehydrate to avoid overheating, extreme dehydration and altitude sickness.

Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail

  • Length: 2.9-mile loop
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation: 625 feet
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours

Besides the Sunrise Point to Sunset Point route, the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail is hands-down the most popular trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. Not quite as long as the entirety of the Rim Trail, this loop connects to the paved path and passes formations like Queen Victoria, Thor’s Hammer, Two Bridges, ET Hoodoo and the bottom of the narrow canyon called Wall Street.

According to the NPS, the easiest way to complete this route is to travel clockwise. That said, you’ll have a much heavier descent early in the hike, so walking poles and hiking boots with hike ankle support are a must.

Hat Shop via Under-the-Rim Trail

  • Length: 4.0-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Elevation: 967 feet
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Among the more difficult hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park is the Hat Shop route which brings visitors to a cluster of hoodoos that wear gray boulders atop their already fragile-looking structures. You may also find a bit more solitude on this trail as it’s not as heavily trafficked as other, easier routes. However, with the quiet comes a respectable change in elevation. The way in is strictly downhill, meaning that you’ll be trekking up a mighty big hill on the way back. The views are well worth the exertion. However, be sure you start this trail early so that you have plenty of time to take breaks on the way out.

Fairyland Loop

  • Length: 8.0-mile loop
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Elevation: 1,545 feet
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours

The Fairyland Loop is definitely among the most scenic trails in Bryce Canyon National Park. This route offers incredible views of attractions like the Chinese Wall, Crescent Castle and Tower Bridge as well as casually-named hoodoos like the Cat Hoodoo. You can also access the park’s general store and bathrooms from an off-shoot trail at around 5.5 miles. Be sure to watch out for snakes – they tend to be frequent travelers on this trail. Also, pack extra sunscreen and a brimmed hat as there isn’t much protection from the sun along Fairyland Loop.

Peekaboo Loop Trail

  • Length: 5.5-mile loop
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Elevation: 1,435 feet
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Beginning at Bryce Point, the Peekaboo Loop Trail has a rapid descent to the canyon floor where you can see dozens of hoodoos as well as structures like Hindu Temples, Peekaboo Arch, Throne Point and Wall of Windows Benchmark. There are also several benches along the way

Like most of the hoodoo-central hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park, this trail is quite difficult and requires a bit of caution and care to complete. In fact, the NPS warned that ankle injuries occur on the Peekaboo Loop Trail more than on any other hike in the park. That said, hiking poles and ankle support are more important than ever as the loose rocks and intense slope can cut your adventure short.

This is also a popular trail for those hiking with mules and horses, so be sure to share the trail and give right-of-way to any hooved travelers.

Green and Shady Trails in Bryce Canyon National Park

Just as incredible as the park’s collection of hoodoos is its variety of lush, green forests in an otherwise desert climate. Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the only regions in the country where an arid atmosphere can support such thriving vegetation in between its red rocks. Bryce Canyon is home to quite a few conifers, including spruces, firs and pines that offer refuge for the park’s 210 bird species, 59 mammal species and 1,000 species of insects.

The trails that pass through these vibrant parts of the national park offer one-of-a-kind bird and wildlife watching opportunities as well as much-needed shade and relief from Utah’s heat.

Bristlecone Loop

  • Length: 1.0-mile loop
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Elevation: 88 feet
  • Duration: 1 hour

Bristlecone Pines are the most prominent type of tree found in Bryce Canyon National Park and are among the oldest living organisms in the world. As it turns out, these ancient pines are found in only six states in the country, proving that the canyon’s hoodoos are far from the only remarkable attractions in the national park.

The park’s oldest pine is found along the Bristlecone Loop trail. Located near Yovimpa Point, park officials estimate this tree to be at least 1,600 years old, proving to be the very first garden of Bryce Canyon. Along with these great bristlecones, you can also see Rainbow Point from the top of the route. Bristlecone Loop actually takes visitors to the very top of the national park with an altitude exceeding 9,100 feet above sea levels at some points.

Before heading on this sky-high trail, you can take advantage of the bathrooms and benches found at the trailhead. This route also leads to the Four Corners area where you can snap a pic while standing in four southwestern states.

Tower Bridge Trail

  • Length: 3.0-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation: 824 feet
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours

The Tower Bridge Trail will take you back to a time of drawbridges, moats and castles. The focal point of the route is the massive red rock structure with two distinct towers and a conjoining in between. Surprisingly, despite the familiar shape, this rock formation was not influenced by man. Somehow, the rock eroded just so that only a single walkway remained between the two humongous rocks.

Of course, the Tower Bridge Trail wouldn’t be a green and shady trail without a few dozen tall trees surrounding the structure. In fact, you really can’t get all that close to the bridge, itself, but you can get a great view of it from between the trees as well as the Chinese Wall and Sinking Ship structures. Along the way, there are plenty of places to break for a cool, covered and scenic lunch underneath the canopy of the pine trees.

Mossy Cave Turret Arch and Little Windows Trail

  • Length: 1.0-mile loop
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Elevation: 150 feet
  • Duration: 1 hour

The Mossy Cave and Little Windows route offers the rare opportunity not only to see conifers and hoodoos but also a crystal clear stream and waterfall. This quick and incredibly popular trail follows the Tropic Ditch stream to a grotto with dripping mosses in the summer and clusters of icicles in the winter. This is where the stream spills over the lip of the tall ledge and creates the perfect environment for moss to flourish in the warmer months. Along the way, you also get spectacular views of the Little Windows, too. There are even toilets located at the trailhead for those that need a pit stop before visiting the mossy waterfall.

If you do plan on taking this trail, try to go either before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. as the trail tends to get incredibly crowded during the typical hours. NPS encourages visitors to spread out their visits to the area to decrease the effects of trail erosion.

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