If you missed the intro to this blog series, be sure to check it out here!
We arrived to Bryce Canyon in the early afternoon. Research made it clear that one of the best ways to experience the park in a short amount of time is to drive along Highway 63, also known as the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. As such, we hopped onto the drive right away and beelined it to the drive’s furthest overlook, Rainbow Point. At just over 9000 foot elevation, this overlook is roughly 18 miles from the park entrance and allows for expansive, spectacular views of the canyon.
From there, we hit up almost every overlook along the drive, slowly making our way back towards the entrance. Since Bryce Canyon is the only park in the National Park Service that is home to the Utah Prairie Dog, we became mildly obsessed with the idea of spotting one during our visit. These adorable critters are endangered, yet protected by the park as they are extremely important to the canyon’s ecosystem. As the likelihood of spotting one at Ponderosa Point is said to be the highest, stopping there was a must. While we weren’t lucky enough to lay eyes on one of the park’s 200 Utah Prairie Dogs, we made it a point to donate to the park’s protection efforts. #prairiedawgsforever
Another must-see along the drive is one of the park’s most famous arches, Natural Bridge. Although Bryce Canyon is largely known for its hoodoo rock formations, Natural Bridge is a majestic arch worth seeing. While we’re on the subject of hoodoos, let’s talk about what the heck they are. According to Nat Geo, they are freestanding spires of rock that are created by weathering and erosion in desert climates. This process takes place over thousands of years, in which “water from streams, runoff, and intense thunderstorms wear down the rock,” and “wind is the fine sculptor that does a lot of the smoothing and finishing.”
Last, but certainly not least, my favorite overlook of all was Sunset Point. We made it here about an hour and a half before sunset, which provided us with just enough time to hike the 1.3-mile Navajo Loop Trail. This trailhead is accessible from Sunset Point. I must say: while viewing the hoodoos from above was awe-inspiring, there was nothing like viewing them from below. This short, but sweet hike provided up-close-and-personal views of some of the park’s most well-known structures, including Wall Street, Thor’s Hammer, Silent City, and Two Bridges. Standing amongst these massive, extraordinary structures allowed for an entirely new level of appreciation for them.
Although the Navajo Loop Trail can be connected with the Queen’s Garden Trail for a longer hike, we were pressed for time as we wanted to catch sunset from none other than Sunset Point. Words can’t describe the way that I felt as I watched the sun set over the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. The coloring of the hoodoos became significantly more vivid against a muted, pastel sky, and it was incredibly beautiful. As this was an unbelievable ending to our day in Bryce Canyon, I can’t recommend it enough.
While we did not set enough time aside to hike the Fairyland Loop Trail, I’ve heard that it’s another excellent way to experience Bryce Canyon. Please note that it is 8 miles in duration and is said to take 4-5 hours to complete. If you’ve hiked this trail before, I’d love to hear about your experience!
Anyway, we ended our day by eating a quick dinner and settling into our new digs. The “town” outside of Bryce Canyon has very limited food options, so be prepared to eat some mediocre grub. We ultimately decided to eat at Bryce Canyon Pines, and since it’s tough to mess up a turkey club, I was a happy camper. For lodging, on the other hand, we stayed in a cozy cabin at Bryce Canyon Villas, about 20 minutes outside of the park.
…Next stop, Capitol Reef National Park!