BRYCE CANYON Ntl park, UT
We've been to some pretty spectacular places, but man alive, Bryce Canyon National Park takes it to a whole new level. It's like The Grand Canyon and The Black Hills had a baby. Seriously.
Okay for starters. Hoodoos. What in the world are they and how do they form? Hoodoos are natural pillars or spires or columns, made of rock, formed by the weather. They appear all over the world, but Bryce Canyon National Park has the most in one geographic area. If that's not cool enough, listen up and we'll give you a quick geology lesson. Bryce Canyon National Park is located at about 9,000 feet, meaning it experiences above and below freezing temperatures more than half the days of the year. When water seeps its way into the rocks the make up Bryce Canyon, it begins to freeze into ice when the temperatures dip below freezing. When water freezes into ice, it expands by 9%, creating a tremendous amount of pressure on the surrounding rock, ultimately causing it to break apart. Starting as a plateau, the rocks eventually break down into walls, then into windows or bridges and finally into Hoodoos. Take it one step farther, and look at the different types of rocks that make up Bryce Canyon. All of them contain a high concentration of calcium carbonate, which dissolves with even the littlest bit of acidic water. When it rains in Bryce Canyon National Park, the slightly acidic rain dissolves the calcium carbonate that holds the rocks together and allows them to erode into their current shapes. And unlike your typical "canyon" that cuts through a mountain, Bryce Canyon is actually a plateau. The Hoodoos that have formed over the years are what make Bryce Canyon a "canyon" so to speak.
Next up. Why should you put Bryce Canyon National Park near the top of your bucket list? It is the most serene, silently eerie and stunningly beautiful natural creation you will see. And it's right here in our backyard! From Las Vegas, it's only 4 hours away. You can easily make it a weekend trip and low-cost too. Just head north on I-15 towards Salt Lake City. Take exit 95 and head southeast on UT-20 to US-89 S, then UT-12 E. Follow the signs to Bryce Canyon.
Once you pay the US National Parks fee at the entrance (or flash your annual pass), you have a few options. (1) Ditch your vehicle and catch the park's free shuttle service to all of the must-see viewing points and trails, (2) Ditch your vehicle and hop on your bike, then follow the paved trail that winds throughout the park, stopping to see each of the viewing points or parking your bike and navigating the trails by foot, or (3) Drive your own vehicle to each of the lookouts, take your time hiking and viewing the scenery, and move on to the next must-see location. Regardless of how you navigate your way through Bryce Canyon National Park, you won't be disappointed!
At each viewing point and trail head, there are public restrooms, benches, picnic tables and shade trees. You'll also find a general store with comfort food as well as a restaurant for fine dining.
Ready to hike? You will instantly discover why Bryce Canyon National Park holds our all-time favorite trail. The Navajo Loop Trial is our top recommendation. If there's only one hike you have time to do during your trip there, do this! You'll start out at the rim of the canyon from Sunset Point and work your way down into the heart of the Hoodoos passing through The Silent City. Then you'll come upon Wall Street where you walk down winding switchbacks between slot canyon walls into the home of two towering firs that have been growing there for more than 750 years. Along the way, be sure to explore the caves formed in the rocks as well as Twin Bridges. When you approach the bottom, you'll find the junction for The Queens Garden Loop Trail. It's 1.8 miles there and back, taking you to Gulliver's Castle, the Queen's Castle and Queen Elizabeth herself. Whether you take on The Queens Garden Loop Trail or just head back up the slope on another series of switchbacks returning you to the canyon rim, you will be amazed in the majestic desert beauty! When you get back up to the top of the rim, pat yourself on the back and take a look at the trail you just conquered and enjoyed! You will have descended 800 feet in elevation and then ascended the same distance, totaling 1.3 miles round trip or 3.1 miles round trip if you added in The Queens Garden Loop.
If you're not sure you're up for the Navajo Loop Trail, you can still enjoy it's beauty from the view points at the canyon rim. And then take a little walk along the Rim Trail that connects all of the scenic overlooks from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point. The half-mile section between Sunrise and Sunset points is paved and accessible for those in wheelchairs.
Bryce Canyon National Park is such a unique and enthralling sight to see!