Bryce Canyon National Park is a fantastic place to visit. As with all national parks, each has its distinct landscapes, wildlife, and vegetation that make each one special and unique to visitors. Bryce is often associated with Zion National Park, as it is located near Zion and many people stop in to see both parks because of the proximity to each other. Bryce has the unique rock formations called hoodoos, that are beautifully crafted by erosion and the best specimens can be seen here, rather than anywhere else in the states. The red, orange and white colors are brilliant and make the area stand out. Standing on the rims of some of the rock, you will be able to see why this place was designated as a national treasure.
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What is a hoodoo?
The hoodoos of Bryce are famous and are intricately created into amazing sculptures that stand throughout the park. They are also known as tent rocks, fairy chimneys, or earth pyramids. Bryce sits at a much higher elevation than Zion, so the weather is colder and can be more severe. Due to the high altitude, snow, ice, and frost are a constant characteristic of the winter and early spring months. The hoodoos are carved from frost erosion or frost wedging, where water freezes and expands and then thaws and melts, eroding away part of the rock. Bryce has hundreds of freezing and thawing cycles a year, which eventually create the hoodoos that can stand as tall as 200 feet high. Bryce has the largest concentration of this type of formation in the world.
Other Beautiful Creations
While the hoodoos and pinnacles are the distinctive features of the park, the erosion has caused many other breathtaking scenes in the colorful rock. Large, natural arches and bridges were also created, which you can see in particular areas in the park. Large, amphitheater-shaped formations have been hollowed out and carved into the rock as well, creating a stunning scene of red and orange formations. The most important of these is called the Bryce Amphitheater which is about 12 miles long and 3 miles wide with a depth of over 800 feet. These unusual formations are unique to the area, and the colors add even more drama and beauty to the scene.
The Night Sky at Bryce
This area is perfect for star gazing as the light pollution is extremely low, allowing people to see thousands of stars with their naked eyes and a much larger amount of them than most anywhere else. The park has astronomy rangers that have night sky programs, complete with telescopes to see the amazing sights even closer. The clearer the sky, the better the night you will have as the stars will seem like they continue to multiply against the clear, black sky. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about the bright sky and look through one of the telescopes!
Scenic Drive to Rainbow Point
One of the best things to do on your visit is to take the 18-mile scenic drive to the top, called Rainbow Point. The drive has thirteen viewpoints, many of which overlook the hoodoos and many of the large amphitheaters that have been created from the erosion. Take a camera, because the sight will be some of the best in the park! The drive is 18 miles one way, and the stops add in more time so allow at least an hour for your ascent and descent.
Hike the Trails
Like any national park, Bryce has some amazing trails to hike to get out and see the area up close and personal. There are currently eight designated and marked trails to take, all of which are not too lengthy. Some trails intersect and can be combined with longer hikes if you wish. The Mossy Cave Trail takes about an hour; the Rim Trail is 5 to 6 hours, the Bristlecone Loop is one hour’s hike, and Queens Garden is 1 to 2 hours, all of which are designated as “easy” trails. Navajo Loop and the Tower Bridge trails take about 2 to 3 hours each and are classified as “moderate” trails. The Fairyland Loop and the Peekaboo Loop are considered “strenuous” and take anywhere from 4 to 5 hours each to hike. There is lots of different scenery and elevations on the hikes, so you can see a great variety of what the park has to offer.
It’s hard to imagine that this park would be more beautiful in the winter time, but it is! The white snow on the hoodoos and the red and orange rock and on the green trees gives the entire place a peaceful yet beautiful look. One of the best times to visit in the winter is during the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival held over President’s Day weekend in February. If you want to hike, you must wear waterproof hiking boots or snow boots, or you will not be permitted. Snowshoeing is allowed in the park, and you can even join a park ranger in learning to snowshoe with free snowshoes the park will let you borrow. You can hike a mile with the snowshoes, which lasts about 2 hours and depends on ranger availability and snow depth. Winter backpacking, sledding, and skiing are all popular winter activities. It is illegal to ski off the rim to the canyon, so use caution when and where you are skiing. Enjoy the crisp winter air and the sunny days. On the clear and sunny days, visibility at the park often exceeds 100 miles!
Utah Prairie Dog Day
This park hosts the annual National Prairie Dog day during National Park Week in April. Prairie dogs are important to the area, so the park celebrates the cute creatures every year. They appear as giant squirrels, but without the large bushy tails and live in holes that they burrow into the earth. Prairie dogs give other animals a place to live; they help the soil, provide food for prey animals and help with meadow ecosystems. Rangers in the park can tell you where the best places are to see them in their natural habitat.
Summer or Winter, the Stunning Beauty Remains
Bryce Canyon National Park is a treasure amongst the National Parks. The mysterious hoodoos are amazing and beautiful creations, especially those that sit in the giant amphitheater carving from years of erosion, leaving behind brilliant colors and a pleasantly surprising scene for all to enjoy. Whether the sun is shining on a warm summer’s day, or whether you can see your breath in the cold air of winter, visiting Bryce will amaze and surprise you.