Hike Location: Bryce Canyon National Park
Geographic Location: Bryce Canyon, UT (37.63104, -112.16444)
Length: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: May 2006
Overview: A fairly flat rim walk offering spectacular views of Bryce Canyon.
Park Information: http://www.nps.gov/brca/
Hike Route Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=133380
Directions to the trailhead: You can begin the Rim Trail at many locations, but this blog describes the short section of trail between Sunrise and Sunset Points. To reach Sunrise Point, take the main park road south from the Visitor Center for 0.5 miles to the signed road leading to Sunrise Point. Turn left at this intersection, and 0.2 miles later, turn left again. Park in the large blacktop parking lot marked for Sunrise Point. The trail to Sunrise Point begins along the right side of this parking lot.
The hike: Some places such as the Grand Canyon impress you with their marvelous grandeur. Other places such as Carlsbad Caverns impress you with their delicate beauty. But few places combine marvelous grandeur with delicate beauty as well as Bryce Canyon National Park. In fact, on my recent tour of western canyons (Zion, Bryce, Grand, and a few other lesser-known attractions), I was just as impressed with the scenery at Bryce Canyon as I was with that at Grand Canyon. The next time you are in the Canyonlands area of the United States, make sure not to miss all that Bryce Canyon has to offer.
Of particular interest is the fact that Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon. Rather, Bryce Canyon is simply an 18-mile long escarpment rock. Parts of this rock are easily eroded, while other nearby parts are less easily manipulated by wind, rain, thawing, and freezing. Over thousands of years, the forces of erosion have removed the more easily eroded Cretaceous rock, leaving first ridges and then pillars of the more resistant sandstone. Thousands of these pillars, called “hoodoos,” remain today, and offer, against the dark orange backdrop of the softer rock, the famous scenery of Bryce Canyon. Even today, new formations are being created, as older ones become completely removed by the forces of erosion. The scenery is in a constant state of evolution.
While the main park road passes some nice viewpoints, the best way to see the hoodoos is along the 11-mile Rim Trail that connects Bryce Point in the south with Fairyland Point in the north. While the trail is linear and distance one-way, hiking the entire trail in one day is not impossible thanks to the park’s shuttle bus. The best way to accomplish this feat is to park at the Visitor Center, ride the bus to Bryce Point, hike the trail north (losing 400 feet in elevation) to Fairyland Point, and then hiking along the road to the Visitor Center. Fortunately, you do not have to hike the entire trail to get a good flavor for Bryce Canyon. Hiking just the short 0.7 mile segment connecting Sunrise and Sunset points offers spectacular views that are not encumbered by large crowds at the more accessible overlooks.
From the parking lot at Sunrise Point, hike the well-marked path out to the rim where you will intersect the Rim Trail. Immediately the orange and white striped hoodoos come into view in the canyon below you. Notice how they all look the same at first, but as you examine each one individually, subtle differences in coloration and formation emerge. Unlike the factories of man that spit out near-identical copies of the same item, nature’s factory molds each formation separately, with different ingredients (i.e. rocks) and different processes over long periods of time.
|Sunrise Point, looking toward Bristlecone Point|
|Bryce Canyon wall at Sunrise Point|
|Who-dos near Sunset Point|
|View from Sunset Point|