Mossy Cave

Mossy Cave Trail

General Description

The Mossy Cave Trail is the perfect hike for those looking to experience the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park without major elevation change.  A quarter mile hike along a coursing waterway brings you by beautiful Turret Arch and to a fork in the road. Take a right to see a small waterfall, part of the canal cut by the pioneers in the late 19th century. Go left to sneak a peek at the shaded grotto of Mossy Cave where giant icicles form during the winter months.  Whether you are after a fun hike with the family or you just need to stretch your legs, the Mossy Cave Trail is perfect for you.

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Getting to the Mossy Cave Trailhead

The Mossy Cave Trailhead is located just off Scenic Byway 12 between the turnoff for Bryce Canyon National Park and the town of Tropic Utah.  If approaching from the west (Bryce Canyon National Park) the parking area is located 3.7 miles from the intersection of UT-12 and UT-63 on the right hand side.  If you are approaching from the town of Tropic, the parking area will be on your left, 3.8 miles from town.

History of the Mossy Cave Trail

Mossy Cave isn’t really an actual cave.  It is a grotto that has formed from the constant dripping of underground springs. And the waterfall along the trail…well, it isn’t actually a natural waterfall.  The waterway that forms it is known as the Tropic Ditch.  In the late 19th century, when the first Mormon pioneers moved to the area, they made their home atop the Paunsaugunt Plateau.  Seeking relief from the harsh plateau winters, they began construction of a 10 mile long canal to the warmer climes of the valley below.  The climate was practically ‘Tropic’al compared to the high plateau.  The Tropic Ditch continues to reshape the geology of the lower canyon today.

mossy cave bridge

3 Best Day Hikes near Mossy Cave Trail

Mossy Cave Trail is a great short family hike and the perfect place to stretch your legs on a long Southern Utah road trip.  If you’ve got some time , check out these other terrific nearby hikes.

Destination Miles Elev Difficulty Style
Queen’s Garden Trail 2-3 mi 400-600 ft Moderate Out and Back or Loop
The Rim Trail 5.5 mi 500 ft Moderate Thru-hike
Fairyland Loop Trail 5.5-8 mi 1500 ft Strenuous Loop or Thru-hike

1. Queen’s Garden Trail

The Queen’s Garden Loop Trail is the ideal short distance hike to experience Bryce Canyon’s spectacular hoodoos.  Descending from Sunrise Point, hikers are instantly immersed in hoodoos of all shapes and sizes.  Look out to the horizon on a clear day and you can see the 80 miles distant peak of Navajo Mountain.  Closer inspection of the hoodoo formations reveals a palette of vermillions, yellows, pinks, purples, and white.  Pose for photos in the hand-carved tunnels that go right through the walls of Bryce Canyon’s many fins of rock.  At the end of the trail, her majesty awaits.  See if you can spot her among the pillars of oddly-shaped white rock, and have fun guessing what she is standing on.  Your imagination can truly run wild looking for faces, animals, and shapes in the hoodoos on the Queens Garden Loop Trail.

2. The Rim Trail

The Rim Trail is the perfect way to experience Bryce Canyon National Park without dropping into the canyon. Visitors start from Fairyland Point or Bryce Point and hike the jaw-dropping 5.5 miles along the rim of Bryce Canyon’s amphitheaters.  Peer over the edge, if you dare, into the chasms of the Silent City. Stroll among the stoic ponderosa and ancient bristlecone pines on your way from Bryce Point to the aptly named Inspiration Point.  From Sunset Point, watch hikers winding their way up the steep switchbacks of Wall Street.  Listen to the whispering of quaking aspen between Sunrise Point and Fairyland Point.  All the while, the largest collection of hoodoos in the world is at your feet.  In winter, strap on snow shoes for an unforgettable winter hike high above the frosted pinnacles and spires of Bryce Canyon.  The vistas are never-ending along the Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon.

3. Fairyland Loop Trail

The Fairyland Loop Trail is the perfect way to experience the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park and get away from the crowds at the rim.  While its collection of hoodoos may not be as vast as other parts of the park, hikers are rewarded with solitude and time to admire these natural sculptures.  Stepping up to the rim at Fairyland Point, the breathtaking viewscape drops away suddenly at your feet.  The trail winds down into Fairyland Canyon among towering hoodoos and cathedral walls. Around the end of Boat Mesa, a jaw-dropping panorama of Bryce Amphitheater awaits out of breath hikers.  Stop by for a snack at the Tower Bridge formation, then begin the gradual uphill back to the rim.  A hike back along the rim through ponderosa and aspen groves will take you back to Fairyland Point.

Maximize Your Visit to Bryce Canyon National Park on a Hiking Tour

Guided day hike tours and multi-day packages allow visitors the opportunity to make the most of their time in Bryce Canyon National Park and to do it hassle-free. Guided tours include gear (backpack, trekking poles, crampons in winter), meals, accommodations on multi-day tours, local transportation, and a professional Utah hiking guide. Through their knowledge, stories, and personal passion, guides can bring a place to life in a way that’s much more difficult to do on your own. Read more about Bryce Canyon National Park.


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Mossy cave chipmunk

3 Bryce Canyon Area Backpacking Trails

Experience something that few other visitors to the Bryce Canyon area never get the chance to on these unbelievable Southern Utah backpacking trails.

Route Miles Difficulty Area
Under the Rim Trail 23-31 mi Strenuous Bryce Canyon National Park
Coyote Gulch Trail 26 mi Strenuous Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Paria Canyon to Lee’s Ferry 40 mi Strenuous Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness

1. Under the Rim Trail (2-3days)

Backpacking in Bryce may be limited due to the size of the park and available water sources, but it makes for the hike of a lifetime.  Starting at Rainbow Point or Bryce Point, the Under the Rim Trail is 23 miles of breathtaking panoramas, clean air, and absolute solitude.  If camping under the stars is your thing, enjoy the thousands of stars that can be seen like few places on Earth.  Get ready for a lots of elevation change on this hike as you climb to open vistas and coast downhill through evergreen forests and meadows.  Carry or cache water on this trek, as water sources are often unreliable.  Add on the 8 mile Rigg’s Spring Loop if you’ve got a little extra time. Cool summer temperatures and Bryce’s spectacular hoodoos make this an epic backpacking trip.

2. Coyote Gulch Trail (3-4 days)

Coyote Gulch is the quintessential trek for those seeking the Utah canyon hike of a lifetime.  26 miles of neck-craning, disorienting twists and turns characterize the snaking path of Coyote Gulch.  Camping beneath a massive overhanging alcove is an experience like no other. A mind-blowing arch, a spectacular natural bridge, and waterfalls are just a few of the surprises waiting in the canyon.  The icing on the cake is a fun-filled scrambling ascent through Crack in the Wall to the rim of the unbelievable Escalante Canyon.  Coyote Gulch is a place of beauty that awakens powerful emotions.  Are you ready for the adventure?

3. Paria Canyon to Lee’s Ferry (3-5 days)

The trek through the Paria Canyon to Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River is 40 miles of jaw-dropping canyon scenery. Each day builds upon the next as you descend through rock and time, following the highway of the Ancestral Puebloan people millennia ago. Water levels vary from bone-dry to a knee deep, and in some places waist deep, 38-mile splashathon. One thing is for sure, you’ll get in plenty of river wading and crossing, so bring sturdy water shoes. You might want to schedule a chiropractor’s appointment. The mind-bending narrows and monstrous canyon walls will have you craning your neck for days on end. Ancient rock art, the deepest and longest slot canyon in the world, and unparalleled solitude are just a taste of what Paria Canyon is all about.

Join a Guided Backpacking Trip

Joining a Backpacking Tour near Bryce Canyon National Park is a worry-free, adventurous way to experience the Bryce Canyon area. With your gear, meals, local transportation, permits, and fees taken care of for you, you can travel light and focus 100% on enjoying the hiking experience, while the guide company takes care of everything else. Also, by going with local experts you’ll enjoy a greater level of safety and gain a much better understanding of the history and ecology of this remarkable region. Read more about guided backpacking trips near Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sunset mossy cave trail

When to Hike and Seasonal Considerations

The Mossy Cave Trail is one of the few trails in Bryce Canyon National Park that is open year-round.  Most trails below the rim of the canyon are subject to closure when avalanche danger is present. The Mossy Cave Trail is the exception because of its lower altitude and the shallower grade of its canyon walls.  Check trail conditions before you hike. Carry plenty of water and be aware of the weather.  Remember that hiking can be extremely dangerous during stormy weather.

Necessary Permits

Backpacking Permits

A permit is required for all overnight backpacking trips in Bryce Canyon National Park.  It is also highly recommended to bring a bear-resistant food canister for your night under the stars. For more information on Bryce Canyon National Park’s permit system and to learn more about backpacking in this amazing park, click here.

Suggested Packing List

Day Hike Packing List

  • 1-2 liters of water (more in summer)
  • Salty, calorie-rich snacks
  • lunch
  • backpack
  • trekking poles
  • crampons or snowshoes (in winter)
  • wide-brimmed hat
  • sunscreen and sunglasses
  • cotton t-shirt (spring-fall)
  • non-cotton t-shirt (winter)
  • rain jacket
  • warm non-cotton layer
  • 1st-aid kit

Backpacking Packing List

  • all items listed for day hikes PLUS
  • extra water (water sources in Bryce Canyon are unreliable
  • multi-day backpack
  • 3-season tent
  • sleeping bag
  • sleeping pad
  • backpacking stove and fuel
  • backpacking meals
  • bear canister
  • 2 pairs wool socks
  • extra t-shirt

Please Respect Our National Parks – Leave No Trace

We strongly recommend abiding by all Leave No Trace ethics guidelines and practices so that our national parks and public lands are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations and for the people and animals who call these places home. Simple things like packing out your trash, obeying national park rules, and respecting the peace and quiet of our national park trails is a great start. If you’re going on a backpacking trip, you can read about more about the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.

About WildlandTrekking

Wildland Trekking, a home-grown USA adventure travel company started in 2005, has become one of the world’s leading trekking companies. Learn about the origins, mission and people of Wildland, America’s #1 source for Unforgettable Hiking Vacations!

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