Discover the 10 best hikes in Bryce Canyon
Learn about Bryce Canyon National Park's best hikes and see which one is right for you (Written by Erin McCarthy)
One of the best ways to see Bryce Canyon National Park is on foot. The most popular trails in Bryce Canyon are in the northern area of the Park—in and around Bryce Amphitheater. The free shuttle will save you the time and hassle of finding a parking space in this area. There are some spectacularly stunning and less crowded trails further south, but the shuttle only goes as far as Bryce Point so plan accordingly. The main road through Bryce Canyon is only 18 miles long, so it shouldn’t take too much time to hit a trailhead if you decide to go that way. If you’re looking for a longer hiking experience that will save you time and planning, you can book a guided tour.
Below is our guide to the ten best hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park. These hikes are recommended for the summer months— June through September.
1. the rim trail
If you only have time for one trail, the Rim Trail should be your pick. At 11 miles round-trip, this trail meanders around the rim of Bryce Amphitheater with endless views of the Park’s famous landmarks: hoodoos, slot canyons, and fins. Our recommended route begins at Bryce Point where your first stop should be at the Wall of Windows. At the next stop, Inspiration Point, you’ll see a maze of hoodoos and some of the best views in the entire Park. Head toward Sunset Point and through the Silent City, and finally to the most famous hoodoo: Thor’s Hammer. As you make your way back to Sunrise Points keep your eyes and ears peeled for quaking aspen. If you’re not up for the full 11 miles, the Rim Trail can be accessed at other points by your vehicle or the free shuttle.
2. Queens Garden/navajo loop
Hands down this is the most popular trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. It is a wise move to hit the trail early in the day to beat the heat and the crowds. This is a 3 mile long moderate level trail that combines the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop trails into one spectacularly rewarding hike. The iconic views combined with the short distance make this a highly sought out loop trail. Start your journey along the Rim Trail at Sunset Point. Thor’s Hammer rises from the canyon floor on your first mile. Next, you’ll merge with the Queen’s Garden Trail where a royal greeting from Queen Victoria awaits you . It’s at this point that the trail drops down into the canyon. Navigate your way along the Navajo Trail, through the Wall Street tunnel, and back to Sunset Point.
3. fairyland loop
The Fairyland Loop trail is a strenuous trail due to the fact that it descends down into the canyon and back up again. This trail combines the Rim Trail with the Fairyland Trail— a much less crowded and more challenging section. The trail begins at Fairyland Point and descends quickly down to the canyon floor. What follows are several steep climbs and descents but spectacular viewpoints as well. Circle your way around Boat Mesa and then pop over to Tower Bridge. It’s a good idea to stop here and rest before you ascend back out to the canyon rim. End your journey with views of the Chinese Wall and hike back along the Rim Trail to the beginning at Fairyland Point.
4. peek-a-boo loop
The Peek-A-Boo Loop trail is a steep 5.5 mile hike down to the canyon floor and back out. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s worth the effort. Wind through ravines and marvel at the bright pink and orange hoodoos that contrast with the dark forest floor. This is a picturesque trail like no other. This trail usually has significantly less hikers than others due to its challenging route. If you’re looking to escape the crowds in the summer, this is the hike for you. If you do decide to hike this trail, it is important to know that it is a shared-use path, so be aware for horses/mules and always yield to them.
5. bristlecone loop
The Bristlecone Loop trail is a 1 mile hike through the coniferous forest of the southern tip of Bryce Canyon National Park. Park your vehicle at Rainbow Point. The trail is just a few steps away from the parking lot and takes you through thousand year old Bristlecone Pines, Fir, and Spruce trees. You’ll be at the highest elevation in the Park, just over 9,000 ft, so you’ll have an incredible panorama of the larger Grand Staircase. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife —owls, woodpeckers, squirrels, and chipmunks are often seen skipping amongst the trees.
6. tower bridge
If you want to see Tower Bridge but you don’t have enough time for the full Fairyland Loop Trail, this is a great option. This 3 mile section of the Fairyland Loop Trail starts at Sunrise Point, travels along Bristlecones Pines, and has fantastic views of the Chinese Wall. Take the spur trail to Tower Bridge, have a snack, and head back out the way you came.
7. hat shop
Visit the “hat shop” of Bryce Canyon National Park on this 4 mile out and back moderate level trail. Your journey begins at Bryce Point and descends down into the canyon with a steep climb back out (1500 ft ascent). This trail is one short section of the 23 mile Under the Rim trail. You’ll reach the “hat shop” about tw0 miles in, where a distinct group of bright orange hoodoos have grey rocks balanced upon them, defying gravity. It’s an incredible sight, one of the most unique in the entire Park, and certainly worth the climb back up.
8. mossy cave
The Mossy Cave Trail is a short and sweet trail located within the Bryce Canyon National Park boundary, but outside the main park area, so you’ll need to drive there. Take scenic route 12 south about 4 miles to the trailhead. Your hike runs through an irrigation ditch built over two years by Mormon pioneers at the end of the 19th century which brought running water to the nearby towns. Water Canyon, as it’s called, provides Tropic, Utah with water to this day.
This out and back trail is a half-mile ascent alongside hoodoos towering above, and smoother, gentler sloping sandstone below. After a third of a mile, the trail splits. To the left is the Mossy Cave and to the right is a beautiful waterfall. Be sure to explore both. It is important to note that this hike has become increasingly popular over the last few years. While it is wonderful that folks are enjoying the great outdoors, unfortunately more people equals a larger impact on the physical environment. If you decide to hike this trail, please stay on the main trail and follow Leave No Trace principles. If you can, visit this trail at the less popular times —before 10am or after 6pm.
9. swamp canyon loop
The Swamp Canyon Loop trail is further south in the Park and away from the crowds in Bryce Amphitheater. Take the main road six miles down to reach Swamp Canyon overlook. This trail is a 4 mile loop and is rated moderate due to the steep climbs you’ll face. This trail is less popular due to its challenge, but it still offers views of incredible rock formations. Begin your hike at the Swamp Canyon overlook and then for the next two miles travel clockwise through Ponderosa Pines, along the rim, then descend down a sloping gully. Red and pink cliffs are ubiquitous in this section. At the halfway mark, you’ll join the larger Under the Rim Trail for a mellow mile. Finally, for the last mile you’ll join the Swamp Canyon Connecting trail and ascend up the canyon and back to the Swamp Canyon overlook.
10. riggs spring loop
If you’re seeking more of a backcountry experience, the 8.5 mile Riggs Spring Loop trail at the southern tip of Bryce Canyon National Park will satisfy your wilderness craving. Park your vehicle at Rainbow Point. The trails starts steps away at Yovimpa Point and travels west through a thick coniferous forest of Bristlecone Pine, Spruce, and Fir trees. This section of the trail is by far the steepest. The southern part of the trail offers stunning vistas and at 3 miles in it crosses Riggs Spring. Be sure to treat your water if you decide to collect here. On the eastern side of this loop are sharp red cliffs and aspen groves.
The Riggs Spring Loop is truly a choose your own adventure type of experience. You can make this journey last a few days, or complete it in one day. Designated campsites are available at three spots along this loop: the western side at Yovimpa Pass, the south side at Riggs Spring, and the east side at Corral Hollow. If you do decide to camp, be sure to have a way to properly store your food, such as a bear canister.
join a guided hiking adventure
Booking a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park is the opportunity to experience one of the most scenic hiking vacations in the United States. The biggest advantage to booking a guided tour is that it will allow you to focus your energy entirely on enjoying this iconic area. Permits, local transportation (excluded on some day tours), meals, and gear are all figured out for you on a Wildland Trekking tour.
Wildland Trekking offers several options for both inn-based and camping tours in the southern Utah area. You’ll have the chance to see magnificent rock formations, learn about the cultural and natural history of the area, and enjoy some solitude all while having the adventure of a lifetime.
BRYCE CANYON ADVENTURE TOURS
- INN-BASED HIKING PACKAGES: these tours are all-inclusive packages with lodging, amazing daily hikes, expert guides, meals, transportation and more!
- BRYCE CAMPING TOURS: camping-based hiking vacations are an opportunity to experience Bryce on trail and under the stars.
- BRYCE DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day in Bryce on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour of one of the Park’s best trails.
- ALL UTAH HIKING TOURS: check out a full list of Utah offerings, which include Bryce Canyon, the North Rim, Arches, Canyonlands and more.
- UTAH BACKPACKING TRIPS: explore options for discovering Utah on an all-inclusive backpacking trip with expert guides and mind-blowing scenery.
About the Author
Erin McCarthy is a freelance writer and former Colgate University Outdoor Education Leader. When Erin isn’t writing, she is exploring the mountains and rivers of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. You can view her complete portfolio at www.erinannmccarthy.com.