Driving west now is the order of the day and I make brief stops at Needles Overlook, Natural Bridges & Capitol Reef National Park on my way across Utah. Maybe I’m driving too far each day or maybe I’ve seen too many amazing rock formations lately; whatever the reason, none of those stand out as anything too special.
Bryce National Park is a completely different story. I chat to a really cool ranger at the visitors center who quickly realizes I’m the no-nonsense, no-frills kind of visit. She recommends a couple of solid day hikes for me, the first with amazing scenery and tons of people, the second is almost as impressive and has no people. I smile when the ranger realizes lack of people is a good thing for me.
First up I hit the ‘The Figure 8′ trail, a combination of three different trails for a total of 6.4 miles of reportedly strenuous hiking (defined as steep grades with MULTIPLE elevation changes). From the very outset at Sunrise Point I am extremely impressed with Bryce Canyon & the thousands of hoodoos within. A hoodoo is a pillar of rock left behind when the canyon eroded away something like 10 million years ago. Each hoodoo is amazingly unique in size, shape and the colors that go into it’s makeup.
I wander down the very popular & busy Queens Garden Trail, right into the middle of some amazingly breathtaking formations. Hoodoos begin to surround me as a walk down and down, all the way to the canyon floor. It’s busy here, and it’s easy to see why – the scenery is stunning and the sun is beaming down on us.
I continue on to the Navajo Trail, then the steep and quiet Peekaboo Loop. The trails climb up to almost the top of the canyon then descend right back to the bottom time after time, weaving in and out of hoodoos and strange rock formations the entire time.
I wind up back at the Jeep for a hot lunch, then set out on The Fairyland Loop, 8 miles of again strenuous walking up and down the canyon, in and out of the hoodoos. Just as the ranger said, this trail is not quite as scenic, and the major difference is I don’t see another hiker the entire time.
It turns out to be a big day of hiking in beautiful sunshine and I melt in my sleeping bag after a $2 shower at the campground.