The best Bryce Canyon hiking trails will expose visitors to all of the jaw-dropping scenery that the national park is famous for, including the best hoodoos. Essentially, a hoodoo is a pinnacle or column of weather rocked. Because nearly all of Bryce Canyon is mainly made up of limestone, the park is filled with thousands of these glorious formations.
Limestone is a crumbly soft rock that easily erodes from rain and ice wedging. The repetitive freezing and thawing of the earth encourage erosion. However, the canyon also includes dolostone, sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone. The softness and hardness of the combination of rocks cause the hoodoos to erode at different rates.
While the hoodoos may look similar, the various pace of erosion means that each hoodoo is unique. Looking closely at a specific hoodoo, it’s easy to notice that some spots are thinner or wider than their neighbor. Moreover, Bryce incurs about 200 freeze/thaw cycles per year. As a result, the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon are constantly evolving, and all are one-of-a-kind!
Bryce Canyon National Park
After being pulled over by a kind-hearted Utah state trooper, who graciously issued us a warning ticket, we arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park. We unintentionally coasted through a four-way stop sign while traversing through downtown Panguitch. On a side note, based on the number of drivers we saw pulled over, it seems like the Utah Highway Patrol are strict with motorists—so be careful!
Nearing the entrance, we noticed vehicles were being rerouted away from the park. As we approached a park ranger informed us that the park was at capacity. She told us that we should, “come back in a few hours.”
Best Bryce Canyon Hiking Trails
Refusing to capitulate, we located an undisclosed and unpublished “secret” walking trail into Bryce Canyon with free parking and free admission: Tropic Trail. In fact, most maps of the park don’t even include nor identify Tropic Trail.
Hiking Tropic Trail allows visitors to embrace the very best that Bryce Canyon National Park has to offer. Walking through this magical landscape, and being inspired by the spectacular beauty makes Bryce truly special to visit.
Furthermore, your imagination will be stirred by the perplexing rock formations, serene woodlands of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, and dramatic out-of-this-world color combinations.
Tropic Trail | Best All-Around Hike
Tropic Trail is probably one of the best ways to experience Bryce Canyon hiking. Instead of visiting Sunset Point first-thing, like most visitors and having the entire park presented on a silver platter—the hike gradually introduces visitors to the impressive scenery. At 2.3-miles in length (one-way), and including only a short, but intense incline, just about everyone can enjoy it!
Tropic Trail begins on the eastern end of the park and ends at Sunset Point. With every step, the landscape becomes ever-more profound. The first 1.5 miles take place in lush woodlands. Distant cliffs full of hoodoos flank both sides of the trail.
Entering Bryce Amphitheater
However, as hikers near the Bryce Amphitheater, the forest gradually becomes less dense and the landscape opens up. It’s at this point where the Tropic Trail meets the Peekaboo Loop Trail, for 0.2 miles. Much of the trail up to this point is located in some of the least visited areas of the park. This makes it the perfect time for walkers to enjoy solitude and nature, to reminisce on the past, and plan for the future.
As you depart the forest, you’ll begin to have views of the Fairy Castle, The Cathedral, and Wall Street rock formations. As the Peekaboo Loop Trail transitions to the Navajo Loop Trail, the surrounding landscapes become evermore impressive. Proceeding clockwise along the Navajo Loop Trail, proceed through Wall Street, probably the most impressive area of the entire park, and up to Sunset Point.
From Sunset Point, hikers may continue clockwise along the Navajo Loop Trail, continuing the full loop. The GPS coordinates for the Tropi Trailhead parking lot is 37.613746, -112.133167.
The best Bryce Canyon hiking trails will entail walking down into the canyon/amphitheater. For this reason, only the Rim Trail would be considered “easy.” Be prepared for a fairly steep decline/incline going in/out of the amphitheater and bring plenty of water.
Other Notable Bryce Canyon Trails
The best way to enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park and get to know it intimately is to hit the trails. Also, once you leave behind the hordes of people at the scenic lookouts, the spirit of the area comes alive.
Queens Garden/Navajo Combo Trail
Visiting Bryce Canyon is a magical experience that is best explored by hiking down into it. This 3-mile trail combination is fairly easy and is one of the best hikes to take if you’re short on time.
The walk begins at Sunrise Point and ends at Sunset Point. Along the way, you’ll see the marvelous Queen Victoria, the superstructure of Wall Street, Thor’s Hammer, and some of the most whimsical rock formations on the planet. Walk along the Rim Trail from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point to return to the starting point.
The entire hike takes place in the heart of Bryce and is 2.9 miles long. Navigate clockwise along the Navajo Loop Trail to make sure Wall Street is not missed. However, Wall Street is only open during the warmer months. Therefore, during the winter, walkers will have to move counterclockwise, passing Two Bridges instead.
Peekaboo Loop Trail
The Peekaboo Loop Trail is 5.2 miles and begins at Bryce Point, on the southern end of the park. The entire hilly walk takes place below the rim. Some of the highlights include the Peekaboo Arch, Fairy Castle, the Cathedral, and the Wall of Windows. Walk clockwise in the summertime. Combining the Peekaboo and Navajo Loop Trails may be one of the best all-around hikes in the park!
Tower Bridge Trail (In-and-Out)
Tower Bridge Trail is a nice option as a third or fourth hike. It’s not the best Bryce Canyon hiking option. However, it provides walkers with a different perspective and explores a unique area of the park.
Along the way, you’ll pass hoodoos, the Chinese Wall, and many Bristlecone pines. This 1.8-mile down-and-back hike is all downhill (on the way there) and ends with spectacular views of the famous Tower Bridge.
Riggs Spring Loop Trail
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and experience nature, then this is the hike for you. The 8.6 mile Riggs Spring Loop Trail takes place in the southern forest. For this reason, there are no hoodoos along the way. However, this is the area of Bryce where you’re most likely to spot wildlife, including mountain lions.
Mossy Cave and Tropic Ditch Falls
Upon completion of the Tropic Trail, or any other trails for that matter, make sure to check out Mossy Cave Trail and Tropic Ditch Falls. This brief 0.8-mile hike takes place along the Tropic Ditch stream and ends at a mossy grotto. However, the highlight is seeing, or even standing in Tropic Ditch Falls!
Highlights of Visiting Bryce Canyon
One of the best things about Bryce Canyon hiking is that just about all of the trails are interconnected. Therefore, walkers can customize their experience based on needs and ability. For example, the Peekaboo Loop Trail can be combined with the Navajo Loop Trail to create a 6.5-mile massive figure-8 combination.
The highlight of Bryce Canyon hiking for most walkers is, of course, the hoodoos. However, there are also lush forests full of interesting fauna and flora, the bristlecone pine which is among the oldest living organisms on earth, and tons of wildlife.
Some other highlights, especially for wildlife lovers include mule deer, Uinta chipmunk, golden-mantled ground squirrel, white-throated swifts, and even the occasional mountain lion is spotted.
Hiking through Bryce Canyon is one of the most memorable walking experiences we’ve ever shared. We’re sure it will be among the highlights of your trip too!