Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah) 15/16-Aug-2014

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

After hiking on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, our friends headed home and we headed (on the one day it rained all day) north to Bryce Canyon National Park. We’d hiked theĀ Fairlyland Loop Trail there three years ago, in May, in freezing temperatures, and with more than a hint of snow in the air. Consequently, we vowed to return during the “summer” months (which are limited due to the Park’s 8,000+ foot elevation) when there might be sunlight to illuminate the extremely colorful scenery. This time we were in luck.

Riggs Spring Loop

We decided to do this loop (9 miles roundtrip; 2,250 feet of elevation gain) first because it seemed that its being at the south end of the Park – as far from the Visitor Center, Lodge, and General Store as possible – would make it less crowded. We were right in that we didn’t see anyone else on it. The trail starts at Rainbow Point (at 9,115 feet, the Park’s highest point), one with a sweeping view to the north,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
The view from Rainbow Point

and then heads southwest to Yovimpa Pass (the pipe used to bring water to the restrooms at the Point – they’re all composters now due to a water shortage),

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
On the trail to Yovimpa Pass

with big views of the cliffs south of Yovimpa Pass along the way. At the pass, the trail officially becomes the Riggs Springs Loop and begins descending past the cliffs to the springs.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Below the cliffs

There are campsites at the springs and, as the name would suggest, a reasonably reliable source of water.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
A campsite at Riggs Spring
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Another campsite at Riggs Spring

From there, we followed the trail as it turned north up Mutton Hollow, through Ponderosa pine forests,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Fallen needles

across some minor washouts,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
The trail was muddy in only a few spots

across Corral Hollow (camp sites), and around to open ground with a view up toward The Promontory and Yovimpa Point.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Below The Promontory

We then followed the trail as it swung to the west below the cliffs,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Below the cliffs at Yovimpa Point

then turned southwest and did a gentle, but steady, climb back up to Rainbow Point,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Turning the corner at Rainbow Point

with some big views of the Dixie National Forest to the west.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Looking west from Rainbow Point

A wonderful trail, perhaps in need of a little maintenance, but not crowded, easy to follow, and going through some startling forest and cliff country. We understand it’s popular as an overnight backpack, given the good camp sites and access to water.

Fairyland Trail Loop

The Fairyland Loop trail (8 miles roundtrip; 2,300 feet of elevation gain) is located just inside the Park’s northern boundary, close to where most of the visitors seem to congregate. Our last hike of this trail occurred just ahead of a big snow storm, the threat of which had kept most folks off the trail (we can’t actually recall seeing anyone else on the trail that day). Today was, however, sunny and warm and welcoming and we feared that the loop would now be overrun with other hikers. So we went with an early start, passed only about a dozen hikers during our clockwise loop, and were back on the rim before the afternoon crowds gathered. So up and off with the sun,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
An early start on the trail

and north along the Rim Trail,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Early times on the Rim Trail

with its view of more of the Pink Cliffs bathed in the early morning light.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Pink Cliffs

The Rim Trail connects with the actual Fairyland Loop Trail at Fairyland Point and that trail then descends below the Rim,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
The arrow shows where the Fairyland Trail starts back up to the Rim

through a wonderland of soft, partially melted, rocks – if it rained here like it does in Oregon the scenery in this park would be gone in no time.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Along the Fairyland Trail

We got the sunny day we’d wanted,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Sunshine!

which really helped bring out the pink coral colors in the walls. If pink isn’t a favorite color, this may not be the hike for you.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Cliffs along the Fairyland Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
View from the Fairyland Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Hoo doos along the Fairyland Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
More hoo doos along the Fairyland Trail

The trail finishes traversing and descending to the bottom of Campbell Canyon at a feature called the Tower Bridge, which has both a window and a bridge formed by a much more erosion-resistant stratum.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Tower Bridge (white arrow) with window (yellow arrow) in Campbell Canyon

After that, it was 1.7 miles of pink back up to the Rim,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Back up to the Rim

with a row of windows in the Chinese Wall for scenery,

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
The Chinese Wall

and a little now welcome shade along the way.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Shade

This is one of the classic hikes in the Park and, because it’s close to the Lodge, General Store, and parking, has the potential to get crowded. But an early start in the clockwise direction seemed to do the trick in giving us a hike mostly to ourselves. There are a number of other hikes in the Park, but if your time is limited, we highly recommend this one and the Riggs Springs Loop for starters.

HOME