Home » 2003 Cross Country Road Trip

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Thursday, July 17, 2003 - 3:00am by Lolo
23 miles and 0.75 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Bryce Canyon is up there on my list of top ten favorite places to visit--definitely a place to come back to again and again. Although this was our 3rd time here and the kids' 2nd, we were probably even more excited about stopping here than the 1st time because we knew of the magic in store for us.

Lolo and the boys hiking out of the canyonLolo and the boys hiking out of the canyonThere are lots of beautiful places in the west, but there is something special about Bryce--something unique and somewhat unreal. It's also a lot less intimidating than places like the Grand Canyon and much easier to explore. You can just sit on one of the benches on the edge of the rim and gaze down into the hoodoos in the amphitheater below, or if you're more adventurous, you can hike down into the canyon from one of the trails from the rim and wander around among them. We spent lots of time doing both.

This trip, we were lucky enough to get a campsite in the park at Sunset Campground, in walking distance to the rim.

We chose to do the same hike that we had done on our last visit (it really is the best hike down into the canyon), but this time in the recommended reverse direction. Believe it or not, going in the opposite direction makes it seem like a completely different hike. We started this time from Sunset Point and followed the steep switchbacks of the Navajo Trail down through the narrow walls of the canyon into the amphitheater. From there we connected to the Queen's Garden Trail which brought us to some of the park's most interesting hoodoos, including one that actually does look like Queen Victoria sitting on her throne. From there we followed the trail up to Sunrise Point and then walked along the Rim Trail back to the RV.

Sleepy family at sunrise on the rimSleepy family at sunrise on the rimAfter dinner that evening, we walked back to the rim and watched as the colors changed from the warm yellows and oranges of daylight to the more dramatic pinks and reds that come with the setting sun.

On the drive out the next morning, we just had to stop for one more peek from the rim and a few more pictures. The early morning light was just as good as last night's sunset.

What a great place! I'm sure we'll be back again.


Bryce Canyon National Park, which is located in southern Utah, is a geological fairyland, an intricate maze of wondrous shapes and formations. The oddly shaped pinnacles of rock, called hoodoos, display a mysterious blend of colors--warm yellows and oranges, and more dramatic pinks and reds--that provide a continuous show of changing colors with the rising and setting sun.

Bryce amphitheaterBryce amphitheaterLike Zion National Park, Bryce is part of the Grand Staircase, which is a series of plateaus formed by the uplifting and tilting of the Colorado Plateau millions of years ago. Bryce occupies part of one of these plateaus of the Grand Staircase called the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon at all, but rather a series of amphitheaters cut into the Pink Cliffs of the Paunsaugunt Plateau by millions of years of erosion from flowing streams. The centerpiece of the park is the 6-mile square Bryce Amphitheater with its intricate maze of whimsically-shaped hoodoos.

The rock spires (hoodoos) are the result of erosion in rock layers that vary in hardness. When water flowed through the cracks in these rocks, the softer rock wore away leaving behind the harder, erosion-resistant caps. The ongoing cycle of freezing and thawing continues to dissolve the softer rock, constantly changing the shape of the hoodoos. This continuous erosion is also causing the plateau cliffs to recede at the rate of about one foot every 60 years.

Colorful hoodoos in the amphitheaterColorful hoodoos in the amphitheaterBryce is much smaller and less intimidating than Zion and the Grand Canyon and much easier to explore. You can stand at the edge of the plateau rim and gaze down into the maze of hoodoos below or descend the trails from the rim and wander around among them. There are several good hiking trails. The Rim Trail runs 5.5 miles along the edge of the canyon, rather than taking you down into it, providing splendid views from above. Another great choice for a hike is the Queen's Garden Trail down into the canyon itself. Or if hiking isn't your thing, you can take the 17-mile scenic drive through the park, stopping at the numerous viewpoints along the way. You can either take your own vehicle or the free shuttle bus.

There are 2 campgrounds in the park. Both of them work on a first-come first-serve basis.

Bryce Canyon National Park location map in "high definition"

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