22 Aug
2015
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Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park

Panoramic view of Bryce Canyon National Park from Bryce Point

Stand at any number of overlooks in Bryce Canyon National Park gazing at the colorful landscape of hoodoos and you’ll understand the definition of breathtaking. The shades of red, orange, white and gray layered on each other seem unreal.

Sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park

We stood at Sunset Point watching shadows shift and change among the hoodoos as the sun neared the horizon and knew we had to be down in the canyon. Our first hike in the park was down the switchbacks of Wall Street. You descend into a tall, narrow passage that widens opening onto the floor of the canyon, which is littered with quite a few pine trees. Wall Street is not to be missed in the park. It’s best near sunset or early morning because the crowds during the day are large, packing the trails and parking lots. The park does offer a reliable shuttle for visitors who would prefer not to endlessly circle popular parking lots during the busy mid-day and afternoon hours.

Walking down the switchbacks of Wall Street in Bryce Canyon National Park

Near sunset those first hours of our visit were magical. There were no crowds, and we enjoyed large sections of trail without any other visitors. It wasn’t until we made our trek back to the rim via the Navajo Loop Trail that evidence of Bryce Canyon’s popularity appeared. The Rim Trail, connecting Sunset and Sunrise points, was littered with tourists, cameras raised, to catch the sunset and a growing thunderstorm in the distance.

Boy climbing stairs in Bryce Canyon National Park

We were in the minority as far as nationality among Bryce Canyon visitors and encountered very few Americans during our visit. The park, along with nearby Zion National Park, attract a large international crowd. It’s always interesting to meet visitors from outside the United States and hear their travel experience and thoughts on our country. I take much for granted living in America. Most of the tourists we saw and heard were French during this trip. The trend we’ve noticed as we travel through our national park system is a bit alarming to me. Most places we visit have three types of visitors: international, grandparents with grandchildren, and retirees. Our age group traveling with their own children are the minority in most every national park entity we tour.

Giant pine trees in the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park

Our kids are ridiculously good hikers. It’s the life they know in the summertime. Craig and I are collectors of good trails. Trails with switchbacks, elevation gains, tunnels, handrails, climbing rings and ladders both make my heart sing and beat a little faster because I’m a nervous Nelly. Bryce Canyon did not disappoint.

Family posing in Bryce Canyon National Park

We drug our kids out of the tipi, which we camped in at Ruby’s Campground in nearby Bryce Canyon City, early to ensure a parking spot to view the sunrise. Sunrise Point was too crowded with photographers attempting to catch the perfect shot for my liking, so we watched the sunrise from nearby Sunset Point. The view was just as enamoring and peaceful minus the crowd. I’m not sure the kids would say it was worth waking up early or shivering in the early-morning cold, but I enjoyed watching the amphitheater light up as the sun’s rays greeted the day sweeping over the colorful walls.

Sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park

Being up early gave us a jump on the hiking crowd. We walked the half-mile rim to Sunrise Point and descended into the hoodoos on Queen’s Garden Trail. Dirt erodes in the canyon leaving rows of thin walls called hoodoos. They appear to be rock, but are not. The shapes and sizes of the hoodoos in varying degrees of erosion were intriguing. We stopped and named several formations along our hike on Peekaboo Loop Trail, which is one of the most interesting and picturesque hikes of any national park we’ve visited. Every corner or tunnel we came to on the trail held a peekaboo moment for us and yet another photo op.

Peekaboo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

Peekaboo is a 3-mile strenuous trail also used by horses. It’s worth the effort if you’re in reasonably good shape. Bring lots of water and take breaks in the shade when you find it. There is a pit toilet halfway around the loop. By the time you hike from the rim and enjoy Peekaboo you’ll be pushing five miles with a steep incline to finish the hike back to the rim.

Hoodoos on Peekaboo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

My favorite vista view of Bryce Canyon is from Bryce Point. It’s a short walk to the point, but the best view is from a dirt rim trail you’ll notice as you walk back to the parking lot from the overlook. It’s worth walking the trail for the slight change of angle in the scenery. The point looks over the Peekaboo Loop Trail and the sea of hoodoos.

"Hike the Hoodoos" medallion in Bryce Canyon National Park

Our youngest kids partake in the junior ranger program at most national parks we visit. Bryce Canyon had the extra bonus of a “Hike the Hoodoos” program. The park provides a list of nine benchmarks on several trails in the park. Hikers will find a sign with a medallion used to make a pencil rubbing. We used crayons, but you can also take photos at the benchmarks and show the rangers as proof you hiked the hoodoos. Visitors who collect three different benchmarks earn a small gift at the visitor center. All four of our kids enjoyed this program and asked to save their rubbings when we came home.  We were told more parks are considering similar programs. It’s a nice addition to trail systems as a motivator for kids (and parents).

View of the amphitheater in Cedar Breaks National Monument

If you’re heading to Bryce Canyon coming from northern Utah via I-15, I recommend driving through Cedar Breaks National Monument, exiting I-15 at Parowan. It’s a rock amphitheater similar to Bryce Canyon but deeper. Cedar Breaks is 2,000 feet deep and more than three miles wide. It’s like standing in a painting. The colors and formations set against a white cloud-dotted sky are stunning. We hiked the short Spectra Point Trail located at the visitor center. The trail takes you past a few bristlecone pine trees and out to a point in the amphitheater overlooking the majestic landscape.

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