My May trip to Bryce meant I had finally visited all five of Utah’s national parks. It took me about 5 years, but in those 5 years I visited Arches three times, Canyonlands twice, Zion once, Capitol Reef twice and Bryce once. (Between October and May alone I had made six trips to four parks.)
Perhaps my favorite thing about Bryce was the color of the red rock. Each of the southern Utah parks has distinctly colored rock and I think Bryce is the most vibrant and orange of them all. I love all the shades of burnt orange, brown and red that each park has, but Bryce Canyon was something special. That orange juxtaposed with the dark greens of the coniferous trees is absolutely perfect. Other Utah national parks have those elements, but to me Bryce is extra special when it came to those colors.
The main hike Peter, Hannah and I did during our day trip was the loop of Navajo Trail and Queens Garden. The views from Sunset and Sunrise Points (either the start or end of the hike depending on how you approach the loop) really put the park into perspective, showing how the forest and rock basically come out of nowhere. Though we didn’t enjoy either outlook at sunrise or sunset, it’s plenty gorgeous any time of the day.
I had no idea what to expect when it came to hiking in Bryce Canyon, so when I found out we would actually be hiking among the hoodoos, I was ecstatic. Seeing everything from the edge of the canyon was one amazing thing, but getting down to hike within everything was spectacular. The wind was fierce and chilly when in the upper parts of the amphitheater but virtually nonexistent when down below and among the fir trees. (There were a lot of clothing changes on my part throughout the day.)
It’s a whole different world when you get into the amphitheater. For us, that meant quiet, warmth and friendly, towering trees. You can almost forget that you’re in the middle of a red rock paradise. Some parts of the Navajo Trail are much more forest than they are rock, something I loved.
The shortest but most magical hike we did was a quick half hour jaunt out and back part of the Fairyland Loop. The entire time Peter and I talked about how the next time we were in Bryce Canyon, hiking all of Fairyland was our number one priority.
I hadn’t been to a park quite as busy as Bryce Canyon since Yellowstone in August 2013. But even then it felt busier because of how gigantic Yellowstone is. People were, well, everywhere in Bryce. The shuttle service, while undoubtedly convenient for some, seemed so odd to me. If you want a more isolated experience, try finding hikes that are out of the way and/or more strenuous. (This works for any national park, of course. And it’s not a revolutionary plan, but it still works.) When we got out to the further reaches of the park, the fewer people we encountered on the trails, really making it seem like Bryce Canyon was just for us.