Bryce Canyon National Park is named for one of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. Erosion has shaped colorful Claron limestone and sandstone into thousands of spires, fins, pinnacles and mazes. Collectively called “hoodoos,” these unique formations are whimsically arranged and tinted with colors too numerous and subtle to name.
Ponderosa pines, high elevation meadows and fir-spruce forests border the rim of the plateau, while panoramic views of southern Utah spread beyond the park’s boundaries. This area boasts some of the nation’s best air quality. This, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates unparalleled opportunities for star-gazing.
Bryce Canyon National Park is named for southern Utah, pioneer Ebenezer Bryce who came to the Paria Valley with his family in 1875. He was sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints because his skill as a carpenter would be useful in settling this area. Bryce built a road to the plateau top to retrieve firewood and timber. He also built an irrigation canal to raise crops and animals. Local people called the canyon with the strange rock formations near Ebenezer’s home “Bryce’s Canyon”.
Little is known of the native American inhabitants of the park area prior to Mormon pioneer settlement. Limited archeological studies indicate that this area was used primarily for hunting with most habitation in the river valleys below. Trips to the plateau were limited to harvesting its forest resources, including wild game. Later settlers continued this seasonal use.
Each year, this southern Utah park is visited by more than 1.5 million visitors from all over the world. Languages as varied as the shapes and colors of the hoodoos express pleasure in the sights. Open all year, the park offers recreational opportunities in each season. Hiking, sightseeing, and photography are the most popular summer activities. Spring and fall months offer greater solitude. In the winter months, quiet combines with the area’s best air quality for unparalleled views and serenity beyond compare. In all seasons fantastic shapes cast their spell to remind us of what we protect here in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Must See & Do
Exploring Bryce Canyon is easy. There’s over 50 miles of hiking and nature trials; the easiest trail is the 1/2-mile (one way) section of the Rim Trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points. Another favorite hike is the Navajo Loop, a moderately strenuous trek that begins at Sunset Point and descends 520 feet through a slot canyon known as “Wall Street.”
*Connecting trail from Bryce Point may be closed in winter.
For more information and additional trails look in the Bryce Canyon National Park Guide and Map publication.
Spring through fall, wrangler led 2-hour and 4-hour horse and mule rides into the Bryce Amphitheater along scenic horse trails making this absolutely one of the best ways to experience Bryce Canyon. For more information and same-day reservations, contact Canyon Trail Rides at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, by calling (435) 679-8665 or visiting www.canyonrides.com.
The 37 mile round trip drive through the park has numerous viewpoints where you can stop and enjoy the scenery. If you only have a few hours inside the park, stop at Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce points. Have all day, go all the way to Rainbow Point and take in all 13 viewpoints on your return trip. Bryce Canyon faces east, so it’s easier to pull into the viewpoints on your way back because you’re not crossing traffic.
Boasting clear mountain air and a location far from city lights and air pollution, Bryce Canyon has some of the starriest night skies in the country. Park Rangers provide several star gazing programs, including telescope viewing, constellation tours, full moon hikes and astronomy talks throughout the year.
Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Winter brings plenty of snow to Bryce Canyon but don’t let that deter you from visiting. The red rock spires or “hoodoos” are a sight to behold when dusted in a blanket of white. Nordic skiing and snowshoeing allow you to view the amphitheater in a whole new way and the ski-set trails inside the park are interconnected with groomed ski tracks at nearby Ruby’s Inn Nordic Center.
Ever wonder why the rocks are red in Bryce Canyon? Where they got the name Hoodoo? What’s a deer’s favorite food? The Ranger programs are a great way to expand your exploration of Bryce Canyon and they’re free too.