I visited the quite wonderful Bryce Canyon NP for one and a bit days as part of my month-long tour of the Utah/Arizona natural attractions last year. It was the second time I had been there, the previous time some 25 years earlier when things were MUCH quieter ! I have also posted a separate review for the NP as a whole, which includes details of the free shuttle and free bus tour.
Bryce is an absolute gem of a NP which I found to be MUCH more enjoyable on my 2nd visit. It is justifiably popular (especially as it is nearest to the phenomenally busy Zion NP) so it can get busy, but as the region is quite large it is possible to get a bit of isolation. To put things in perspective though, whilst it may get busy at 'peak' times the numbers are rarely more than HALF of those for Zion; due to the different climate at Bryce, the winter numbers are usually around 1/4 of those for Zion....
I have compiled an extensive Trip Advisor 'Trip List' for my tour, which includes 'extra' attractions and also has links to the other individual TA reviews I've contributed for the accommodation/attractions I visited - it has been made a Trip Advisor 'Itinerary'; I hope it is of interest and use to you - I plan to add visitor information sections/viewable media sections..... The most direct way to access it is by clicking my review-count below my profile name to the left of this review text. Alternatively, see after my review below the dashed line...
You can also access my Bryce NP review that way...
After doing the bus tour in the morning I was left the rest of the day to view/hike using the shuttle system, which included this trail.
Do remember that you can view trail details on the various Bryce NP maps which you should get when visiting but are are also online. Please see my TL for the relevant 'Visitor Information', which includes the Internet link to the specific NPS webpage where they 'live'. For my tour I had a hiking guide which I found useful to get an idea of the trail highlights and any pitfalls which might exist.
This was the only NP I visited which had a thoroughly comprehensive trail guide (inside 'The Hoodoo' newspaper-style pamphlet, downloadable/offered free at the visitor centre) which provided the all-important ascent/descent side-views/details for each hike. Considering how steep the trails down into the main gorge are, it is an invaluable guide to helping you decide not only which trails to attempt but also in which direction to walk them ! You can also download/get pamphlets for specific trails.
I had already planned to hike this trail as it seemed to offer a good opportunity to get around quite a large area of the amphitheatre 'basin'.
*** Most importantly, I did this trail descending via the VERY steep 'Navajo Loop' from Sunset Pt then ascending to Sunrise Pt using the more sedate 'Queen's Garden' Trail; do this the other way around and you have a nightmare ascent on the 'Navajo Loop' instead !
Having said that, the only reason I knew beforehand the best route to take for my suggested route detailed above was courtesy of the driver on the excellent, aforementioned, bus tour I took in the morning. Without that I would have hiked as per my plan which was in the opposite direction, meaning I would have been one of the many huffing and puffing hikers going up the steepest section I passed as I, instead, went down !
If you've just come from Zion you'll be in for a bit of a shock as the surroundings are VERY different in nature at Bryce. For a start, you are at a starting altitude of some 8000ft (most of what you do goes down from that into the canyon of course), which is nearly 4000ft higher than Zion. So, snow/cold is more likely and even summer evenings can be chilly - when I left my motel in nearby Hatch at the start of my full-day I had to scrape ice off the car windows ! Things warned up significant during the day though !
The general appearance is far more desert-like and of course the natural rock formations and colours are DRAMATICALLY different. The rock formations are grotesquely, but also beautifully, shaped - you rarely see grass and almost everything has a beautiful reddish tint.
*** Early morning I might have been scraping ice off the car windows, BUT you need to be aware that the daytime temperatures in the warmer months can soar dramatically. If you're hiking trails then you MUST take water with you and some kind of sun protection !
Hiking the 'Navajo Loop' from Sunset Pt then ascending to Sunrise Pt using the more sedate 'Queen's Garden' Trail was a fantastic experience and extremely enjoyable. Despite having seen all those people struggling up as I went down (this route is listed as the most popular), once I was in the basin I hardly ever saw anyone - this made the experience even better. The views and photo opportunities are copious and it's well-worth panning around to capture more than just a 'snapshot' of the surroundings. The trails themselves are lightly sandy underfoot but the ascents can be, as I've mentioned, quite strenuous - the effort is worth it though.
You'll see that the Bryce Hiking Guide gives this 'combo' route an entry of it's own - the walking distance is 2.9 miles with a descent/ascent of some 600ft; it is well signposted throughout, which is important as there are a few trail junctions to pass....
From 'Sunset Point' the descent can be a little tricky (it comprises a series of swtitchbacks) as it is so steep and even the slightest moisture can make the sand base potentially slippery. However, you're likely to be going slow as you not only have to make way for all those unfortunate 'uphill' hikers but also stop every now and then to soak up the close-proximity views of the rock formations on this, the rock face of the amphitheatre. If you stop at the right places you can also snatch some interesting views through arches and narrow 'canyons' and the like.
Once you're in the basin proper a lot of vegetation/trees are added to the scenery and things should become a bit quieter. You walk east first of all, away from the amphitheatre rock face, into undulating and sandy terrain but still surrounded of course by all those different types of reddish-tinted rock formations. As you then start your relatively sedate ascent there are quite a few interesting arch passages and other unusual features to enhance the views.
Of course, the 'highlight' is to catch sight of 'The Queen', which for those unaware or in need of correction is the small rock 'statue', perched on a strangely shaped rock slab which does indeed bear a striking similarity to the profile of our very own Queen Victoria (1819-1901) - marvellous !
Soon you are ascending proper on occasionally exposed (wide) ridges, generally heading west towards 'Sunrise Point', but you should be looking north as much as possible as that is a view-direction limited elsewhere. On reaching the scenic road 'plateau' my recommendation is to then head towards the nearby General Store and treat yourself to a well-earned ice cream !
There are rarely views anything less than superb and the experiences you can have in the canyon amphitheatre 'basin' amongst the ground-level rocks, looking up the rock faces to the viewpoints/scenic road are often memorable. The viewpoints themselves offer excellent vistas of the amphitheatre as well as distant panoramas with mountains at the furthest reach.
Bryce Canyon NP is an essential visit and you can do/see a lot in even one day. I think that even if you've lots of time in the park that hiking the 'Navajo Loop' trail from 'Sunset Pt' then ascending to 'Sunrise Pt' using the more sedate 'Queen's Garden' trail is time well spent and will be most enjoyable - just make you sure you do it in that direction !
I will add any relevant photos/videos after this review is posted by TA.
As well as the method described near the start of this review my TA 'Trip List' can also be accessed from the 'Utah Itineraries' link on the right of the Utah Forum page. Or the direct link is :
Alternatively, to search via TA, it is entitled 'Las Vegas to Zion, Bryce and other SUtah Natl Parks + Monument Valley-May 2011'.
Please feel free to send me messages with any questions.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.