Bryce Canyon National Park | Thursday – Sunday, December 1-4, 2022
Of Utah’s ‘Mighty Five’ National Parks, Bryce Canyon National Park is the only one that I have not done any ‘real’ hiking in before. Previously, my only visit to the park was over ten years ago and during that brief visit I only went on short walks to most of the overlooks along the rim. I was hoping to change that this year, so I made it my goal to plan an extended weekend to Bryce to hike all of the trails within and around the Bryce Amphitheater this winter. I figured that early December would be a good time to go to avoid the crowds and maybe catch a little snow on the hoodoos, too.
Mossy Cave Trail
I took some time off from work and left for Bryce Canyon late Thursday morning so I could stop for a short hike along the Escalante River and not have to do any driving in the dark. I arrived in Tropic shortly before sunset and had just enough time to quickly hike the short Mossy Cave Trail before dusk.
A late evening view from the Mossy Cave Trailhead.
An overlook of Water Canyon and a bit of a frozen waterfall.
Early season ice forming in Mossy Cave.
Arch & Moon
Here’s one of the bridges along the Mossy Cave Trail as I made my way back to the Jeep.
Navajo Loop: Two Bridges & Queens Garden Trail
On Friday morning I was up early and at the rim near Sunset Point just before dawn so I could catch the sunrise and then start my first hike into the Bryce Amphitheater. There had been a storm system that passed through the area overnight which left a dusting of snow behind and was clearing out, so I was hoping for a nice sunrise. It turned out to be pretty amazing!
Looking down on the Silent City at dawn.
A dusting of snow covered the ground and the hoodoos of the Bryce Amphitheater.
The sun started to peek out through the clouds as I started hiking down the Two Bridges Trail of the Navajo Loop. I would not be able to hike Wall Street this trip since it is closed during the winter, so I figured I could complete a loop with the Queens Garden Trail.
The light and the clearing clouds were lovely this morning.
A beautiful Bryce Canyon sunrise above Thor’s Hammer.
Bryce Amphitheater Sunrise
Even though Wall Street is not open in the winter, the trail right above the switchbacks still is, so I was able to get a good look at them below.
I followed the Navajo Loop Trail down into Bryce Canyon.
Near the bottom of the trail I stopped to check out the Two Bridges.
I connected up with the Queens Garden Trail and then started ascending back up to the rim.
Hiking through a narrow passage.
The views were outstanding the entire way and I had seen no other footprints in the fresh snow other than the ones I left behind. It was a great morning among the hoodoos in the amphitheater!
The Rim Trail
When I returned to the rim I found that the loop was quite a bit shorter and easier than expected, so I decided to follow the Rim Trail south along the edge of the Bryce Amphitheater.
Once I reached upper Inspiration Point I would not see any other footprints until I neared Bryce Point.
The snow got a little deeper the further and higher I went and a few snow flurries fell as clouds quickly moved across the sky.
Once I reached Bryce Point I took in the views from the overlook and turned around to return the way I had come.
Looking down over the Liberty Castle as I headed back to Sunset Point.
It got quite a bit windier and cold during my hike back, but the dynamic views made up for it!
I haven’t done too much hiking lately and by the time I returned to my Jeep my legs were tired and I was ready for a break, so I drove down to Tropic and grabbed a burger for lunch. Afterwards, I returned to Bryce planning to drive to the end of Rainbow Point and stop at all the overlooks along the way, but found that the road was closed three miles into the park because of the snow. I didn’t think there had been enough snow to justify closing the road, but I guess I was wrong.
Red Canyon & Rainbow Point
Since I still had plenty of daylight left, I decided to drive over to Red Canyon and hike the short Arches Trail at the mouth of Losee Canyon instead.
Arches of the Arches Trail.
From an overlook along the trail I had this nice view over the Sevier River Valley.
After hiking the short Pink Ledges Trail in Red Canyon I drove back through the two tunnels and returned to Bryce to catch the sunset.
When I returned to Bryce, I found that the road to Rainbow Point had reopened, so I drove all the way out to the end, with a couple stops along the way, and then watched the sunset from Yovimpa Point.
Fairyland Loop Trail
On Saturday morning I was back at Bryce Canyon early, this time at Sunrise Point, to catch the sunrise and then hike the Fairyland Loop Trail. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and overcast, so there wasn’t a sunrise at all.
I followed the Rim Trail from Sunrise Point to Fairyland Point hoping the clouds would thin and allow some light through, but it never happened.
After the descent into Fairyland Canyon the clouds finally started to thin a little and let through some soft filtered light, so I started taking a few more photos as I continued on along the trail.
Fairyland Loop Trail
Following the trail as it circumnavigates Boat Mesa.
Once I reached the bottom of Campbell Canyon I followed the short detour to see Tower Bridge Arch.
The trail then climbed all the way back to up the rim near Sunrise Point.
I even saw a little bit of blue sky on my way up.
There were a lot more ups and downs along the Fairyland Trail than I thought there would be, so I was ready for another break and returned to Tropic again for an early lunch.
Round Valley Draw & Inspiration Point
While I was eating lunch I tried to come up with plans for the rest of the day. At this time it was looking like the sky was clearing out, so I thought a hike through a slot canyon might be a good idea. I’ve always wanted to explore Round Valley Draw, so this seemed like a good time to do it. Of course, as I drove over to the trailhead on the Slickrock Bench the sky became completely overcast again and I would not see any good light while I was down in the canyon.
I hiked down the easier exit route into Round Valley Draw and then went upstream into the canyon until I was stopped by a chockstone that I couldn’t climb.
There were some nice narrow slots along the way.
Before climbing back out of the canyon to my Jeep I hiked downstream to the confluence with Hackberry Canyon.
Once I was out of the canyon there was still time to make it back to Bryce before sunset, so I returned to Inspiration Point and hoped some light would get underneath the clouds.
Powell Point did light up briefly.
The Bryce Amphitheater at Dusk
The Tropic Trail & Peekaboo Loop
On Sunday morning I only had one loop trail in the Bryce Amphitheater left to hike, so this time I headed over to the Tropic Trailhead just before sunrise and followed the Tropic Trail up Bryce Canyon to the bottom of the Peekaboo Loop.
It was again mostly cloudy and overcast this morning as I began the Peekaboo Loop Trail.
This twisted tree caught my eye along the trail.
Soon, I found myself below Bryce Point and took a detour as I followed a connector trail that would take me up to the top.
Snow-covered switchbacks at the upper end of the trail to Bryce Point.
The trail went through this tunnel along the way.
I was glad I had my microspikes for this trail.
The sun actually started coming out a bit as I made my way back down to the Peekaboo Loop.
Bryce Point Pass
Once back on the Peekaboo Trail I hiked below the Wall of Windows.
This was the slipperiest section of trail I would encounter all weekend. My dulled microspikes did not help me much here.
Underneath one of the windows in the Wall of Windows.
Just when I thought I was done with all the uphill on this hike I had to go up these switchbacks.
There was a tunnel to go through when I reached the top.
Then it was mostly downhill back into Bryce Canyon the rest of the way.
When I closed the loop I headed back down to the Tropic Trailhead and started my drive back home. Even though I only caught one really nice sunrise in the park this extended weekend, I had an amazing time hiking all the trails within and around the Bryce Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon National Park. I’m sure I will return one day with Diane to hike Wall Street and then I can start working on the less popular Under-the-Rim Trails further south.