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Bryce Canyon National Park Offers Year's Worth of Full Moon Hikes, Some on Snowshoes


The moon can be a tremendously bright orb when it hangs full over Bryce Canyon National Park. NPS photo

The folks at Bryce Canyon National Park long have been among the National Park Service's leaders when it comes to appreciating and showing off the dark, starry night skies that stretch from horizon to horizon above the park. When the moon is so full that it blots out some of these stars, the rangers adapt by leading tours down into Bryce Canyon's spectacular amphitheaters.

Indeed, when the full moon glows bright over southern Utah's red-rock landscape, it can seem nearly as bright as day. Bryce Canyon's rangers are well aware of this, and have put together a year-long schedule of full-moon hikes that wander through the park's famous hoodoos for you to enjoy.

"During full moons, (two consecutive nights each month), when the mix of shadows and moonlight cause the hoodoos to take on a spooky personality, we offer 1-2 mile-long moonlit hikes," park officials say. "These hikes descend down into the canyon along steep trails. Due to the nature of this special activity all participants must agree to the following rules:

* Attendance is capped at 30 people per hike.
* Children under age 6 are not permitted.
* Hiking boots or hiking shoes (lug soles) are required.
* Flashlights, headlamps and flash photography are NOT allowed.
* Bring drinking water and jacket (evenings are cool).
* Due to steep trails this activity is not wheelchair accessible.

While these hikes are free, you need to pick up a ticket to join the trek, and they are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Once in the park you can sign up at the visitor center at 8 a.m. the morning of a hike. (Be aware, though, that the line can start forming at 7:30 a.m.) These hikes generally fill within an hour, so plan accordingly.

For groups of people, tickets will only be given out if the entire group arrives in person so that each group member receives their own ticket, say park officials. The only exception to this rule is that a parent is allowed to sign up for their spouse and their children.

2010 Full Moon Hike Schedule:

We would love to offer these programs more than twice a month but unfortunately, as the name of the activity implies, we don't have that kind of control.... over Moon, Earth, & Sun. :-). Please check at the visitor center for up-to-date information.

Starting locations and routes are not announced in advanced and made known only to ticket holders upon obtaining tickets the morning of each hike.

Day / Time Date 2010 Full Moon Hikes

Fri. 5:00pm Jan. 29

On snowshoes! (provided): 30 FREE tickets available

Sat. 6:00pm Feb. 27

On snowshoes! (provided): 30 FREE tickets available

Sat. 7:00pm March 27

On snowshoes! (provided) 30 FREE tickets available

Wed. 8:30pm April 28

60 FREE tickets available

Wed. 8:30pm May 26 60 FREE tickets available

Thurs. 8:30pm May 27 60 FREE tickets available

Fri. 8:30pm June 25 60 FREE tickets available PARTIAL LUNAR ECLIPSE

Sat. 9:00pm June 26 60 FREE tickets available

Wed.-Sat July 7-10 10th Annual Astronomy Festival

Mon. 8:45pm July 26 60 FREE tickets available

Tues. 9:00pm July 27 60 FREE tickets available

Tues. 7:45pm Aug. 24 60 FREE tickets available

Wed. 8:00pm Aug. 25 60 FREE tickets available

Thur. 7:00pm Sept. 23 60 FREE tickets available

Fri, 7:30pm Sept. 24 60 FREE tickets available

Sat. 6:30pm Oct. 23 60 FREE tickets available

Sun. 7:15pm Oct. 24 60 FREE tickets available

Sat. 5:30pm Nov. 20

On snowshoes! (provided): FREE tickets available

Mon. 5:30pm Dec. 20

On snowshoes! (provided): 60 FREE tickets available TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE!


What a great idea! The comment is made that these events are limited to only the date of the full moon, but the effect is nearly the same one day before and one day after the full moon, so the time period for offering these hikes can be extended by from one to three days per month, if the demand and weather warrant.

I'd like to see full moon hikes offered everywhere in the NPS where such an experience would produce a memory of a lifetime. In 1991 while visiting Zion National Park, I did a moon hike with my friend Gary Johnson and his son Jed from the Temple of Sinawava into the beginning of Zion's Narrows. My own son was reluctant to go along at first, but his mood changed appropriately when out among the walls and shadows of the ever narrowing Zion Canyon.

This past October, I had the chance to rise early and do a full moon hike along Zion's Canyon Overlook Trail. Looking west towards the Temples and Towers of the Virgin gave us the chance to observe the changing colors of the onset of dawn and the near simultaneous occurrence of moonset and sunrise.

Observing sunrset with moonrise from the summit of the Wathman of Crater Lake is also a fine thing. You can almost feel the rotation of the Earth as the sun disappears behind the western horizon just as the moon reveals itself from the eastern rim of the caldera, with the water of our country's deepest lake being in-between.

Of course the moon light hikes I describe, were done with a very small party of friends and family. Many more people would venture out after dark if free moon light hikes were guided by park rangers.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

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