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A Day In The Park: Bryce Canyon National Park


Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is an amazing place, no matter the season/Kurt Repanshek

Southern Utah's national parks all are red-rock wonders. Zion National Park features towering cliffs of stone. Arches National Park showcases a one-of-its-kind collection of stony arches and windows. Canyonlands National Park is a maze of canyons, and Capitol Reef National Park offers a sprawling rockscape.

Bryce Canyon, on the other hand, is much, much more intimate and, in some manners, more curious, geologically.

Not quite 36,000 acres in size -- little more than a tenth the size of Canyonlands -- the drawing card of Bryce is its namesake amphitheater crowded with hoodoos and goblins that erosion has sculpted from the pink underbelly of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Whether you gaze down upon the amphitheater, or stroll through it, the features known as Thor's Hammer, Queen's Garden, Natural Bridge, ET, Indian Princess, and the Warrior, just to name a few, fire your imagination and cause you to marvel at nature's artistic side.

For most visitors, Bryce is a one-day adventure, as the 18-mile long Rim Road leads to all the major overlooks that provide dramatic views into the canyons down below.

But this small park deserves a closer, more attentive inspection, for its wonders are in the nuances that wind, rain, ice and snow have created, and even in the shadows it casts. You can spend at least a day exploring down below the rim, and the viewpoints from the top of the rim can take up the good portion of another day.

One of the most iconic hoodoos in Bryce Canyon is Thor's Hammer/Kurt Repanshek

While the view down into the ruddy and tawny maw of Bryce Canyon is pretty spectacular, you should try looking up at the park's colorful ramparts! And one of the best places to enjoy this view is along the park's lone long-distance backcountry trail, the 23-mile-long Under-the-Rim Trail that rises and falls down along the floor of the park, an area that few folks actually get to see because they prefer not to hoist a pack on their back.

Fall is a great time to be heading down this trail. Bugs are not a problem, and the aspen leaves are changing and trying to match the hues that geology has painted across the Pinks Cliffs that hoist the park more than 8,000 feet above sea level. The Under-the-Rim Trail stretches from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point in the park. You can hike the entire 23 miles, or shorten the distance and even turn it into a day hike by taking one of the four connector trails that dart down from the park's 18-mile-long rim road -- the Sheep Creek Connector, the Swamp Canyon Connector, the Whiteman Connector, or the Agua Canyon Connector.

Not to be overlooked during a visit, either, are the dark skies overhead that sparkle with stars once the sun goes down. Another good reason to spend at least one night in the park.

Traveler's choice for: Hiking, photography, geology 

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Fairyland Loop from Fairyland Point to the Rim Trail to Fairyland point is a great 8 mile day hike. 

I whole-heartedly agree, Kurt, walking amongst the hoodoos is far better than admiring them from above.  As great as the other Utah parks are, Bryce is my favorite.  Some of the things you mentioned are the primary reasons I love Bryce so much.  It's small and more intimate.  That also makes it generally quiter, especially below the rim.  The colors are magnificent and the trails themselves are phenomenal.

Hiking below the rim at Bryce is definitly one of the best day trips in the National Park Service. You can spend a couple of hours, or all day-and the hike back, while hard is nothing like hiking out of the Grand Canyon-plus there is shade in places.

And the winter rates at Ruby's Inn are GREAT!

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