After the rain fiasco at Grand Staircase and a couple hours of driving through quite uninteresting landscape, I was hoping for a good turn at the Red Canyon. I heard about it in passing and figured since it was on the way to Bryce, on the famous Scenic Byway 12, it was worth a quick stop. The wonderful volunteer at the Visitor Center gave me some great suggestions for a beautiful but easy hike to take around sunset that gave me a stunning overlook of the deeply colored sandstone canyons and formations that gives Red Canyon its name.
I almost suffered from a heart attack when I finished the trail and couldn’t find my keys, thinking I would have to retrace my steps while the night was quickly falling. Thankfully I found them in the depths of the wrong pocket in my backpack, but not after emptying every item I had in there.
Besides giving me tips on a great walk, the volunteer at the Visitor Center also pointed me in the direction of an excellent dispersed camping area. These sites, along the well-maintained dirt road heading to the Tropic Reservoir, are primitive and free to use. There are both single sites and group sites, which were massive, and they all came on a first-come first-serve basis.
Pink Ledges Trail – Hoodoo Trail – Birdseye Trail – Photo Trail
2.5 miles, light elevation change, 1 hour
The next morning, I headed over to Bryce Point for what I heard was an incredible sunrise spot. I overslept a bit and missed the sunrise itself, but I made it in the park in time to catch some great colors, fresh air, and peace before the crowds showed up. Another perk to getting to the park really early is that if you get there before the entry gates are staffed you don’t have to pay the entrance fee. The gates are simply not staffed. I didn’t feel bad for this just because I was only in the park for a couple hours.
I really do wish I could have spent more time in Bryce, but I was feeling so tired after the strenuous pace I had been pushing myself that I just wanted to escape the crowds and do a little reading and relaxing. The hike I did in Bryce, the Queen’s Garden –Navajo loop was excellent though. Apparently it’s the most popular hike because it’s pretty short and you really get a nice overview of the main attractions Bryce has to over when you hike down into the canyon and back out again, the only tough part up a massive set of switchbacks. I would recommend it to anyone without a lot of time or just if they want a pleasant overview. I think Bryce was just really unique and vibrant place, more stunning than Zion in a way because of all the crazy rock formations, and I would definitely go back there again and spend more time in the backcountry seeing what else it has to offer.
Entering the Queen’s Garden.
Heading up the switchbacks to finish the Navajo Loop.
Thor’s Hammer, in the middle framed against the trees.
Queen’s Garden – Navajo Loop
3.5 miles, 850 feet, 1.5 hours
That night, I camped at the Cedar Breaks National Monument, which was only $14 for a beautiful and spacious campsite in the middle of a wildflower meadow. Rain all afternoon and evening prevented me from exploring the muddy trails but I wasn’t too broken up about it. I had some resting up to do before joining the Partners in the Parks program early the next morning!