| Bryce Canyon National Park is a United States National Park that is located in southwestern Utah. Some 35,835 acres (14,502 ha) or 56 mi (145 km) in extent, the designated area around the spectacular Bryce Canyon (not actually a canyon, but rather a giant natural amphitheater created by erosion) became a United States National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a National Park in 1928. The park is one of the most popular in Utah with nearly one million people visiting each year. |
The area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1875 and was known to have described the canyon as "a hell of a place to lose a cow". President Warren G. Harding proclaimed Bryce Canyon a national monument on June 8, 1923. On June 7, 1924, Congress passed a bill to establish Utah National Park, when all land within the national monument would become the property of the United States. The land was acquired and the name was restored to Bryce Canyon. On February 25, 1928, Bryce Canyon officially became a national park.
Bryce Canyon consists of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock of the Claron Formation into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called "hoodoos." The varied colors of the rocks and rock formations contribute to the spectacular views.
Bryce lies at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, varying from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,440 to 2,740 m), whereas the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000 feet (2130 m) above Sea Level. Bryce Canyon National Park therefore has a substantially different ecology and climate, offering a contrast for visitors to the south west (who often visit all three parks in a single vacation).
Flora and fauna
Bryce Canyon is home to 59 species of mammals including mule deer, elk, gray fox, black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, marmots, ground squirrels and pronghorn antelope. 175 different species of birds have been documented to frequent Bryce Canyon National Park, including swifts, turkeys, red-tailed hawks, swallows, jays, ravens, nuthatches, ravens, eagles and owls.
When visiting, do not, under any circumstances, feed the wildlife or allow wildlife to obtain human food. Animals which obtain food from humans often become aggressive, will sometimes get ill or even die due to a change in diet, and most seriously stop foraging for natural foods and frequently starve to death in winter months when human food is no longer available.
From April through October the park's weather is relatively mild, with pleasant days, cool nights and occasional thunderstorms. Temperatures drop during winter months, with many clear sunny days reflecting off of the deep snow packs. The park boasts some of the world's best air quality, offering panoramic views of three states and approaching 200 miles of visibility. This, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates unparalleled opportunities for stargazing.
• Sunrise Point. Located near the Bryce Canyon Lodge, Sunrise Point provides an inspiring view of the canyon amphitheatre, with light best at (surprise!) sunrise.
• Sunset Point. Located a short hike from Sunrise Point along the Rim Trail, and also accessible by car, Sunset Point offers an alternative view of the canyon amphitheatre with best light occurring at sunset.
• Inspiration Point. Another viewpoint accessible by car or from the Rim Trail, Inspiration View's name is well-deserved. Photography from this overlook is best at sunset.
• Bryce Point. One of the most dramatic overlooks in the park, Bryce Point offers a tremendous panorama of the hoodoos and the surrounding landscape. It is accessible either by car or along the rim trail.
• Natural Bridge. Formed from an eroded hoodoo, the natural bridge is an interesting feature, although it may not impress those expecting an enormous natural arch.
• Rainbow Point. Located at the end of the park road, Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point provide lookouts onto more hoodoos and also allow access to park trails including the Under the Rim Trail and the Riggs Spring Loop Trail.
• Rim Trail (11.0 miles round trip). Leading along the cliff edge from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point, this trail is paved in portions and accessible from numerous overlooks. Most park visitors will hike at least a portion of the trail to enjoy the views.
• Mossy Cave (0.9 miles / 1.5 km round trip). Accessible from highway 12, this easy trail leads past a waterfall and up to a cave, with views of hoodoos along the way.
• Bristlecone Loop (1.0 miles / 1.6 km round trip). This trail starts from Yovimpa Point and leads through a coniferous forest to a nice view on the cliff's edge.
• Navajo Loop (1.3 miles / 2.2 km round trip). One of the most popular trails in the park, leading through the heart of the Bryce Amphitheatre past formations such as Thor's Hammer and Wall Street. The trailhead is at Sunset Point.
• Queen's Garden/Navajo Loop Combination (2.9 miles / 4.6 km round trip). A popular loop trail that starts from Sunrise Point and finishes at Sunset Point, passing through much of the Bryce Amphitheatre along the way.
• Tower Bridge (3 miles / 4.8 km round trip). A trailhead north of Sunrise Point follows a portion of the Fairyland trail to a natural arch.
• Hat Shop (4 miles / 6.5 km round trip). Departing from Bryce Point, this trail descends 900 feet to some interesting rock formations.
• Swamp Canyon Loop (4.3 miles / 7.2 km round trip). This loop trail starts from the Swamp Canyon overlook and briefly joins with the Under-the-Rim trail before returning.
• Peekaboo Loop (5.5 miles / 8.8 km round trip). A trail shared with horses and leading through formations within Bryce Amphitheatre. It is accessible from the Queen's Garden trail.
• Fairyland Loop (8 miles / 12.9 km round trip). The Fairyland loop trail starts at Fairyland Point and loops into the Bryce Amphitheatre near Sunrise Point before returning.
• Riggs Spring Loop (8.5 miles / 14.2 km round trip). The Riggs Spring Loop Trail (8.8 miles round trip) from Yovimpa Point has four backcountry sites.
• Under-the-Rim (23 miles). This trail extends 23 miles from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point and has eight backcountry campsites.
The park is a Mecca for landscape photographers, with clear air and incredible scenery making for amazing photographs. Off-season trips may be best in order to avoid crowds, although the best light for photographing the amphitheatre occurs during the long days of summer.
Guests wanting to join a guided horse riding trip can do so during the spring, summer and fall.
Canyon Trail Rides, P.O. Box 128, Tropic, UT 84776, Ph: (435) 679-8665 or (435) 834-5500. 2-hour and 4-hour trips are available on either horses or mules into Bryce Amphitheatre along the Peekaboo trail.
The general store located near Sunrise Point offers basic food supplies. Bryce Canyon Lodge has a dining room offering breakfast, lunch and dinner; reservations for dinner are required.
The only hotel within the park is Bryce Canyon Lodge, located between Sunrise and Sunset Points. All other lodging is located just outside of the park borders.
• Bryce Canyon Resort,13500 East Highway 12, Ph: (800) 834-0043 or (435) 834-5351, Fax: (435) 834-5256. Conveniently located junction Hwy 12 & Utah 63, rooms and cabins to meet every need, at reasonable rates.
• Bryce Canyon Lodge, Ph: (888) 297-2757, Fax: (303) 297-3175. Located near Sunrise Point, the lodge is open from April 1 through October 31 and has 114 rooms, which include motel rooms and cabins.
• Bryce View Lodge, 991 South Highway 63, Ph: (435) 834-5180 or (888) 279-2304, Fax: (435) 834-5181. Rates from $80 per night in the summer, and from $50 per night in the winter.
• Best Western Ruby's Inn, 1000 S. Highway 63, Ph: (435) 834-5341, Fax: (435) 834-5265. Rates from $99 per night in the summer, and from $50 per night in the winter.
• Bryce Canyon Pines Motel & RV Park/Campground, Highway 12 Milepost 10, Ph: (435) 834-5441 or (800) 892-7923, Fax: (435) 834-5330 .
• Foster's Motel, Highway 12, Ph: (435) 834-5227, Fax: (435) 834-5304.
There are two campgrounds within the park. Facilities at the campgrounds include drinking water and restrooms, and pay showers are available during the summer at the general store.
• North Campground (Year Round). Located near the Visitor Center, this campground offers 107 campsites, with some sites suitable for RVs. Fees are $10 per site, and reservations can be made from May through September up to 240 days in advance by calling 877-444-6777 or visiting . Note that a $9 fee is charged for all reservations.
• Sunset Campground (April - October). Located near Sunset Point and offering 101 campsites, with some sites suitable for RVs. Fees are $10 per site, and all sites are first-come, first-serve.
Additional campgrounds cluster outside of the park's borders:
• Ruby's Campground, Highway 63, Ph: (866) 866-6616. Located just outside of the park entrance, rates are charged based on the number of people per site and begin at $18 for two people, increasing by $2 for each additional person. Rates for RVs start at $26 for two people, also increasing by $2 for additional individuals.
• Bryce Canyon KOA, Highway 12, Ph: (435) 679-8988 or (888) 562-4710. Open March 15 to November 15 and located twelve miles from the park entrance, this KOA charges $18 - $24 for a tent site, $21 - $30 for an RV site, and $36 - $48 for a cabin.
All backcountry camping is by permit only. Permits can be obtained for a $5 fee at the visitor center and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Overnight camping is allowed only on the Under-the-Rim trail and Riggs Spring Loop trail.
• Zion National Park. Zion National Park is located 78 miles west of Bryce National Park and offers incredible scenery amongst sandstone canyons.
• Nine miles west of Bryce Canyon, Highway 12 passes through the floor Red Canyon allowing views up at hoodoos similar to those in Bryce Canyon without the need to climb down to their bases. The road also passes through two man-made arches. There are hiking trails in Red Canyon which are open year-round, weather permitting.
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Bryce National Park
The park is accessible from highway 63. The road into the park is open year-round, although it may be impassable during heavy winter storms.
Private, non-commercial vehicles must pay a $20 entrance fee that is good for 7 days. Holders of the National Park Pass ($50), which allows access to all National Parks for one year, do not have to pay this fee. For individuals (applies to motorcycles, bicyclists, or individuals traveling on foot) the fee is $10 for 7 days (National Park Pass holders are again exempt). The entrance fee includes free and unlimited use of the park shuttles during the summer.
The eighteen mile long park road is easily accessible to automobiles, although it is closed beyond Rainbow Gate during winter storms. Traffic may be heavy during the summer, and some viewpoints may not have parking available.
A park shuttle runs during the peak summer months, allowing people to park their cars outside of the park and then travel to the overlooks along the road. Shuttles run from well before sunrise until after sunset and ensure that a full parking lot won't prevent a visit to any of the park's sights.
Tour buses often stop at the overlooks in the park; a travel agent can help with arrangements.
For backpackers there are multi-day trails that run the length of the park. Permits are required for all overnight camping.
Bikes are not allowed on most of the park trails, but they are useful for avoiding traffic around the sometimes busy viewpoints. Be aware that much of the park lies between 8,000 and 9,000 feet of elevation, making travel by bicycle much more difficult than it would be at lower elevations.
The visitor center has a well-stocked gift shop featuring books, posters, and numerous other souvenirs. The general store (located near Sunrise Point) offers food, camping supplies, and more souvenirs. There is also a gift shop located within Bryce Canyon Lodge.
Outside of the park is a mind-numbing array of shops catering to tourists and offering treasures ranging from pop-tarts to bumper stickers.
Be especially careful with children around the canyon edges; drop-offs are steep and not all areas are protected by railings. During thunderstorms avoid isolated trees and open areas and, if possible, stay in your vehicle to protect against lightning strikes. There is little danger from mountain lions, but should one be encountered gather small children, back away slowly, and make yourself look as large as possible.
Altitude in the park reaches as high as 9,100 feet, so most visitors will experience some shortness of breath while hiking, and in extreme cases headaches and respiratory problems may be experienced. For those not used to the elevation, pace yourself and take a few days to acclimate before attempting any strenuous physical activity. Unlike the other national parks of southern Utah, heat isn't a major problem due to the park's high elevation. Temperatures rarely reach 90F (32C), even during the height of day in summer months.