Bryce Canyon National Park
Distance: 6.5 miles Time: 3 hours Type: There and back
Bryce Canyon looks like nowhere else. Hundreds of red and orange towers of rock stretch across giant natural ampitheatres, standing in stark contrast to the deep blue skies above and vibrant green of the forests beyond. The impression is a surreal and magical landscape. These rock towers are called hoodoos: bizarre geological structures formed from the continual freezing and defrosting of water trapped in the layers of ancient sedimentary rock.
We spent our first day in the park touring the main scenic road and stopping at the many viewpoints which look down into the canyon. It’s a relatively small park and gets very busy, so by the second day we were itching to get away from the crowds and get a little closer to the action.
When we asked at the visitor centre for suggestions of good hikes to do in the park, the guide did not hesitate. He circled a section of the map, looked us in the eyes and said calmly but adamantly: “Fairyland Loop is going to blow your mind. Trust me, you will not have ever seen anything like it. If this is not the best hike of your life, come back and find me after you’re done.” He then put his pen down and turned to answer another visitor. Who were we to argue? As it turned out, he wasn’t wrong.
The name ‘fairyland’ is a little kitch for my liking, but as soon as we arrived at Fairyland Point - the start of the trail - I could appreciate why it was so named. The landscape is surreal, whimsical, cinematic and utterly unique. Seeing the hoodoos from above the canyon is impressive but seeing them up close and personal, so to speak, was a truly memorable experience.
For a complete circular hike, you can walk the entire Loop Trail until you climb out of the canyon near the North Campground and then follow the Rim Trail back to Fairyland Point. That would make for a hike of 8.5 miles and take around 5 hours and would have been my preferred route, but my walking companion was in a strange mood that day and not overly enthusiastic. We therefore turned around after reaching the centre of the trail at a structure called Tower Bridge and returned the same way. Seeing the same hoodoos from the other direction was in fact like seeing them for the first time and even as a ‘there and back’ hike it was a highly varied and enjoyable walk.
Here is a link to a map of Bryce Canyon: