by Joseph A. Sprince – Photography by Gerald B. Allen
Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon but a high elevation (8,000+ feet) sandstone ridge. Million of years of exposure to the elements has created a multihued fairyland of fantastic spires and formations. The ever-changing color patterns brought about by time of day and varying weather conditions make the park a photographer’s dream.
[Photo, left: A Bryce Canyon National Park classic, the Lone Tree in the famous Wall Street slot canyon. This view was lost several years ago when a large rock slide caused the trail to be detoured. The Navajo Trail is prone to damaging rock falls and slides, and therefore the National Park Service must often close parts of the trail. If you visit, be sure to check at the park visitor center for current conditions.]
The park features spectacular geology, unique in the world, consisting of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of Utah’s Paunsaugunt Plateau. The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater has shaped the colorful limestone rock into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins, and hoodoos. All are tinted in a wide array of rich colors. The whimsically arranged rocks create a surreal landscape of mazes, with exciting and unusual hiking trails.
Most of the park is accessible by a good road and well groomed trails, making its beauty available to every sort of visitor. Also, there is a free bus shuttle during the summer months which originates at Ruby’s Inn just outside the park entrance and stops at the park’s major attractions. An inexpensive guided bus tour starts at Ruby’s and covers all the attractions along the main park road. The park is open year round although winters are quite cold and services are limited.
The park offers a network of trails varying from easy to strenuous, most being short enough for day hiking. Keep in mind that all trails are steeply downhill at the start and therefore very strenuously uphill when returning. The busy park road has many excellent vista points. There are two campgrounds and a lodge within the park. Park elevation is at 8,000 feet which bring cold, snowy weather and limited services during the winter. More lodging and a wide variety of amenities are available outside the park entrance at the Ruby’s Inn complex.
[Photos, left and below: Bryce Canyon affords the visitor many outstanding vistas, most of them a short walk from parking areas or bus stops along the main park road.. The ridge falls off quickly with a colorful desert region in the background. Note how the broken clouds of unsettled weather enhance the view. This particular trip came during a period of very unsettled weather which afforded the opportunity for many great photos.
The many easy trails offer more intimate views of the formations. The narrow cracks between some formations often make for interesting hikes.
Location. Bryce Canyon National Park is located on Utah-12 about 20 miles east of US-89.
For more details on touring the park, please visit our Bryce Canyon National Park Travel Guide.