Bryce Canyon makes the Grand Canyon look pretty dumb. While not as deep as the Grand Canyon, that actually works in favor at Bryce because then you can really see the hoodoos. Hoodoos are these crazy rock formations that require lots of time and science to create. It’s kind of Bryce Canyon’s “thing” so there are a ton of signs explaining the process.
After seeing these engineering and geologic marvels, you realize that the Grand Canyon is just a hole and you’ll be jaded forever. So I recommend seeing the Grand Canyon first.
Bryce Canyon is set up pretty cool. Basically, it’s one long road that climbs steadily upwards with scenic turn offs along the way. This makes it impossible to get lost, which is super nice. The ranger recommended we go to the end of the road at the very top and then work our way down, stopping at all the scenic turn offs along the way.
We saw hoodoos, arches, some shockingly beautiful white trees, and landscape that stretches for days.
Side note for bikers: we saw so many people riding up the road. The road climbs about 5,000 feet in less than 20 miles so I’m not sure how they were physically doing it because that just seems impossible. Going down would be super fun, though.
The reason Bryce is not my favorite National Park is simply because there’s two or three amazing views and that’s it. You start traveling around in Utah and your expectations get ridiculously high. Now those two or three views are breathtaking and make you question life and your place in it, but only like two or three times.
Navajo Loop Trail
I’d been to Bryce with my mom and we did the scenic drive, turning off at all the lookouts. Later, I went back with both my mom and dad and we decided to do the Navajo Loop Trail. Best. Decision. Of. Our. Lives.
This is the religious experience I missed the first time. But it was unlike the other religious experiences I’ve had in other parks. This was like witnessing some weird obscure religion of a people who you never knew existed. It was like going to church with aliens on another planet.
And I don’t know about any of the other trails in Bryce but the Navajo Loop Trail was great because it offers you a little bit of everything Bryce as to offer. It’s the cliff notes version of the park. If the park was a 1950s sci-fi novel.
Almost immediately as we walked down into the canyon we were confronted with hoodoos. These things are just plain weird. From a distance, they look more jagged, but up close you can see how bulbus they are. They were cute! It kind of felt like an old movie set of a sci-fi movie from the 1950s. Everything was shiny because the sun bounced off the sand and there was a cartoony-Jetsons feel to everything.
The trail was pretty crowded but I ain’t even mad. I hate crowds but the trail was worth it in my opinion. And the trail was by no means a “natural experience.” The path was reinforced in some areas and went through tunnels cut into some of the hoodoos. It was very touristy but I didn’t care: it was so effing cool.
I grew up in Michigan so a lot of the geology I learned in school was very abstract for me. It wasn’t until I moved to Utah that I truly saw they weren’t making it all up. But Bryce Canyon was another thing all together. I’ve never seen anything like it in any geology book. It’s just so weird and specific.
Couple the touristy atmosphere with the weird visuals and it felt like I was at an amusement park on Mars. Or what people would think an amusement park on Mars would be like. I was having so much fun! Sometimes a location can transport you to another time. This trail somehow transported you to another space. Another dimension. There was a majesty about this place but it was so otherworldly. I couldn’t stop smiling at how just goddamn weird this place was!
Once down into the canyon, the trees bring you back to earth a little bit. Then, of course, there is a rock sculpture garden that looks so out of place in nature. Rock sculpture gardens are like Utah’s version of crop circles. They just pop up randomly.
After the rock sculpture garden, things get more green and “realistic.” Still cool but not as weird as before. Now, I think you can do the Navajo Loop Trail the other way, too. It is a loop after all. I have no idea what kind of experience it is going the other way. Personally the green part of the trail was a letdown after the big budget space film set. See? All this cool stuff makes you so jaded so quick.
Then the trail just ends. You have to get out of the canyon somehow so they made a series of switchbacks between two canyon walls and you just climb out. I was so bummed it was over!
The small town of Kanab in southern Utah calls itself ‘Little Hollywood’ because of all the westerns and space movies filmed in that area since before westerns were all the rage. I can’t help but think that the Navajo Loop Trail accidentally loops its way through a forgotten movie set for a 1950s film about an Earthian exchange student who comes to Mars and gets in wacky adventures as he struggles to understand the strange customs of the locals.
Alright, I’ll just say it. I was misled about Mossy Cave. I actually saw a special about it on some PBS-type station when I was younger and got it in my head to visit it some day. Well those bastards were lying.
Still in Bryce Canyon National Park but waaaaay off to the east is Mossy Cave. People are ALL about Mossy Cave. I have no idea why. Apparently it’s cool in the winter because there are huge icicles hanging down. But here’s the thing, it’s NOT a cave. It’s an overhang. AND there’s a fence to keep you super far back. What a jip.
Mossy Cave is on the Bryce Canyon map you get at the entrance and it’s pretty easy to spot. There is a tiny parking area off the road and a tiny sign but it’s the only thing out there so it’s hard to miss. We walked up the trail and could go either left or right. We went right this time to be different and it took us to a waterfall. This was actually kind of cool. It wasn’t a big waterfall at all but it had a history. Something to do with dehydrated Mormons.
There was a highly unstable path to get to the top and that was a lot of fun. Some of the trail had actually been washed away (as in, what’s-this-20-foot-deep-hole-doing-here?) so you could either jump or go around. I jumped.
We went back to the fork and followed the river to Mossy Cave. Which sucked. And no one will just stand up and say it so I will. MOSSY CAVE SUCKED. I feel like it’s false advertising to get you to visit their place. Like a year-round Santa’s Workshop with two reindeer and a drunk Santa.
Well, Bryce Canyon is definitely weird. The park system itself is great: one main road, lots of trails, knowledgeable rangers. The landscape may have the feeling of a quirky road-side attraction but it isn’t run that way. We went in the summer both times but the winter is apparently amazing. I know an old guy who hates life. But he loves Bryce Canyon in the winter.