After a great day at Zion National Park hiking to Angels Landing and Emerald Pools, we woke up early the following day to make the drive to Bryce Canyon National Park. The first few hours of the drive on HWYs 9 and 89 were in the dark, which is unfortunate, because I’m sure the views would have been stunning. All along the highway there are flashing signs with deer on them. These signs tend to be just about everywhere, but never have they been so accurate for me while driving. In just a short stretch of a few miles, I saw a huge buck and a few does right alongside the road.
The sun began to rise just before we turned onto HWY 12, the road that leads into Bryce Canyon. The sky was crystal clear, and the temperature was a brisk 7 degrees. After spending the first moments of my day driving through darkness, it was a real treat to see the colors start to come alive on the horizon.
We arrived at the park at around 7:30 AM, and made our way to Sunrise Point. The air outside was frigid, but the rising sun made it feel quite pleasant. The parked seemed rather empty, and there were only 2 cars parked near the trailhead. We made sure to bring along our microspikes, as there as a ton of ice and snow. We eneded up not needing them, but if you plan on hiking this trail in the late Fall or Winter, it doesn’t hurt to come prepared.
This hike is 3 miles with 580 feet of elevation change.
The Queens Garden trail begins with a downhill stretch towards Queen Victoria and a vast array of hoodoos. Hoodoos are the spires of sedimentary rock seen at parks like Zion. It was astonishing to see them up close and personal.
After about a mile of hiking, the earth beneath my feet began to change. Much like the Grand Canyon, the browns turn to reds as you descend into millions of years of geological history. One of my favorite parts of hiking the Queens Garden trail is the corridors and pathways that have been cut into the rock for passage into the canyon. The early morning lighting on the canyon walls made each entry and exit feel quite magical.
The deeper we hiked into the canyon, the better the views became. There were hoodoos in every direction. As we reached the bottom of the trail, the grade leveled out for a short stretch as we entered into a snowy wooded area.
For the hike back up to complete the loop, there are two trail options. The first is the Navajo Loop Trail, and the second is the Two Bridges Trail. We decided on the Two Bridges trail and set off to regain the 580 of elevation we just lost on the way down.
The uphill out of the canyon felt much quicker than the downhill into it. The sweeping views of Bryce were in perfect view with all the glory of a Fall morning. We could see a few people congregating at Sunset Point, but the numbers were small. There is something about sub freezing temperatures that keeps most people from venturing outside.
We reached Sunset Point and took a few more pictures before hoping on the rim trail back to Sunrise Point and the warmth of my car. As beautiful as the views were in Zion, this morning hike at Bryce Canyon was on another level. We spent a little time after this hiking driving around the park and taking in some more views before getting back on the road and making our way to Capitol Reef National Park.