Bryce Canyon National Park Is Pure Hoodoo Magic

The 58 parks in the National Parks Services are the jewels of the American landscape. Natural beauty, ranging from glaciers and mountain ranges to deserts, canyons, swampland, and forests represent just some of the diversity in this spacious nation. Give your kids a vacation worth remembering by exploring one of these national treasures.

In southwestern Utah, the peachy-toned sandstone rocks of Bryce Canyon National Park provide a less-trafficked alternative to Zion and the Grand Canyon, but the vastness of this naturally-eroded quarry offers just as grand an adventure for a family of hikers and midnight sky-watchers.

Lay of the Land

The sandstone rim of Bryce Canyon, nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, looks down on a collection of hoodoos, large, pillar-type rock formations made of the remains of eroded sandstone. Hiking down the side, it’s like stepping into a million gothic amphitheaters, all designed for their natural spectacle.

Another take on these spiraling pinnacles? In Native American mythology, hoodoos are legend people who have been turned into stone. So watch your back and look out for the wolves who cast those petrifying spells.

With areas covered in forest, laid bare like desert, and snowed upon in the winter, the dramatically changing landscape makes the canyon a great trip several times a year to experience the variety of treasures within. If you’re looking for a remote place your family can escape to again and again, you won’t be disappointed.

The sprawling canyon, which takes up a good portion of southern Utah, saw nearby Native American encampments and later, Mormon settlers take up residence at the plateau east of the canyon where the Paria River could provide water. But natural weather patterns and the remoteness of the area eventually drove settlers out until the place was re-discovered and pegged by conservationists as a unique American gem that should be preserved.

A Day in the Life

Today, pilgrims of remote Bryce Canyon spend their days in awe of the unusual landscape. Ranger-led hikes around the rim – both by day and by moonlight – reveal stunning views and captivating landscapes. There are several trails that can be hiked in a day, but overnight hikes may be the name of the game for the most intrepid junior explorers.

Wintertime snow shoe hikes, sledding, and cross-country ski trails are all great ways to explore Bryce Canyon, but be sure to stick to designated trails. Skiing or sledding off the canyon rim is expressly prohibited and can cause damage to hoodoos, which are formed from the freeze-melt cycle experienced by the rocks. Not to mention, mudslides and avalanches could be a little unpleasant for you, too!

Astronomy programs are offered throughout the year. Due to Bryce Canyon’s remote location, it’s lacking in light pollution and offers extraordinary Milky Way observation opportunities. Check with rangers to see when the next telescope viewing event will happen.

Animal fans in your pack will want to stake out the regal pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, and prairie dogs that can be spotted around the park. For the bird watchers, there’s a large variety of feathered inhabitants at Bryce too, like osprey, nutcrackers, falcons, and the California condor.

Give your kids a Geodetective test or take them to the ranger station to learn what it takes to become a junior ranger at the park. Kids camp activities are available all summer long, too.

Practical Matters

Located east of I-15 and the Dixie National Forest in southern Utah, you can enter Bryce Canyon by making your way from Highway 89 to Route 12 and then south on 63 when you hit the city of Bryce. From 63 you will hit the park entrance and one mile later, the visitor center. Once inside, a scenic drive can take you around the canyon at your own pace, but a free shuttle is also available and stops at many of the major viewing points.

The park is open year-round, with a busy summer season winding up in May and not trailing off until the end of September. Through the rest of the year, there’s no need to make camping reservations in advance.

Families can stay on-site in tent or at the RV campgrounds near the park entrance, where potable water and restrooms are available. North Campground is open year-round, while Sunset Campground, a little farther away, closes in the winter. During the summer season, you can reserve a space in either campground ahead of time, but there are also first-come, first-served sites too.

If you’re planning to stay outside the park, Bryce Canyon City (home of Ruby’s Inn, a country lodge which used to also be the name of the town) is the closest and best place to go. You can also find a campground and RV spaces in the town if your dreams of staying in the park have been dashed on a busy weekend. Although the town only has 138 residents, there are a few good diners that could show your kids a thing or two about country eating.

For another good rural day trip, travel south along Route 12 and explore the little towns of Tropic, Cannonville, and Henrieville that lie just outside the park’s backcountry.

Ever been to Bryce Canyon in Utah? What are some of your favorite national parks you’ve visited with the family? Share your travel stories with us!

Tags : travel   national parks   utah   

Nikki M