I’ve been to Bryce Canyon National Park at least a half dozen times before, and every visit knocks me out. The scenery is absolutely amazing – it has the kind of bizarre beauty that stops you in your tracks. Bryce Canyon is one of the most gaudy, florid, and unlikely places in Utah. It’s filled with thousands of orange, pink, and cream hoodoos that cascade down from an 8,000 ft. plateau into the valley below. The view from the top is undeniably impressive, but if you hike down below the rim, you’ll wander through a pretty-pretty-magical-fairy-castle-land. It’s one of my favorite hikes in Utah. Gotta do it.
Of course, you and I are not the only people to have heard about this place, and Bryce Canyon can be a cluster-F of humanity during the summer months. But if you don’t mind the cold (you’re up at 8,000ft, after all,) I think the best time to explore this park is during the off-season. In the winter, several feet of snow cover the sherbet-colored landscape, and you can snowshoe through a flamboyant winter wonderland. Or, you can sneak in during the brief gap between fall and winter, like we did this time around. Jordan’s brother and his buddy came out to visit, and we decided to brave the mid-November chill and hike the Fairyland / Peekaboo / Queens Garden loop. Our timing was perfect – the weather was comfortable with a warm jacket, and the trails weren’t overrun with people.
The Fairyland / Peekaboo / Queens Garden trail takes you along a 6.6 mile figure-eight-shaped route. The only really strenuous part of any hike into Bryce Canyon is the climb back out, so you might as well see as much as possible while you’re down in there, right? The views just Do Not Quit on this hike – your camera could accidentally go off and you’d still get a good photo.
Start at the Sunset Point Trailhead and head down to the Wall Street Trail, where the canyon walls constrict and soar hundreds of feet overhead. This is the first half of the first loop. Turn right at the second trail junction and head for the Peekaboo Loop. This will take you past the Wall of Windows, which is really cool. Keep an eye on the top of the plateau – you’ll see tiny little people 900 ft. above you! After completing the Peekaboo Loop, head back to the bottom of the Wall Street Trail, past the Navajo Loop Trail, and towards the Queens Garden. Take the Queens Garden spur to see an exceptionally pretty tableau of rocks, trees, and sky. From Queens Garden, you start climbing 0.8 mile and 400 ft. back to the plateau rim. You’ll pop out near Sunrise Point, then finish up with a 0.5 mile stroll along the rim back to your car at Sunset Point.