Bryce Canyon National Park is basically an amphitheater of hoodoos — rock formations shaped by erosion. One way to view the park is on the rim trail that, as the name suggests, goes along the rim of the amphitheater. Most of it is paved. And, most of it is rather heavily used. There are several trails that lead from the rim down among the hoodoos. Spectacular! Some of those trails also get fairly busy. The Fairyland Loop Trail is on the north end of the park and sees far fewer hikers.
I had wanted to hike the Fairyland Loop for several years, but it just didn’t seem to work out. It’s an eight-mile trail, with 2,310 feet of elevation gain, so for me it’s a fairly good time commitment. Finally got it done in June 2017.
There’s a trailhead for Fairyland Loop down a road near the entrance to the park. Lots of people start there and end at Sunset Point. That requires two vehicles. There is a shuttle bus at Bryce, but it doesn’t go out the road to the Fairyland Loop Trailhead. Or, you could hike the loop down among the hoodoos and then hike along the rim trail to complete a circle.
I was camping at Sunset Campground, so leaving from the campsite and hiking over to Sunset Point to start made sense. I’d do the circle, plus hiking to and from the campground. It added a little distance, maybe a mile or so. In the morning, that didn’t seem like such a bad idea. So, I headed off to Sunset Point.
The trail drops into the hoodoos, so it starts with a fairly good downhill segment. Basically, the trail is up and down the entire distance from Sunset Point to the Fairyland Loop trailhead. It drops to the canyon floor and then rises to nearly the elevation of the rim, two or three times.
But, you’re among the hoodoos just about the entire hike. Sometimes you’re looking up or down at them. Other times, you’re looking directly at a hoodoo. Some are red rock. Some are white. All are beautiful.
Over the portion of the trail from Sunset to Fairyland, I met fewer than 10 hikers. That’s a huge difference from the trails in central part of the ampitheater.
There’s a beautiful loop in that central area that can be done by combining Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden. It’s accessible from the most popular areas of the rim, gets you down among some beautiful hoodoos and isn’t terribly long — maybe a couple hour hike. I think it attracts the most hikers.
Fairyland Loop is a nice change from the busier parts of the park. And, the scenery is at least equal to those busier trails.
There’s a short spur off Fairland Loop that leads to Tower Bridge (photo below). It’s well worth a few extra steps. Some people just hike Fairland Loop to Tower Bridge and then back up to the rim. That makes for a short but scenic hike.
When I eventually got to the Fairyland Loop trailhead, I thought I was fairly close to being done with the hike. I had gone from one trail head to the other. Then, it was just a matter of walking back along the rim trail. I thought I was done with the ups and downs. Not. I still had a couple miles to hike along the rim, back to Sunset. This part of the rim trail is not paved (the more heavily used portion is paved), and it’s got a more elevation changes than the rest of the rim.
But, its very pretty. There are some very nice rock formation along the rim. I don’t know if they’d be called hoodoos, but they are very intricate natural rock sculptures. The photo here is an example.
Have to admit I was fairly tired and not enjoying this part of the hike. I still had a few Cliff Bars and water (bring LOTS of water), so a little rest was in order. That helped. When I got back to Sunset Point, it seemed like driving to the trailhead in the morning, rather than hiking from the campground, may have been a better idea. Still had a mile or so to go. But, it was an easy walk on a paved path.
When I got back to the campsite, I double-checked the mileage. With the added distance to and from the campground, somewhere close to ten miles. I’ve hiked that distance before without being this tired. Hmmmm.
Well, I normally avoid trails rated strenuous and stick with moderate trails. Guess I missed the rating on this one. Strenuous. The Park Service gave it that rating due to length and elevation changes. Very glad I hadn’t noticed the rating before heading off for the hike. Might not have done this trail — and would have missed some spectacular scenery and very quiet hiking. It’s worth the work.