The Paiute Indians believed the colorful rock totems were “Legend People,” who were turned to stone by Coyote. Early geologists named the rock formations “hoodoos,” and thought the imposing spires were capable of casting spells. Ebenezer Bryce, the Mormon settler for whom the canyon was named, simply said, “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”
How Bryce Canyon Became A National Park
The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon are the reason that the canyon was designated a national park—the park contains more of these unique rock formations than anyplace else on earth. Formed by cycles of freezing and thawing, the spires and arches of Bryce have slowly been formed over centuries of harsh weather—more than 200 days a year of freezing temperatures.
Set aside as a national park in 1928, Bryce Canyon is one of our smaller parks, covering only 55 square miles. But oh, it’s a wondrous slice of our country.
Because the location is somewhat remote, Bryce doesn’t get as many visitors as does nearby Zion, or the Grand Canyon. Ordinarily, we avoid all national parks from Memorial Day through Labor Day. But our route was taking us right past Bryce, it had been a dozen years since our last visit, and we couldn’t resist the siren call of the hoodoos.
One Full And Wonderful Day Among The Hoodoos
Because we had only one full day to explore the park, we chose one of our favorite hikes for the morning, the Navajo Loop combined with the Queen’s Garden Trail. It’s a gorgeous hike that quickly drops 500 feet down into the canyon, offering the opportunity to view the hoodoos from below (and the opportunity for peace along the trail because most people stay on the rim). Lunch in a shady spot on the rim, a geology talk by a ranger, a cool drink in the lodge, and another short hike along the Mossy Cave trail made for a full and wonderful day.
“If future generations are to remember us with more gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.” ~ Lyndon Baines Johnson (Written on a plaque at the rim of Bryce Canyon.)
Where We Stayed
Although we would have preferred camping within Bryce, the temperatures were edging toward 90, and we needed electric hookups to run our A/C (to prevent baking our kitty, who at 19 doesn’t tolerate heat well). So we stayed just outside the park at Ruby’s RV Park, a fine place for a couple of nights. (If you stay there, ask for a site in the older section, which has trees. The new section looks like a dirt parking lot.)
So many places, so little time. It’s been twenty years since I last laid eyes on those hoodoos. Thanks for reminding me that it’s time for a revisit. Such beautiful and unique country :-)
You are so right, Ingrid — so many places, so little time. The lament of the full-timer! Bryce is definitely worth a revisit, though — we’re planning to return!
Oh was I excited to read this title. I have been hoping to see you go to Bryce. Magical is exactly the right world for it and I wanted to see your equally magical pictures of this fantastic place. You did not disappoint. Looks like you had a terrific day by the skies. Your colors are wonderful, the pictures sharp and so well designed. Thanks for taking me back to a place I just adored.
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Sherry — although one day was certainly not enough time there, as you know. We want to spend as much time in Bryce as you guys did! It looks as though you did every possible hike in the canyon, and your descriptions are great!
Beautiful pictures. I love that place. It sounds like you had an amazing time.
Thanks, Jo! Although it was a brief visit, we did have an amazing time. We definitely plan to return!
Hans and I have only explored Bryce from the outside edges, I’d like to get into the heart of the place some day. It always amazes me how few people do explore deeper into our park, choosing instead to do a “drive by”. Better for us adventurous souls I suppose!
We plan to spend more time in Bryce too, Lisa. We’re also always surprised how few people get out onto the trails — but we’re grateful to not be hiking in a herd!
We love Bryce. It has to be one of the most spectacular places on the planet.
Haha! I had to laugh when I read your suggestion for where to stay in Ruby’s. We thought just the opposite. We wanted the back so the trees didn’t interfere with our satellite dish. Yes, it was a parking lot but when you go in early May, there are only about three other people there with you:) May was still chilly and we had snow twice. Probably different than your weather:)
I am so glad you had a clear day. The deep blue sky makes for gorgeous photos. This is John’s favorite national park. It certainly is beauty beyond belief, Thanks for the return visit:)
Pam, thanks for the clarification about Ruby’s! We don’t have satellite, so we’re always looking for as many trees as possible wherever we stay. :-) It’s amazing that you had snow in May and we had close to 90 degree temps in early June. It was actually a bit hotter than we would have liked — but as you said, the skies were clear and a gorgeous deep blue color. We just need more time there!
Laurel, we always find it interesting to read reviews of parks. It is so interesting how everyone sees things differently. We thought Ruby’s had great sites with shade which you need in the summer for sure. In early May you need all the warmth you can get from the sun. Of course, you pay for this sun with a parking lot atmosphere. If it had been crowded, we would not have enjoyed it for sure. We were there a week and it wasn’t long enough. We also enjoyed hiking around Red Canyon that you pass through on your way in. The bubble gum colors of the rock were beautiful.
Pam, I just read through your entries on Bryce — what a spectacular time you had! And your photos are gorgeous. Spending a week in Bryce sounds perfect — we’re hoping to get back there in the next year or two. We loved Red Canyon, too, and did some hiking there several years ago. We’re thinking it would be fun to camp there, but it’s probably only suitable for small rigs.
Brilliant! We loved Bryce but only viewed it from the top as himself was recovering from a knee injury. Thanks for taking me on your hike!
Oh yes, a knee injury would definitely prohibit hiking in the canyon — the trails are steep. Glad you could come along with us. :-)
The hoodoos are calling us too! A day is simply not enough, with the sneak peek you showed us, perhaps a week or two is in order. Of course depending on the weather.
As always your pictures are so vivid plus you had the perfect day, Laurel.
ML, a week in Bryce would be GREAT! Judging by Pam & John’s experience in early May, June is probably a better bet. We were there in early June, and it was sunny and gorgeous — a little hot, but better than snow. :-)
We too had only a day while in Bryce several years ago and it was in August…very hot. We did the same trail as the two of you and were in awe of the hoodoos. While having a home in Sedona and spending two years in Yellowstone we found ourselves traveling the road past Zion and Bryce often but had never taken the time to visit. Zion is still on the list, as is most of the state of Utah. Loved your photos and taking us back in time.
It so often seems that we don’t spend time in our own “backyard.” We’ve lived in Oregon for more than 20 years, and we have a LOT still to explore here! So glad you enjoyed the photos, LuAnn.