Most visits to Bryce Canyon National Park are quite rightly centered on the amphitheater. You can’t go there without visiting the various overlooks and hiking down Wall Street or into Fairyland. But if you are a repeat visitor or are there for an extended time, there are some other pretty fun options for day hikes or overnight backpack adventures that take you under the rim.
Yovimpa Point / Rainbow Point
The 18 mile drive out to the very end of the park road takes you to Yovimpa Point / Rainbow Point. Just the drive there is gorgeous, taking you to the lush, forested end of the park. There are great views at the end and also along the way, plus a short Bristlecone Pine Loop trail.
Riggs Spring Trail
But if you want to take in a really different section of the park, we’d recommend the Riggs Spring Trail. Unlike other hikes in the park, this one is almost 100% in the forrest. There are a few locations where you have good views of the hoodoos and the Escalante off in the distance, but most of the hike is in the woods, much of it old-growth Ponderosa Pines!
The trail starts at Rainbow Point and we took the ranger’s recommendation to go in a clockwise direction. The first bit was through an area where there had been a forrest fire in 2010, but it was lovely to see all the new growth that was emerging, especially all the wildflowers and flowering shrubs!
You do need to be wary as you hike. We didn’t really think that there would be rattlesnakes at this elevation, but there are. One kindly warned us off the trail with a rattle and sat coiled to strike. Thankfully we heard him and a toss of a rock chased him away. That did make us pay a bit more attention for the rest of the hike.
Interesting that after this encounter, we read an article about the Great Basin Rattlesnake. It turns out that they once had to close the picnic area at Rainbow Point because there were so many! We were quite happy that we only saw one snake. More snakes than people on this hike. We didn’t see anyone for the entire 9 mile loop.
There were three designated backcountry campsites along the way. Unfortunately all of the stream beds were “stone” dry, meaning any backpack trip would require carrying all your water. That might be okay for the Yovimpa Point campsite, since it is in a meadow just 1.6 miles below the rim. Not so far you couldn’t carry water. The other two camps would be a bit more challenging.
Under the Rim Trail
Also departing from Rainbow Point is the Under the Rim Trail. This 22.9 mile trail goes from Rainbow Point to Bryce Point, with a few spurs in between where you can hike down from the road. Doing the whole distance would be amazing, but also potentially problematic due to water availability.
Any of the spurs are possible day hikes, or quick overnights. We chose to do the hike from Bryce Point and met quite a few folks hiking down to the “Hat Shop”, a really cool formation where the grey cap rock formations looked like hats on the red hoodoos.
Like all the trails in the park, it was very well maintained and well marked. The hike down to Hat Shop and back is only about 4 miles round trip, but it is about a 1000 foot elevation change. Remember, “down is optional, up is mandatory!”
We continued past Hat Shop down to Right Fork to camp overnight, near a flowing stream. It was lovely and green and shady, with amazing views of the red cliffs and hoodoos in the distance.
The next day we explored a bit more and hiked to the next designated camp spot at Yellow Creek. There was also a good amount of water there and if anything, even better views. Very peaceful, and certainly a different way to enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park.
Need some backpacking assistance?
If you are thinking of a backpack adventure at Bryce Canyon National Park, we’d be happy to share our experiences. You will need a permit and you must be able to show the rangers a bear box. We didn’t see any bears, but they estimate there are a dozen bears in the area so the park service is pretty careful.
Are you trying to visit all the National Parks?
If your goal is to visit them, one or all, we’d love to help you strategize. Give us a call at (480) 609-3978 or drop us a note here. We always enjoy talking with people who share our passion for visiting National Parks, and National Park Units.