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Backpacker Magazine – June 2009

Rip & Go: Under-the-Rim Trail - Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Dupe the daytrippers on this rugged trail to brilliantly colored backcountry cliffs and hoodoos.

by: Steve Howe

A view from the last day (
A view from the last day (
(Photo by Julia Vandenoever)
(Photo by Julia Vandenoever)
Casto Canyon (Whit Richardson)
Casto Canyon (Whit Richardson)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.

Do it
This three-day, 22.1-mile trek drops 1,000 feet from Bryce's overlooks into spire-filled basins, then arrows south away from the crowded dayhike loops to 9,115-foot Rainbow Point, the park's highest spot. From Bryce Point trailhead, keep right, following signs for the Under-the-Rim Trail (1). You'll hike southeast across a timbered bench, then drop steeply to the Hat Shop (2), a series of improbable white boulders perched atop dirt pedestals at mile 1.9. Pass through the first campsite at Yellow Creek's right fork (3) and curve north along Yellow Creek, one of two reliable water sources on the trek. You'll reach Yellow Creek Campsite (4) at mile four, a great camp for night one. It's creekside; top up water here before taking off, because the trail is bone dry for the next 12 miles.

From camp, the path climbs south, then veers west on a traverse to Pasture Wash (5), then up and over a series of steep passes to the Sheep Creek Campsite (6) and the Right Fork of Swamp Canyon Campsite (7). Keep trekking 1.7 miles up Swamp Canyon, wrapping around Swamp Canyon Butte onto a tilted plateau where you'll pass a junction with .9-mile Whiteman Connecting Trail (8). At mile 14, you'll come to a sandy ridgeline (9) that's an excellent lunch spot with reliable breezes and long views. Pass ponderosa stands and the Natural Bridge Campsite (10) (sidehike west to see the bridge) before taking another twisty climb to a junction with Agua Canyon Connecting Trail (11). Ahead, spot the intricate traverses you'll follow around the headwaters of Willis and Black Birch Creeks over the next 2.4 miles to Iron Spring Campsite (12). Iron Spring is the last reliable water source. The next morning, drop down to Black Birch Creek–before a 1,200-foot, 2.9-mile climb to the end at Rainbow Point.

Trip Planner
Driving Bryce lies on UT 12 between Panguitch (25 miles west) and Escalante (50 miles east). Turn south on UT 63 from UT 12, and drive 3.8 miles to the park. It's 18 miles to Rainbow Point. Leave a car or bikes here for your shuttle (pack cable locks), then park at Bryce Point.

Permit Park entry is $20/vehicle. Backcountry overnight permits are $5/one- to two-person party.
Gear up Ruby's Inn General Store has fuel, food, first-aid supplies, and basic hiking gear.
1000 South UT 63, Bryce Canyon City; (866) 866-6616


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