Bryce Canyon National Park: Under The Rim Trail

Dupe the daytrippers on this rugged trail to brilliantly colored backcountry cliffs and hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.
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Dupe the daytrippers on this rugged trail to brilliantly colored backcountry cliffs and hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.

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. You'll hike southeast across a timbered bench, then drop steeply to the Hat Shop, a series of improbable brown boulders perched atop dirt pedestals at mile 1.9.
Pass through the first campsite at Yellow Creek's right fork and curve north along Yellow Creek, one of two reliable water sources on the trek. You'll reach Yellow Creek Campsite 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, then up and over a series of steep passes to the Sheep Creek Campsite and the Right Fork of Swamp Canyon Campsite.
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. At mile 14, you'll come to a sandy ridgeline that's an excellent lunch spot with reliable breezes and long views. Pass ponderosa stands and the Natural Bridge Campsite (sidehike west to see the bridge) before taking another twisty climb to a junction with Agua Canyon Connecting Trail.
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. 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.
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
-Mapped by Steve Howe

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 35.7

Waypoints

UTR001

Location: 37.603362, -112.156041

Trailhead sign

UTR002

Location: 37.592314, -112.144874

Trail rough from rim to here

UTR003

Location: 37.590868, -112.143738

Great views of Hat Shop, a series of improbable brown boulders

UTR004

Location: 37.587706, -112.147662

Nice campsite on the Right Fork of Yellow Creek; reliable water

UTR005

Location: 37.575554, -112.147134

Yellow Creek Group Campsite

UTR006

Location: 37.584744, -112.1623

Another campsite on Yellow Creek

UTR007

Location: 37.585583, -112.163455

Nice side strolls north and northwest to Yellow Spring and dramatic cliffs beneath Paria View.

UTR008

Location: 37.577856, -112.186634

Needle-floored Ponderosa Glades in Pasture Wash

UTR009

Location: 37.580333, -112.1961

Great break spot at ridgetop, with good views and breezes

UTR010

Location: 37.578828, -112.201777

Sheep Creek Campsite

UTR011

Location: 37.579418, -112.202422

Junction with Sheep Creek Connecting Trail Junction, heads north to park road, south to Tropic

UTR012

Location: 37.576811, -112.212761

Right Fork Swamp Canyon Campsite

UTR013

Location: 37.577577, -112.213172

Swamp Canyon Connecting Trail, runs north to rim and park road

UTR014

Location: 37.561144, -112.230067

Whiteman Connecting Trail. It's 0.9 mile to rim and road

UTR015

Location: 37.526676, -112.24117

Natural Bridge Campsite. Good walking through ponderosa groves in the area.

UTR016

Location: 37.51443, -112.248256

Agua Canyon Connecting Trail. 1.6 miles to rim and road. Not recommended in winter, when switchbacks are filled in, and terrain is avalanche-steep.

UTR017

Location: 37.4917878, -112.2441374

Iron Spring: Water is often algae-filled. Try pre-filtering it through a standard conical coffee drip.

UTR018

Location: 37.4873091, -112.226827

Nice lunch spot on saddle

UTR019

Location: 37.4752808, -112.2402237

Rainbow Point: Trip's endpoint

POI001

Location: 37.595578, -112.208541

Sheep Creek Trailhead

POI002

Location: 37.587672, -112.213131

Swamp Canyon

POI003

Location: 37.564186, -112.238922

Whiteman Trailhead

POI004

Location: 37.503805, -112.262739

Agua Canyon Trailhead

Sidehill traverse

Location: 37.5798206, -112.194314

The Hat Shop

Location: 37.5910093, -112.143631

Ponderosa forests in Yellow Creek

Location: 37.5834597, -112.1606255

Agua Canyon Trail

Location: 37.5144236, -112.2481728

Steep climb near trip's end

Location: 37.4885483, -112.2259426