Routefinding is simple on this scenery-rich stroll through the Pink Cliffs and hoodoos of Bryce Canyon’s distinctive Claron Formation. The well-cleared, well-graded track makes it easy for fit hikers who have issues like weak ankles and knee injuries that make the nearby rougher treks difficult.
Begin this 8-mile, counterclockwise loop at the much quieter Fairyland Point rather than overwhelmed Sunrise Point. Hike south on the Rim Trail to Sunrise Point, and take advantage of the near-continual overlooks of the odd-shaped rock formations of Fairyland below . You’ll be down there on the second-half of this loop.
Nearing Sunrise Point, turn left onto the well-signed Fairyland Loop and descend past increasingly spectacular walls of Pinkish siltstone and small arches that frame the views of cirques further south. Within a mile and a half you’ll encounter a junction with the Tower Bridge spur trail. It’s a quick out-and-back to this marvel of red rock (its boxy shape and rocky span resembles the Tower Bridge in London). Then backtrack to the main loop.
You’ll begin a series of rising traverses that proceed counterclockwise around Boat Mesa, the impressive backdrop for much of the hike. Enroute you’ll find a wealth of trailside hoodoos (wierd freestanding pinnacles). These make excellent foregrounds for scenic photos of the background mesa and rims.
Some of the best places to linger are near the eastern (far) end of Boat Mesa. Several gravelly ridges allow you to walk away from the main trail to secluded sites that offer more rewarding rest breaks.
From the eastern end of the loop, just follow the gradual climb back up to the rim near Fairyland Point. The route’s best scenery is generally in the first half, and last quarter mile, of the loop. If needed, hop on the free shuttle bus back to your car.
Take all the water you’ll need, and plenty of sunscreen and snacks.
PARK SHUTTLE: The free (with NPS entry fee) park shuttle bus runs between both Fairypoint and Sunrise trailheads (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) about every 15 minutes from May 23rd to September 28th. You’ll also find bike racks at both trailheads.
MORE INFO: Bryce Canyon National Park, (435) 834-5322; nps.gov/brca
-Mapped by Steve Howe