The cool high elevation forest and plentiful trails make the Bryce Canyon area a great place to spend a few days.
We rolled in via route 12 and found a campsite open at the Red Canyon campground – dry camping,but worth the $20 for our view of the canyon walls, access to the paved bike trail, and water.
After a 3pm big lunch – this seems to be what we end up doing: a nice breakfast, snacks, I cook around 3 when we arrive somewhere, and then snacks for dinner later. Spanish style 😋 – we got the bikes ready to roll.
There is a paved bike trail that runs 17 miles connecting the Bryce Canyon national park to the Forest service Red Canyon area. We pedaled uphill from our campsite to the trailhead.
A nice 3.5 mile lollipop route took us along a wash where Avi went to town with his new rock hammer, digging out some geodes. From there it was uphill in a pretty ravine with some hoodoos to see. 5pm was a perfect time for this hike, as the heat was low and the trail nice and shady. At the top we walked around the viewpoint trail to get a lay of the land. We sat and watched a hawk glide on the thermals as the shadows grew longer and then made our way back down.
On day 2, we started with a little hike and exploration along the Mossy Cave trail which is part of Bryce Canyon National park, yet outside the main area on route 12. I lucked into a parking spot; the lot was nearly full, though only about 10 cars can fit.
Mossy Cave is a short trail along a cold river up to a water fall on the right, and a mossy overhang on the left. We started with the waterfall, and hiked in the water to the actual falls before scrambling up top. It is a super pretty area with the pink canyon walls and access to water! The kids played in the water a while, and then we walked in the creek the creek back out. The trail was getting crowded as we left around 10am; the lot was full, and cars were parked up and down the road.
I had snagged a campsite on Recreation.gov at Bryce Canyon for this 2nd night. But, for $30, plus fees, the campground has really nothing going for it beyond location and is way overpriced. No views, sloping sites, little privacy. Meh. And the showers were inoperable due to COVID- 19. It was full, though. Location! It meant we could bike to trailheads quickly and easily along that paved trail (now on the other end).
After another late lunch, we biked over to the Tower Bridge trail. Zoe chose our activities during the Utah portion of the trip, and she did great making choices on the 3 trails we took at Bryce. This one isn’t crowded.
Tower Bridge trail is 3 miles round trip, all down during the hike in, past a few hoodoos, but mostly it traverse a Martian-looking landscape of exposed crumbly pink rocks and desolate slopes. A good one to do in the evening while the sun made shadows. On the way down, an emergency ranger passed us looking for a patient. Eventually we found them slowly making their way back up – looked like dehydration and heat.
Un-phased, with our packs of water and snacks, we continued to the bottom and the Tower Bridge formation which looks like its famous namesake in London. Then, we turned around to hike out…. there was a timeframe to this one.
When we parked the bikes at the General store I was able to buy a few tokens for the pay showers, and we didn’t want to miss closing time! With only a little prodding, and keeping Avi talking about Minecraft, we made it to the top just in time for much -needed showers. We came to Bryce from Lake Powell and still felt full of sand.
Day 3 started with another 3 mile hike – this one down through the famous hoodoos and pink spires of Bryce Canyon. We biked to the Sunset trailhead and hiked down Queens Garden trail. Avi was a bit apprehensive about more down, because he knew it meant up eventually, but the cool rock formations and really neat tunnels along the trail kept him motivated. Zoe is a hiking fiend, so she was trucking away!
We stopped often for pictures, but again had a timeframe, needing to return to the camper by 11 to pack it up and checkout of our spot.
The trail joined another along the bottoms where pine trees kept us cool. This trail seemed best to do in the morning, while all the formations made nice shadows. From the bottoms, we took the Wall Street trail.
Wall Street trail is really just a series of switchbacks up a cliff, but the payoff is a really neat hike in a tight canyon. We got to see this first, and were mesmerized by the pretty colors and incredibly tenacious tree growing right inside. Then, it was an uphill slog. The kids did great; I think seeing the whole set of UP made it more motivating for them.
Overall, our time was wonderful. Zoe picked some amazing hikes, and we got a shower!