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Navajo Loop/Queen's Garden/Rim Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

     Bryce Canyon is a landscape beyond imagination, where unusual landforms called hoodoos create a fairyland for hikers. Several trails venture into the rock amphitheater, so choosing which one to set out on can be overwhelming, but we have found that some of the most dramatic scenery can be seen by combining more than one trail to form a scenic loop into the heart of the hoodoos.

     The trail combination that we recommend while visiting Bryce Canyon starts at Sunset Point, follows a counterclockwise loop down the Navajo Loop Trail, connecting with the Queen’s Garden Trail up to Sunrise Point, then returning back to Sunset Point along the Rim Trail for a 3 mile roundtrip hike.

     In order to find the Navajo Loop Trail you must make your way to Sunset Point, located about a mile from the visitor center—once at the parking area, it is just a short walk from your car to the trailhead.

     The view from Sunset Point looks down on Bryce Amphitheater, where the highest concentration of hoodoos are found—including the famous formation known as Thor’s Hammer and the spires called Silent City. We marveled at the color spectrum laid out before us—deep reds, yellows, and browns owe their presence to different oxide ratios of iron, while manganese imparts more pastel hues such as lavender and purple. In addition to the pastel colors, you will notice as you study the different hoodoos that their tops are capped by a resistant white limestone layer—a perfect example of this is the aforementioned Thor’s Hammer. If you want an up close view of this formation, and you are following our hiking route, you will need to detour hike down the Navajo Loop Trail for just a short way in a clockwise direction—you can either do this at the beginning or end of your hike, but you will not pass it otherwise.

     Only a few feet below the rim steep switchbacks descend almost 521 feet to an area called Wall Street. This narrow canyon, named for its resemblance to the New York City street and its skyscrapers, is one of the many highlights along this route. As you hike through this section you will be inspired by the glowing light reflected off the gold and orange canyon walls, and towards the end of Wall Street yet another feat of nature awaits you—several Douglas firs, two of them 500 years old, grow towards the sky between the towering cliffs.

     Emerging from Wall Street, the trail swings to the left where it follows Bryce Creek, or its dry bed, for a short while. Just a little further down the trail, at the 0.7 mile marker, the trail comes to a junction with the Peek-a-boo Trail. If you want to extend your hike, you can take this trail to form a figure eight loop, we opted to just hike up the Queen’s Garden Trail. The Queen’s junction is just immediately past the Peek-a-boo junction (as is the continuation of the Navajo Loop). Instead of continuing on the Navajo Loop Trail to the left, which leads back to the rim, follow the Queen’s Garden Trail. We stopped to rest near this trail junction, there is a bench off the side of the trail, and we were excited to see a Steller’s Jay who was perched in a tree in an anticipation of a few scraps from a couple who were enjoying their lunch.

     As you continue hiking down the Queen’s Garden Trail, watch for the short spur trail that will take you to the formation known as Queen Victoria. This lightly colored rock formation bares a resemblance to the many statues of Queen Victoria found in Europe. Once back on the main trail, it is only 0.8 miles to Sunrise Point, a gain of 320 feet in elevation. The remainder of this amazing hike is no less spectacular than the start, winding through ever more sculptured spires and colorful pinnacles, passing through picture perfect tunnels, each turn in the trail bringing yet another fantastic view of Bryce Amphitheater.

     It won’t be long before you are back on the rim at Sunrise Point, and as you take your last steps out of the canyon you will find it hard to tear yourself away from the magnificent landscape. Once you are back on the rim at Sunrise Point, soak in the view—to the east lie the Table Cliffs Plateau, the last step in the Grand Staircase, and of course the Bryce Amphitheater is spread out before you. From this overlook, it is a short 0.5 miles along the Rim Trail back to Sunset Point, your car, and the end of another spectacular hike.

Navajo Loop/Queen's Garden Gallery (Total of 55 Images)

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