Bryce Canyon

David pauses on his hike around the Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre, at some point between Sunset and Inspiration Point.

David pauses on his hike around the Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre, at some point between Sunset and Inspiration Point.

It’s not many days that I realize, before lunch, that I’ve just completed one of the most beautiful hikes ever. Even more amazing to have that experience at the end of two weeks hiking in spectacular canyons around the Four Corners region.

Today was such a day. Bryce Canyon at sunrise is so spectacular that I snapped hundreds of photos and found it difficult to select only a few favorites. Read on.

Our drive yesterday to Bryce Canyon National Park from Zion Canyon National Park, after I had finished my morning exploration of The Narrows, included an afternoon rainshower and filled our first views of Bryce with an imposing sky that threatened thunderstorms. We quickly visited the various viewpoints and checked in for the night at Bryce Canyon Lodge, at the heart of the park, so we could get an early start the next day. (Yet another outstanding dining room!)

I was up before sunrise and walked a few hundred yards up to the canyon rim, to the aptly-named Sunrise Point.  A couple dozen other people were already there, under clear skies, and I snuggled in with my tripod to wait. As the sun peeked over the mountain range to the east, the first rays of the sun lit the canyon rim and then fired up the hoodoos of Bryce Amphitheater. (The Amphitheater is a semi-circular rim surrounding a delicate display of fins and spires called hoodoos.) Here’s a shot, later in the morning looking back across the Amphitheater toward Sunrise Point:

Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre from Inspiration Point, early morning.

Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre from Inspiration Point, early morning.

I didn’t wait around. I took off at a brisk pace, following the trail along the U-shaped rim, giving me a continuously changing view of the Amphitheater as the sun rose and my perspective changed.   The sandstone glowed yellow and then orange. Once I reached the other end of the cove-shaped Amphitheater, at Bryce Point, my goal was to descend a trail into the canyon, weave among the hoodoos and fins, and climb back up the Queens Garden trail to Sunrise Point, a route they call the Bryce Amphitheater traverse (4.7mi total).

Sadly, the trail was closed below Bryce Point, so I had to backtrack 2.2mi along the rim to Sunset Point and descend there instead. Grumbling about the extra time and distance on what was meant to be a pre-breakfast tour, the growing sunlight nonetheless cheered me and led to many more photographs as I traveled the rim backward.

Hiking through Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre often incudes short tunnels through the fins and hoodoos.

Hiking through Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre often incudes short tunnels through the fins and hoodoos.

By this time there were lots more people on the trail and I headed down through “Wall Street”, a popular route with tight switchbacks between high sandstone walls. The route took me through several narrow spots and a few tunnels in the fins, past a rocky outcrop some think looks like Queen Victoria, and back up toward the rim. I finished around 11am, as it was getting hot, and went to look for Pam and the kids to find out how they’d fared on the horse-back tour of the canyon. See photo slideshow.

On our way out of the park we stopped again at Inspiration Point, well-named for its stunning view of Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. Incredible place!

This marks the end of our Southwestern trip.  We drove back to Las Vegas, spent an uneventful evening there repacking, and left town before dawn the next day.  Can’t wait to return for more!

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About dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.
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