Set in the heart of Utah’s red-rock country, Bryce Canyon National Park stands out as one of the state’s “Mighty Five” national parks, known for its thousands of whimsical hoodoos that create a landscape unlike any other. In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey to discover the magic of Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, including what they are, how they’re formed, and the best ways to experience them during your visit.
What are Hoodoos?
The word “hoodoo” itself means to bewitch, and that’s what Bryce Canyon’s rock formations surely do. Hoodoos are tall, slender rock spires that stand like sentinels in Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, showcasing vibrant red, orange, and white layers. These striking pinnacles are uniquely shaped; some even resemble people, animals, or other forms. So, as you gaze upon this mesmerizing collection of hoodoos, let your imagination roam free!
How are Hoodoos Formed?
The creation of hoodoos is a testament to nature’s artistry, sculpted over millions of years using tools like wind, water, and ice. Over time, these layers undergo the forces of frost wedging and erosion. Frost wedging occurs when water seeps into cracks in the rock and expands as it freezes, slowly breaking the rock apart. Erosion, on the other hand, sculpts the rocks into fantastical shapes, exposing the colorful layers beneath. The result is the iconic Bryce Canyon hoodoos.
Where to See Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon is home to a stunning array of 12 hoodoo-filled amphitheaters spread throughout the park, with Bryce Canyon Amphitheater being the most popular area. The best way to see hoodoos is by taking a scenic drive or setting out on a hiking adventure. Here’s where to find the most breathtaking scenery and hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park:
Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive on Highway 12
Explore the majestic scenery of Bryce Canyon National Park along the scenic drive. Set out on Utah’s All-American Road, Highway 12, where you can access the park’s major overlooks by taking short walks from your car to the paved overlooks, no hiking required. The first 3 miles reveal the breathtaking Bryce Amphitheater as you adventure along this route. Continue for the next 15 miles, known as the Southern Scenic Drive, and you’ll encounter nine additional scenic overlooks that showcase the lesser-seen yet equally captivating beauty of Bryce Canyon. Be sure to stop at viewpoints like Bryce, Inspiration, Sunset, and Sunrise Points, where the vistas are incredible.
During the spring and summer months, a complimentary shuttle service operates within the park, bringing visitors to the four most iconic viewpoints of Bryce Canyon National Park and other areas of interest in the park. The route takes about 50 minutes, not including stops at facilities and overlooks, and ensures a stress-free way to explore the natural wonders of Bryce Canyon.
Best Bryce Canyon Hoodoo Hikes
The park shuttle is the perfect transportation option for hikers. It provides convenient access to trailheads for almost all of the park’s many day hikes and is especially suited to scenic one-way hikes along the Bryce Amphitheater Rim Trail. Using the shuttle, you can easily get off at one viewpoint to begin a one-way walk along the Rim Trail to the next view while enjoying all the scenery in between.
Distance: 5.5 miles one-way
The Rim Trail stretches from its beginning in the south at Bryce Point to Fairyland Point. It follows the edge of the Bryce Amphitheater area and connects to the park’s most popular viewpoints: Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. The Rim Trail is a relatively easy hike since most hikers do shorter treks along this route, not the entire trail, and it offers spectacular views of the park’s most popular area.
Sunrise Point to Sunset Point Trail
Distance: 1.1 miles round trip
The Sunrise Point to Sunset Point Trail is a beloved segment of the Rim Trail, and it’s easy to see why. Plan your hike to catch the sunset at Sunset Point, where you can witness the fading light dance on a city of hoodoos below. If you’re traveling with your four-legged companion, this paved trail is an excellent choice, as it’s dog-friendly and offers expansive views of the amphitheater. This relatively easy hike provides spectacular vistas and the opportunity to create lasting memories.
Navajo Loop Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Embark on the iconic Navajo Loop Trail, covering a distance of 1.3 miles, which commences and concludes at Sunset Point. As you traverse its winding switchbacks, you’ll find yourself immersed in a mesmerizing maze of hoodoos, including notable formations like Wall Street, Twin Bridges, and the most famous of them all, Thor’s Hammer. This trail offers a unique perspective as it dips below the amphitheater’s rim, with vibrant limestone walls enclosing you. Along the way, you’ll be treated to awe-inspiring views of the towering Douglas-fir trees. Combine this hike with the Queen’s Garden Trail for the most popular Bryce Canyon hike, and it is the perfect choice for first-time visitors.
Queen’s Garden Trail
Distance: 0.9 miles one-way
If you’ve only got one day in Bryce Canyon, ensure Queen’s Garden is on your itinerary. This short trail is the least difficult, with a gentle descent from the rim into the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. As you embark on this out-and-back trail, you’ll be treated to the sight of the Queen Victoria hoodoo at the end of a brief spur trail, offering a splendid opportunity to immerse yourself in the splendor of hiking amongst the hoodoos. For an even grander adventure, this trail is often combined with the Navajo Loop, resulting in a 2.9-mile round-trip hike that allows you to descend at Sunrise Point and ascend at Sunset Point, ensuring a memorable Bryce Canyon experience.
Fairyland Loop Trail
Distance: 8 miles round trip
This moderately challenging route is one of the best places to witness the enchanting hoodoos, thanks to its unique vantage points. As you hike, you’ll find yourself first walking along the plateau rim near Boat Mesa while enjoying breathtaking vistas. The trail then leads you into the heart of the canyon, where the distinct and mesmerizing hoodoos of the Bryce Amphitheater surround you. You can kick off your journey at either Fairyland Point or the rim trail north of Sunrise Point, specifically at the Tower Bridge trailhead. There’s no shuttle service at Fairyland Point, so you’ll need to hike to your chosen starting point or park your car at the parking area at Fairyland Point.
Horseback Ride Through Hoodoos
Give horseback riding a try for one of the most unique ways to explore Bryce Canyon. You’ll get an up-close look at otherworldly rock formations as you weave through the Bryce Canyon hoodoos. From Sunrise Point, you will descend into the most famous point of the canyon, the Bryce Amphitheater. Here, you will see panoramic views of the red and orange landscape peppered with Ponderosa pines and fir-spruce forests. During the 2- or 3-hour tour, depending on which one you choose, local cowboys will share the history, geology, and stories about the land while you’re in the heart of it.
Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon
Under Canvas Bryce Canyon–located just 15 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park—offers upscale accommodations, 700 acres of high-alpine juniper forest, and easy access to the area’s famed crimson-colored hoodoos. With average temperatures in the 70s and 80s, Under Canvas Bryce Canyon is the perfect place to cool off and unwind after a day of Utah adventures. Kick back and relax with upscale amenities, including ensuite bathrooms in every tent, king-size beds with luxe linens, outdoor dining, complimentary camp programming, and more. Our camp is open from May through the end of September, so you have plenty of time to plan your visit and pack what you need to experience the magic of the Bryce Canyon hoodoos.