Trying to figure out my favorite hiking trail at Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah, was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. This may be due to the fact that Bryce Canyon is one of my favorite National Parks in the entire United States, so I enjoyed all the trails. So fortunately, my favorite trail happens to be a combination of two, the Navajo and Queens Garden Trails.
This combination of trails provides a grand tour of the main Bryce Canyon amphitheater, starting at Sunrise Point and ending at Sunset Point. There is virtually no elevation difference between these Points (Sunrise Pt elevation 8015ft, Sunset Pt elevation 8000ft) so your choice of trailhead will have no effect on the difficulty of the hike. However, you must be sure to wear very comfortable hiking boots because there is a 550 ft descent, followed by a similar climb out. Also the distance between Sunrise and Sunset Points is approximately 1 mile along a paved portion of the Rim Trail which runs (obviously) along the rim of the amphitheater, which affords some spectacular views of where youre going, or have already been.
As beautiful as the scenery is along the Queens Garden/Navajo Trail(s), it will be even more spectacular if you start at the right trailhead at the right time. Without a doubt, the best time, and place, to start is sunrise at Sunrise Point. Be sure to arrive at least 20 minutes before sunrise (believe me there are going to be plenty of others arriving 15 minutes early to try to get a good view too) so you can get an unimpeded view as the first rays of the morning sun floods the amphitheater in brilliant yellow, pink and orange sunlight. In those first moments of daylight the naturally colorful strata of rocks will appear to shift hues right in front of your eyes.
Once youve soaked up the mornings first rays, and as most everyone else heads back for breakfast (or possibly even back to sleep), since youve come prepared wearing your comfortable hiking boots, you can start your journey into some of the most spectacular geology in North America.
As you descend into the main amphitheater you will quickly encounter the unusual geologic formations which are so prevalent in Bryce Canyon; the hoodoos. Remember to keep your trail map handy to insure that you dont miss any of the most spectacular, and well known, rock formations in the canyon. The most notable youll encounter (starting from Sunrise Point) are Queen Victoria, Two Bridges, Thors Hammer and Wall Street. I could write pages describing each formation, but none of it would do justice to the awe inspiring beauty that you simply have to see for yourself. Once you hike this trail, youll understand why it is my favorite in Bryce Canyon.