One of our favorite things to do is to hike. We spent most of last year and the beginning of this year in the East, so we hadn’t done a lot of real hiking recently! So heading to Utah was especially exciting. Our first stop was Bryce Canyon National Park.
One drive around Bryce will convince you. This is a hikers paradise! There are trails for everyone here. From the paved, ADA accessible path between Sunset and Sunrise Points, to the “Under the Rim Trail connecting all the way down to the town of Tropic, which almost certainly requires an overnight camp.
If you’re not interested in hiking, there are so many other things to enjoy at Bryce Canyon with or without kids.
The Rim Trail
Our first jaunt on the Rim Trail started at Fairyland Point and took us about 2/3 of the way to Sunrise Point. At that point, the boiling sun and elevation got to us and we had to turn back. We also realized that we were sorely lacking in the area of proper hiking shoes, which are a requirement here if you want to do anything resembling serious hiking. The views are amazing and because this was our first time out there, we were looking at everything – thankfully we didn’t have to worry about drop offs. There are certain areas that you have to be careful but for the most part, this is an easy hike. We even came across a herd of deer in the woods, which the kids were thrilled about. It was a good hike to get us started. There is a section where it inclines and you might find yourself huffing a little bit, it was good practice for what was to come. You can take your time with this hike and take it all in, the views are just memorizing.
Shopping for Hiking Boots
That first hike convinced us that we needed some proper shoes, so we headed out to shop. There is nothing around the town of Panguitch where we were staying, so we drove out to Cedar City. There are several stores to choose from. For those of you on a budget, we found some really good deals for the kids and Frank at Sportsmans Warehouse. The kids ended up getting the same shoes, color and all. The 7-year-old daughter was delighted about that, the 8-year-old son – not so much! He wanted the black shoes, but for an extra $30, I made a mom decision and decided they could have the same color shoes and deal with it. Their shoes were on sale and cost $ 40.
Frank found a really good pair of Merrells. They look like shoes but are extremely comfortable with great grips, these were also on sale for $ 69. Score! I was the only one who had a pair of hiking boots but unfortunately, they were left behind in Michigan. I could not find anything that was comfortable or on sale. We decided to leave there and headed to Famous Footwear.
I didn’t expect to find any hiking boots, but I figured I’d ask anyway. Thankfully I checked with the store manager who couldn’t have been more helpful. She brought me to an entire aisle of hiking boots and proceeded to pull out each hiking shoe – there was a LOT!!! I finally decided on a running shoe type of hiking shoe that was ridiculously comfortable. I have wide feet and I’ve broken my foot twice so it needs a little extra care and comfort. These new hiking boots make me glad that I lost my old boots, sssh don’t tell anyone.
Some people have a strong preference regarding which hike is their favorite. Frank’s favorite is the Queens Garden, the kids change their minds daily. I loved them all and found each one to be unique in its own way. Having said that I LOVED Fairyland Loop, it’s such a beautiful hike and because it was our first major hike, it holds a special place for me. There are a couple of ways to come at Fairyland, you can start at Fairyland Point, or at Sunrise Point. We started at Fairyland started the descent. If you have young ones (ours are 7 & 8), they will do just fine.
There are steep drop-offs but if you’re careful, you should be fine. There were areas where we were a little more careful because it was quite windy. Overall it was a phenomenal hike all around for everyone. There are some beautiful places to sit and enjoy lunch, we found with the kids that they like to take some breaks more often, so we did that. It still took us less than 3 hours. My favorite part about this hike was hiking down into the canyon. It’s pretty incredible to be down in the canyon walking around looking at all the beautiful hoo doo’s surrounding you.
However what goes down, must come back up again. The journey back up is quite strenuous, so we just took our time, stopped when we needed to and drank lots of water! We were using a regular backpack and carrying bottles of water, we quickly decided that was a pain, and so we switched to a hydration backpack. I’m so glad we did that, carrying bottles of water up and down was NOT fun. It was a hike but you feel so accomplished when it’s over.
We did not complete the loop which goes along the Rim Trail because we had hiked most of that earlier. We wandered around the Lodge, etc for a while and then caught the bus to the Fairyland Road and walked back up the parking area.
QUICK TIP: We visited Bryce Canyon during April before summer crowds arrived so it was nice and quiet still for us. Get out early before it gets too hot. You can park at Fairyland, but you need to get there early, there aren’t many spots available.
Queens Garden Trail/Navajo Loop
The Queens Garden Trail starts down by Sunrise Point. It is an out and back trail with the option of connecting to either the Peekaboo Loop or the Navaho Loop. We chose the Navaho Loop as it comes back up at Sunset Point right in front of Thor’s Hammer- one of the most famous hoodoo’s in the park. This trail is only 2.6 miles, but of course, the hike goes down into the valley and back up again, so it can sometimes feel like more like 5 miles lol.
The difference between Queens Garden and Fairyland is that with Queens Garden you are walking right in amongst the hoodoo’s and rock formations. You get to see them up close and they are breathtaking. If you can only do one hike – this is the one to do. It’s amazing and really enjoyable for everyone. Yes, the trek back up can be a bit of a challenge but if you take your time, and take some breaks, you will do just fine.
We parked our truck at Sunrise Point, but we were there at 7 am to start our hike. It is busy, and the spots will be taken early in the morning. You could also park your car at the Visitors Center or the Shuttle Station in Bryce City and take a bus from there. Early in the morning, the buses aren’t too packed, they do get busier as the day goes on obviously.
We like to get out early before it gets too hot and crowded, we also like to have our car because when we get back, it’s usually time for lunch! Having said that, if we were there during the busy season, we would probably park and bus.
QUICK TIP: Look out for the horse riders along the way, we were lucky enough to come across a whole group of people riding horses, it was really cool to watch.
This trail is not as popular as the others so it will be quieter, but if you have the time to take it, I highly recommend that you do. This is another favorite of mine. We were lucky enough to meet a group of 4 at the start and we kind of stayed connected throughout our time there. This kept the kids distracted because they were looking for them and trying to keep up the whole way. There are lots of ups and downs, you climb up near the rim and back down again several times. It took us about 3 hours to complete.
By this time, we had several hikes under our belts and we were used to moving. We parked at Bryce Point to begin this hike and returned there as well. There is a toilet on this hike, none of the others had one. I enjoyed this hike because there were a lot of twists and turns and new things to see. As soon as we got back, we enjoyed a long and well-earned picnic lunch at one of the tables at the General Store near Sunrise Point.
Quick Tip: We fed our kids’ trail mix with chocolate bits throughout the hike and fruit juice gummi bears on the way back up and they did great. On the next hike, we brought gummi’s for everyone and they worked great and kept us all moving.
We had an amazing time at Bryce Canyon National Park, we were lucky because it wasn’t too busy yet so we were able to enjoy each and every hike. We did the Fairyland Loop twice, as well as Queens Garden. We were staying 20 minutes away in Panguitch, so we visited Bryce Canyon at least three times per week. If you CAN spend some time at Bryce Canyon National Park, I highly recommend that you do, your kids will absolutely love the experience and will learn so much from your time here. This has been my favorite park so far in Utah.
Have you been to Bryce Canyon National Park? We’d love to hear your thoughts?