Above the Rim, Below the Rim
[Bryce Canyon National Park, UT]
Sunrise over Bryce Amphitheater is a quintessential Bryce Canyon National Park experience. Sunrise was at 7 am today, which meant another 5 am-ish wake-up for us. The clouds that had sabotaged Chris’s night shots the night before now provided for an absolutely spectacular sunrise. In some ways, a cloudless sky would have been better because the morning sun light would have hit the hoodoos directly, thus providing an ever-changing color extravaganza for us to enjoy. However, the storm clouds were super nice too. We got to see all kinds of crazy reflections in the clouds, and the light changed from one minute to the next.
Once it was already bright, we set out to cover the bottom 1/3rd of the Rim Trail. This 5.5-mile trail hugs the rim of Bryce (hence the name), starting at Bryce Point where we saw the sunset and running almost to the northern boundary of the park. We didn’t have time to cover the entire 5.5. miles so we decided to do the portion that took us to Sunrise Point, where we planned on picking up the most popular trail in Bryce, the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop combination.
The Rim trail was breathtaking. It was aptly named, as we were pretty much on the edge of the rim the entire time. Looking ahead was especially harrowing, as we could see the steep drop offs that were just steps off the trail. This is probably where we both took them most pictures, as every few steps we had a different angle at the gazillion hoodoos and canyons below. We saw many erosion-carved arches and windows, tons of oddly shaped hoodoos that seemed to defy gravity, ridges and canyons and even a trail that we suspected was our trail’s opposite, the Under-the-Rim trail.
On many occasions we also saw trees that were literally hanging on to the edge, with most of their roots already having lost footing and just hanging in the air.
One thing we didn’t see over this almost 2-mile stretch? People! Once we left the overlook at Bryce Canyon, we didn’t see any other hikers on the trail until we got to the next scenic overlook. We were amazed that nobody else ventured out on this beautiful section of Bryce, especially since the Rim trail is super easy – it actually starts at a higher elevation than it ends, making for a very gentle descend all the way. But we didn’t mind. At one point it was so quiet around us that Chris belched out a startling “Hello”, which eerily echoed over and over again around us.
Once we got on the Queens Garden/Navajo loop combination trail, we finally saw lots more people. This trail allowed us to descend down into the canyon floor and marvel at all the hoodoos from below.
We passed what looked like a mini-version of a landmark hoodoo, Thor’s hammer, and we passed through several arches carved out in the limestone.
Once on the canyon floor, we walked past the now dry Bryce creek, and got on the Navajo trail before ascending the steepest section of it, Wall Street. We couldn’t believe the size of Wall Street. We felt like we were in a narrow canyon, with hundreds of feet of rock towering on both sides of us. The sky was nothing but a little blue sliver right above us, and the trail quickly vanished in favor of man-made steps and switchbacks – that’s how steep the ascent was. This and the rim trail were definitely the highlight of our hiking today at Bryce.
Before we topped out on the rim, we took a quick detour towards the actual Thor’s Hammer, then took a few parting shots of the hoodoos below us.
We both felt that we’d seen a truly unique place, unlike anything else in the world, and we were happy that our hikes gave us such a close and personal look at this magnificent place. Ominous clouds sent us off on our shuttle ride back to the car, and before long the sun that lit the tops of Wall Street for us just 30 min before was now replaced with pretty steady rain. We were so lucky to miss it!
In the afternoon, it was time to head back to Zion (about 2 hours away) for 3 days worth of amazing hikes and adventures through canyons. Until then!