Bryce Canyon National Park

 

NAvajo Loop-Queens Garden Trail

 

            Bryce Canyon is a fascinating park and in many ways it is different from the other parks that we visited on this trip.  At Bryce when you enter the park and approach the scenic vista points you are on the rim of the canyon…you are looking down into the canyon.  In this regard it is quite unique, as a visitor can walk along the rim in many sections of the park or can take an eighteen mile drive along the rim, stopping at various overlook points and viewing the marvels of the sandstone formations below.

            In the main section of the park, there are points or places along the rim, where visitors can hike down into the canyon and walk among the “hoodoos”.  The hoodoos are formations, primarily composed of Estrada sandstone, that are fins, pins or needles.  The geology of the park is the result of millions of years of sand compression and then subsequent erosion from air, weather and water.   The hoodoos are always changing and with time…much time, one day they will no longer be there.

           The trail that Lila and I usually hike is the Navajo Loop Trail to Queens Garden Trail combination which begins at Sunset point on the rim and ends at Sunrise point on the rim.   It does not have to be taken that way, but we have found it easier to traverse in this direction. 

           The Navajo loop is actually a loop that takes you down into the canyon on one trail and immediately comes back up to the same point on the rim with another trail…hence a loop.   But not this time as one of the loop trails actually collapsed recently during a heavy rainstorm and it was being rebuilt while we were there.   But this was not a problem for us as we only needed one way down since we were continuing onto the Queens Garden trail back to Sunrise point.  

           This combination trail is three miles long and drops into the canyon over 580 feet.   The Navajo Loop Trail took us down into the canyon through a series of maybe twenty switchbacks called Wall Street that are each quite steep and then once in the canyon, the trail is relatively level, until, of course, it starts rising up to Sunrise point on the rim.  

             The views of the hoodoo formations are absolutely just incredible...so different from formations in other parks or even other places in the world.  The colors are vivid, exciting and even mysterious….since they reflect the many layers of sandstone that have been compressed by time and the forces of nature.

            We begin our trek down the switchbacks very carefully…people are coming up as we and others descend to the canyon below.  The sun soon turns to shade as we walk into the shadows of the sandstone walls that line the switchbacks, which converge as we get lower into the canyon.  At the base of the switchbacks the trails straightens out as it leads us to the canyon floor.  

            Once through to the canyon floor we begin to see the panorama of the hoodoos and the vegetation that is part of Bryce Canyon.  The Navajo Loop trail continues deeper into the canyon and every few feet present another photographic opportunity.  It is hard to grasp the enormity of the scope of the sandstone formations here…each is different, each more exotic than the next and the next and the next. 

           After about a mile we reach the junction of the Navajo Loop trail with the Queens Garden trail.  This portion of the trail becomes ever more interesting as it takes us deeper into the canyon among the hoodoos.  The trail snakes up and down the canyon floor and through doorways cut into the hoodoo formations that allow us to see these phenomenal panoramas.

            We stop incessantly to take just another picture so that in some way we may preserve what we are seeing.    Digital photography enables us to shoot picture after picture without having to worry about the cost of film and gives us the opportunity to immediately see the beauty we are trying to capture.   It works…we look in every direction and we are amazed. 

            After awhile the trail starts to rise…slowly at first, but then at an increasing rate as we realize that we are heading to Sunrise point on the rim trail.   As we rise through the hoodoo formations, we are walking slower and breathing harder.   The slope increases and we continue to think we should be at the top, but as we look up to the rim it is still quite a distance away. 

       But we persevere, and push on stopping to take a drink, to rest, to take another picture and eventually Sunrise point gets closer and the people on the rim get bigger.  We realize that we are almost at the rim and our trek through the hoodoos is coming to end and we will have yet to hike along the rim for one-half mile until we return back to Sunset point.     

            The views that we see on our hike will change ever so slowly as the wearing away of the hoodoos will continue, until one day just sand will remain where those hoodoos endured.