When hiking in Vancouver’s North Shore mountains, I’m used to starting on steep uphills and being surrounded by thick forest. I’m not complaining, but once in awhile it’s nice to do a hike that is completely different from what’s in my backyard—I found it on the Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. This 8 mile ( 12.9 km) trail starts at the canyon rim and descends into a wondrous, wide-open landscape of hoodoos, sinking ships, tower bridges, and Chinese walls.
Mike and I did several hikes in the park (all great) but Fairyland Loop was our favourite. The scenery is stunning, and what made this hike particularly appealing to us was its peacefulness. Perhaps we were lucky that we visited mid-week in November. During our 5ish hours of leisurely hiking/photo taking we met less than 10 people.
The loop can be accessed at Fairyland Point or Sunrise Point. We started at the latter and did the loop counterclockwise heading first to Tower Bridge. Some hiking books recommend going clockwise, but I don’t think it makes a big difference. Once we hiked back up to the rim at Fairyland Point (5.5 miles), it was a pleasant 2.5 mile undulating walk along the rim to our start at Sunrise Point.
The Bryce Canyon Visitor Guide rates this hike as strenuous. I’d call it moderate, but in hot weather and for people unaccustomed to longer hikes the rating should be heeded. The trail is well-marked and the footing is easy. There’s 1716 ft (523 m) of elevation change, which didn’t feel the least bit painful with all the superb scenery to distract us. Our hiking poles were over-kill, but several litres of water and some snacks were essential.
Soon after the descent from Sunrise Point, the trail passes along the foot of the Chinese Wall, a spectacular sandstone formation that is blindingly bright. A happy novelty for me was being able to see the trail meandering way off in the distance.
One of the star attraction along the loop is Tower Bridge, 1.5 miles from Sunrise Point. You can see it from the main trail but there’s a short side path that takes you to its base. Some folks come just to see Tower Bridge and then return the same way, but if you have the time I recommend doing the entire loop as the scenery just keeps getting better.
The grandest formation on the hike has to be Boat Mesa. The trail winds its way around this gigantic structure, sometimes close-up among the towering hoodoos at its base, and other times further away offering panoramic views.
My favourite formation along the trail is the Sinking Ship. Just like the Boat Mesa views, the Fairyland Loop has been beautifully routed to take advantage of multiple views of the Sinking Ship. The three photos below show different vantage points.
There are plenty of other amazing rock formations that let your imagination run wild on this…I’m trying to find another word for magical but it’s the right word…magical hike.
We almost didn’t do the Fairyland Loop thinking that it couldn’t get any better than the Queen’s Garden-Navajo-Peekaboo loop combo that we had hiked the previous day. Don’t get me wrong, these are stunning trails that should not be missed, but the Fairyland Loop affords a more peaceful opportunity to soak up the magic of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Next posts will move on to Zion National Park.