Sinking Ships and Tower Bridges on Fairyland Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon


The Chinese Wall on Fairyland Loop, Bryce Canyon—C.Helbig

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.


Trailhead  at Sunrise Point—C. Helbig

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.


Along the Chinese Wall, Fairyland Loop Trail—C.Helbig

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.


Fairyland Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon—C.Helbig


The Tower Bridge, Fairyland Loop Trail—C.Helbig

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.


Boat Mesa, Fairyland Loop Trail—C.Helbig

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.


Admiring Boat Mesa along Fairyland Loop—C.Helbig


The trail heads through a forest of hoodoos below Boat Mesa—C.Helbig

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.


Admiring close-up view of  Sinking Ship along Fairyland Loop


Gorgeous layers of colour with Sinking Ship in the distance—C.Helbig


Hoodoo-filled canyon and Sinking Ship from rim at Fairyland Point—C.Helbig

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.


Among the hoodoos with precariously balanced rock tops


I call this one The Meerkats, but it probably has another name—C.Helbig

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.



Categories: Activities, Hiking, Places, United States | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “Sinking Ships and Tower Bridges on Fairyland Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon

  1. A nice hike – and helpful post 🙂 I did the Fairyland Loop a couple of months ago – in mid June – and like you only saw about 10 people on the trail. Would have loved to do outside peak season, but I had a work trip to the US…,

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a funny coincidence that I should get your comment now. I was just talking to friends yesterday about US national parks and I mentioned that Bryce remains my favourite for wow and unique scenery. It’s a very special place. I’d like to go again in winter when there is a dusting of snow.


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  3. Mike Hohmann

    Amazingly beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so disappointed this trail was closed when we went–it looks amazing! Bryce is among my all-time faves; we loved the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop, too. Going to try to see if I can’t squeeze in a half day here for this hike, even if it involves some very late night driving…sleep is overrated, right? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Gorgeous photos with spectacular views.😍 I have to agree with your assessment of the meerkat- looking formation.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow absolutely stunning!!! Mind blowing….:)
    Your photographs are incredible. I looked a few times …in absolute awe of such beauty. Boat mesa? WOW!!

    (They remind me somehow of the drip castles we used to make on the beach as kids… )


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Peta. This was our third visit to Bryce Canyon and it continues to completely awe us. You are right about the similarity to the drip sand castles (I used to love making those). One fellow who we met along the trail commented that Antonio Gaudi could have got his inspiration for the Sagrada Familia at Bryce Canyon. Next time I want to see it with a snow covering.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, your pictures make a pretty convincing statement to go to Bryce and do this loop! Incredible pictures. I hope to make it out there in the off-season too – it’s great that you didn’t have too many crowds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ashley. I know that Bryce gets very busy. Even in November the main trails were well-used. It’s a special place and we loved that Fairyland Loop seemed to be off the radar for most visitors.


  9. Stunning photos, Caroline! I just showed this to Tom and convinced him to go when we get back to Utah. We don’t spend much time in the national parks because we can’t bring Abby but this hike looks like we need to make an exception!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Meghan.You guys have so many great options inside and outside the national parks; I’m quite envious. We loved this hike. It was pretty, and grand, and gentle, and whimsical all at the same time. It doesn’t provide as much of the being in the middle of the hoodoos as you get in the main Bryce Amphitheatre, but we liked the vast, wide-open views. I think the relative lack of people on the trail versus the more popular ones also contributed a lot to our enjoyment. I’m sure it would be spectacular right now and I’d love to see it with snow. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do love those wide open spaces. That and the lack of people had me hooked while reading and looking at your photos. I don’t know when we’ll get there but we don’t return to Utah until the last days of February so I doubt I’ll see it in snow!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Such beautiful surroundings and amazing pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

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