Discover the incredible highlights, history, geology & nature of Bryce Canyon National Park with this entertaining, educational, point-by-point Waypoint Tour - your personal tour guide for Bryce Canyon travel adventure.
Bryce Canyon National Park Tour
1 Bryce Canyon
2 Bryce Point
3 Visitor Center
4 Sunrise Point
5 Sunset Point
6 Queens Garden & Navajo Loop Trails
7 Bryce Canyon Lodge
8 Inspiration Point
9 Rainbow & Yovimpa Points
10 Black Birch & Ponderosa Canyons
11 Agua Canyon
12 Natural Bridge
13 Farview Point
14 Swamp Canyon
15 Paria View
16 Fairyland Point
17 Mossy Cave Trail
What does a Mormon shipwright have in common with a wildlife menagerie nestled among enthralling geology adorned with a star encrusted night sky? Answer: Bryce and the five years he was here. Welcome to Bryce Canyon National Park, named after shipwright Ebenezer Bryce. From the flame-colored spires beneath the rim, to the sparkling diamonds in the night sky, we hope you enjoy the magical beauty of Bryce Canyon.
Ebenezer Bryce was born in Dunblane, Scotland in 1830. As a shipwright’s apprentice, he learned carpentry, the trade that would become his life. Bryce converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and immigrated to the United States at the age of 17. Upon arriving in Utah, Bryce wed Mary Parker, and at the direction of the Mormon Church, the couple became serial homesteaders, going wherever the skills of a carpenter were most needed. They also managed to raise 12 children along the way! It was between 1875 and 1880 that the Bryces lived in the lower canyon. By logging the flanks and irrigating the floor of the canyon that his neighbors christened with his name, Ebenezer supplied the fledging community with wood and water. It’s unclear to what extent Bryce appreciated the world wonder that would immortalize his name. His only enduring quote about this rock labyrinth expresses more pragmatism than awe: “It’s a hell of place to lose a cow.”
The beauty of Bryce Canyon was not lost upon J.W. Humphrey. Humphrey was the Forest Supervisor of lands that would eventually be united as the Dixie National Forest. Starting in 1916, he lobbied aggressively, sometimes even under an assumed name, to have the most scenic portion of his National Forest bestowed with more protection than his agency could offer.
Step one occurred in 1923 when Bryce Canyon National Monument was established under the administration of the U. S. Forest Service. The following year saw it renamed as Utah National Park and transferred to the National Park Service. In 1928, a significant boundary expansion restored the name to Bryce Canyon National Park.
The primary reason for establishing the park was to protect and better understand the bizarre and beautiful geologic spires that would eventually be named “hoodoos”, from the verb “hoodoo” meaning “to cast a spell”. Later, as over-grazing, predator extermination, and pest poisoning took their toll on the surrounding region, Bryce also became a small but critical refuge for scores of animal species, including everything from the elusive mountain lion, to the highly endangered Utah prairie dog. Now, as the new and underestimated threat of light pollution spreads globally, Bryce Canyon’s park rangers use this last small sanctuary of natural darkness as a platform from which to champion the fragile beauty of the night sky.
Indeed, where Ebenezer Bryce was worried about losing his cows among the hoodoos, many now come to Bryce with the intent of getting a little lost themselves in its beauty. As Park Ranger Kevin Poe puts it, “There’s no question that the rocks are enchanting. But it’s also a hell of place to lose yourself… among the stars.”
Mossy Cave Trail
Water Canyon, also known for the half-mile long Mossy Cave Trail, is in the northern portion of Bryce Canyon off of Highway 12. In the 1880’s, Mormon pioneers used this canyon, in conjunction with a 10-mile long canal dug with hand tools, to divert water from the East Fork of the Sevier River across the plateau, through the divide, and eventually to what would become their new town of Tropic. Only during the drought of 2002 did the Tropic Ditch run dry.
After crossing the second footbridge, the trail forks. To the left is a short but steep climb to a shady overhang that’s carpeted with moss during the summer, but choked with huge columns of ice in winter. The right hand trail dead ends overlooking a small waterfall. From this vantage point, you might realize just how wonderfully unique Bryce Canyon National Park really is.
In the formation at the top of the hill across from the waterfall, notice how the some of the rock layers have eroded more readily than others. Dolomite, which has more magnesium than calcium, is more resistant to erosion than limestone and forms a “cap rock” for many of the unique formations seen in Bryce and even forms the lip of the waterfall seen below. But why are there fewer hoodoos in this section of the park? Why is this canyon more V-shaped? Why is there so much more vegetation?
The answer is that, unlike the other “canyons” in Bryce, this one has become a REAL canyon. No longer is frost-wedging the main erosive force. Like Zion Canyon, like the Grand Canyon, like and other canyons a million times over, Water Canyon is now being carved by flowing water. What a difference a little flowing water can make.
On the other hand, what a wonderfully unique landscape the lack of flowing water can make. By now you’ve had the opportunity to lose yourself for a while in the magic of Bryce Canyon National Park. What have you found? What images and experiences will you carry forward? Was it that sunrise from Bryce Point where the hoodoos burned with ruddy light as if aflame? Was it the lucky sighting of a mountain lion track that confirmed for you that truly wild places still exist? Was it the realization that no inheritance of diamonds could outshine the beauty of bequeathing your great-grandchildren with at least one place where they can always treasure a pristine starry sky? To many, Bryce has come to mean “magical beauty”. What would Ebenezer, and his cows, have thought about that?