Bryce Canyon National Park

Written by on May 23, 2015 in UT Outdoor Adventures - Comments Off on Bryce Canyon National Park

Hoodoo! Sound spooky? In truth, a hoodoo can have a spooky, eerie, yet whimsical, quality. What is a hoodoo? Hoodoo is the geologic term for the pillars of eroded rock that make Bryce Canyon National Park such a special place. Paiute history says the hoodoos are the Legend People who Coyote turned to stone for misbehaving. You can see them in that place now — some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding onto others. You can see their faces with paint on, just as they were before they became rocks. Oddly, there’s even a row of white Buddha-looking hoodoos, complete with plump bellies.

The red rock hoodoos and horseshoe-shaped canyons offers the visitor a unique panorama of the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. The hoodoos aren’t just red. They range in color from red to pink, orange to salmon, lavender to white. And they range in size from the height of an average human to soaring spires as tall as 10-story buildings. The views are nothing short of stunning at any time of day, but its fun to watch the light and shadows change the look of the rock walls throughout the day.

Bryce has its origin 50 to 60 million years ago in a series of ancient freshwater lakes. Sediment, carried from higher ground by streams and rivers, flowed into the lakes. The different types of sediments created different layers, in all different colors. Eventually, once the lakes had dried, the layers were compacted down and then uplifted to form the Paunsaugunt Plateau.

Water, wind and weather carved the rest of the strange features in Bryce Canyon. It isn’t a real canyon because it wasn’t carved by a river or stream, however, pounding Monsoon storms and winter snow melt create temporary gullies and washes in the softer areas, carrying away weak rock and leaving behind fins of harder stone. Snow and ice work into the cracks of those fins at least 200 days each year. Each day the ice warms and expand and wedges the stones apart — a process called ice-wedging. The process wears away even more stone, leaving free-standing pinnacles. Because the layers in the pinnacles are of different hardness, they wear away at different rates, causing the strange. fanciful, and sometimes grotesque shapes in Bryce Canyon. Features like Queen’s Garden, Indian Princess, Wall of Windows, Fairyland Point, Peak-a-Boo Loop, Hat Shop, Thor’s Hammer, the Alligator and Silent City give testament to the strange and wonderful shapes people see in the rocks. Bryce Canyon in winter is a spectacle of white snow on pale colored carved rock set against a deep blue sky.

Unfortunately the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon won’t last forever. The same weathering processes that creates hoodoos, is just as intent on destroying them. Bryce is wearing away at a rate of 2-4 feet every 100 years. The canyon is eroding west and in about 3 million years, will merge with the East Fork of the Sevier River. Once the river begins to flow through the canyon, the entire character of Bryce will change, taking on the more familiar water worn patterns of other true canyons.

A great way to see the park is to take the Scenic Drive, which ends at Yovimpa Point. Along the way, you’ll be able to stop at numerous pullouts to take pictures or short hikes. There are plenty of longer trails in the park (like the fantastic Rim Trial) if you prefer to take in the natural beauty on foot. Summer temperatures can climb close to 100 degrees, so be sure to carry plenty of water with you if you decide to hike the trails.

You can also take a wrangler-guided horseback or muleback ride on a 2- or 4-hour trip into the canyon. In winter, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski the plateau top.

Bryce Canyon National Park has two campgrounds located in close proximity to the Visitor Center. Ruby Inn, just outside the park entrance is a terrific place to stay. The nearby towns of Panguitch and Tropic, Utah, offer lodging, dining and shopping opportunities.

Other attractions in the area include:
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Snow Canyon State Park
Zion National Park
Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Bryce Canyon National Park
PO Box 640201
Bryce Canyon UT 84764-0201
Phone: 435-834-5322

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