Under The Rim (Bryce Canyon)
Taking up a tiny section of the Colorado Plateau in the Four Corners Region, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the exceptional national parks in southwestern Utah. A series of amphitheaters and canyons stretch out along the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, easily seen from a dozen or more overlooks along the 18 mile Rim Drive. From these vantage points park visitors can easily appreciate this fairyland of barren desertland and forests of evergreens. The features that stand out the most are countless rows of eerie hoodoos, rock pillars, tall ridges (called fins), and highly eroded spires. All that witness these majestic mountainsides for the first time are captured under a never ending spell; a remarkable experience of beauty never to be forgotten.
Carved by the Paria River and its many tributaries beginning millions of years ago, this colorful parkland was first preserved by a proclamation by President Warren G. Harding in 1923. Legislation established the land as a national park, and was finally named Bryce Canyon in 1928. Ebenezer Bryce, the park's namesake, moved into the Paria Valley in 1875 to harvest timber. Local residents casually referred to the canyon behind his home, Bryce Canyon. Even though the park doesn't actually center around the canyon per se, the Bryce Canyon name was extended to the entire park.
While the beauty of Bryce Canyon Park can be enjoyed throughout the Rim Drive, many of the park's visitors drop below the rim and walk among this fairyland of haunting rock statues. Starting before the park's visitor center at Fairyland Point (which many park visitors miss) the Rim Trail follows the park road to Bryce Point. From there, the Under the Rim Trail continues along the Pink Cliffs to the end of the park at Yovimpa Point. Elevations of the park range from 6000 to 9100 feet and may test your physical condition. As the intriguing pathway calls from below, remember the return trip may be quite demanding. At Sunrise Point, the Queen's Garden Trail is a short hike down to Bryce Creek, a good test to see if your aspirations match your conditioning. Here, it's easy to join up with many of the interconnecting trails. Some 50 miles of trails weave in and out of this geological wonderland. At Bryce Point, the two mile Hat Shop Trail passes beneath top hats and Easter bonnets.
During the 1870s, when Native Paiutes lived throughout the region, explorers Captain Clarence E. Dutton and John Wesley Powell gave many of the park's features names. Other obvious Indian names were derived from the Paiute language. While many of these park features are best experienced on foot, for those seeking a tamer park experience park rangers offer many interpretive programs. Detailed geology talks, hiking tips, safety concerns and overnight backpacking trip permits are also available at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.
Photographs by Rob Jones
Rob's Bicycling Circle Trip Report