RYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Utah — When I was 13 years old, I traveled to the Western U.S. on a teen tour, which was like a traveling summer camp for teenagers. We hiked and camped through National Parks and visited major tourist attractions and cities throughout the West. When, during the tour, we hiked through Bryce Canyon National Park, I was amazed by the Canyon’s distinctive bright orange hoodoos: rock structures formed by erosion of the park’s sedimentary river and lake beds. I left feeling that Bryce was the strangest looking but most beautiful place I had ever visited.
When I return to Bryce again, I’m skeptical that the Park can live up to my teenage memories. But, when my friend Wini and I begin hiking the Park’s 23-mile Under-the-Rim Trail, it becomes obvious to me once again to me that Bryce is unique and gorgeous. Unfortunately, about halfway through our hike, we can’t find the river that we need to refill our water supply. Soon after, we mistakenly lose the easy-to-follow trail — I’m paying too much attention to the landscape and not enough to the trail — and we end up barely avoiding tumbling down the steep side of a scree-covered mountain. As we continue via a “shortcut” that I identify with GPS device, Wini and I fall multiple times, and I manage to scrape a bunch of skin off my arms. At one point, I even lose the GPS device. Wini begs that we turn around, and finally, I agree. When we eventually find the trail again, we’re out of water. We eat a dinner of trail mix and camp overnight near the trail. In the morning, we decide to abort our mission due to our lack of water, hike back to the Park road, and hitchhike back to my car.
Nevertheless, Bryce’s otherworldly scenery still managed to overshadow our disastrous experience — though I’m still embarrassed, considering how easy the Under-the-Rim-Trail is to hike. I plan to beat it someday soon. WB
How to Hike Bryce Canyon National Park’s Under-the-Rim Trail
- OVERVIEW: Bryce Canyon’s Under-the-Rim Trail is 23 miles, and it’s the longest backpacking trail in the park. The Trail takes backpackers through eight backcountry campsites, from Bryce Point Overlook at the north end of the Park to Rainbow Point in the south end of the Park. It’s the best way to enjoy the solitude and natural beauty of the entire Park.
- LOGISTICS: This hike can be done in two or three days, but permits must be obtained from the Visitor Center at $5 for up to 2 people; $10 for up to 6 people; and $15 for up to 15 people. There are only five water sources in the park — Yellow Creek, Sheep Creek, Iron Spring, Riggs Springs, and Yovimpa Spring — and not all sources reliably provide water; be sure to discuss the best places to get water with the park ranger before doing this hike. You’ll need to take the Park shuttle back to Bryce Point when you finish your hike, so find out the current shuttle schedule before departing.
- ROUTE: See Bryce Canyon’s backcountry brochure for a map and more information.