Wind, water and time have eroded Bryce Canyon National Park's sandstone cliffs into otherworldly characters plucked from the unconscious of a mad Viking. Rows of humanoid pillars crosshatched by rock strata look almost intentional but perfectly surreal. So silent, eerie and beautiful. So improbable it has to be true. Read more...
Your first view of the park is a dramatic unveiling. Wind through stands of pine trees until they break at the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park, revealing a panorama of goblins, towers and fins of a color you can’t quite name. (What’s the Pantone number for “Leif Erikson’s Beard”?) The canyon’s epic comes alive as you move through the 37-mile circuit — especially as the sun rises and sets.
You can learn a lot about yourself looking into Bryce Amphitheater. Do you see a purgatorial cavern crawling with demons? …beatific angels lining the stadium of heaven? …the Claron Formation’s variously dense, variously iron-rich layers of mud-, silt- and limestone, cut up by water and frost in an 800-foot cross section of the Paunsaugunt Plateau that lays bare the geologic record since the last dinosaurs bought the farm? See what you want and interpret accordingly. (It’s a shame Sigmund Freud never hiked the Fairyland Loop.)
Speaking of frost, don’t pack for Zion when you’re going to Bryce, which is a full 18˚F cooler. The rim reaches 9,100 feet above sea level, so July peaks around 80˚F and winter snow sticks around until April. (Yeah, snow. Lots of it. Brian Head Ski Resort is just up the road. Enjoy the desert paradox.) It’s a year-round national park: comfortable all summer and snowy hoodoos make for gorgeous cross-country skiing winter to spring.
Bike it, hike it, snowshoe or ride a horse. If you don’t want to park, hop on the shuttle and people-watch between viewpoints. Take a cameraful of pictures no one will understand and let the giant yellow-pink monsters haunt your dreams.