One of the cool things about Bryce Canyon is that most of the best sights in the park can be seen from the scenic drive and require very little effort to see. There are also quite a few really easy hikes that lead to some awesome scenery, making this park very accessible for the less physically fit. Obviously this excludes any hikes into the actual canyon, but there are just as many cool things to see at the top.
The scenic drive is an inconvenient straight road from the park entrance to Rainbow Point at the opposite end of the park. From this road, you can access almost every hiking trail in Bryce Canyon. We decided to tackle the road by driving to the end of it at Rainbow Point, only stopping for any scenic viewpoints we passed that were on the right side of the road.
Once at Rainbow Point parking area, there are two scenic viewpoints and an easy hiking trail. The Bristlecone Loop trail is 1-mile roundtrip, and very easy, but offers some incredible views…
It was horribly cold and windy at Rainbow Point. Thank goodness we had extra jackets and blankets in the car!!
After taking lots of pictures at the viewpoint, we decided to brave the cold and do the Bristlecone Loop trail.
The skies threatened rain, which normally isn’t a big deal to us, but Bryce Canyon is known for getting a lot of thunderstorms and lightning. There is evidence of lightning strikes all over this trail, and warning signs posted everywhere warning visitors to get indoors if there is a storm.
In fact a great deal of the park feels like it is trying to kill you, with lightning warnings, rock slide warnings, trails closed due to bear activity, dangerous cliffs… I guess Bryce Canyon isn’t for the faint of heart!
After finishing the Bristlecone Loop trail, we started our return journey along the scenic drive, this time stopping at all the viewpoints on the other side of the road.
One of the highlights is this natural bridge. Definitely worth stopping a few minutes at this one!
So this next hike isn’t part of the scenic drive, but is kind of an odd hike and I couldn’t figure out where to include it in my Bryce Canyon posts, so I’m just gonna leave it here. To get to the Mossy Cave trail, you actually have to exit the park, drive for quite awhile, and then reenter the park. It is a bit of a drive to get there, but definitely worth the time! After exiting the park, you will drive through Old Bryce Town (which is also a fun little stop if you have some time to spare) then continue down the highway until you see the Mossy Cave parking area. Mossy Cave is an easy, 0.8-mile trail that leads to a waterfall and (surprise!) a mossy cave, passing alongside a stream, forests, and towering rock formations.
Once you reach the end of the trail, it branches off in multiple directions. One way leads to the base of the waterfall, another to the top of the waterfall, and yet another to the mossy cave. They are all quick trips, and I recommend doing all three.
Top of the waterfall! Use caution getting to this part. Some of the trail had collapsed, but it was still easy enough to get around. Use your best judgment.
And then the base of the waterfall! It was a lot bigger than it looks in this picture…I’m actually standing pretty far away from the falls.
I absolutely love trails like the Mossy Cave trail, where you get to see a wide variety of sights all in the same hike.
These two trails, the Bristlecone Loop and Mossy Cave trails, paired with sightseeing along the scenic drive are a great way to experience the park if you are not up for the physical challenge of trekking into the canyon. Awesome sights at a fraction of the effort.