The area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1875 and was known to have described the canyon as "a hell of a place to lose a cow". President Warren G. Harding proclaimed Bryce Canyon a national monument on June 8, 1923. On June 7, 1924, Congress passed a bill to establish Utah National Park, when all land within the national monument would become the property of the United States. The land was acquired and the name was restored to Bryce Canyon. On February 25, 1928, Bryce Canyon officially became a national park.
Bryce Canyon consists of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock of the Claron Formation into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called "hoodoos." The varied colors of the rocks and rock formations contribute to the spectacular views.
Bryce lies at a much higher elevation than nearby [wiki=d3ca51346a0cdb968fbf185465cd45f2]Zion National Park[/wiki] and the [wiki=9167398895f4d220f99826c9f3b1c5cc]Grand Canyon[/wiki], varying from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,440 to 2,740 m), whereas the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000 feet (2130 m) above Sea Level. Bryce Canyon National Park therefore has a substantially different ecology and climate, offering a contrast for visitors to the south west (who often visit all three parks in a single vacation).
Bryce Canyon is home to 59 species of mammals including mule deer, elk, gray fox, black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, marmots, ground squirrels and pronghorn antelope. 175 different species of birds have been documented to frequent Bryce Canyon National Park, including swifts, turkeys, red-tailed hawks, swallows, jays, ravens, nuthatches, ravens, eagles and owls.
When visiting, do not, under any circumstances, feed the wildlife or allow wildlife to obtain human food. Animals which obtain food from humans often become aggressive, will sometimes get ill or even die due to a change in diet, and most seriously stop foraging for natural foods and frequently starve to death in winter months when human food is no longer available.
From April through October the park's weather is relatively mild, with pleasant days, cool nights and occasional thunderstorms. Temperatures drop during winter months, with many clear sunny days reflecting off of the deep snowpacks. The park boasts some of the world's best air quality, offering panoramic views of three states and approaching 200 miles of visibility. This, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates unparalleled opportunities for stargazing.
The park's main road is Utah State Route 63, which is accessed from Utah State Route 12. The road into the park is open year-round, although it may be impassable during heavy winter storms.
The small Bryce Canyon Airport [url=http://www.brycecanyoncountry.com/county/airport.html],]located off Utah State Route 12 near the park entrance, only serves general aviation and charter flights.
The nearest cities with commercial airline service are Cedar City and [[St. George (Utah)|St. George[/url]] [url=http://www.sgcity.org/airport/],]from which Interstate 15 (from St. George to Harrisburg Junction), Utah State Route 9 (from Harrisburg Junction to US-89, passing through [[Zion National Park[/url]] en route), US Route 89 (from UT-9 to UT-12), and finally Utah State Route 12 lead to the park. SkyWest Airlines Delta Connection serves St. George and Cedar City from Salt Lake City and Los Angeles under the United Express banners. Jet service is now available via SkyWest Airlines Delta Connection from Salt Lake City International Airport to the new St. George Municipal Airport.
The closest full-scale commercial airports to Bryce Canyon are in [wiki=05c27bf00932572de28bf65a0539ba97]Las Vegas[/wiki] [url=http://mccarran.com]]and [[Salt Lake City[/url]] [http://www.slcairport.com/], which are connected by Interstate 15. Various roads link I-15 with Utah State Route 12.
The eighteen mile long park road is easily accessible to automobiles, although it is closed beyond Rainbow Gate during winter storms. Traffic may be heavy during the summer, and some viewpoints may not have parking available.
A park shuttle runs during the peak summer months, allowing people to park their cars outside of the park and then travel to the overlooks along the road. Shuttles run from well before sunrise until after sunset and ensure that a full parking lot won't prevent a visit to any of the park's sights.
For backpackers there are multi-day trails that run the length of the park. Permits are required for all overnight camping.
Bikes are not allowed on most of the park trails, but they are useful for avoiding traffic around the sometimes busy viewpoints. Be aware that much of the park lies between 8,000 and 9,000 feet of elevation, making travel by bicycle much more difficult than it would be at lower elevations.
A number of companies provide guided tours of Bryce Canyon National Park that include transportation from the surrounding areas. Some companies will provide bus travel from nearby towns while others begin in Bryce Canyon National Park. Some will provide just a brief tour with small stops, while others may take you on a hike, and arrange all your meals.
Rim Trail (11.0 miles round trip). Leading along the cliff edge from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point, this trail is paved in portions and accessible from numerous overlooks. Most park visitors will hike at least a portion of the trail to enjoy the views.
* Mossy Cave (0.9 miles / 1.5 km round trip). Accessible from highway 12, this easy trail leads past a waterfall and up to a cave, with views of hoodoos along the way.
* Bristlecone Loop (1.0 miles / 1.6 km round trip). This trail starts from Yovimpa Point and leads through a coniferous forest to a nice view on the cliff's edge.
* Navajo Loop (1.3 miles / 2.2 km round trip). One of the most popular trails in the park, leading through the heart of the Bryce Amphitheatre past formations such as Thor's Hammer and Wall Street. The trailhead is at Sunset Point.
* Queen's Garden/Navajo Loop Combination (2.9 miles / 4.6 km round trip). A popular loop trail that starts from Sunrise Point and finishes at Sunset Point, passing through much of the Bryce Amphitheatre along the way.
* Tower Bridge (3 miles / 4.8 km round trip). A trailhead north of Sunrise Point follows a portion of the Fairyland trail to a natural arch.
* Hat Shop (4 miles / 6.5 km round trip). Departing from Bryce Point, this trail descends 900 feet to some interesting rock formations.
* Swamp Canyon Loop (4.3 miles / 7.2 km round trip). This loop trail starts from the Swamp Canyon overlook and briefly joins with the Under-the-Rim trail before returning.
* Peekaboo Loop (5.5 miles / 8.8 km round trip). A trail shared with horses and leading through formations within Bryce Amphitheatre. It is accessible from the Queen's Garden trail.
* Fairyland Loop (8 miles / 12.9 km round trip). The Fairyland loop trail starts at Fairyland Point and loops into the Bryce Amphitheatre near Sunrise Point before returning.
* Riggs Spring Loop (8.5 miles / 14.2 km round trip). The Riggs Spring Loop Trail (8.8 miles round trip) from Yovimpa Point has four backcountry sites.
* Under-the-Rim (23 miles). This trail extends 23 miles from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point and has eight backcountry campsites.
The park is a mecca for landscape photographers, with clear air and incredible scenery making for amazing photographs. Offseason trips may be best in order to avoid crowds, although the best light for photographing the amphitheatre occurs during the long days of summer, with the light just after sunrise and before sunset best for bringing out the colors of the rock. Additionally, like much of the Southwest the Bryce Canyon landscape offers great opportunities to experiment with panorama photos.
Guests wanting to join a guided horse riding trip can do so during the spring, summer and fall.
* Canyon Trail Rides, P.O. Box 128, Tropic, UT 84776, Ph: (435) 679-8665 or (435) 834-5500, [http://www.canyonrides.com]. 2-hour and 4-hour trips are available on either horses or mules into Bryce Amphitheatre along the Peekaboo trail.
* Ruby’s Inn, Ph: 435-834-5341, email: Brady@rubysinn.com. Half day, full day, and 1 ½ hour rides, including the Thunder Mountain Ride.
The only hotel within the park is Bryce Canyon Lodge, located between Sunrise and Sunset Points.
* Located near Sunrise Point, the lodge is open from April 1 through October 31 and has 114 rooms, which include motel rooms and cabins. On-site restaurant, free WiFi.
* Conveniently located junction Hwy 12 & Utah 63, rooms and cabins to meet every need, at reasonable rates.
* Those looking for a resort-style lodging will probably want to look elsewhere, but during busy times Foster's offers a warm place to spend the night that won't bust the budget.
There are two campgrounds within the park. Facilities at the campgrounds include drinking water and restrooms, and pay showers are available during the summer at the general store.
* North Campground (Year Round). Located near the Visitor Center, this campground offers 107 campsites, with some sites suitable for RVs. Fees are $10 per site, and reservations can be made from May through September up to 240 days in advance by calling 877-444-6777 or visiting [url=http://www.ReserveUSA.com/]www.ReserveUSA.com[/url]. Note that a $9 fee is charged for all reservations.
* Sunset Campground (April - October). Located near Sunset Point and offering 101 campsites, with some sites suitable for RVs. Fees are $15 per site, and all sites are first-come, first-serve.
Additional campgrounds cluster outside of the park's borders:
* Ruby's Campground, Highway 63, Ph: (866) 866-6616, [url=http://www.brycecanyoncampgrounds.com/].] Located just outside of the park entrance, rates are charged based on the number of people per site and begin at $18 for two people, increasing by $2 for each additional person. Rates for RVs start at $26 for two people, also increasing by $2 for additional individuals.
* Bryce Canyon KOA, Highway 12, Ph: (435) 679-8988 or (888) 562-4710, [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com[/url], [http://www.koa.com/where/ut/44151/index.htm]. Open March 15 to November 15 and located twelve miles from the park entrance, this KOA charges $18 - $24 for a tent site, $21 - $30 for an RV site, and $36 - $48 for a cabin.
All backcountry camping is by permit only. Permits can be obtained for a $5 fee at the visitor center and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Overnight camping is allowed only on the Under-the-Rim trail and and Riggs Spring Loop trail.