After seeing Bryce Canyon National Park from the rim at sunset, I was determined to get down into the canyon for a hike the following afternoon. I reviewed the park handouts and maps and decided to do the moderate-rated Navajo Loop and combine it with an “out and back” jaunt over to the Queen’s Garden while I was down in the canyon. The total distance would be just over 3 miles with an elevation gain/loss of 550 feet. A bit of a workout, but very do-able!
Remember this shot from my last post? A commenter said she was starting to realize the impact that good lighting has on a photograph (such as late afternoon/early morning light versus the mid-day sun). Well, here’s a perfect example! This first shot was taken at around 4:30pm, an hour before sunset, as the sun was reflecting incredible “glowing” light off the hoodoos. Complete magic!
Now, here’s the same scene the next day as I started my hike (around 1:00pm in the mid-day sun). Certainly still a great scene with some nice glowing hoodoos, but surely not the magic as the first shot. Yes, indeed, lighting is a crucial element for a great photo!
Now, let’s get on with the hike!
I began the Navajo Trail on the Thor’s Hammer side of the loop. Thor’s Hammer is the name of the distinctive hoodoo with the block (or hammer head) on the top of it.
As the trail makes its way past Thor’s Hammer just below the rim, it’s still a fairly level and easy walk.
But just around the corner awaits this 400-foot descent into the canyon! Thankfully, all those switchbacks and smooth grading, make it a much easier trail than what canyon visitors a hundred years ago must have had to endure!
As you get lower and lower into the canyon, the Ponderosa pines get bigger and bigger….
The hoodoos get bigger as well!
Fairly quickly, I’m now down into the canyon and the park takes on a completely different feel. Here, the pine trees tower, while the hoodoos stand further in the distance. It’s a perfectly delightful afternoon for a hike…just the right temperature, and trails that are pleasantly not mobbed with fellow park visitors (as they surely must be when the season is in full swing!).
At the bottom of the Navajo Loop is “the junction” where a number of trails (and hikers) converge. The split log benches give hikers a cool respite and a chance to recheck their maps.
I decide to take the connector trail over to the Queen’s Garden. The trail leads me out of the cove of hoodoos visible from Sunset Point, and over to the next cove typically visible from Sunrise Point. Here, the rocks take center stage, and there is even a fun, small arch to walk through.
The colors of the rocks here are incredible!
I also love the slits and holes the wind has carved into some of the hoodoos. See the tiny hole in the cliff wall behind this spire? (click the photo to view it larger if you need to).
After enjoying the garden views, it is time to bid adieu to the Queen and her court…
and admire the twists and turns of this bristlecone pine on my way back to the Navajo Loop.
Ah, have I mentioned lately how much I love being retired with nothing better to do than go for nice quiet afternoon walks, smell the pine trees, and admire all the nature that surrounds me?
As I finally get back up to the hoodoos, I reach the final and most famous portion of the Navajo Loop—Wall Street. Yep, the name seems quite fitting!
At the base of the final set of switchbacks leading back up to the rim are a couple of massive Ponderosa pines that, however improbable, manage to survive and thrive in this narrow sliver of space between the hoodoos.
I watch these tall trees gradually diminish as I begin climbing the switchbacks.
Smaller and smaller…
until I can barely see them at all. Now, the walls of Wall Street are the main show.
I lose count of how many switchbacks there are along Wall Street…
but there are a lot! At the top of this set of quick curves….
is a tiny little arch to take you back out to the larger switchbacks.
Here, I am starting to get level with the hoodoo-tops.
What a different look and feel the park is from here!
Finally, I’m now able to see the rim above the hoodoos again. Amazing, how these hoodoos keep the most spectacular parts of the trail hidden away when you’re up here.
Even with this quick 3-mile hike, I now understand that Bryce is most definitely a park to be experienced from both above and below if one is to fully appreciate all that it has to offer. I can’t wait to return to explore it even more!