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Hiking to Navajo Loop at Bryce Canyon National Park

By Leslie Kawai for The Daily Herald - | Jul 13, 2014

I have always loved Bryce Canyon. There’s something about turning a corner on a windy forest road and suddenly finding yourself peering down into the most amazing patterns of colorful and unique geological formations.

As a teenager, I had hiked, driven, cross-country-skied, and ridden a horse through the canyon. Now, it was my turn to share the beauties of Bryce with my kids. Seeing anything with children for the first time is adventure. Bryce was no exception.

Located four hours south of the Provo area, Bryce Canyon National Park, with its unique geological formations, beautiful scenery, and breathtaking views, is a great family weekend destination. I like traveling to Bryce because there is a wide range of child-friendly hikes and activities.

First stop: the Visitor’s Center. Bryce Canyon offers a wide range of nature programs, including ranger-led hikes, children’s programs, astronomy programs, and more.

After a restroom break and picking up maps, we drove to our first and major hike: the Navajo Loop. This hike was perfect for our family. At 1.3 miles roundtrip, the Navajo Loop begins at a major lookout point where visitors from around the world gather to take pictures and let the beautiful scenery sink in.

Bryce Canyon today is almost an international experience. I heard German, Russian, Italian, Spanish and English — all in the same afternoon. In fact, my children and I shared part of our hike with three Italians, who spoke appreciatively of the beauty of Bryce Canyon that drew them to visit from more than 5,000 miles away.

Although the Navajo Loop is classified as a moderate hike, we easily traversed its steep and winding paths.

The steepest parts of the trail are hedged by a manmade railing. Limestone switchbacks terrace the path and make it family friendly. Navajo Loop starts at Sunset Point and winds down deep into the canyon amphitheater. Adventurous hikers can hike even farther into the canyon by heading off onto the Queens Garden, Rim Trail, or the “Figure 8” paths, which intersect with Navajo Loop.

Bryce’s notable “hoodoo” formations, wildflowers, wildlife, and foreign visitors all merit observation along the Navajo Loop path.

I printed off a packet of information from the Internet to take with me and read to my kids at intervals along the way.

It is the hoodoo uniqueness that gives Bryce Canyon its striking beauty. And it is Navajo Loop’s quick descent into the heart of the striking and beautiful hoodoos that makes it a popular trail at Bryce Canyon.

After a steep descent down into a corner of the Bryce Amphitheater, we ascended up and back out toward the Sunset Point lookout. We timed our walk just right to where we were returning up just as the sun was turning a warm yellow-red and beginning to settle in the horizon. Shadows danced as the last remains of sunlight fell lightly on the canyon walls.

There is something in the striking and colorful formations that commands respect and reflection. As my children and I paused for a picture at the top of one of the amazing overlooks, I couldn’t help but feel a restorative sense of appreciation at being part of something amazing.

Bryce Canyon National Park

DIRECTIONS: Take I-15 south to UT-20 (exit 95). Travel east on UT-20 to US-89. Follow US-89 south to UT-12. Travel east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits one mile inside the park boundary.

INFO: Visit the Bryce Canyon website for more information, www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit.

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