Peekaboo Loop Trail
When I first visited Bryce in 1996, I was traveling by myself. I had seen a picture of Bryce in a coworker's office and figured that since I would be in the area, I had to work in a visit in to my schedule. I was not sure what to do when I first arrived at the park, so I went to the visitors center to find out more about the park. They told me about horseback riding in the canyon and told me that I could sign up at the lodge higher up in the park. They also showed me some short hikes on the map.
I drove up to the lodge and signed up for a horseback ride that day. It was a bit pricey for me, but not higher than it would be anywhere else. I had actually spent more on a horseback ride in Mexico a few years previous.
We all met at a fenced in area where the horses were kept. These were the strangest horses I had ever seen! I asked a cowboy guide what kind of horses they were and he told me that they were really mules. A mule is a smaller animal with longer ears. We were each assigned a mule; mine was Tania. As usual, because I know how to ride a horse, I am given an unruly animal that is challenging to control. Everyone rode along to the trail while Tania tried to go back to the corral. After a bit of prodding, Tania returned to the group and we were on our way.
The descent into the canyon is scary on an animal because they are trained to walk along the outside edge, but as far as I know, there have been no accidents validating my fears. At the floor of the canyon, the dirt is orange and you feel like you are in another world. I was so amazed with the scenery! I would recommend the "horseback" riding at the canyon. The guides were very nice and had interesting stories, and the view was beautiful!
Navajo Loop Trail
I hiked the Navajo Loop Trail during my solo visit in 1996. I chose this trail because it was relatively short and there was little time before the sun set. It is only 1.5 miles in length. When you are in the canyon it can get dark quicker than on the rim.
The geology of the land is amazing. One of the interesting things about this trail is that you walk through narrow notches between towering rocks. On close inspection, the gravel beneath your feet is composed of red, orange, yellow, and white debris. The rock is fragile and always reshaping as a result of weather and time.
During September the park is somewhat busy. The weather at that time of year is really nice, though a jacket is advisable as the sun starts to set. Because the wonderful weather brings out the people, I was able to meet a lot of really nice hikers in the canyon.
Another trail of this magnitude is the Queen's Garden Trail (1.7 miles round trip). Though I have not hiked this trail myself, I can imagine that it would be a wonderful experience, too.
Fairyland Loop Trail
We hiked the Fairyland Loop Trail on our 1997 vacation. It was a day hike that covered 8 miles from the rim to the canyon floor and then back to the rim again. It was November, so the temperatures were below what many people might find comfortable. Several seasons of New England ice climbing enabled us to appreciate this, however. Though long sleeves and pants were required, we did not need a lot of extra clothing while hiking. When we stopped for lunch, however, we bundled up a bit more.
The trail begins at a parking lot and begins to descend into the canyon right away. The rock formations in this area look like castles, which may be why they call it the Fairyland Loop Trail. The trail had a thin covering of snow, adding an element of excitement for us. It is unfortunate that many people miss how beautiful the canyon is in the winter.
We decided to hike in about four miles then set up our cookstove and prepare a warm lunch. We found a relatively flat area on the trail with rocks towering at our backs and evergreens below us. We boiled the water and added it to our gourmet instant dinner and let it "cook" in the bag for ten minutes.
As we sat in the cold waiting for the lunch to cook, I thought about how glad I was to have stayed in a hotel the night before rather than camping in a tent in the park. I went to my pack and got out my hat, mittens, and fleece jacket. Soon the meal would warm us up!
After lunch, we began hiking again. Around every turn, there was another spectacular view. The hike out was a bit steep, but we did not mind, since I wanted to stop every few minutes to take another photo of the rocks.