Trip Number: 13031A
Staff: Melinda Goodwater
- Dayhike through enchanting landscapes of sandstone spires, arches, and
- Enjoy breathtaking vistas of the Colorado Plateau and study the geologic
wonders of Bryce Canyon's amphitheaters and the Grand Staircase
- Search for mythical constellations, planets, and galaxies through telescopes
in one of the darkest night skies in the U.S.
- Campsites in a developed campground throughout the trip
- Delicious, fresh meals
- Group kitchen and camping gear
Hoodoo [hoo'doo] n. A pinnacle or odd-shaped rock left standing by the forces
Photo: Melinda Goodwater
Bryce Canyon National Park is an example of hoodoos on steroids. Technically,
Bryce is not a canyon at all, but rather a series of scooped-out amphitheaters
each showcasing the myriad of fantastic shapes these hoodoos can form. Eroded
from the top step of the geological Grand Staircase rising through the Colorado
Plateau from the Grand Canyon, it's difficult to take your eyes away from the
pink- and orange-hued bizarre rock spires. And with a week to explore the park,
we should see them all.
Ranging in elevation from 7,900 feet at our campground to 9,100 feet at the
highest end of the park, we will hike among these towers and through cool forests
far above the rising heat below. Views out onto the Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument, Aquarius Plateau, and as far south as Navajo Mountain on
the Utah-Arizona border will be ours. By day a series of challenging hikes are
planned from one end of the park to the other before returning to the comfort
of our campsite. By night we will learn more about the park through evening
ranger programs, including opportunities to gaze at the stars and planets through
telescopes of amateur astronomers who are eager to share their celestial knowledge.
Bryce Canyon boasts some of the darkest night skies in the country, so more
stars or points of light -- around 7,500 -- can be seen here than nearly anywhere
In addition to geologic wonders and star-studded skies, Bryce is also home
to commonly seen creatures such as prairie dogs, mule deer, and pronghorn. About
210 species of birds also live in or visit the park. We'll also learn about
some its human history like how the hoodoos were discovered by Ebenezer Bryce,
a rancher reportedly looking for a cow, and after finding himself in one of
the other-worldly amphitheaters proclaimed that it's a hell of a place to lose
a cow. Though protected as a national park, we'll discuss mining and other activities
going on outside the park that impose on its integrity and the difficulty of
overcoming the local mindset when it comes to preserving southern Utah's riches
of outstanding scenic landscapes. It's a lot to do in a week, but we'll make
sure to find time to just relax at the rim to savor the brilliance of the hoodoos
at sunrise and sunset. This is the perfect trip to let the explorer in you come
out to play.
Photo: Melinda Goodwater
Day 1: We'll have an afternoon arrival at our campground to
set up camp, have a trip orientation, and share our first meal together.
Day 2: From our campground, we'll hike 8 miles on the Fairyland
Loop, which features the China Wall, Tower Bridge, and hundreds of hoodoos.
Descend: 2,300 feet, Ascend the same on the return.
Day 3: We'll set up a car shuttle for the first segment of
the Under the Rim Trail, from Bryce Point to Swamp Canyon (11.5 miles). Our
hike passes the unique formation of the Hat Shop. Descend: 1,300 feet, Ascend:
Day 4: Today we'll embark on the next section of the Under
the Rim Trail, from Swamp Canyon to Agua Canyon (8.5 miles), which requires
a car shuttle. We'll hike below the Pink Cliffs and a natural bridge, passing
through various plant communities, interesting geology, and good birding. Descend:
850 feet, Ascend: 1,700 feet.
Day 5: We'll cover the last section of the Under the Rim Trail,
from Agua Canyon to Rainbow Point (8 miles), requiring a car shuttle. We'll
hike across hogbacks with good views of the Pink, Grey, and White Cliffs as
we reach the highest part of the park. Descend: 1,065 feet, Ascend: 1,365 feet.
Photo: Joe Mikuliak
Day 6: Today we'll hike the Riggs Spring Loop Trail (9 miles),
starting at 9,100 feet. We'll be treated to expansive views from the Pink Cliffs
down the Grand Staircase to Navajo Mountain, and perhaps even into New Mexico.
We'll hike among eroded slopes and remnant hoodoos. Descend: 1,635 feet, Ascend:
Day 7: We'll share our last breakfast together, break camp,
and enjoy any trails we may have missed before heading out.
We'll meet at our campground in Bryce Canyon National Park by 4:00 p.m. on
day one. Bryce is not close to anywhere; the closest airports are Las Vegas
at 250 miles away and Salt Lake City at 275 miles away. You may want to arrive
a day early for plenty of time to ply the mountain roads or to see some of the
other southern Utah scenic wonders. Rental car sharing and carpooling are strongly
recommended and a future departure bulletin will include detailed driving directions
and a roster of participants for arranging transportation. Please make return
flight reservations for May 29 or later.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Joe Mikuliak
We will spend the week in a developed campground in Bryce Canyon National Park.
We will set up for the week here to give ourselves more time for hiking and
enjoying the place. Amenities include tables, restrooms, fire rings, and showers
nearby. It's also within walking distance of phenomenal hoodoo views on the
canyon rim. We will avoid the RV sites by camping in the tent section.
All meals are included from dinner on day one through breakfast on day seven.
A high-energy, nutritious diet is planned with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
and meat on the side to accommodate vegetarians. Please let the leaders know
as far in advance of the trip as possible if you have any other food restrictions.
Trip members will be divided into cook crews to prepare and clean-up meals a
couple times during the trip. All stoves, fuel, and other group commissary equipment
will be provided.
Although this is a base camp trip, the focus is on beautiful and challenging
day hikes. You will only have to carry what you need for the day in a day pack
that weighs up to 15 pounds. Hikes range from 8 to 11.5 miles and involve up
to 2,500 feet of elevation gain and descent. The elevations we'll be hiking
at vary from 7,900 to 9,100 feet, with our campground at 7,900 feet. You may
wish to arrive a day or two early for acclimatization. Any hike is optional
and there are short hikes within walking distance of our campground for anyone
not desiring to do the longer daily hike. A program of physical conditioning
will assure you'll be able to do all the planned hikes, and recommendations
for this will be detailed in a future bulletin. You should be comfortable with
camping for a week in a tent.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Joe Mikuliak
A detailed equipment list will be sent to all approved participants, but basically
you will need to provide your own personal camping gear. This includes a tent
you'll be comfortable in for a week; sleeping bag (at least 20 degrees) and
pad; good rain gear; waterproofed, well broken-in, preferably all-leather hiking
boots; layers of clothing for a wide range of temperatures and changing conditions;
and hiking poles for rough, steep trails. Group cooking and camping gear will
- Bryce Canyon National Park, UT – National Geographic/Trails Illustrated
- Molvar, Erik and Tamara Martin, Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National
- Bryce Canyon National Park: www.nps.gov/brca
- Sierra Club Utah Chapter: www.utah.sierraclub.org
- Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance: www.suwa.org
- Great Old Broads for Wilderness: www.greatoldbroads.org
Recognition of southern Utah's diverse landscapes -- from slot canyons to rolling
red rock domes to sculptured rock formations and dense forests -- has been exemplified
in the number of national parks spread across the area. President Clinton filled
in more of the gaps with creation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
in 1996, but more needs to be done. Nearly 6 million acres of wilderness-quality
land is still not protected with the historical and cultural values of many
of Utah's residents making this an uphill battle. We will discuss why these
moral values make wilderness conservation such a challenge, and how coal and
other polluting industries that are setting up shop just outside the parks threaten
their integrity. Beyond Coal and Resilient Habitats are two of the Sierra Club's
campaigns that we'll look at in regards to Bryce Canyon and southern Utah. We
will also lessen our impact on the land by learning and practicing Leave No
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Melinda Goodwater has been leading trips for Sierra Club Outings for 20 years and has over 90 outings under her belt. She quit her full-time job when it got in the way of her trips and has been leading adventures ever since. She leads treks from Nepal to the Rockies and Sierra to the desert southwest. Melinda is a very amateur naturalist and particularly enjoys finding unique places off the beaten track. Along with years of experience leading remote and high-elevation outings, Melinda has training in CPR and is a wilderness first responder with 80 hours of first-aid training. She welcomes you to join her while giving every participant personal attention.
Phil Snyder is an avid hiker and who has explored trails throughout the country for more than 40 years. He is enthusiastic about helping others discover often-overlooked hiking opportunities in the Midwest, Southwest, and Rocky Mountains. In addition to this trip, Phil is leading trips this year in Big Bend National Park, Texas; and Grand Staircase-Escalante. When he's not on the trail, Phil is a community volunteer, freelance writer, communications consultant and a certified instructor of motorcycle safety in Appleton, Wisconsin.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips