Third Time’s The Charm: Hiking Navajo Loop (Finally)

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Bryce Canyon National Park is one of my favorites, at least after my latest visit.  If you’ve been here for a while you probably know I’ve been twice before, once a year the last three years now.  (In 2021 we stopped by again just to get a park mug!)

The first time was part of my Great American Southwest Road trip, last summer was just for funsies, and I guess this year was too, but this time I had a purpose.  I was going to hike Navajo Loop.  I was finally going to go into the canyon and be one with the hoodoos.

It was really the only thing I wanted to do there, and then make a stop at Mossy Cave after, but Navajo Loop was the goal and it was all that really mattered in the morning.  We set off from Panguitch and got some breakfast on our way.

The visitor center was our first stop as always for stickers, patches, and postcards.  Side note: if you have a cool thing that you do with collected patches, I would love to hear or see it!  I have a bunch and haven’t really figured out what to do with them yet.  Ideas welcome.

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We didn’t follow any official loop, just kind of went where we thought looked good.  Peek-a-boo Loop was really cool and had, like, no one on it, which is awesome compared to most of the rest of the trail, especially the beginning and end.

So, from the beginning, the trail brings you down to the bottom of the canyon, walking among the hoodoos most of the way.  At the bottom it’s more trees, but less busy.  After that you start to go up and back into the hoodoos.  There are a few arch doorway type things you go through on the way, maybe on the Queens Garden Trail.

The whole trail, or trails I guess, was about five miles, maybe a little more, but we did a lot of back tracking and extra exploring, which I would highly recommend.  Even straying from the main trail to another lesser known one for a little bit can send you from tons of people to no one.  

I really liked this trail a lot and even though we started it probably around 10, when it’s always busy, it wasn’t completely packed.  There is enough trail in this area that you can easily escape the crowds.

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After that we decided to go to the Mossy Cave, a much less visited area outside the main part of the park.  There is a small cave thing and a waterfall.  Both are short hikes and worth a stop.  The cave wasn’t terribly exciting.  

You can’t go into it and it’s more of a mossy overhang than a cave.  The waterfall was pretty cool though.  You can walk down to the river and go up to the top of it as well.  I would make the stop for this and maybe skip the cave part.

Overall, this was by far my favorite visit to Bryce Canyon.  I finally got to go into it and finally stopped at the little pullout I always saw which turned out to be Mossy Cave.  The weather was pretty much perfect.  

And I got to go into the hoodoos!  If you can’t tell, that’s what I’m most excited about.  I would 1000% recommend hiking Navajo Loop or Queens Garden.  Or combine them.  It’s an awesome hike and can be done in half a day or you could spend a whole day combining the trails in that area.

Updated August 2022: above text is from the original post, below has been added.

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Where is the Navajo Loop Trailhead?

The Navajo Loop Trail starts at the Bryce Canyon Lodge. You actually start out on the Rim Trail before taking the Navajo Loop Trail down into the canyon (which is actually an amphitheater) at Sunset Point.

How long is the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Trail?

Just 2.9 miles so it’s not too long. We hiked this starting with the Navajo Loop side but the park website recommends starting with the Queens Garden part for better views of the amphitheater then coming up Wall Street (as long as its open) then going down the other side of Navajo Loop far enough to see Thor’s Hammer.

Is the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop trail hard?

It’s not easy but it’s not strenuous either for the most part. The switchbacks on the way out are definitely the hardest part. The park elevation (over 9,000 feet) is what makes hiking here more difficult.

Just take it slow, bring plenty of water to stay hydrated, and rest if you need to. It’s worth all the effort of hiking back out, that’s for sure.

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Is the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop hike worth it?

Absolutely! I always recommend this hike to anyone going there and if you only have time for one hike in Bryce Canyon, it should be the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop (plus Wall Street if its open.)

What about the Mossy Cave Trail?

Yes! But not for the cave, just the waterfall. It’s a great short hike and way less busy than the main area of the park though it does still get a good number of visitors since it’s right on Scenic Byway 12.

What to bring hiking in Bryce Canyon

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  Even if it’s not hot you need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are, time of day, and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Good hiking shoes – If you’re hiking when it’s warmer, Chacos will be good.  If it’s fall, muddy, or a little cooler out, you’ll want closed toe shoes.

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Have you hiked the Navajo Loop trail in Bryce Canyon? What did you think of it? Do you want to do it? What is your favorite Bryce Canyon hike?

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