The Best of Bryce Canyon's Amphitheater - Navajo Loop to Queens Garden
There isn't any other place on earth quite like it, and from pretty much any viewpoint, the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater is awe inspiring. Given all the many view points and hikes in and around the amphitheater it can be a little daunting deciding the best way to experience this marvel of nature.
After visiting Bryce Canyon Amphitheater many times, hiking it's many trails and visiting all its view points, I suggest you start with a combination of the Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden hikes. This combination hike takes you to the bottom of the amphitheater and back to the rim, giving you up close views of the individual hoodoos and incredible views of the many formations as they stretch to the rim of the canyon.
This hike is just over 3 miles, gains and loses about 580 feet in elevation, and takes most people between 2 and 3 hours to complete, including time to take pictures and admire all the incredible views. I recommend starting your hike at Sunset Point and descending the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop and then continuing on to the Queen's Garden trail at the junction, which will lead you back to the rim at Sunrise Point. You can then take the paved Rim Trail .5 miles back to Sunset Point to complete a loop.
Going this direction makes the climb back to the rim less steep as the elevation gain is more gradual and the switchbacks are not as steep coming out of Queen's Garden. Doing this hike cuts out the second half of the Navajo Loop known as Two Bridges, but you don't miss much as the main attraction, Thor's Hammer, can be seen before the trail splits.
As you descend down the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop you will see a series of switchbacks that lead you down into the Amphitheater. If you have seen any pictures of Bryce Canyon, you have likely seen a picture of hikers as they snake down these switchbacks.
Don't skip walking to the end of the first switchback where there is a natural window in the sandstone that lets you peek into the neighboring canyon of hoodoos. This provides a great view of hoodoos that are not accessible by any other hike or view point.
As you descend the switchbacks to the bottom of this part of the Amphitheater you come across two incredible pine trees. Some how these large trees found roots in the sandstone and managed to grow over 100 feet to reach the sun light in this mostly shaded canyon. They almost seem out of place in this desert environment and the majesty of these trees is one of the reasons why I recommend the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop.
After passing the pine trees the trail flattens out a bit and you can find a bit of shade as you walk around some of the hoodoos. At the .7 mile mark you'll come to a trail junction where you can turn northeast to Two Bridge and complete the Navajo Loop, but I suggest heading East to connect with the Queen's Garden Trail. The hike from the junction to the Queens Garden is .8 miles and takes you through a beautiful and often shaded part of the trail where you can take a break, drink some water and have a snack.
The Queen's Garden trail is one of the prettiest in the Bryce Amphitheater and gives you great views of the hoodoo formations that make up the Amphitheater both up close and from a distance. At the 1.5 mile mark of your hike you will come to a fork, turn left and you'll reach the Queen's Garden in about 100 yards.
This area got its name because there is hoodoo that was named the Queen Victoria Hoodoo because it resembled a famous statue of Queen Victoria in London. There is a plaque with a picture of the actual statue for which the hoodoo is named, and I must admit the resemblance is uncanny. The Queen's Garden has a number of photographic formations that are worth stopping to photograph.
From the Garden you exit the same way you entered back to the trail and continue your hike another .9 miles to the canyon rim. This is one of the prettiest parts of the hike in my opinion. As you gradually ascend toward the rim you pass some incredible formations and get some great views of the entire amphitheater. It also provides some great views of the neighboring Fairyland Canyon and the desert beyond the amphitheater.
The last part of the hike is a little steep and can be a bit taxing, but there are benches to rest as you make your ascent. Of all the routes to ascend back to the rim, this is the most gradual. You reach the rim and flat ground at Sunrise Point. There is an elevated view point about another 15 feet higher to view the amphitheater if you still have some energy for climbing, but the view isn't much different from what you just saw as you made your final way up the trail. From here you can take the paved trail back to Sunset Point where you started (about .5 miles), or you can head to the nearby lodge for a beverage or snack.
There you have it, if you have limited time to explore the Bryce Amphitheater, taking the Navajo Loop to Queen's Garden Trail will give you the best of it. If you found this article helpful and are planning other adventures in Utah, consider signing up for our e-mail list (simply go to the top of page and click subscribe - it's free!) to get the latest adventure posts. You can also sign up to be a member here to share comments at the bottom of our posts and in our forums - we'd love to hear what you have to say! Most importantly don't forget to get outside and find your adventure!