Bryce Canyon in the summer time can be sweltering. While all the hikes in the canyon are stunning, most don't offer a lot of shade from the hot Southern Utah sun. Combine that with the high mountain desert climate and very little water, and it can leave you looking for a cool place to land.
If you find yourself needing some shade and maybe a little splash of cool water, I recommend the Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. At just under a mile roundtrip, Mossy Cave is an easy, family-friendly hike that includes a waterfall, natural spring, and cool stream. The trailhead is located off of Highway 12 on the right just before you reach the town of Tropic. The parking lot can get congested on busy days, but they have built an overflow lot just 100 yards further down the road.
The trail starts from the parking lot and soon crosses a bridge with some beautiful hoodoos in the background. Walk a bit further and you'll come to a second bridge. The trail continues across the bridge, however there is another trail that descends to the right and will lead you to the bottom of a small water fall known as the "Tropic Ditch" - more about this farther down. Continuing across the second bridge you will soon come to a fork in the trail, with the left leading you to the Mossy Cave and the right taking you to the top of the Tropic Ditch.
Taking the left fork you'll climb a few switchbacks that lead to a natural spring known as Mossy Cave. This grotto was formed by an underground spring that dissolved the calcite that bonds the silt and mud in the rock, allowing water to reach the surface. The moist environment created by the spring allows moss to grow in the spring and summer. In the colder fall and winter months, the water freezes producing large icicles transforming Mossy Cave into an ice cave. Since the grotto is sheltered from the sun most of the day, these icicles can sometimes last as late as June.
Taking the right fork of the trail will lead you to the top of the Tropic Ditch. The Tropic Ditch was a canal completed in 1892 by pioneers as a way to bring water to the arid valley below Bryce Canyon. They planned the canal route using natural water courses whenever possible, which included the normally dry wash that runs past Mossy Cave, also know as Water Canyon. The canal has brought water to the town of Tropic for more than a century, running continuously except for the severe drought of 2002.
The right fork of the trail ends at the top of the waterfall where you can explore the upper stream. Some small game trails can be seen from the falls that cross the stream and go higher up the hillside as well as descend to the base of the waterfall, but they are steep and not recommended. The best way to reach the bottom of the waterfall is to head back to the second bridge and take the trail that follows the stream(as mention above) - this route will take you around a corner and then safely right to the base of the falls.
This is an out and back hike, with some of the most stunning views of hoodoo formations you get the best view of on your way out, so keep your camera handy as you hike back. 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!