There are some places in the world that are so beautiful they take your breath away no matter how often you visit them. Bryce Canyon in Southwestern Utah certainly falls into this category.
Its name is misleading - Bryce Canyon is not a canyon at all, it is not formed by a river. It is a formation of pink/sienna cliffs; or to be more accurate, a series of amphitheaters eroded from the cliffs by the weather. It is the highlight of the Grand Staircase, a series of step-like uplifted rock layers stretching north from the Grand Canyon.
Bryce Canyon, at an altitude between 7000 and 9000 feet above sea level (the air IS thinner here), eventually eroded into interesting formations, the oddest and most remarkable among them the so-called hoodoos.
In this picture, taken during the day, they are pink (sort of). But look at them in the morning, right at sunrise and see how they change color.
This changing of the color goes on during the entire day. The hoodoos and other formations (pinnacles, spires, crevices etc.) also have different colors within themselves which can make quite spectacular sights.
I visited Bryce Canyon in late September, but mostly in the winter. The white and pink/sienna colors create a beautiful contrast.
If you don't have much time, you can drive along the road at the rim and admire the "canyon" from above. That alone will be an unforgettable experience. However, there are a few trails leading down into the center of the hoodoos, the most famous ones being the Queens Garden Trail and the more challenging Navajo Trail. Both remain open during winter; however, especially the Navajo Trail is still quite a challenge because there are many parts where the sun doesn't reach and the trail can be very icy. Even with good hiking boots I sometimes got down on all fours in order to proceed. Be prepared for a strenuous hike, especially on the way back up to the rim (carry enough water!!).
However, it is worth it. Navajo Trail is one of the most beautiful hiking experiences.
Right beneath the rim where you can see the trail winding down
It is very steep
The constant changing of the light and colors is fascinating
It's hard to believe that anything would grow here.
When you have reached the bottom, it is a very comfortable and beautiful hike. From here you get a completely different perspective of Bryce Canyon. You have time to explore the rock formations and trees (with your eyes only, please!).
From here you can stay on the Navajo Loop and return to the rim or you can connect to the Queens Garden Trail and return through some spectacular scenery.
Up on the rim you will see many mule deer as well as lots of chipmunks and ground squirrels. There is an abundance of birds in the park. I will always love the ravens.
Close to the very end of the Rim Road near Rainbow Point you can see this beautiful rock arch.
Here's a view beyond Bryce Canyon - the entire area is simply breath taking. Those mountains in the back you can see for ever when you approach Bryce Canyon via Highway 12, one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Utah - but that would be another blog post.
Bryce Canyon faces East and South, so one thing you shouldn't miss is the sunrise there. Yes, it means getting up early, and in winter it is freaking cold. However, it is something you will never forget. The best view for a sunrise (in my humble opinion) is from Inspiration Point. From here you can see the sun creeping over the mountains and how first a little bit of the amphitheater is illuminated and gradually more and more, until the entire formation is covered with the most beautiful light you can imagine.