Distance: 8.5 miles (loop)
Best time of year: Summer, Fall
Last hiked: 2015 October
Despite Bryce Canyon National Park’s popularity and crowds, there are still ways to escape the pandemonium and enjoy the backcountry of the park. The Fairyland Loop Trail is probably one of the best ways to do that. It’s lengthy enough so that it scares away most of the casual visitors and dramatic enough to show you some outstanding features of the park. You also have the option of starting at Sunrise Point or the Fairyland Trailhead. This describes the hike starting from the main Fairyland Trailhead, heading clockwise around the loop.
From the trailhead, the trail begins its descent past a small canyon with majestic hoodoos rising from the center. It winds around these and heads behind a ridge and pops out at another set, practically invisible from just up above, but just as beautiful as before. The trail then drops farther into the canyon and into a small ponderosa pine forest.
Showing off Bryce Canyon’s signature colors, you meander down hills and in and out of hoodoos found throughout the canyon, which at this point has widened a great deal. At about 2.25 miles, the trail will appear to fork as you begin to climb up a hill. The main trail goes right, while a spur trail to an overlook heads left. The overlook spur begs to be checked out, though unfortunately, it’s not quite as interesting as its buildup would have you believe.
Back up the main trail just a bit farther at the top of the hill, the view you were hoping for at the spur just prior is spread out in 180 degrees as the trail straddles a narrow ridge. Those with a fear of heights shouldn’t be too concerned.
The trail descends a bit as it winds around the large bases of multiple hoodoos where Tower Bridge comes into view off to the east. After more descending, the trail then meets up with the Tower Bridge Junction. The bridge is only 200 yards out of the way, so it’s definitely worth it. This is where the trail may begin to get a bit more crowded since it’s only a 1.9 mile hike down from Sunrise Point to the bridge.
From the junction, it’s a steady uphill climb back up to the Rim Trail and Sunrise Point. You’re popped in and out of hoodoos and ponderosa pine until you finally reconnect with the Rim Trail, all the while offered great views of the unique landscape. Those thinking that it’s a quick and easy stroll back to the Fairyland Trailhead may want to refrain from finishing off any snacks and water. It’s not only another 2.5 miles back to the trailhead, but also makes a couple more substantial climbs up some ridges. The good news is that it offers up some amazing views of Bryce Canyon. Beyond the hills, the trail rejoins Fairyland Trailhead.
From the Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center, head north and past the entrance gate. At nearly 1 mile from the Visitor Center, look for a road leading to Fairyland Point on your right. Take a right onto the road and follow that for another mile until it dead-ends at the parking area. The trail begins at the overlook.