Distance: 3.8 miles
Best time of year: Spring, Summer, Fall
Last hiked: 2015 October
Crowded. Loud. Disrespectful shortcutters. Yelling. This is most likely what you’ll encounter on the Queen’s Garden to Navajo Loop, and you should absolutely do this hike. It has its down sides (most of them just mentioned), but for the majestic splendor and wonder of Bryce Canyon, this loop is an absolute must see. Consider it a best-of for what Bryce Canyon National Park has to offer, in a hike that can be done even by novice hikers. For those novices, however, hiking out will prove to be a challenge.
Most people prefer to start at the Queen’s Garden trailhead, and I wouldn’t argue that. You descend through some of the most spectacular hoodoo formations found anywhere in North America, and possibly the world. Stained with iron, they are spectacular carvings of the Claron Formation of sandstone colored in patterns and formed into whimsical, surreal shapes. The trail descends rather quickly so that you’re among the hoodoos in a relatively short time. It continues its descent, passing in and out of remarkable formations, until you reach the fork for the Navajo Loop. Just a short distance up the trail beyond the fork is the actual Queen’s Garden and well worth the short distance. For those dreading the climb back up, this would be a good place to turn around and head back up. For those eager to see more, head back to the fork and continue down the trail to join up with the Navajo Loop Trail.
The hoodoos soon disappear behind a ponderosa pine forest as you wind your way through the pines and manzanita bushes. After some minimal elevation gain and loss, you come to another fork. One direction takes you to the Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail, another up the Navajo Loop via the Two Bridges, and the other up the Navajo Loop via Wall Street. So many trails, so little time.
Note: If there has been any rain, the Wall Street path will be closed at the steepest part back up to Sunset Point. However it will be open to the large trees and the detour cannot be recommended enough.
The Wall Street path adds only .1 mile, and is by far the more scenic option to ascend back up to Sunset Point. Though if you have the time and energy, the Two Bridges certainly deserve to be seen as well.
Along the Wall Street section, the trail follows a wash upward before entering what appears to be a slot canyon created from enormous hoodoos above. Massive fir trees stretch up the walls, reaching for the top of the canyon in an amazing display that has to be seen to be comprehended.
The trail then begins its grueling ascent back up to Sunset Point where it reconnects with the Rim Trail. Switchback after switchback winds the trail up the canyon’s back side until you reach the junction with the Two Bridges Trail. As you continue up the last switchback, you pass by Thor’s Hammer, which should be easily recognizable even to those who aren’t into comics.
Once you’re back on the Rim Trail, head north to Sunrise Point and the Queen’s Garden trailhead to complete the loop.
From the Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center, follow the main road south for 0.5 miles and make a left for Sunrise Point. In another half-mile, make another left and find parking in the parking lot just up the road. The trailhead will be well signed upon walking to the rim to the east.