(Editor’s Note – This original post from January 2010 has been updated to reflect current Grand Canyon vacation details.)
Visiting Bryce Canyon Park in Utah brings you to one of those landscapes that defy description and speaks to the soul of the onlooker. It’s a place like no other with its spellbinding views of the most colorful and scenic rock formations found anywhere.
Bryce Canyon National Park, consisting of nearly 37,300 acres, is a desert wonderland with its own diverse fauna and flora. Human intervention at Bryce Canyon Park has remained at a minimum due to the canyon’s lack of water.
In this Caravan blog article we will explore the history of Bryce Canyon’s intricate valley landscape as well as the animals, the climate you may encounter while visiting, and things to do in Bryce Canyon Utah.
Bryce Canyon History
What is so unique about the Bryce Canyon landscape?
The formation of Bryce Canyon is a geological wonder. Spires and unique pinnacle rock formations have drawn tourists from all over the world since the early 1900’s.
Early pioneers, who settled around the Paunsaugunt Plateau rim just above Bryce’s Canyon, were the first settlers to discover the spires and pinnacles. The spires, which rise up from the ground, are also known as ‘hoodoos’, and were named by the Paiute Indians who inhabited the area long before America’s early settlers.
Christian emissaries who developed many a small community throughout Utah eventually displaced the native Paiute Indians. In fact, Bryce Canyon is named after Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon farmer who settled there in 1875.
The place names of Bryce Canyon however, still reflect the Paiute Indian heritage and include:
- Paunsaugunt, which means the ‘home of beavers’
- Paria, which means ‘muddy water of elk water’
- Yovimpa, which refers to the ‘point of pines’
- Panguitch, which stands for ‘big fish’
Hoodoos & Spires in Bryce Canyon
A hoodoo is a pillar like rock that has eroded into a fantastic spire type rock formation. Colorful hoodoos seem to cast a spell. They can be exquisitely subtle sometimes, yet amazingly harsh at other times. Over centuries, the Claron limestone, mudstone, and sandstones were continuously eroded revealing a series of horseshoe shaped formations akin to amphitheaters.
The erosion in Bryce Canyon is due to many reasons. Ancient rivers combined with gravelly rushing waters made thin long ridges called ‘fins’. These same fins eroded further to form the spires or hoodoos, which were created due to a combination of rain, melting snow rushes and the expansion of freezing waters within the cracks.
The thawing of spring ice is also credited for leaving behind natural arches, spires, mazes, and what is known today as the Grand Staircase. The “pink cliffs” of these rock formations often turn to a myriad of colors giving way to beautiful and sometimes whimsical landscapes in the morning sun. One of Bryce Canyon’s more popular attractions is Thor’s Hammer, a hoodoo that looks like a hammer.
Bryce Canyon Activities and Things To Do
There is no shortage of things to do and see in Bryce Canyon Utah and the panorama offers views of three surrounding states.
Hiking Bryce Canyon is always a popular activity, whether it’s backpacking during the day or moonlight hiking.
Other Bryce Canyon activities available to visitors range from camping, horseback riding, learning about the geological formations, and telescope stargazing, which is always popular. Because of its elevation, the air over Bryce Canyon is generally clear and the lack of any light sources makes this the ideal place for looking skyward.
Wildlife and Animals in Bryce Canyon
Wildlife thrives in this rather inhospitable landscape with surprising ease. There is a diverse range of mammals, many of which are now protected. Some were reintroduced to the wild in a bid to stem extinction.
Mountain lions, mule deer, black bear, elk, pronghorn antelope, foxes, and the rodent called the Utah prairie dog all roam the canyon freely. In addition, more than 160 bird species call Bryce Canyon home, making this area a virtual bird watcher’s paradise.
Elevation and Climate in Bryce Canyon Park
The average temperature for Bryce Canyon Utah from June to August is between 45 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit while winter temperatures from December to February can range between 15 and 39 degrees. Since the elevation of Bryce Canyon ranges from 7,900 ft. to 9,115 ft. above sea level the air here is thinner and loses heat quickly.
The climate in Bryce Canyon can vary significantly and the weather can be rather chilly. Although Bryce Canyon National Park is open all year, discretion is advised and notifications of bad weather should be heeded for the traveler’s own safety.
Bryce Canyon Park is a place where you can savor the best of magical sunrises, although the sunsets may not be that vivid since the western ridge shields the canyon. Bryce Canyon is another one of Mother Nature’s wonders that is our privilege to visit.
All Inclusive Tours by Caravan
For over six decades (since 1952) Caravan Tours has offered all-inclusive tours to destinations across North and Central America.
A visit to Bryce Canyon, located less than 280 miles north of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, is included as part of Caravan’s all-inclusive Grand Canyon Tour. Other great destinations on this 8-day vacation include Lake Powell, Monument Valley, and Zion National Park.