Bryce Canyon, which is part of Bryce Canyon National Park, is actually shaped more like a giant amphitheater.
Did you know that Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon?
Centuries of natural erosion from wind, rain and ice formed the 12-mile-long Bryce Canyon amphitheater out of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in Utah.
Visiting Bryce Canyon Park 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.
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Caravan offers fully guided tours and in this blog post we’ve compiled some interesting information and facts about Bryce Canyon.
History of Bryce Canyon National Park
Consisting of nearly 37,300 acres, Bryce Canyon National Park is a desert wonderland with its own diverse fauna and flora. Human intervention has remained at a minimum due to the canyon’s lack of water.
Bryce Canyon was originally named after one of the area’s first pioneer settlers, Ebenezer Bryce.
In 1923 the US government declared Bryce Canyon, and the surrounding area, a US National Monument. Five years later in 1928, the area became officially designated as Bryce Canyon National Park.
Elevation and Climate
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.
Bryce Canyon is more remote than its neighboring cousins, the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. While Bryce may not draw as many tourists, Bryce Canyon Park is open year-round and boasts over a million visitors annually.
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.
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 Canyon, were the first settlers to discover the spires and pinnacles. The rock columns that rise up from the ground are 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’
Bryce Canyon Hoodoos & Spires
Bryce Canyon is famous for its unique colorful rock formations called “hoodoos” and is home to more hoodoos than anywhere else in the world.
What are hoodoos?
Bryce Canyon hoodoos are the tall, irregular totem pole shaped rock formations found in the badlands of Bryce Canyon National Park. Some hoodoos reach heights in excess of 200 feet!
Centuries of dry, hot, desert like conditions combined with extreme temperatures, wind, and water erosion, caused the lower portions of the hoodoos (the softer red and orange sedimentary sandstone) to crumble away. The resulting rock columns usually have a denser rock cap that is more resistant to erosion and serves to protect the lower part of the hoodoo pillar from the elements.
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.
What gives the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park their unique totem-like shape is the irregular erosion of alternating layers of soft and harder sedimentary rock.
The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon are not spires as some believe. A spire is smoother with a uniform shape that is generally thicker at the bottom and tapering thinner as it rises to the top.
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 and 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 Colors of Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon hoodoos come in a myriad of shapes and sizes inspiring such descriptive names as Silent City, Queen Victoria, and Wall of Windows. One of Bryce Canyon’s more popular attractions is Thor’s Hammer, a hoodoo that looks like a hammer.
The singular pillars, grouped ridges, jagged crevices, and natural arches all play with the light and shadow, creating a myriad of colourful landscapes as the sun passes overhead.
It is this incredible display of colors that attracts tourists to Bryce Canyon National Park, highlighted by the Park’s unique hoodoos and natural arch formations.
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.
The red, orange, and white sandstone offer up a kaleidoscope of shifting hues and majestic views that change seasonally and with each sunrise or sunset. Many tourists also enjoy Bryce Canyon during the winter when the hoodoos appear in their imposing red and orange hues, but this time capped with white snow. Bryce Canyon is truly a photographers’ paradise.
Other Bryce Canyon Highlights
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.
Summer Activities – Hiking Bryce Canyon is always a popular activity, whether it’s backpacking during the day or moonlight hiking 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. There is also ample opportunity to enjoy horseback riding and ranger-guided tours where you can learn more about the geological formations.
Winter Activities – Tourists will find a lot of worthwhile activities that can be enjoyed in Bryce Canyon National Park during the colder months including snowshoe walks and cross-country skiing.
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. It’s not uncommon to see rare golden eagles and hawks.
Bryce Canyon National Park Tours
For over six decades (since 1952) Caravan Tours has offered all-inclusive tours to destinations across North and Central America.
A Bryce Canyon tour is currently included in Caravan’s all-inclusive Grand Canyon Tour.
This fully guided 8-day tour is affordably priced and includes all tour accommodations, most meals, land travel, activities, and gratuities. Additional tour highlights include visits to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Lake Powell, and Zion National Park.
To make a reservation, please call 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826).
Read our Grand Canyon Reviews by past Caravan guests.