1. Fairyland Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
TOP CHOICE FOR FIT HIKERS
At just under 56 square miles, Bryce Canyon is Utah’s smallest national park. The landscape has an almost alien appearance, with red rock spires erupting from the desert floor, eroded sandstone arches, and dramatic rock formations around every turn.
For adventurers who want to see the best of Bryce Canyon’s dramatic landscape, the Fairyland Loop delivers the goods. It’s a moderately challenging and less-traveled loop that takes hikers through the most incredible scenery the park has to offer. Fairyland Canyon, China Wall, and Tower Bridge are some of the most iconic features in the park, and you can see them all up close and personal on this hike.
This particular trail gains and loses over 2,000’ in elevation, but few of the climbs and descents feel steep. Hikers descend through red sandstone towers, then wind along the easy-to-follow, well-signed trail before climbing back onto the ridge and looping back to the trailhead. We hit this loop in the morning before the heat got too brutal, but we were still sweltering on the final climb. I’d recommend taking your time — there are features around every turn on the trail, and we were happy to have time to stop and admire them.
Fairyland can be hiked in either direction: prepare for a shorter (but steeper) climb going clockwise, and a longer, more gradual climb if you choose to hike it counterclockwise. Parking can be a challenge in Bryce Canyon, so be sure to arrive at the trailhead early — this way you’ll be spared the hottest part of the day and you’ll have a spot for your vehicle.