Article by Maggie Slepian - Backpacker, trail runner, climber, and mountain biker
At just under 56 square miles, Bryce Canyon is Utah’s smallest national park, but full of some of the best Southern Utah hiking trails. 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.
The best hike in Bryce Canyon is the Fairyland Loop Trail
I did this hike on my Utah road trip. We wanted to see the best of Bryce Canyon’s dramatic landscape, and Fairyland Loop Trail delivers a magical experience. It’s a moderately challenging and less-traveled route 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. We did this in the morning and had an easy time finding parking. We saw people at the beginning and end of the loop, but for the most part, we were on our own.
How long is Fairyland Loop Trail?
The Fairyland Loop Trail is 8 miles long and takes three to five hours to hike. This particular trail gains and loses over 2,000’ in elevation, but few of the sections feel steep. We descended through red sandstone towers, then wound along the easy-to-follow, well-signed trail before climbing back onto the ridge and looping back to the trailhead. Though we hit this loop in the morning before the heat got too brutal, 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.
Which way should you hike the Fairyland Loop?
Fairyland can be hiked in either direction: prepare for a shorter (but steeper) climb going clockwise, and a longer, more gradual rise 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. You can view a Fairyland Loop Trail map here.
Backpacker, trail runner, climber, and mountain biker
Maggie is an avid outdoor enthusiast based in Bozeman, Montana. When she's not in front of a computer writing and editing, she can be found backpacking, trail running, mountain biking, climbing, shooting archery, or trying to teach her cat how to walk on a leash.