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Bryce Canyon

Across the Southwest, eroded rock takes on a range of mind-bending forms, but the display in Bryce Canyon is perhaps the most bizarre of all.  The park’s signature hoodoos, weathered pink limestone pillars and walls, are geology in its rarest forms. Bryce is a place for the imagination. It will run freely spotting shapes in stone as easily as you can in clouds-and is best experienced at sunrise when the canyon burns crimson. Bryce Canyon is relatively small compared to neighboring Zion, therefore most visitors only give Bryce a day. Leaving the park in less than three days is comparable to waking from a good dream too soon. 

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INFORMATION Contact Bryce Canyon National Park: P.O. Box 640201, Bryce, UT 84764-0201 (p: 435 834 5322; www.nps.gov/brca).  Entry into the park for up to 7 days is $25 per vehicle.  There is an 18-mile, one way scenic drive that offers easy access to a wide variety of views.  Make sure to spend at least a little time at Inspiration Point.  Backcountry permits are $5 for two people and details are available at the visitor center.

CAMPING There are two Campsites in the park that cost $15.  Reservations should be made at (p: 877 444 6777; www.recreation.gov) and cost an additional $10 to do so.  We prefer the North Campground over the Sunset Campground because it is closer to the Rim Trail, making it easier to rush over and catch those amazing sunset and sunrise colors.  Both sites offer showers for $2 at the general store thats within walking distance.

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Off the beaten path:

GAME PLAN: The 25-mile-long park runs north to south over a series of heavily eroded canyons, the largest of which is Bryce, the heart of hoodoo-land. Though a handful of hikes drop into Bryce, the 6.5-mile Queen’s Garden/Peekaboo figure eight is the best. Descend via the Queen’s Garden Trail, then pick up the Peekaboo Loop Trail at a signed intersection. From there you’ll crisscross a ridge crowded with spires and climb back out of the canyon through Wall Street’s towering limestone skyscrapers, some up to 20 stories high. The next day, explore the northernmost part of the park on the eight-mile Fairyland Loop Trail, which navigates a hoodoo graveyard of stumpy towers rising to the canyon rim. This area also hosts popular full-moon hikes (get free tickets the morning of at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center). If there is no moon, you should show up anyway; amateur astronomers are almost always scanning the sky, billed as one of the starriest in the lower 48. On the last day, stop by the Hat Shop (3.8-mile round-trip from Bryce Point) to ogle top-heavy red hoodoos sporting gray limestone chapeaus.