Backpack Bryce Canyon's Under the Rim Trail

Bryce Point

You will be pretty isolated, I didn't see another person for 24 hours and this can be mentally challenging with some parts of the trail fairly primitive. There are excellent views of the Milky Way and very versatile terrain (red rock bluffs with exposure to forested area with pine floor).

This trail is just about the only way I would see Bryce Canyon. When we initially drove in it was like we were at Disneyland, with crowds of people everywhere. We soon discovered, however, that very few people enter Bryce Canyon's backcountry. We chose to visit Bryce in July due to it's higher elevation and relatively cool daytime temperatures in the middle of the summer (it was mid-seventies during the day and mid-fourties during the night).

Your first step is to go to the Bryce Canyon visitor center to obtain a backcountry ($5.00 USD) permit and rent a bear canister (if you don't already have one) - bear canisters are mandatory for overnight trips into the backcountry here. You can then tell the rangers where you intend to enter and exit the Under the Rim Trail. There are many places to enter and exit, so you can shorten or lengthen your trip based on your experience and time; the whole trail is 22.9 miles total. We decided to enter at Bryce Point and to exit at Swamp Canyon (11.4 miles roundtrip).

Parking is very limited at the drop-in point, so if you can get a ride that will be a huge help. It's pertinent to note that we made this trip on July 10 and I believe this kind of traffic exists most of the summer season throughout the park. It's important to keep in mind that you need to figure out how you're getting to and from the trail (leaving your car, shuttling, or hitchhiking).

We started on the trail from Bryce Point and after 0.3 miles we didn't see another person on the trail for 24 hours. Keep your head up because about two miles into the trail is one of the coolest features in Bryce called The Hat Shop. The Hat Shop is a collection of hoodoos with precariously balanced caprocks on top of them (featured in one of the photographs I've uploaded with this adventure). On your way to The Hat Shop and for some time beyond it you can catch excellent views of the Upper Paria River Valley and the Kaiparowits Plateau.

2.8 miles into the trail you'll come to the first campground, Right Fork Yellow Creek. 1.2 miles past that you'll reach the Yellow Creek Group site and 1.2 miles from that is the Yellow Creek campsite. Yellow Creek is where we stayed and I highly recommend it. We found a comfortable campsite under some trees with an excellent spot away from the tent for a kitchen (always use caution with food near your tent in bear country). There was a creek nearby that was wonderful for filtering water and singing us to sleep that night. There was also a beautiful view of the canyon walls surrounding us. As the sun set we wandered to a bank in the middle of the creek, laid down, and watched the Milky Way blossom in the night (lukewarm beers in hand). Another important note - there are deer flies in this area, though they didn't bother us much after we covered our exposed skin.

In the morning, continue on your journey out of the canyon. The trail between Yellow Creek campground and the junction (for Sheep Creek, Right Fork Swamp Canyon, and Swamp Canyon) is primitive in areas, and my partner and I did find ourselves off the trail and lost for a minute. Though it wasn't a big deal and we quickly found the trail again, we got lost because we had both momentarily stopped paying attention, so please keep an eye out for where you're stepping, both for the trail and because there is also a prevalent amount of cryptobiotic soil in the area.

We emerged from the hike refreshed and ready to eat some good, campfire cooked food, and caught sunset at Sunrise Point (yes, I typed that right). I'll post another adventure about photographing sunset and sunrise along the Rim Trail and which points I found to be best for both. Happy trails!

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Stove (no campfires allowed below the rim)
  • Bear Canister
  • Bear Spray
  • Enough clothing for both exposed hiking, cold nights, and inclement weather
  • Food
  • Water
  • Water Filter
  • Emergency kit
  • Knife
  • Beer
Show More
RT Distance 11.4 Miles
Elevation Gain 1294 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Romantic
Scenic

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Connect this trail to others in the park and you can run the length of Bryce in a day, basically seeing most of the park from foot.


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