You Need a Word at Least as Strong as MAGIC to Describe Bryce Canyon

Nature’s been luring people here for a very long time

Happy Anniversary, Bryce Canyon

The national park marks its 100th year within the National Park Service on June 8 with a centennial ceremony and live concert.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The outdoor ceremony will commemorate the exact date Bryce Canyon National Park became a National Monument. Following the ceremony, attendees are invited to bring their dancing shoes all the way up to the canyon’s rim for a free live concert by Utah’s very own, The Piano Guys. The event is free and open to the public (although registration is required). The incredible hoodoos and red rock background are truly the icing on the cake for this park’s 100th year celebration!

The national park and its partners plan to continue the celebration with special programs and events throughout the year for the public to enjoy.The centennial celebrations will consist of numerous unique opportunities for the local community and tourists alike to celebrate Bryce Canyon National Park’s rich past and promising future.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And there’s certainly a lot to celebrate. 

From its iconic hoodoo rock formations to its dazzling night sky, Bryce Canyon’s sights are simply breathtaking.

“I think this is a landscape that many people still don’t realize even exists on the planet, much less in their own country,” Bryce Canyon visual information specialist and spokesman Peter Densmore said in a video on the park’s website. “Coming here and seeing that for themselves, I think you need a word at least as strong as magic to describe what that experience is like.”

Here’s what visitors should know about Bryce Canyon, the latest national park to celenrate its centennial year.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why is Bryce Canyon so famous?

Bryce Canyon has the highest concentration of hoodoos in the world. Hoodoos are rocky spires that have been sculpted by erosion over time. Hoodoo comes from a Southern Paiute word oo’doo which describes something that is scary or inspires fear. This is connected to the Paiute legend of this area which tells of the Legend People being turned to stone by the trickster god Coyote as punishment.

The park also has some of the longest views on the continent. On especially clear days visitors at Yovimpa Point can see Humphreys Peak in Arizona, 150 miles away across the Grand Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Standing there at the southern edge of the plateau, one stands upon the top step of the Grand Staircase, a series of colorful cliffs linking the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon. This sequence contains one of the Earth’s most complete fossil records of the last 200 million years including the last supercontinents, the first dinosaurs and flowering plants, and within Bryce Canyon’s Pink Cliffs the dawn of recent life.

The park is also a stargazer’s paradise with official International Dark Sky status. The park’s clean air, high elevation, and remote location combine to offer some of the nation’s darkest skies accessible by a paved road. The park has the longest continually running astronomy program in the National Park Service going back to 1969. The 2023 festival is scheduled for June 14-17.

As always, the festival is free with park admission. This year’s festival will feature family-friendly daytime activities and ranger-led evening programs and constellation tours. 

Kevin Poe, a ranger and astronomer at Bryce teaches employees how to operate the telescopes and identify constellations, planets, and stars as part of a long-running astronomy program.

The park’s centennial also coincides with a morning solar eclipse in October where a ring of fire will encircle the moon against a backdrop of vivid red and gold rock spires.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is unique about Bryce Canyon?

Bryce Canyon is the only national park with Utah Prairie Dogs.

It has three different climate zones.

And it’s not actually a canyon because it doesn’t have a river but rather an eroding plateau margin that retreats 1 to 4 feet a century—about the rate your fingernails grow.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is the best time of year to visit Bryce Canyon in Utah?

There’s truly not a bad time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. Winter is a fantastic and blissfully quiet time to visit as snow blankets the park’s red rocks. 

Summer and early fall are popular times to visit the park which is one of the most visited national parks in the country.

Due to its high elevation, Bryce Canyon is typically 10 to 15 degrees cooler than nearby parks in the summer. But that elevation is also why visitors need watch out for lightning strikes during monsoonal storms in July and August. 

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where is Bryce Canyon located exactly?

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in Southern Utah within a couple hours’ drive of both Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.

They closest city is Cedar City which is about an hour and a half away by car though there are smaller towns nearby.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Can you just drive through Bryce Canyon?

Visitors can see Bryce Amphitheater and nine overlooks along the park’s main road which stretches 18 miles and climbs over 1,100 feet from start to finish.

It takes about two to three hours for a roundtrip including stops to take in scenery. I recommend driving straight to the Rainbow and Yovimpa view points at the end of the road then stopping at other outlooks on the way back.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is Bryce Canyon or Zion better?

Both parks are spectacular in their own right and part of the Mighty 5 national parks of Utah which also include Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef.

Bryce Canyon is the smallest and highest of them with 56 square miles, an average elevation of 8,000 feet, and some areas topping 9,000 feet above sea level.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Native tribes lived in Bryce Canyon?

According to the National Park Service, Fremont and Anasazi people lived near Bryce Canyon from around 200 to 1200 A.D. and Paiute Indians lived in the area starting at around 1200 A.D. 

“All directions around this canyon, there were different Southern Paiute bands that aren’t here today but were here in the past and their descendants still live on,” Glendora Homer of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians said in a video on the park’s website. “The Paiutes are still here.”

Hopi, Zuni, Ute, and Navajo peoples are also connected to the land.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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Worth Pondering…

When lighted by the morning sun the gorgeous chasm is an immense bowl of lace and filigree work in stone, colored with the white of frost and the pinks of glowing embers. To those who have not forgotten the story books of childhood it suggests a playground for fairies. In another aspect it seems a smoldering inferno where goblins and demons might dwell among flames and embers.

The Union Pacific System, 1929