If you are visiting Utah, do yourself a favor and visit Bryce Canyon National Park. The spectacular spires and hoodoos of the amphitheater are an unforgettable experience. And the most popular trail in this park, which we recommend you hike, is the Navajo Loop Trail. But how hard is the Navajo Loop Trail?
Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon is a moderate trail that takes 1 to 2 hours. The hardest part of this trail is the switchbacks from the trailhead, which see the trail descend around 500 feet over 0.6 miles. However, most hikers will be able to do this spectacular hike.
- Distance: 1.4 miles
- Estimated Hiking Time: 1-2 hours
- Elevation: 515 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
Is Navajo Loop Trail A Hard Trail?
Park officials rated the Navajo Loop Trail as a moderate, suitable even for relatively inexperienced hikers. The most challenging section of this trail is the switchbacks from the trailhead, which drop 485 feet over 0.6 miles. However, the switchbacks are pretty short, although they are steep.
The rest of the hike is easy, and we would recommend this hike to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.
The ascent to Sunset Point will have you puffing if you are unused to hiking or due to the altitude. Bryce Canyon sits at 8000 feet above sea level, and exertion will make you feel out of breath. But if you are in reasonable shape, this short hike is anything but difficult, and most people complete it in around one hour.
The trail is wide, and there are plenty of places where you can stop for a rest, so take advantage of these opportunities. You will recover from your exertions and can enjoy spectacular views and excellent photo opportunities.
The Navajo Loop Trail Route
Navajo Loop Trail comprises two parts, named for prominent geological features. The Two Bridges side remains open year-round, but park officials close the Wall Street side in those months when precipitation and freezing overnight temperatures combine to create unsafe conditions with potential rockfalls.
Rangers recommend doing this as a counter-clockwise loop when both sides are open, going down the Wall Street side and up the Two Bridges side (we will describe it here). When Wall Street is closed, you can hike the Two Bridges side out and back or combine it with other trails described below.
The parking lot is immediately south of Bryce Canyon Lodge, off State Highway 63. The trailhead is at Sunset Point on the rim of the amphitheater. Look for a signpost at the central overlook point.
Descend the trail, a paved path with safety railings for the first 100 feet. You will come to a point where the railings end, and the trail splits into three. The trail heading east (to the left) is the Two Bridges side of the Navajo Loop Trail. The other two trails lead south.
The upper of these trails is a short spur trail leading to a window overlooking a hoodoo wall in the western part of Bryce Canyon. The lower track is the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop. Follow this trail (when it is open).
The trail drops rapidly along long and short switchbacks between narrow walls of colorful limestone before straightening out and descending gradually to the amphitheater floor.
It passes between the narrow corridors of towering rock known as Wall Street.
You can see two massive Douglas-firs here; they have grown here for over 750 years.
The trail continues through giant hoodoos in the section known as the Silent City, a sprawl of spires and hoodoos along the west side of the track, made of orange, pink, and brown limestone.
You will pass intersections with Queen’s Garden Loop Trail and the top of Peekaboo Loop Trail before turning at Bottom Junction to return on the Two Bridges side of the trail. Take the short spur trail on the right-hand side of the path to the two rock bridges that link the canyon walls, at around the one-mile mark, before returning to the main trail.
The trail then ascends in switchbacks past the most iconic hoodoo in the park, Thor’s Hammer, which you can see to the north, before returning to the amphitheater’s rim at Sunset Point.
How To Combine Navajo Loop Trail With Other Trails
You can combine one side of the Navajo Loop Trail (such as the Two Bridges side when Wall Street is closed) with Queen’s Garden Trail to form a 2.9-mile loop or combine the Navajo Loop with the Peekaboo Loop to create a 4.9-mile combination. Alternatively, combine these two options and do Queen’s, Navajo, and Peekaboo to form the 6.4-mile Figure-8 combo.
Tips For Hiking Navajo Loop Trail
Start early in the day to avoid the crowds, or start the hike an hour and a half before sunset to arrive back at Sunset Point in time to see the sun go down over the amphitheater.
Bring a light jacket if you are hiking in cooler weather or toward nightfall and a hat to shade your head. Wear comfortable hiking shoes with good traction.
As Bryce Canyon is in a desert area, do not neglect to bring (and drink) plenty of water. Bring some healthy snacks to nibble on when you take a break.
Bring a first aid kit in case of any mishaps. Ensure that you stay on the trail for your safety and avoid damaging the native ecology.
Bring a good camera to record the spectacular scenery.
Take your time on the switchbacks. The rapid descent and ascent can be taxing, especially if you are inexperienced as a hiker.
The best time to hike Navajo Loop Trail is spring or fall. October provides the best balance between pleasantly warm conditions and relatively uncrowded trails. The mercury rises too high in summer to make for pleasant hiking, and in winter, conditions can get rather icy (which means that the Wall Street side will be shut, too).
The benefit of hiking in winter is that you will have the trail to yourself. Be sure to wear crampons or Yaktrax for sufficient traction in slippery conditions. Trekking poles can also be an aid in keeping your footing.
Navajo Loop Trail is the most popular trail in Bryce Canyon, going through the spectacular Wall Street canyon and showcasing some of the best-known hoodoos along the way.
Although the steepness of the switchbacks may be off-putting, there are plenty of opportunities to rest and photograph the scenery. Come and see for yourself why the Navajo Loop Trail is so spectacular.