Bristlecone Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Bristlecone Loop, accessible from Rainbow Point at the southern-most end of Bryce Canyon National Park, meanders through a spruce-fir forest atop the highest portion of the park, reaching elevations over 9,100 feet. This short and easy stroll passes by bristlecone pines up to 1,800-years-old and experiences vistas reaching into Dixie National Forest and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. While still popular, this far end of the park is not nearly as crowded as the primary amphitheater area, but no less beautiful. My brother Dave and I hiked the Bristlecone Loop Trail on Sunday, June 3, 2018 beginning at 10:30AM and finishing about 11:30AM. Our plan was to start at Rainbow Point, follow the loop counter-clockwise, then finish at Yovimpa Point.

Total Length: 1 mile Hike Duration: 1 hour

Hike Rating: Easy. This is a fun stroll through the woods to several scenic overlooks.

Hike Configuration: Loop Blaze: Occasional marker stakes

Elevation Start: 9,115 feet Elevation Gain: 125 feet

Trail Condition: Very good. Some is paved. Some is hardpan. Likely to be muddy when wet. Can be very snowy in winter.

Starting Point: Rainbow Point along the main Bryce Canyon Road (Hwy 63).

Trail Traffic: We encountered perhaps two dozen other hikers enjoying this trail.

How to Get There: From Ruby’s Inn, UT take Hwy 63 into Bryce Canyon National Park. There is an entrance fee required. Take the park’s main road all the way to the end at Rainbow Point, approximately 18 miles. Trailhead is on the right.


Bristlecone Loop Trail is in red.


After completing the Queens Garden Loop very early in the morning, we still had the majority of the day left to do more exploring of the features at Bryce Canyon National Park. We decided to drive to the south end of the park, then check out all the overlooks on the way back north, perhaps finding a couple of short hikes to keep the legs warm.

One of those short hikes was Bristlecone Loop. Once arriving at the cul-de-sac at the end of Bryce Canyon Road, we first checked out the appropriately named Rainbow Point. Back in the Bryce Amphitheater the hoodoos are far more numerous, but there are none more colorful than those at Rainbow Point.

The trailhead for the loop is right there too, so we grabbed some water and sun hats and set out to see what we could find. Almost immediately there’s an overlook on the east side of the trail with views into Dixie National Forest down below, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument far into the distance.

Most of the trail is through healthy Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir and White Fir. As you get near the point at the far end of the loop, the bristlecones hang on the edge of the cliffs. Bristlecone pines are some of the oldest trees in the world. In fact, there’s one at Cedar Breaks National Monument, just down the road from Bryce Canyon, that is said to be more than 5,000 years old. Many of those here are nearly 2,000.

We also found several varieties of wildflowers including balsamroot, blue flax, clematis and lupine.

There are multiple overlooks at the far end of the loop. None are as picturesque as Rainbow Point, but they do offer a wide view of the sprawling expanse of canyon country that is southern Utah. They say on a clear day you can see all the way to the four corners area, far to the east.

On the way back, there’s a gazebo along the cliff edge where you can rest for a bit, or get some shade. Inside is a wonderful Thoreau quote, “Silence alone is worthy to be heard.” It is quite appropriate for this section of Bryce Canyon, far away from civilization and the very busy parts of the national park. There isn’t much to hear here. Birds and breeze. Maybe even your own heart beating.

Once you get back to the beginning, if you walk to the west end of the parking area, there is a short paved pathway to Yovimpa Point, another major overlook like Rainbow. This one looks to the southwest.

In summary, Bristlecone Loop is one that is great for hikers of all ages. If you’re going to drive all the way to the south end of the park, you might as well take an hour to walk around this loop. This is the highest point in the park, over 9,000 feet, so it can have as much as 3-15 feet of snow in winter.



This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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