Navajo trail was suggested to me for its stunning views, I settled on it after realizing that, with just a day in Bryce, anything more serious would cost me the chance to drive the entire park and anything less, well, you can’t say you’ve really explored a place sticking to walking tours. That said, short as it ended up being, it was a great recommendation and one of my favorite hikes for the year with spectacular views of the canyon on both the way down and back up. Plus a great workout that didn’t take all day.
Visiting in late fall, many of the normal rules of hiking morning / evening go out the window in favor of mid-day. At a high of 26-degrees, there’s no overheating worry, it’s quite the opposite and I wanted as much sun as possible, even if it did ruin most of my photo opportunities. Instead, I got to enjoy all the same wonders with less crowds and the added bonus of snow.
The trail is heavily used, well maintained, marked at the start / mid / end and easily accessible right from Sunset Point with ample parking, so getting there is not a problem although if it was busy in winter so I can only imagine the summer with crowds, point crowds, crowds of all any sort imaginable…
Heading down from the 8000′ point, the trail starts out as a set of mild, semi-paved switchbacks before forking to the actual Navajo loop. I was told to go right which seemed a smart move as the way down was pretty slick with melting snow & ice from the morning and going up the left seemed a little more gradual (perhaps just more hill before switches).
Wandering down, you’re treated to stunning views of the a close-formed canyon (“Wall Street”). In mid-afternoon, this was all heavily shaded giving it a cool feeling and reaching the bottom was a brisk 20 minutes. Even just looking back at the photos, the canyon walls and stone built trail reminds me of something you’d see in Jordan or out of an Indiana Jones movie set in some far off, stone city of another world.
Once you hit the valley floor, the topography changes from red rock to every day dirt, ever-green trees and open views to valleys below and faces above. Not as impressive as the canyon portion but of course looking up at the peaks is pretty awesome after a day of staring down from vista points.
The valley portion stays flat until you pass the mid-point and hit the opposite canyon to ascend. Going my way, the route up started with a fairly gradual walk before reaching Two Bridges, a formation of two eroded stone walls that look like nature-made bridges (no climbing, you could speed up nature in breaking them).
From there it’s all up with a few ramps then 9 straight switches that I counted. Level off for a brief break and eye-level view of the canyon scene before walking up a bit further to loop start and then the last switches back to the parking lot. All said it’s rated at 1-2 hours but with just a few photo / breather stops and no real detours, I completed it in 50 minutes and had to find another adventure to avoid leaving too early… But whatever, it was one heck of a view.
For a longer and more scenic tour (what I should have done), add in Queens Garden which cuts in just past the half way mark.
Warning: This hike is through canyons with a risk of falling rocks at all time. Don’t disturb them or you may have one heck of a headache.
Warning: This hike starts at 8,000+. Altitude significantly changes how you will perform physical activity and can vary widely between people. Stay well hydrated and watch for sickness (like a sudden flu), stopping activity and cooling down immediately.
- Official Rating: Moderate
- My Rating: Treadmill run+
- Start point: Sunset Point lot / marked trailhead / go right to left
- Distance: 1.3 mile round-trip (out & back) / 163′ gain / 90 minutes
- Look for: The views of the canyon as you walk down
- Recommended time: Highly exposed so try for early morning or mid-afternoon
- Facilities: Restrooms at the parking lot (sinks for water)