Navajo Loop & Queen’s Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
This trail combo is a great one to start first thing in the morning. Get some great sunrise photography at Sunrise Point. Then do two easy, scenic loops before the crowds start showing up by the busload. See some of the best of Bryce Canyon
Trailhead: Sunset Point
Length: 2.9 miles; 2-3 hours.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. The climb back up to the rim is much easier in a counter-clockwise direction (530′ climb).
Usage: Hikers. The entry fee into Bryce Canyon is $30 per car.
Best Time for Photography: Early morning for softer light hitting the rim.
Further Reading: Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
Navajo Loop & Queen’s Garden Trail Narrative
The Navajo Loop & Queen’s Garden Trail has some phenomenal photographic opportunities, especially if done first thing in the morning. You can photograph the sunrise from Sunrise Point, then walk down to Sunset Point to start the Navajo Loop. Excellent soft light will be hitting the rim and other features of the trail. This extremely popular trail also won’t be quite as full that early in the day.
This trail combination starts at Sunset Point. You can park there (it’s a bigger parking area) but you’ll be ending at Sunrise Point. Take your pick; the walk along the rim between the two points isn’t long at all. Starting at Sunset Point and doing the Navajo Loop first will give you an easier climbing grade on the way back up to the rim.
Right after descending down the trail you’ll be presented with two options. You can go right into Wall Street, or straight and descend past Thor’s Hammer and Two Bridges. I’m partial to Wall Street and that section of the trail descends down some short, steep switchbacks into the narrow canyon. Notice the tall pines growing in this canyon only a few feet wide – how did they ever get enough light to start growing?
After leaving Wall Street you’ll work your way south along a formation of hoodoos, and then east along the south side of the formation. The trail opens up with some views to the south towards Tropic. A trail connecting the Peekaboo Loop will fork off to the right shortly after this bend to the east. If you opt to take the other trail past Thor’s Hammer, this connector trail will be a right.
No matter which way you descend into the Navajo Loop, continue east to the Queen’s Garden. From here the well-established trail undulates along impressive hoodoo formations, through tunnels, and fantastic viewpoints. There’s one short marked trail spur that takes you into the actual Queen’s Garden. This spur has some interpretive signs with a short history and an explanation of why they call this the Queen’s Garden. I wonder what she thinks about all of this!
After the Queen’s Garden you’ll get to one trail junction that will take you back to Sunrise Point by going left. Going right, marked “horse trail” is for horses only. Climb back up to Sunrise Point and find your way back to your car!
Tips for the Navajo Loop & Queen’s Garden Trail
I can’t say it enough – do it early!
If you have the time and the juice, combine this with the Peekaboo Loop Trail. You should do the Peekaboo Loop Trail anyways, but combining it with this loop will cut out the wicked ascent if you were to just do the Peekaboo Loop by itself.