Hiking the ‘best 3-mile hike in world’: Navajo/Queen’s Garden Loop

Hiking the ‘best 3-mile hike in world’: Navajo/Queen’s Garden Loop

By Mike Godfrey, KSL.com Contributor | Posted Apr 4th, 2016 @ 11:56am


BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK — Bryce Canyon National Park is one of Utah’s — and even the world’s — most stunning and colorful landscapes.

Generally speaking Bryce Canyon’s glowing hoodoo amphitheater is viewed from the rim, but as breathtaking as Bryce Canyon is from above, it is mesmerizing from within. And there’s perhaps no better way to experience Bryce Canyon’s landscape than by hiking the Navajo/Queen’s Garden loop.

“Why is it called Queen’s Garden?” you may ask. The name actually comes from a popular hoodoo along this section of Bryce Canyon’s trail system that bears some resemblance to a portrait of England’s Queen Victoria. Hiking this loop also offers a view of Bryce Canyon’s most famous formation “Thor’s Hammer.” However, these two features don’t even begin to highlight the incredible geological oddities you’ll encounter while hiking among Bryce’s towering hoodoos.
It’s because of the unique geology that the combined Navajo and Queen’s Garden trails have been called “The Best 3 Mile Hike in the World”, and if you spend much time hiking, you’ll realize how daring a claim that is.

Whether this 3-mile trek in Southern Utah is or is not the world’s absolute best, you’ll have to decide for yourself. But here’s what you’ll need to know before beginning your hike.
Level of Difficulty
Considered a “moderate” hike by the National Park Service, the combination of the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Trails is a roughly 3-mile loop. You can begin the hike from either Sunrise or Sunset Points, but the National Park Service suggests the safest and most scenic route begins at Sunset Point, hiking north along the rim before descending into the canyon at Sunrise Point and finally ascending via the “Wall Street” switchbacks.

Regardless of where you begin, the trail descends nearly 600 feet into the iconic amphitheater. While the climb back to the rim is generally not difficult, it is important to hike at a pace that suits your level of fitness.

Think you can handle more? Bryce Canyon has a terrific interconnected trail system. Consider adding the Peek-a-Boo Loop or Fairyland Loop to your trek.

Bryce Canyon’s unique landscape has been carved by a dramatic climate that necessitates some safety precautions. Depending on what time of the year you choose to visit, you’ll want to plan accordingly.

In summer, temperatures can fluctuate nearly 40 degrees between nighttime and daylight hours, and reach highs of nearly 100 degrees. Always make sure to bring appropriate clothing, sun protection and water when hiking. The National Park Service suggests at least one liter of water for every 1-2 hours of hiking for adults.

During the winter months, there are regular trail closures — including the popular Wall Street switchbacks— due to icy conditions. Icy trail conditions can linger well into spring and the Wall Street closure in particular may stay in effect until late spring. Traction devices are advised when icy trail conditions are possible.

Spring and fall exist somewhere in between the extremes and can be both hot and quite cold. Make sure to check current weather conditions and forecasts before you visit.

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What to do/not do when encountering wild animals in Utah
Many Utahns may be heading to the outdoors for camping and hiking during the Pioneer Day weekend. During these excursions, you may encounter some of Utah’s wildlife. Here are some tips to help you and the animal avoid getting hurt.
While mountain lions and bears are rarely observed in Bryce Canyon National Park, you are fairly likely to encounter squirrels, chipmunks and the occasional rattlesnake. Should you encounter a rattlesnake on the trail, keep your distance and wait for it to move on. Snakes do not attack unless they feel threatened and given time, snakes will move on allowing you to carry on safely.

Also remember that all animals have special protection within national parks. It is unlawful to feed, harass, capture or kill any animal within park boundaries. Additionally, rattlesnakes are afforded extra protection under Utah State law.

The most common wildlife danger comes from squirrels and chipmunks. Despite warnings and signs posted throughout the national park system, people continue to feed these cute, deceptively placid animals. Bites from squirrels and chipmunks can occur in an instant and can often require many stitches. They can also carry a number of dangerous diseases.

Whether encountering snakes, bears or squirrels, it is best to enjoy Utah’s wildlife from a safe distance. By helping keep wildlife wild, you are doing what is best for people and wildlife alike. If hiking with children, keep them safe by having them remain by your side.

Make sure to enjoy your visit to beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park. Be respectful of others and the landscape. Leave no trace and take only photos. It is unlawful to remove anything whether rock, mineral, plant, animal or historical feature from within any national park. Use only maintained trails, staying off “social” or unofficial trails.