|

Hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

If you’re looking for an epic hike in Bryce Canyon, Fairyland Loop is the way to go. Find out where to park, what to bring, and when to go. 

hikers on the Fairyland Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

Find our content helpful? You can support the BFT team by making your gear, apparel, and travel purchases through the affiliate links in this blog post. We get a small commission with no added cost to you. You can also say thanks by leaving a tip in our virtual tip jar. THANK YOU!

Bryce Canyon is a gem of the Southwest region. I think of it like Zion’s underrated sister that’s less crowded, a little quirkier, and just as beautiful with steep cliffs, stunning hoodoos (gigantic towers of red rocks left standing by erosion), and exceptional trails. One of those trails is Fairyland Loop: a 7.4-mile trek that delivers wildly epic views of the canyon, along with a good sweat.

While Bryce Canyon is best known for the Navajo/Queens Garden Loop and Peekaboo Loop, Fairyland Loop isn’t quite as well known (yet), which is a part of its magic. Its longer length also deters some visitors who don’t have time or aren’t willing to put in the work.

I hiked the Fairyland Loop as part of a Bearfoot Theory group tour that I organized a few years back. Everyone on our trip agreed that this trail is well worth the effort.

Below I’m sharing everything you need to know about the Fairyland Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon, including where to park, when to go, and what to bring. Plus, I’ve sprinkled in a few tips to make the experience as special as possible.  

Outdoor Trip Planning Toolkit

Download my FREE Outdoor Trip Planning Toolkit

Enter your email to get access to printable PDF packing checklists, itineraries, and more.

    Important Reminder: As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage (including toilet paper), being respectful to others, and following the established rules.


    Fairyland Loop Trail: The Basics 

    The Fairyland Loop is a not-to-be-missed hike when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s one of those trails that makes you feel very far away and in a different world without having to venture off too far. 

    Trail Basics

    • Section: Outside the Bryce Amphitheater
    • Distance: 7.9 miles
    • Type: Loop
    • Elevation Gain: 1,555 feet
    • Time: 4 hours
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Trailhead: Fairyland Point
    • Map: AllTrails

    Located in the northern region of Bryce Canyon National Park, this trail provides views of the popular spiraling hoodoos and a variety of stunning landscapes without as much foot traffic as the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail and Peekaboo Loop mentioned above.

    Fairyland is a well-marked trail. The path is generally clear and easy to follow, especially since it’s a loop. 

    The Fairyland Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

    Unlike many hikes that start at the bottom and take you to the top, this hike starts at the top and takes you down into the canyon and around. 

    The Fairyland Loop Trail offers you a different perspective from what you see on the canyon rim and sets you up to see the hoodoos from high and below, which shows the sheer magnitude of their size. They look big in pictures and feel even more massive in person.

    There are good stretches of flat sections, especially in the bottom of canyon, but the downhill and uphill sections can feel steep, especially on a hot day with little shade.

    Tip: Most of the trail is exposed with little shade, so be sure to pack even more water than you think you need. 

    What Direction Should I Hike the Fairyland Loop?

    The trail can be hiked clockwise or counter-clockwise. Generally, it’s recommended to hike it counter-clockwise to avoid the steep climb at the end (which totals to about 850 feet in 1.6 miles). Counter-clockwise gives you a steep downhill at the start and a more gentle and gradual uphill trek at the end. If your knees don’t love a steep downhill, you may want to go clockwise.

    Against the popular recommendation, I personally hiked it clockwise where you encounter a gradual downhill stretch at the start and steeper incline at the end.

    Where to Park for the Fairyland Loop

    You have a few options of where to park for Fairyland Loop. There’s a very tiny parking lot at the official Fairyland Point trailhead. This is where I started. If you can’t find a spot (or it’s closed for the winter), you can start your hike at Sunrise Point which connects to the Fairyland Loop.

    If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon during a busy season and the idea of fighting for a parking spot stresses you out, the visitor’s center offers parking inside the park’s gate and you take the park’s shuttle to Sunrise Point. You can also use the shuttle if you’re camping in or near Bryce and want to leave your vehicle at your campsite. Note that the shuttle doesn’t operate in the winter. 

    How Long Does It Take to Hike the Fairyland Loop?

    I’d recommend giving yourself at least four hours to complete the loop. Could you do it faster? Absolutely. But if you want to soak up the experience, take some photos along the way and enjoy the stellar views — you’ll need about a half day of hiking. 

    Short on time? Consider starting at the Tower Bridge Trailhead and hike the first quarter of Fairyland Loop. Once you reach “Tower Bridge” you can head back in the direction you came from as an out-and-back hike. This will give you a taste of the scenery in half the time. Alternatively, you can hike the shorter Peekaboo Trail or one of the other awesome trails in Bryce Canyon. 

    Tip: Start the Fairyland Loop hike early in the morning to get unmatched sunrise views. You’ll also beat the mid-day summer heat.

    How difficult is the Fairyland Loop?

    When it comes to difficulty, due to its 7.9 mile length and 1,500 feet of elevation gain, I consider this a moderate trail with a few challenging sections. Also if you are coming from sea level, you will notice the altitude and may find yourself more out of breath than usual. 

    The trail sign warns of loose rock, but I wouldn’t say it’s overly slick. Most of the trail is gravel/eroded sandstone, so as long as you have hiking shoes with good traction, I wouldn’t let the signs make you too nervous. You can also hike with trekking poles to provide additional stability on the steeper sections.


    Fairyland Loop Trail Guide 

    If you’re looking for an epic hike in Bryce Canyon, this is it. Fairyland Loop isn’t a quick hike, but it’s THE way to see Utah’s landscape in all its glory. The views are incredible on this hike. You’ll see hoodoos, the Bryce Amphitheater, the “Tower Bridge,” lots of red rocks, twisty trees, and just stunning sights in every direction.

    Views of hoodoos at  Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon
    Scenic views of hoodoos at Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon

    Here’s a peek at some of the trail highlights (going counter-clockwise, since it’s the more popular choice):

    Mile 0 – Fairyland Point & Rim Trail

    You’ll start by heading Southwest (counter-clockwise) from Fairyland Point on the Rim. The beginning portion of the trail is fairly flat, with a few ups and downs, gaining ~300 feet over the first 2.5 miles. This section is a chance to let your legs warm up while overlooking the canyon’s bowl and hoodoos while peering down into where you are headed.

    Our group at the Fairyland Point trailhead before starting our hike

    Tip: Use the restroom beforehand. There are no bathrooms on the trail and because there’s very little coverage, there are few spots to go discreetly. 

    Mile 2.5 – Sunrise Point

    After about 2.5 miles, you’ll reach sunrise point – one of the most iconic overlooks in all of Bryce Canyon. Take it all in, because soon you begin your descent down towards the canyon floor, saying goodbye to the crowds on the Rim. After leaving Sunrise Point, for the next 1.5 miles, you’ll drop nearly 800 feet down into the canyon. You’ll pass the picturesque Chinese Wall (a stunning wall of red rocks) and you’ll notice some beautiful vegetation changes.

    Descending down into the Canyon

    Mile 4.0 – Tower Bridge

    At 4.0 miles, you’ll reach the lowest point of the hike where there happens to be a very cool rock formation aptly named the “Tower Bridge”. It’s about .2 miles off the trail and well worth visiting, especially if you’ve never been to Arches National Park. If you brought snacks, it’s a great lunch spot to pause for a bite. 

    Tower Bridge on the Fairyland Loop Hike

    Past tower Bridge, for the next 2.5 miles, you’ll experience some gradual uphill and downhill sections as you weave your way through the forest and around giant hoodoos, also known as “fairy chimneys” and “tent rocks.” 

    The canyon floor on the Fairyland Loop Trail

    Mile 6.6 – Begin your Ascent

    Over the final 1.3 miles of the Fairyland Loop, you gain just over 600 feet as you climb up and out of the canyon, back to Fairyland Point. As you reach the tops of the hoodoos, you’ll once again have sweeping views of Bryce Canyon and the landscapes surrounding the Park.

    This is the final section of the Fairyland Loop. Since you’re hiking counter-clockwise, you’ll be hiking uphill (instead of downhill like we were in this photo)

    Mile 7.9 – Return to Fairyland Point

    You’ll end right back where you started! Once you’re back to your car, head to the General’s Store for a cold beverage or a tasty treat.


    Best Time to  Hike Fairyland Loop Trail

    Fairyland Loop is generally accessible year-round, and the best time to visit Bryce Canyon depends on the conditions you want to experience. As you’d expect, fall and spring will give you the mildest, most comfortable climate. I especially love visiting Bryce in autumn so I can appreciate the fall foliage as the colors turn to vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange. It’s magical. 

    Additionally, fall and spring are usually a little less busy compared to the summer. However, Bryce Canyon is relatively comfortable for hiking in summer compared to Utah’s other National Parks. With an elevation of about 7,000 feet, the highs in the summer are typically in the 70s and 80s. However, there isn’t a lot of shade, so remember to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and bring a hat. 

    I hiked the Fairyland Loop in early June

    If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon in the winter, you can still hike the Fairyland Loop, but you’ll need to start at Sunrise Point since the Fairyland Rd. to the trailhead is closed during the winter months. The cold weather also means you’ll likely deal with fewer crowds. 

    Especially for hiking in winter, you’ll want waterproof hiking boots with good traction, extra winter hiking layers, and maybe even trekking poles with baskets to give you an extra assist. Unless you are the first hiker after a big storm, you won’t likely need snowshoes since the trail gets packed out by other hikers. However, the trail can get icy, so microspikes can come in handy. 

    Bryce Canyon is stunning in winter. I took this picture in mid-November after a snowstorm.

    What to Bring on the Fairyland Loop Hike

    When preparing for your Fairyland Loop hike, check out the 10 Essentials for Hiking. One important thing to note is there is no water available on the trail and the sun can be intense, so bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. 

    Bryce Canyon in the summertime
    Keeping my face protected while hiking Bryce Canyon in Utah

    Of course, depending on the season, you’ll need different gear. Below is a quick glimpse at what you’ll need outside of the winter season. Check out our full list of what to wear hiking in the desert

    You’ll also want closed-toe hiking shoes with good grip, adequate sun protection, and snacks.  Trekking poles can also come in handy to take the pressure off your knees. 

    Tip: Bring binoculars! The rock formations are so intricate and unique, you’ll want a close-up look to see the mesmerizing details. Even if you don’t bring them on the hike, it’s nice to have them in your car for afterwards.

    Save this post to Pinterest

    Have you hiked Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon? Did you go clockwise or counter-clockwise? Let us know any of your favorite trail tips in the comments!

     

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *