Under-the-Rim Trail

Bryce Canyon’s premier backcountry trail, far from the crowds and with secluded campsites for backpackers.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
36 km
Ascent
1.6 km
Descent
1.4 km
Low Point
2.1 km
High Point
2.8 km
Gradient
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Under-the-Rim Trail Map

Description

Bryce Canyon is well known for its sweeping overlooks and twisting trails among the hoodoos. It does not have many miles of trails, though, at least compared to other national parks. Consequently, backcountry hiking and camping are limited, but there is one great option for a multiday trip: the Under-the-Rim Trail. This route is 23 miles from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point, but it links with a handful of other trails to make shorter or longer variations possible.

It is the park’s day hiking trails that tour the best of the rock formations and panoramas, so you won’t want to miss out on those when visiting Bryce. If you also want a backpacking trip away from the crowds, Under-the-Rim is the way to go. At either end of the trail, it begins with a steep descent off the plateau, then it meanders through pine forest and wildflower meadows, with frequent views toward colorful cliffs high above.

Camping is allowed only in designated sites, of which there are several. You must arrange a permit in advance, specifying the route and campsites you will use. Unlike many parks that issue them online, Bryce Canyon still does in-person permits only. You must show up at the visitor center within 48 hours of your trip to request it. Be sure to ask the rangers about water availability. There are natural springs along the route, but they aren’t always reliable. If you hike this trail as a point-to-point (as most do), you’ll need to have a plan for transportation as well. The park’s regular shuttle does not serve most of the trailheads for Under-the-Rim, so you might need to reserve a seat on the Rainbow Point Tour bus instead.

So, while there are some logistical hurdles to backpacking Under-the-Rim, they are less than what you’ll encounter in some other national parks. The preparation is well worth it to get off the beaten path in Bryce and to enjoy a moderate backpacking trip in the higher elevations of Southern Utah.

Sources: https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/backcountryinfo.htm https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/upload/BackcountryHikingBrochure2018.pdf

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area