BC- Mossy Cave Trail


0 - 1









FATMAP difficulty grade



Mossy Cave Trail is different than most in the Bryce Canyon area as it leads along a small stream (Tropic Ditch, flowing through Water Canyon) to a waterfall and a cool alcove fringed by curtains of moss.

It is located not along the main scenic drive but a few miles east on UT 12, half-way down Tropic Canyon, so can be seen without paying to enter the national park. Bryce Canyon National Park has two trails that start before the entrance station and so can be hiked without paying the park fee - the Fairyland Loop starting at Fairyland Point, and the Mossy Cave Trail, a 0.8 mile route that begins beside UT 12 at an elevation of 6,820 feet, about half way between Tropic and the park turn-off at Ruby's Inn.

The trailhead is just beneath the Pink Cliffs, here still colorful though not very steep and generally without any spectacular formations as are found a short distance south.

Instead, the path reaches a cool alcove at the base of a drop-off in quite a narrow canyon, a place sufficiently sheltered that ice from the winter remains intact well into June.

A second point of interest nearby is a small waterfall, reached by a spur path. The Cave - The Mossy Cave Trail is easy and mostly level, following beside the fast-flowing, sediment-laden stream, across two footbridges to a junction.

The left fork has a short but steep climb through a patch of pine woodland to the cave, actually just a wide, mossy overhang in the Claron limestone, kept moist by water dripping from the ceiling.

This freezes in winter, and the large ice pillars beneath do not fully melt until midsummer, partly as the cave faces northeast and hence receives no direct sunlight.

The soil at the base of the grotto is often soft and muddy so the path ends at the edge; the NPS discourage people entering the alcove in order to protect the delicate hanging gardens, so there isn't much to do apart from taking photographs but the cave is interesting enough. Water Canyon - The path is clearly signposted along the main road, and starts at a layby on the south side.

It runs along a shallow ravine (Water Canyon), which holds flowing water at least half the year during summer and fall, but the stream is not natural, instead originating from Tropic Ditch on top of the Paunsaugunt Plateau; this irrigation channel was constructed by Mormon settlers between 1890 and 1892 to supply water to Cannonville and Tropic in the dry season when the Paria River stops flowing.

The ditch diverts water from the East Fork of the Sevier River - a larger drainage with a year-round flow. The rim of the Bryce canyon isn’t the best spot for sunsets because the sun sets at your back as you face the canyon, and since the hoodoos are lower than the canyon rim, they quickly get swallowed up in the shade.

But there is one place in the park that has a west-facing wall.

And that place is The Mossy Cave.