Distance: 7.8 mile Loop | Time: 3– 4 hours | Level: Moderate
The Fairyland Loop Trail is a stunning hike that covers nearly 8 miles of Bryce Canyon National Park. The trail consists of magical hoodoos, arches, pine forests, and endless views of the unique beauty the park has to offer.
The best part? The trail is practically empty.
Most visitors come to Bryce and hit up the trails within Bryce Amphitheater, leaving trails located on the outskirts of the Amphitheater less trafficked. Nature lovers looking to experience the ethereal beauty of Bryce Canyon without the crowds should definitely add hiking The Fairyland Loop Trail for sunrise to their Bryce bucket list.
Continue reading for details on what to expect hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail, where to park, what to pack, where to stay, and other great trails to hike in Bryce Canyon.
Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail for Sunrise
Where to Park for the Fairyland Loop Trail
There is a designated parking lot for the Fairyland Loop Trail at Fairyland Point. However, the parking is limited and fills up quickly.
I recommend parking at North Campground. There is a day use picnic area and parking lot located towards the back of the campground. Once you make the turn into the campground, continue driving towards the lodge. You will see a small parking lot on your right, filled with picnic tables, and access to the Rim Trail on your left.
You can start the Fairyland Loop Trail from here, rather than the official starting point. Starting the trail here not only means more parking, but also less hikers.
By starting this hike at a different section of the trail, you will be ahead of most of the other sunrise hikers, thus getting more time on the trail to yourself.
Even better, don’t just park at North Campground, camp there! More on this later.
What to Pack for the Day Hike
It is always important to be prepared for a hike of any length, but especially one that is 8 miles. The elevation in Bryce Canyon sits just above 9,000 feet. At this elevation, even the most fit of hikers will tire more quickly, and thirst will be a constant.
To prepare for your morning of hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail, be sure to wear breathable clothes and comfortable hiking shoes. My go-to trail shoes are Saucony trail runners. In all my years of trying out different brands of hiking boots and shoes, I’ve never found more comfortable footwear.
You’ll also want to bring along a daypack to keep all of your things in one place. My favorite daypack is from Gregory. The 16L pack is the perfect size for a day of hiking and provides just enough room for your essentials. It’s comfortable, lightweight, and hydration compatible.
Without a doubt, the most important hiking essential is water. And plenty of it. We visited Utah during peak summer and every trail sign suggested carrying two liters of water for every mile.
At first this suggestion seemed extreme, especially to someone like me who usually only gets down a liter or two of water a day. However, I have never been more thirty than when I was hiking in Utah. The elevation, mixed with the heat and trail grade will having you sucking back large amounts of water, constantly.
At the very least, I recommend carrying two liters of water when hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail. I prefer to use water bladders when hiking, but any reusable water bottle will suffice.
Lastly, it’s always smart to hike with snacks on hand. Throw a protein bar or two into your daypack in case a pick-me-up is needed mid-hike.
As always, check the weather before hiking to ensure the trail conditions will be safe and that you are appropriately dressed.
What to Expect Hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail
Hiking Fairyland Loop Trail for sunrise was such a wonderful way to start the morning. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it 100 times again, the desert is most beautiful at sunrise and sunset. When traveling through Utah, plan your hikes around these times.
We started hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail right at dawn. We began the trail from the North Campground day-use area, rather than Fairyland Point; therefore, hiking along the Rim Trail a bit before making our way onto the official Fairyland Loop Trail.
I’ve read mixed reviews regarding whether to hike Fairyland Loop Trail counterclockwise or clockwise. Honestly, I don’t think it matters. We hiked the trail counterclockwise and loved it.
Regardless of which way you hike the trail you’re going to encounter some prolonged uphills. Luckily the magical views of the orange and red hoodoos help to distract you from the fact.
Just as the trail name suggests, Fairyland Loop Trail transports hikers, well, into a fairyland. While every hike in Bryce Canyon National Park is beautiful, Fairyland Loop sticks out amongst the rest because you have the opportunity to experience much of the trail alone.
Nature just hits different when you can hear the sounds, encounter the wildlife, and experience the colors changing without the distraction of other hikers. During the 8 mile hike, we only passed a handful of others until we neared the end of the trail.
While the trail is long it’s not strenuous. There are a couple of uphill stretches where you’ll want to catch your breath, but other than that the trail is pretty mellow.
I recommend taking your time and soaking up the views. They are endless.
Every twist and turn of the trail leads you deeper into the valley with stunning views of hoodoos at every turn. One of my favorite sections of trail leads you up along a narrow ridge with sweeping panoramic views in all directions.
The geological formations in Bryce Canyon feel too perfect and too grand to have been created naturally. Sections of the trail feel man-made because of how perfectly each hoodoo is constructed.
Bryce is a place that has to be witnessed for one to fully understand its beauty. There is nowhere like it.
Once you make the final uphill push to Fairyland Point (if you went counterclockwise as we did) you reach the Rim Trail once again. This views from this portion of the Rim Trail are different than the views from the rim lining the Amphitheater.
The Rim Trail here is quiet and less trafficked. The trail takes you past pines and wildflowers and, if you’re lucky, a deer or two.
Where to Stay
I highly recommend camping during your stay in Bryce. What better way to experience all Bryce Canyon National Park has to offer than to be surrounded by its beauty 24/7?
North Campground is one of two campgrounds in Bryce, and a perfect place to stay when planning to hike the Fairyland Loop Trail for sunrise. The campground lines the Rim Trail, which connects to the Fairyland Loop Trail. If camping there, all one has to do is roll out of their tent and onto the trail.
Every hiker’s dream.
Sunrise hikes are much easier to make on time when you knock out commuting to the trail. North Campground is also conveniently located close to the Visitor Center and General Store.
This campground is first-come, first-served. Tent sites are $20 and RV sites are $30.
Best Western Plus (Ruby’s Inn)
If camping is not quite your style, I recommend staying at the Best Western Plus. While not located within the park itself, the hotel is a short five minute drive from the Visitor Center.
When we visited in July, the Best Western seemed to be a little more up-to-date than the Bryce Lodge. However, I’m sure the Lodge has charm of its own and, therefore, a great option for those set on staying in the park.
I wanted to add a quick note on dispersed camping in Bryce Canyon National Park. During our 21 day Utah road trip, we tried to disperse camp as often as possible. We arrived in Bryce planning to find a dispersed camping spot using the app Free Roam.
When we arrived at the dispersed camping location indicated on the app, there were several National Park signs indicating “NO CAMPING.” We aren’t sure if the location on the app was incorrect or if the area recently outlawed dispersed camping.
Regardless, we couldn’t find a primitive camp spot within 20 minutes of Bryce Canyon.
Other Great Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park
Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail
If you have time to do more than one hike in Bryce, I highly recommend fitting in the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail. There is no other way to describe the hike than utterly surreal.
The trail winds you down the astonishing Wall Street switchbacks, past a valley of pines, under arches, and through a mystical land of orange hoodoos. It’s a must-see.
Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail
There is a lot of debate between Fairyland Loop vs Peek-a-Boo Loop regarding which one is more spectacular. We obviously chose to hike Fairyland Loop Trail but my sister, who was able to fit in both hikes, claims Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail might have the upper hand.
Peek-a-Boo is shorter at 5.2 miles, and takes hikers in the opposite direction of Fairyland Loop trail, towards Bryce Point.
My advice? Hike them both if you have time! If not, rest assured you can’t go wrong. Any hike in Bryce Canyon is sure to exceed your expectations.
Under the Rim Trail
Had we known backcountry camping was an option prior to arriving in Bryce Canyon National Park, we would have absolutely factored hiking Under the Rim Trail into our itinerary.
I can’t think of anything more wonderful than spending a couple of nights under the rim of Bryce Canyon, away from park-goers, soaking in the incredible views, alone. If you’re a seasoned hiker looking for an off-the-beaten path adventure, definitely look further into hiking parts of, or all of this trail.
Backcountry permits are only $5, cash only, and can be reserved up to 48 hours in advanced at the Visitor Center.
Our only regret during our time in Bryce is that we didn’t spend more time there. We spent a wonderful two days exploring Bryce, but we could have stayed much longer. Hiking in Bryce Canyon was one of our favorite experiences in Utah.
If you have any questions regarding other trails or anything related to Bryce Canyon National Park, feel free to drop your question below in the comment section!
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