Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park? In this guide we’re giving all the details about one of our favorite hikes in the park, the Fairyland Loop Trail, including mileage, route options, and more!
We have visited Bryce Canyon National Park twice now and despite loving to experience new trails if we revisit a place, we have made an exception for the Fairyland Loop Trail.
The Fairyland Loop is one of the most immersive experiences in the park and along the trail you’ll wind up, down, and amongst the hoodoos and canyons, as well as have views of the surrounding area. We first did this hike back in May 2018 and fell in love with the scenery, so much so that we hiked it again in March 2021!
As the name implies, the trail feels a bit like a magical fairyland. You have tall, orange hoodoos towering over you, green trees tucked in between patches of hoodoos, and if you’re lucky (like we were the second time), some snow off in the distance, giving the hike a gorgeous contrast of colors.
While it may not be the shortest or easiest hike in the park, it’s worth the effort to see some scenery that isn’t as easily viewable from the park overlooks. And in this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know before hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail, including when to hike, what to bring, where to start and more!
We hope you enjoy the trail as much as we do!
Looking for more things to do in Southern Utah? Check out our other guides:
- 10 Day Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary
- The Best Things to do in Moab
- 3 Days in Zion and Bryce Canyon
- How to hike to Observation Point at Zion National Park
- Hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park
- How to hike to Kanarra Falls near Zion National Park
- Things to do in Kanab, UT
- Visiting the Toadstool Hoodoos
- Hiking Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch
- All of our Utah Vlogs
- All of our Utah Guides
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
- About Bryce Canyon National Park
- About the Fairyland Loop Trail
- Fairyland Loop Trail Stats
- Where to start the Fairyland Loop Trail
- What direction should you hike the Fairyland Loop?
- When to hike the Fairyland Loop Trail
- What to Bring on the Fairyland Loop Trail
- Things to know before hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail
- Our Experience hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail
- Looking for more things to do + places to stay at Bryce Canyon National Park?
About Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for having the world’s largest collection of hoodoos, which are rock columns that form over millions of years due to erosion from ice and rain. These hoodoos range in color and size, making each one slightly different from the rest.
Bryce Canyon became a national park in 1928 and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon settler that lived near the park. He built a logging road into the canyon and locals began calling it “Bryce’s canyon.” But back in 1200 AD, well before European Americans and Mormons explored the area, it was occupied by Paiute Indians.
And despite its name, Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, but rather a collection of natural amphitheaters, which sit along the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.
The park is located in Bryce, Utah, which is about 1 hour 45 minutes northeast of Zion National Park, and has many different hikes and overlooks to visit, with the Fairyland Loop Trail being one of our favorites, especially if you don’t mind hiking for hours.
Learn more about Bryce Canyon, including more things to do, plus where to stay, in our Bryce Canyon guide!
About the Fairyland Loop Trail
The Fairyland Loop Trail is a relatively long (8 mile) trek in Bryce Canyon National Park that gives you the extraordinary experience of walking through and among many of the park’s hoodoos, as well as the chance to see unique features like Tower Bridge, Chinese Wall, and the Sinking Ship.
While Bryce Canyon can easily be seen from many short and easy overlooks, in our opinion, the best way to really get a feel for the park is to go below the rim. And while there are a handful of other trails to choose from, like Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden (which we also LOVE!), the Fairyland Loop Trail’s longer mileage makes it less crowded than some of the other options in the park.
But besides the lesser crowds, the views are also spectacular! There are no boring parts of this trail (well, minus the stretch from the Fairyland Loop trailhead to Sunrise Point…more on that in a bit) and you have views 99% of the time.
If you only have one day in the park and can do a good bit of hiking, the Fairyland Loop Trail is a must-hike trail for your Bryce Canyon itinerary.
Fairyland Loop Trail Stats
Miles: 7.8 miles
Elevation: 1,545 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
The Fairyland Loop Trail is a 7.8 mile loop, with about 1,545 ft of elevation gain, with a trail that is very easy to follow, but can be a bit tough with the constant climbing up and down the canyon. Be prepared for this hike to take 4-5 hours total.
During our second time hiking this trail, we apparently went the easier direction and it still sort of kicked our butts at the end, but that could have been a combination of hiking 5 days in a row, having the sun beat down on us, and also the elevation.
While hiking this trail, please make sure to stick to the trail and do not try to climb onto the hoodoos, as they are very fragile.
Where to start the Fairyland Loop Trail
The Fairyland Loop Trail is located in the northern end of Bryce Canyon National Park, near the Visitor Center. However, there are two different places you can start the trail: Fairyland Point or close to Sunrise Point.
Fairyland Point is where the official trailhead is for the hike and to get there, you’ll take a left onto Fairyland Point Road, which is before the Visitor Center and even the fee station. This trailhead can fit about 15-20 cars, so make sure to start early to snag one!
We personally started at Sunrise Point, as that is where we were before and we didn’t want to lose our solid parking spot. If you plan to watch the sunrise in the park and beat the crowds on the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trail, starting the Fairyland Loop Trail from the Sunrise Point area makes the most sense.
No matter where you start, you’ll get the full trail experience!
What direction should you hike the Fairyland Loop?
Besides deciding where to start the trail, you also have another important decision to make: clockwise or counterclockwise?
From Fairyland Point: If you go clockwise from Fairyland Point, you’ll go down into the hoodoos right away, climb up to Sunrise Point, and end with the Rim Trail.
This is the most common way to do the hike and the way that both AllTrails and the Bryce Canyon National Park website show the route.
One plus of doing it this way is that near Sunrise Point there is a general store, so before you tackle the Rim Trail and finish the hike, you can go to the restroom, get drinks and snacks, or just rest for a bit.
From Sunrise Point: If you go clockwise from Sunrise Point you will begin on the Rim Trail, which is in our opinion a less exciting part of the hike, even though you still have great views throughout. You’ll then go down into the canyon at Fairyland Point and have to climb back up to Sunrise Point at the end.
From Fairyland Point: If you go counterclockwise from Fairyland Point, you’ll begin with the Rim Trail, before meeting up with the trailhead near Sunrise Point, where you’ll go down into the hoodoos and end the hike climbing back up to Fairyland Point.
From Sunrise Point (what we did): By going counterclockwise from Sunrise Point, you’ll immediately go down into the canyon, where you’ll spend miles going through the hoodoos, before climbing back up to Fairyland Point and then ending with a walk along the Rim Trail, which wasn’t as flat as we had hoped.
Our personal opinion
After a long hike from Sunrise Point to Fairyland Point, ending on the Rim Trail was such a slog. It was scenic at times, but also pretty tree filled and we were so pooped that it felt like it drug on forever.
Next time, we’d like to go clockwise, starting at Sunrise Point again and knocking out the more “boring” part, before heading down into the hoodoos for the rest of the hike. While the end of the hike would be harder, we’d personally rather end on a more scenic note.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to do this hike. Both options require lots of ups and downs, so no matter which you choose, you’ll still get to see all of the amazing scenery!
When to hike the Fairyland Loop Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park is open year round and different seasons bring a different experience!
In the winter and early spring, there will be snow on the hoodoos, which is a magical sight! However, some lodging options, as well as roads and trails do close in the winter, including the road to the Fairyland Loop Trailhead/Fairyland Point, so you will have to start at Sunrise Point. But if you want to beat the crowds, this is a great time to visit!
The mid to late spring can still be a bit iffy with weather and closures, as Bryce Canyon can get a snowstorm, even in May, so make sure to check the conditions before you go and pack layers. While Spring Break can be a popular time in the park in the mid to late spring, the crowds are still lower than in the summer.
The summer will be busy due to school holidays and summer vacations, but it will have great, warmer temperatures and everything in the park will be open. However, there is a greater chance for afternoon thunderstorms in the summer months, so start your hikes early to avoid getting caught in a storm.
Early fall is the perfect time to visit because the crowds have started to die down, the summer heat is dying down, and everything will still be open. We’d suggest sticking to September and October, as November is the start of winter weather and closures in the park.
As far as time of day, we’d suggest starting the hike as early as possible. Watch the sunrise from Sunrise Point or somewhere along the Canyon Rim and then hit the trail.
What to Bring on the Fairyland Loop Trail
As always, we recommend having the 10 essentials on you when doing any hike, but here are a few key items we want to point out that will especially help you during this hike!
This hike is relatively long and difficult, so you’ll want to wear proper hiking shoes. We love our Lowa Renegades (Kathryn) and Altra Superiors (Adam)!
Microspikes (if applicable)
Microspikes have saved us on many occasions! If you plan to hike in the winter or early spring, we’d highly suggest bringing these so you can safely hike the trail, which may be icy or have snow on it. When we hiked at the end of March, it was not icy anymore, but we had heard a couple weeks before it was.
Make sure to pack warmer clothes! It gets cold at Bryce Canyon due to the elevation. The farther down the canyon you go, the warmer it gets, so having lots of layers will help you stay comfortable.
The entire hike through the hoodoos and along the canyon is very exposed, so you’ll get lots of sun!
We love our Camelbak bladder for hikes because it stores a ton of water and it’s easy to drink from while moving. Since it is a long hike, you’ll want to bring lots of water. The National Park Service recommends 1 quart for every 2-3 hours on the trail per person. Even if you start early it can get warm and the sun will take it out of you!
Packed lunch and snacks
Since this is a longer hike, you’ll want to bring some food with you to keep you fueled. We had a picnic along the way and it helped us get through the second half of the hike. There aren’t a ton of solid dining options near Bryce Canyon, so we’d suggest cooking and bringing your own food. Ruby’s Inn General Store has a good amount of grocery items and Bryce Canyon also has a general store with food to purchase.
We’d highly recommend downloading the AllTrails map before you go. While the trail is easy to follow, we like to use the map to track our progress along the trail. You will need an AllTrails+ membership to download maps, which is $35.99 a year and so worth it!
Want to get 30% off an AllTrails+ membership? Click this link or use our code aplusk30 (you must redeem this code on the website, not the app)!
We use AllTrails+ on every single hike and it is the most helpful hiking tool out there! Some of the features we love are offline maps (so we can navigate even without cell service), wrong-turn alerts, and its 3D maps feature, so we can get a feel for trails before we hike.
Having a headlamp is not only one of the 10 hiking essentials, but is especially important if you plan to start your hike before sunrise or finish after sunset.
Things to know before hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail
Before hitting the trail, there are a few more important things to know about the hike and Bryce Canyon National Park!
Cost To Enter
It costs $35 per vehicle ($30 for motorcycles) to enter Bryce Canyon National Park, which covers 7 days. However, if you start at Fairyland Point, you do not have to pay to enter the park.
If you’re visiting more than one National Park on your trip we highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and will get you into any National Park, monument, or forest for free.
Get Acclimated To The Elevation
The park is about 7,000 to 9,000 feet in elevation so if you’re coming from somewhere at a lower elevation, you might want to consider spending a day doing less strenuous activities before you do something strenuous in the park.
Bryce Canyon has a free shuttle, but we didn’t have any issues getting parking, so we recommend driving around on your own. However, between April and October, any vehicle over 20 ft long (like our van!) cannot drive in the main amphitheater area during shuttle hours. You can learn more about the shuttle hours, stops, and oversize parking here.
There are restrooms at Sunrise Point, but not at Fairyland Point, so if you decide to start there, you’ll need to visit the Visitor Center if you want to use the restroom beforehand.
Beat The Crowds
We noticed that Bryce Canyon gets busier for sunrise, as it’s the best time to take photos in the park (it faces east!) and then the crowds disperse a bit right after sunrise. During our latest visit, the trails were pretty quiet between right after sunrise and 9 AM, so take advantage of that window to hike!
Dogs are not allowed
Just like most national parks, dogs are NOT allowed on trails at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Learn what we do with Kona when she cannot join us
Our Experience hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail
Although we have now hiked the trail twice, once in May 2018 and again in March 2021, we’re going to share a little bit more about our experience on our most recent visit, as it is a bit fresher in our minds. You can also watch our experience here!
After seeing the most beautiful sunrise along the Rim Trail and hiking the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop, we booked it to the Fairyland Trail for the rest of the afternoon.
As we have mentioned above, we started at Sunrise Point, as that is where we had parked, and then hiked down into the canyon. This stretch of trail is pretty steep going downhill and continues descending until you get close to the detour to Tower Bridge. Along the way, you’re getting up close and personal with the hoodoos and seeing tons of green trees, which is one of our favorite things about the hike, the mix of pines and hoodoos.
We did the quick detour to Tower Bridge, which is totally worth the stop. It looks almost identical to the Tower Bridge in London! After leaving this area, the hike begins to go uphill (what goes down must go back up, right?!), but the views never let up.
Once you’re back on the main trail, you will begin to really wind through more and more hoodoos. We climbed up and down a handful of times, getting different perspectives of the park constantly. It’s wild how scenic this hike is! And since it’s a loop trail, you never really see the same view twice, which makes this hike extra exciting.
About 2.5-3 miles in, we reached a point along a rim that had some of the best views of the hike! Not only are the hoodoos in this spot so compact, but there are also great views of the Sinking Ship off in the distance, which is one of Adam’s favorite sights on the trail.
We hiked a little further on the trail, to a spot where you kind of tuck down into a tree filled valley and had a little picnic lunch of lunch meat, veggies, and cheese, which is what we are officially calling “trail charcuterie” or “adult lunchables.”
Once we hit the trail after eating, our bodies started to crash a bit and the rest of the hike was tough for us. We got to Fairyland Point and thought we were much closer to Sunrise Point, but didn’t realize we still had about 2 miles on the Rim Trail to hike.
As we mentioned above, the Rim Trail is the least scenic part of the hike, so with us being so exhausted, it was a bit tough to keep our legs moving for this last stretch. There are some beautiful views along this trail, but it doesn’t compare (in our opinion) to the rest of the hike. And it was a lot more uphill than we thought it would be!
About halfway through the Rim Trail we made the best decision ever: we would go find ice cream when we were done. This helped us get a little bit more pep back into our step! Shortly before reaching Sunrise Point is the North Campground General Store, which we rushed into and grabbed two Snickers Ice Cream Bars (they have lots of other items in there too!). And holy moly, we forgot how much we loved those! It made the last couple miles of exhaustion totally worth it!
Despite the end of the hike being challenging for our tired bodies, we LOVED the Fairyland Loop Trail just as much the second time as the first. There are endless views about 99% of the time, the trail is easy to follow, it’s a great workout, and gives you the chance to see so many hoodoos up close, giving you a true experience of the park’s beauty.
Looking for more things to do + places to stay at Bryce Canyon National Park?
Check out our full 3 Days at Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park guide, which includes a one day itinerary for Bryce Canyon National Park, additional trails to check out, where to stay and eat, and more!
Ready to hike the Fairyland Loop Trail?
Pin this Fairyland Loop Trail hiking guide to help plan your trip!