The Bryce Canyon Amphitheater is a colossal 12 miles long, 3 miles wide and 800 feet deep.
What makes it so impressive as you stand on any one of its scenic points (Bryce, Sunrise, Sunset or Inspiration), are the red, pink, and orange hoodoos that seem to be vigilantly standing watch over the canyon.
The Bryce Canyon Amphitheater is very easy to get to and from the Visitor Center, Lodge, or Ruby’s Inn. This makes it all the more popular to see, so plan on a crowd if you’re visiting during the peak season.
Bryce Point is a great spot to canyon gaze, have a picnic lunch, or just take it all in. We did the Rainbow Point Tour in the morning and saved this for the afternoon. With its thousands of hoodoos, this was an awesome grand finale to a very impressive National Park.
So what is a “Hoodoo” (you ask)? I wondered the same thing as our Bryce Canyon tour guide pointed out these artful rock spires around every corner, each with a unique chess piece look to them, and spread out across the landscape as far as you could see.
Hoodoos are rock spires or columns ranging from 5 feet to 150 feet tall. Their pink color and intricate shapes have been formed over millions of years of erosion. Every year, Bryce canyon is said to experience more than 200 freeze/thaw cycles. Being an engineer from the east coast, I am very familiar with this cycle’s destructive power as it has littered our area with many highway potholes! With this cycle, water infiltrates the softer layer of this sedimentary rock and as it freezes and turns to ice, its volume expands and turns to micro-cracks. Over time, these forces have carved a truly incredible spectacle at the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and throughout the park.
The hoodoos have become like family pets to the Bryce locals – some have been given names and our guide swore that their faces would turn and their eyes would follow you as the sun sets (the light / shadows really do plays tricks on your mind). They range from Snoopy to Queen Victoria, ET, The Hunter, an Indian Princess, Bart Simpson, animal favorites, and many more.
Like intricately-carved totem poles,these hoodoos will capture your imagination and are so uniquely Bryce Canyon that they are a must-see part of the park. Some even resemble a castle built in the hillside, with arch entry-ways and all (pictured on the right)!
And while the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater does have the greatest concentration and most impressive layout of these geological features, the other hoodoo formations in Bryce as you head south in the park were equally impressive in their own right. Rock formations such as Natural Bridge, pictured below, looked like something right out of a cowboy movie. And if you approach Bryce Canyon from the north, as we did, you’ll likely drive through Red Canyon Park and its red stone tunnels along Route 12 – really neat ride which added to the ‘western experience’.