Terra Galleria Photography

Fairyland: Bryce Canyon’s Overlooked View and Trail


Easily missed, but aptly named Fairyland Point offers quiet, a great view, and the trailhead for one of the best hikes under the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park.

On the way to the renown viewpoints over the Bryce Amphitheater such as Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point, most visitors miss a turnoff in the forest on the left side of the road, just past the park entrance. The turnoff is located before the fee station, so you can visit for free. That turnoff leads to a 1-mile road ending at Fairyland Point. The overlook is 100 feet away from the parking lot. It is the easiest to access of all the viewpoints in the park, except in winter when the side road leading to it is closed. Fairyland Point is a small overlook, and there is parking room for only about twenty cars. It is so easy to miss that I had no problem to park and almost had the place for myself at sunrise, with no other photographers around.

Fairyland Point

The view from the Fairyland Point Overlook is characterized by a combination of densely packed and well-detached hoodoos which lie below the overlook, but not so low as to appear distant. From the overlook, you are looking directly East. Right at first light, the backlit hoodoos appear dark. Five minutes later, there is a bit of light to illuminate them with reflected light, but lens flare is unavoidable.

The secret to many of the great photographs of the Southwest canyons resides in reflected light, and Bryce Canyon in no exception. Fifteen minutes after sunrise, there is enough reflected light to make the hoodoos seemingly glow from within. In order to avoid lens flare while shooting directly towards the low-angle sun, I first photographed with a telephoto lens. With its narrow field of view, I was able to shade the lens with my hand without it showing up in the picture.

About one hour after sunrise, with the sun higher, I was able to use a normal lens to frame the entire canyon. Note that although Fairyland Point Overlook is small, you can hike down the first quarter-mile of the Fairyland Loop Trail for different angles on that dense section of hoodoos.

Fairyland Loop Trail

As wonderful as the views from the rim are, they are only a small part of the experience that Bryce Canyon National Park offers. Hiking under the rim allows you to get close to the hoodoos, see them from a different perspective, and appreciate their scale. The Fairyland Loop hike totals 8 miles, for an elevation difference of about 1,000 feet. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow even without a map. Its first part consists of the Fairyland Loop Trail (5.3 miles) which winds its way under the rim, offering a different perspective on the hoodoos, mixed with an abundant amount of green trees.

At about mid-way the loop, a spur trail leads to the base of a slope topped by Tower Bridge, named so because its boxy shape is reminiscent of the famous Londonian landmark.

I scrambled on the steep and very slippery slope to reach the arch. Framing the landscape via the opening was quite precarious because I needed to back away and lower the viewpoint to detach the arch’s span from the mesa, but the other side was even steeper.

Before going back on the spur trail, I walked a bit off trail along a mostly dry creek with just a trickle of water. The creek supported a more diverse vegetation than the conifers that dominate this high-elevation park, and I was delighted to add a few images to my quest for fall foliage in national parks.

The second part of the loop consists of the northernmost 2.7 miles of the Rim Trail, which like its name indicates, follows the canyon’s rim. The hoodoos there are not as dense as in other parts of the Rim Trail, especially along the Bryce Amphitheater, but the rabbitbrush made for a foreground not usually associated with Bryce Canyon.

Like Fairy Point, the Fairyland Loop sees less traffic than other below-the-rim trails. Athough with the exception of the start of the trail, the hoodoos are not as dense as along the Sunset Point trails, the Fairyland Loop made for an excellent day hike with a great diversity of scenery.


  1. Susie Davies says:

    Those photos of The Fairy Land are so beautiful. The hoodoos look like they are made of colored glass.

  2. Bill Leland says:

    Awesome photos. Keep sharing. I went to Zion, Canyonlands, and Arches this past summer. Need to go back to Utah to see more & spend a longer time there.

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