Without a doubt, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth! The views of this geological wonder naturally inspire a deep felt concern for protecting what is left of the unspoiled beauty of this planet. Bryce Canyon also inspires painters to create masterpiece landscapes on canvas and this majestic place is a photographer’s dream come true. Looking at this intriguing landscape for the first time does have a way of leaving a visitor speechless as the whispering winds can be heard in the silence of this vast wilderness.
There are many ways to explore Bryce Canyon. For those who are pressed for time or for the physically challenged, touring the roadside scenic overlooks and short trails along the rim is the best way to go. Helicopter and small airplane tours are technical ways to experience this majestic place and the views from high in the sky will reveal geological features that cannot be noticed from ground level. Horseback rides through Bryce Canyon are the sustainable transportation mode for exploring the long trails, but overall, hiking is the most popular way to explore this unique landscape.
The hiking trails in Bryce Canyon are not as perilous as in some of the other National Parks, but they can be challenging. Personal stamina and fitness comes into play on the long trails that have wide swings in elevation. The Bryce Canyon elevations peak in the 9,000 feet above sea level range, so the air is thin. The lack of oxygen can be easily noticed during the first few hundred yards of hiking when a shortness of breath occurs. All it takes is one little dizzy spell to end the day, so be sure to stay extra hydrated, snack and take frequent breaks to prevent altitude sickness.
As far as getting adjusted to high elevation hiking conditions is concerned, the Mossy Cave Trail is a great place to start. The length of this round trip trail is less than a mile long. There are no steep grades or dangerous sections that can cause a hiker to gasp for air. When dry, the trail is smooth enough for wheelchair access and there are bridges over the stream crossing points. Starting with small steps is best, so the short Mossy Cave Trail is perfect for adjusting to the high elevation.
The Mossy Cave Trailhead is located outside the National Park entrance gate on Utah Scenic Byway 12 just west of the town of Tropic. The signage is easy to spot and there is ample parking. There is no entrance fee for the Mossy Cave Trail Access, but this is part of Bryce Canyon National Park, so the same same rules do apply.
The Mossy Cave Trail hike may be short, but it definitely is a memorable one! The views of the towering colorful sandstone outcrops and hoodoos look surreal against the cobalt blue skies. The pine trees that look like tiny bushes on the distant canyon walls actually tower overhead when up close. The dead silence along the Mossy Cave Trail is only broken by the gentle breeze blowing through the tall pine trees and the sound of water flowing in the stream. The wildlife hides during daylight hours, but an occasional bird call can be heard. With each step another beautiful view captivates the eyes.
About halfway down the trail a small waterfall can be seen. This used to be a spring season snow melt waterfall, but now a flood retention pond a little higher up on the mountain steadily feeds the little waterfall. The sound of this little waterfall is as soothing as can be. After passing the small waterfall it is just a short distance through the forest to the Mossy Cave!
The Mossy Cave is a natural wonder in its own right, because moss growing in a high elevation desert environment it is a rare sight to see. The environmental conditions have to be just right for moss to grow and this solitary shallow cave provides what is needed. A combination of humidity, condensation, rock shelf water seepage and water runoff from seasonal rain and snow enables moss to grow in this shallow cave that is sheltered from direct sunlight. The reward for doing the hike is an interesting view, but there is a surprise in store as well. Because of the constant evaporation of moisture retained by the moss, the air around the Mossy Cave feels refreshingly cool on a hot summer day!
No matter how short or how long the distance may be, a hike in Bryce Canyon will surely create pleasant memories that will last a lifetime! Taking small steps is the best way to adjust in this high elevation environment and this makes the short Mossy Cave Trail the perfect choice for warming up to the task. The surreal tall hoodoo spires, the trickling sound of the stream and the whispering wind in the pine forest definitely makes this an ideal place to do a short hike!
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