Utah's Incredible Backcountry Trails
by David Day
Distance: 5.2 miles (loop)
Walking time: 2 hours
1100 ft. loss/gain
Trail: Excellent, well marked trail
Season: Summer to mid-fall. The trail is covered with snow during the winter months.
Vicinity: Bryce Canyon National Park
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The Peekaboo Loop Trail is actually an equestrian trail, used by the Park Service for twice-daily guided trail rides. Consequently, you are likely to see horses while walking this trail. (If you are interested in a trail ride contact Canyon Trail Rides at (435) 679-8665.) Some hikers may not appreciate the sight and smell of the manure that the horses inevitably leave on the trail, but personally I feel a certain nostalgia in seeing the graceful animals in this beautiful canyon country. The valley east of the rim was used by cattle ranchers long before the national park was created.
The hike I describe below starts at Bryce Point, but it is also possible to begin the walk at Sunset Point. From there you can descend below the rim through Wall Street Canyon or on the Navajo Trail and arrive at the northern end of Peekaboo Loop 1.0 mile later. The total walking distance of the hike if you begin at Sunset Point is 5.0 miles.
Whichever route you choose, when you reach the beginning of the loop I suggest you turn left and walk around it in a clockwise direction. The Wall of Windows, which is the highlight of the Peekaboo Loop, should be approached from the south, its most impressive side. If you are interested in photographing the Wall of Windows the best lighting is before noon, while the sun is in the east.
Bryce Point, where this hike begins, is probably the most impressive overlook point in the park, so be sure to check out the view from there before beginning the hike. The view into the Bryce Amphitheater is particularly impressive at sunrise. The Peekaboo Loop Trail lies at the bottom of the amphitheater just north of Bryce Point, and from there you can see most of the route you will be following on this hike.
The trail begins on the north side of the parking lot and proceeds in an easterly direction for a short distance before intersecting the Under the Rim Trail. There you must turn left to begin your descent into the canyon. Notice the gnarly, centuries-old bristlecone pines growing along the trail as you descend down the switchbacks. They are the trees with the fox tail-like branches, covered with long needles. Soon the trail passes through a short tunnel and then continues in a northwesterly direction on the north side of Bryce Point. Finally, about 30 minutes after leaving the trailhead you will arrive at a junction that marks the southern end of the Peekaboo Loop Trail.
Bear left at the junction and soon you will pass a horse corral and pit toilets where the Peekaboo Loop trail rides typically stop for a midday break. Unfortunately the horses donít use pit toilets, so as you proceed be careful where you step! From there the trail continues meandering in a northerly direction for another 15 minutes before arriving on the south side of the famous Wall of Windows.
The Wall of Windows is a thin vertical fin of sedimentary rock that is slowly eroding into a long line of hoodoos. The uneven erosion along the sides of the fin has caused about a dozen windows of various sizes to open up, allowing daylight to stream down onto the trail below. After reaching the wall the path turns to the northeast and parallels the ridge for a few hundred yards, giving hikers a fantastic view of the unusual formation before crossing to its north side.
After leaving the Wall of Windows the trail passes through another man-made tunnel and continues on for another 15 minutes to the Cathedral, an impressive hoodoo-studded butte that rises above the right side of the path. From the Cathedral it is another 0.5 mile to the north end of the loop. At this point you will come to a short connecting trail that leads to the Navajo Loop Trail and on to Sunset Point. In order to complete the Peekaboo Loop, however, you must bear right at this junction.
The next item of interest along the east side of the Peekaboo Loop Trail is the Fairy Castle, another collection of colorful hoodoos just 0.4 mile south of the junction. There the trail climbs to the crest of a long ridge, ultimately passing just 100 yards from the base of the Fairy Castle.
After leaving the Fairy Castle the route passes through yet another short tunnel before continuing the last 0.9 mile to the southern end of Peekaboo Loop. From there you can retrace your steps the last 1.1 miles back to the parking lot at Bryce Point.
If you are interested in a supplemental map of the
Queens Garden area, we recommend:
Bryce Canyon National Park (Trails Illustrated, map #219)