Bristlecone Loop, Rainbow Point Trailhead, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bristlecone Loop - 1.1 miles
Rainbow Point Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||1.1 miles (Travel to Yovimpa Point adds .2 miles roundtrip)|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,118' - 8,999' (9,123' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-119' net elevation loss (+128' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Bristlecone Loop - 1.1 Miles Round-Trip
The Bristlecone Loop is located 18 miles from the Bryce Canyon Entrance Station. It circles a diverse subalpine forest highlighted by bristlecone pines on the edge of a dramatic canyon overlook.
Visitors will enjoy sensational views while learning about the area's unique ecology and geology. High elevations and cool forests offer a welcome reprieve from the summer heat and exposed trails of Bryce Amphitheater.
In spite of poor soil conditions that would normally limit natural densities, aggressive fire mitigation has allowed Douglas and White Fir to thrive.
Consequently the trail's eponymous Bristlecone Pines are scarce, one of the unintended byproducts of over-maintenance and fire prevention. Still, this richly appointed forest underscores Bryce Canyon's ecological diversity and ability to maximize limited precipitation.
The trail drops through the forest to a rest area and canyon overlook (.45 miles : 8,999'), from which the trail dips and rolls between the forest edge and Pink Cliffs canyon rim for the remainder of the hike.
Views drop more than 2,000' and seamlessly meld with the heavily forestedRiggs Spring area below - a known corridor for the Park's bear and mountain lion populations.
Those familiar with Bryce frequently claim the Riggs Spring Loop to be the most rewarding and exciting backcountry route in the Park.
A short spur near the end of the loop (.9 miles : 9,085') leads to Yovimpa Point (9,123'), an overlook with 270 degree views of the Pink Cliffs canyon rim and Riggs Spring area.
Clear skies yield 80-100 miles vistas that extend far beyond Park boundaries into the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Bristlecone pine have unique adaptations to withstand persistent winds, high elevations, low moisture, cold temperatures, and short growing seasons:
- The bristlecone pine's short, twisted trunk facilitates nutrient flow, and stabilizes the tree in strong winds (vs. a long, narrow trunk that could snap).
- Flexible branches bend in the wind, rather than break.
- Slow growth rates: Bristlecones may take a century to add just 1 inch in diameter, and can become nearly dormant during a drought.
- Trees replace needles once every 10-15 years rather than annually, which conserves energy.
- Narrow growth rings create dense wood that's resistant to insects and disease. The tree's resin also combats insects and disease.
- Strip-barking enables a small strip of bark to nourish large branches and needle clusters.
- N37 28.520 W112 14.430 — Rainbow Point Trailhead
- Largely unrecognized by interpretive signs but no less impressive are the exceptionally tall and successful ponderosa enclaves in this area.
- The loop is bisected by a 'cutoff trail' that halves the distance and also leads to Yovimpa Point. The cutoff is located .2 miles from the trailhead, traveling in either direction. This is a good option for those with very limited time or young children.
- The easy diversion to Yovimpa Point adds only .2 miles roundtrip to the Loop.
- The plateau on which the loop travels covers the highest elevations in the Park.
Directions to Trailhead
The Rainbow Point Trailhead is located 18 miles south of the Park Visitor Center and Entrance Station on Highway 63. Highway 63 terminates at the trailhead.
Bryce Canyon National Park
PO Box 640201
Bryce Canyon UT 84764-0201
Visitor Center Operating Hours
Summer 8am - 8pm (May - September)
Fall (October) 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Winter (November - March) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Spring (April) 8:00 am - 6:00 pm