Utah, Under-the-Rim Trail

State: Utah
Location: Bryce Canyon National Park
Length, One-Way: 23 miles
Trail Type: Out and Back
Elevation Change: 1500 feet
Best Season: Spring
Difficulty: Difficult
Usage: Moderate

Rim Trail in Utah

Trail Information

The Under-the-Rim Trail runs north and south through Bryce Canyon for 23 miles from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point. The trail follows the Pink Cliffs, which form the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. It climbs and descends as it skirts the cliff bottoms with a total elevation gain of 1,500 feet in 23 miles. There are eight backcountry campsites along or near this route requiring permits for camping. Individuals planning on backpacking along this trail need to obtain a permit at the Visitor Center before beginning this hike.

The improved shuttle system in Bryce Canyon National Park makes reaching this trailhead and returning to your car easier than in the past. Having two cars are no longer necessary if hiking this route during the shuttle season May 15 through September 30 each year. The usual direction for the hike is north to south. This the path detailed in the description.

The Bryce Point Trailhead lies at an elevation of 8,250 feet. From this point on the rim of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, the trail descends gradually for a quarter mile but steepens after that. Switchbacks finish the first mile of the trail as it descends through the Pink Cliffs. The trail continues to wind its way east into the headwaters of Merrill Hollow before crossing a narrow ridge and entering the next drainage. The trail reaches the bottom of this small wash approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead. It then follows the wash for a short distance before entering the spires of the Hat Shop.

Beyond the Hat Shop, the Under-the-Rim Trail follows the eastern rim of the Right Fork Yellow Creek canyon before descending into that drainage. At the bottom of this descent is the Right Fork Yellow Creek dispersed camping area. Once on the floor of the canyon, the trail follows this tributary for about one mile. Before reaching the main canyon of Yellow Creek, the trail leaves the wash and rounds the base of a ridge that separates the main fork from the right fork of the stream. A short distance after leaving the right fork is the Yellow Creek Group Camp. The trail reaches the main drainage of Yellow Creek shortly west of the group camping site.

The Under-the-Rim Trail follows Yellow Creek one mile upstream then ascends the western wall of the canyon. Once on the rim the trail descends into Sheep Creek. The trail skirts the head of Sheep Creek for nearly three miles before crossing Pasture Wash and climbing out of the drainage. The route crosses a high ridge to the west of Pasture Wash before dropping into the main wash of Sheep Creek. Before crossing Sheep Creek, the trail reaches a junction with the Sheep Creek Connecting Trail. Turn right at this first junction to continue up stream along Sheep Creek. At the next junction turn left and cross the stream.

The Under-the-Rim Trail continues through the basin of Sheep Creek after the first stream crossing. It then climbs to 7,670 feet and over a ridge into Swamp Canyon. During the next two miles the trail leads through Swamp Canyon. At the head of the canyon is Right Fork Swamp Canyon Camp. At another trail junction two miles down stream is Swamp Canyon Camp.

Beyond Swamp Canyon Camp, the Under-the-Rim Trail heads south into the Willis Creek wash. The trail follows the creek for a mile then crosses the basin and climbs out. Reaching a height of 8,000 feet the route descends into Bridge Canyon. After crossing Bridge Canyon and entering Agua Canyon you’ll find Natural Bridge Camp. Passing this dispersed camping area, the trail follows Agua Canyon a short distance before crossing and then climbing out of it. On the top of the ridge between Agua and Ponderosa Canyons is a trail junction. The trail leading to the right is Agua Canyon Connecting Trail.

From this junction, the Under-the-Rim Trail descends into a small tributary of Ponderosa Canyon. It then ascends out of the wash and into Ponderosa Canyon. Leaving this wash the trail ascends using switchbacks then enters the South Fork of Ponderosa Canyon. Ascending slightly the trail reaches 8,025 feet on the ridge between South Fork Ponderosa and Black Birch Canyon. The trail contours the basin of Black Birch Canyon for approximately one and a half miles before leading north along a ridge. This ridge provides excellent views of Deer Mountain and the Black Birch drainage.

It is approximately two miles from Black Birch Canyon to Rainbow Point. The trail ascends approximately 1,000 feet along this section. It leaves the Black Birch drainage and skirts the steep ridge forming the southern wall of the canyon. The trail then turns west and leads along the southern side of the cliffs to reach Rainbow Point.


From Bryce Canyon Visitor Center:
Take the Red Line shuttle to Bryce Point to begin this hike.

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