Navajo Loop Trail & Peekaboo Loop Hike: The Best of Bryce Canyon

An interesting tree in Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park is a gorgeous park worth spending a couple of days (minimum) exploring.  The Peekaboo Loop and Navajo Loop Trail combo is one of the best, if not “the” best option for sampling all that is Bryce Canyon, National Park.  Gaze up at the hoodoos as they tower over you, walk through an alpine forest and experience the Wall of Windows up close in all their glory. If you only have time for one hike in Bryce Canyon, this should be it!

About the Hike

This hike combines both the Navajo Loop Trail and the Peekaboo Loop Trail into a mini figure-8 combination loop. Depending on when you hike this trail, portions of it may be closed due to ice.  Bryce Canyon is at over 9,000 feet in elevation. It often has snow that lasts into late spring.  I visited in early April, and the Wall Street portion of the Navajo Loop Trail was closed due to ice.  

  • Trail Length: ~5 miles (roundtrip) 
  • Hiking Time: 3-5 hours (This really depends on how many photo stops you make, snack breaks, and overall pace.)
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 1580 feet
  • Trail Difficulty Rating: Moderate
    The National Park System rates this trail as “strenuous.” I found it to be moderate compared to other hikes I’ve done. However, I will say the heat certainly adds an element of difficulty to the hike, so I can see why they would give it a strenuous rating when factoring in elevation change and weather.
  • Features: Close-up views of hoodoos, the Wall of Windows, pine forest, and opportunities to walk through natural “doorways.”
  • Restroom Facilities: Yes. There are restrooms in the parking lot at the trailhead, and there is also one restroom on the Peekaboo Trail near the junction for the Bryce Point Trailhead.  This restroom is only open during the summer.
Hoodoos along hiking trail in Bryce Canyon
You're never far from the hoodoos along the Navajo Loop and Peekaboo Loop Trail.

What to Bring

Water.  Do not take this hike or any hike in Bryce Canyon without bringing ample water. The temperatures here can be intense. It may start cold, but by afternoon, you’ll be very thankful to have enough water to drink. I always say you never regret having too much water!

Trekking Poles.  A hiking pole or two will be handy for the steep descents/ascents and the loose sand and rock that make up the trail. Trekking poles are useful for anyone with knee problems.  My hubby had a bad flare-up with his knee bothering him, and his trekking poles were the only thing that made it possible for him to complete the hike.

Sunscreen.  You will want to reapply during the hike. Trust me.

Snacks. It’s always good to carry a little extra energy for the hike.  There are many great spots to sit and enjoy the views and have a little lunch break if you want to pack sandwiches and have a picnic among the hoodoos.

Thor's Hammer at Sunset Point along Navajo Loop Trail
Thor's Hammer at Sunset Point

Important Information:

Hike this combination trail as early as possible.  It gets hot during the middle of the day, and the Navajo Loop Trail, in particular, gets incredibly busy!  Don’t allow the crowds to scare you off, though. Once you get on the Peekaboo Loop Trail, the crowds thin out considerably! When you are hiking back up the steep switchbacks of the Navajo Loop trail, you will be so happy you got an early start! 

Plus, parking fills up at the Sunset Point parking lot, so the sooner you get here, the better. You can also park outside Bryce Canyon and take the park shuttle.

Bryce Canyon Parking & Trail Map

Here is a link to a map that gives you an overview of where the parking lots are located and the trailheads.  For this hike, you’ll want to park at the Sunset Point parking area. If you’re taking the Bryce Canyon Shuttle, you will also get off at the Sunset Point shuttle stop. Follow signs from the parking lot to the Navajo Loop Trailhead. It’s near the Sunset Point overlook area.

View of Navajo Loop Trail from Sunset Point
A view of the first switchbacks along the Navajo Loop Trail from Sunset Point.

Hiking the Navajo Loop & Peekaboo Loop Trails

I hiked this trail in April.  I got up early to watch the sunrise at Inspiration Point and then drove to the Sunset Point Parking lot closest to the Two Bridges entry for the Navajo Loop Trailhead. My hubby was with me, and we ate a quick breakfast in the car before packing some water and snacks for the hike. 

We started the hike a little after 9:00 a.m.  It was still cold out when we left, so we wore layers, which we removed about halfway through the hike. Due to Bryce’s high elevation, you experience both mountain weather and desert weather.  We started our days at freezing temps and then, by late afternoon, hovered near 80 degrees. 

Navajo Loop Trail switchbacks to Two Bridges
Navajo Loop Trail switchbacks going the opposite direction from the Wall Street turn-off.

The Navajo Loop Trailhead

Make sure to enjoy the Sunset Point overlook before starting the Navajo Loop Trail.  Chances are when you return to this spot, you’ll want to grab a bite to eat and relax, so take the time now while you’re still full of energy!

We made our way down the first series of switchbacks before coming to a small viewing area near the turn-off to the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop Trail.  Unfortunately, Wall Street was closed due to icy conditions, so we continued down the trail on the left side.

The next series of switchbacks is beautiful and similar to the switchbacks on the Wall Street portion (see photo above), however not as narrow. You’ll pass by the “Two Bridges” before popping out from among the hoodoos and into the tree line.  

Navajo Loop Trail Opens into Trees
After passing the Two Bridges the Navajo Loop Trail pops out into the tree line.

A Fork in the Road: Queen's Garden & Peekaboo Trail

This trail continues a short way down from the Two Bridges before coming to a “T” in the trail. This is where you’ll have the option to go left for the Queen’s Garden Loop or head right to continue to the Peekaboo Loop Trail. 

If you come down Wall Street, you pop out a little below this sign; however, the direction you go is the same. Go right for the Peekaboo Loop Trail. The left will take you back to the Queen’s Garden Loop and also the Navajo Loop Trail, which returns you to the top where you started.

Peekaboo Loop Trailhead
The official start of the Peekaboo Loop Trail. We started the loop on the right.

Peekaboo Loop Trail

As you continue to the right, follow the connector trail as it crosses a big open section with pine trees and juniper bushes scattered around.  After about .25 miles, you come to another sign for the official start of the Peekaboo Loop Trail.  

This trail is shared by both foot traffic and people on horseback. We followed the sign pointing to the right for foot traffic, which had us hiking the Peekaboo Loop Trail counterclockwise. After hiking it this way, I believe this also points you in the direction to give you the best views and vantage points straight ahead. Plus, I felt this half was the more interesting of the Peekaboo Loop Trail.

From here, the trail quickly climbs back up into the hoodoos.  The Navajo Loop and Peekaboo Loop Trails take you down to the canyon floor, back up above, back down again, and finally back to the top where you started.  So prepare yourself for the ups and downs, but also know you will see so much beauty that it will all be worth it in the end.  This combo loop trail could quite possibly end up on your list of favorite hikes of all time.

I did my best not to stop every 5 seconds to take a new photo, but it was still probably about every 30 seconds!  My hubby is a good sport and goes with the flow.  Both of us were enthralled by the variations in color and shapes of the hoodoos as we hiked along the Peekaboo trail.  It’s a lot of fun pointing out different shapes in the hoodoos, much like cloud gazing.  We’d say, “do you see that gnome over there?” Or “look at that elephant trunk!”  Kids will also enjoy finding “creatures” among the hoodoos.

Start of Peekaboo Loop Trail
The Peekaboo Loop Trail immediately starts climbing up above the tree line.

Nature's Doorways

It wasn’t too long after hiking up the Peekaboo Loop Trail that we walked through our first “doorway,” or perhaps “window” is a better word to use.  It’s like nature created a live polaroid for us to enjoy.  As we walked toward it, the light was so bright that we couldn’t see the view on the other side.  However, as we walked through the small tunnel, the view “developed” before our eyes.  I don’t know why I love these as much as I do, but I was excited to walk through each one.  I think we walked through three of these on the Peekaboo Loop Trail.

Natural Doorway in Bryce Canyon
One of nature's doorways along the Peekaboo Loop Trail.
A walkway carved out in the rock.
Another one of nature's "polaroid" windows. It was always fun popping out on the otherside.

A Tricky Washout

The trail descends through another series of switchbacks similar to the Wall Street section on the Navajo Loop Trail, and briefly, you’re back among the trees. A washout area forked to the right, and we took a short snack break here.  This was probably a good thing, as two hikers came by and started walking to the right up the wash, not realizing they were no longer on the trail.  We let them know the trail was on their left, they thanked us and continued on their way.  I think this was the only part of the Peekaboo Loop Trail where one could get off track. However, you would figure it out pretty quickly if you did accidentally miss the trail.

The Wall of Windows

Almost immediately after your descent through the short switchbacks, the trail heads back up, and we hike toward the Wall of Windows. We loved this section of the trail as we gazed up at the towering Wall of Windows.  It looked so small earlier this morning as we peered down at it from Inspiration Point, and now here we were right next to it!  There are many great points along this section to take photographs of the Wall of Windows and the view of the hoodoos in the canyon below.

Bryce Point Trailhead - The Halfway Point

After leaving the Wall of Windows, you descend into the tree line and out of the hoodoos.  Soon you pass the trail which takes you to Bryce Point.  Bryce Point is another starting point for those who want to hike the Peekaboo Loop Trail without hiking the Navajo Loop Trail.  The Bryce Point trail was, however, closed due to snow when we visited in April. At this point, you are now about halfway through your hike around the Peekaboo Loop Trail.

Trail Restrooms

Not long after you pass the trail for Bryce Point, you come to a shaded resting area with a sign on the right for restrooms.  These are closed from fall to spring.  The main trail continues past the sign for the restrooms.  There is also an area here where people on horseback can let the horses take a water break. 

Back in the Hoodoos

I’ll admit, the section of trail after leaving the Wall of Windows was probably my least favorite of the whole Navajo and Peekaboo Loop Trails.  It was a lot of walking through trees without a lot of scenic viewpoints. You do get a good amount of shade here, though, which you will soon miss when you pop back out above the treeline and into the hoodoos.

Soon, you’re admiring hoodoos, and there’s another “window” to walk through and more beautiful views to look forward to before you begin your descent back to the start of the Peekaboo Loop Trail. There is very little shade along this section of the trail.

Once back at the start of the Peekaboo Loop, retrace your steps (heading left) back to the fork for the Navajo Loop Trail and Queen’s Garden Trail and begin your climb back up to Sunset Point.

More hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Returning to the hoodoos for the final section of the Peekaboo Loop.

Alternative Hiking Options

Shorter Hike Option: For those who aren’t up to the longer Navajo Loop combined with the Peekaboo Loop, hike the Navajo Loop on its own for a shorter option.  You won’t see the Wall of Windows up close or walk through the “doorways” carved in the rocks, but you still get a sense of the grandeur of the hoodoos and their colorful features.  Plus, you also walk through a small section of the pine forest.  

Longer Hike Option: For those wanting an even longer option, consider the “one hike to rule them all,” which combines the Navajo Loop Trail, Peekaboo Loop Trail, and the Queen’s Garden Trail! I still recommend starting at the Navajo Loop trailhead by Sunset Point and following the directions for the Navajo Loop & Peekaboo Loop combo listed above before exiting out via the Queen’s Garden Trail. 

This gets the steeper portion of the loop out of the way on the descent.  Then, you come up the Queen’s Garden Trail and end near Sunrise Point when you return. You take the paved footpath from here back to the Sunset Point parking lot.  This is the easier option for the ascent. This figure 8 hike is considered a strenuous hike and is around 6.4 miles round-trip.

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon
Inspiration Point looking into the Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre

Sunrise Recommendation

To complete your scope of Bryce Canyon, I recommend watching the sunrise at either Sunrise Point or Inspiration Point.  I watched the sunrise at Inspiration Point and then drove over to the trailhead for the Navajo Loop Trail. I think the morning hours are the best time to experience Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos as the sun causes them to glow red and orange.

At Inspiration Point, I looked out over the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and saw the Wall of Windows far below. Later, as I hiked next to the Wall of Windows, it gave me a greater appreciation for the scale of Bryce Canyon.  My hubby and I said to each other, “remember this morning when the Wall of Windows looked so far away?”  It was a neat way to spend the day going from a bird’s-eye-view to the ground level.

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If you hike the Navajo Loop Trail and Peekaboo Loop Trail, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the hike and your visit to Bryce Canyon.  I loved my time here and would like to go back to explore it and the surrounding area more.

Happy Hoodoo Hunting!

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2 Comments

  • Rachel C Barker-Running at Reply

    I love all the tips and descriptions. It makes you feel as if you were there taking in the views, the sounds,the scents, the weather.

    • Charity at Reply

      Thanks for stopping by. I am so glad you enjoyed reading the article! Bryce Canyon is a really beautiful place, I hope you get to visit one day!

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