I’m surprised by how popular the Mossy Cave Trail is; it’s a nice hike, but far less spectacular than the trails into the main Bryce Amphitheatre. It’s the northernmost hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and one of the lowest elevation hikes. From the (small) carpark – which is already full by mid-morning – there’s a view of classic Bryce hoodoos towering above.
The trail ascends gently from the carpark – it’s one of the only Bryce hiking trails that starts with a climb and finishes with a descent (most hikes descend from the rim into the canyon).
The trail soon crosses Water Canyon – it’s not a natural river, but an irrigation ditch built by Mormon settlers between 1890 and 1892. It supplies water from the East Fork of the Sevier River to Cannonville and Tropic in the dry season, when the Paria River stops flowing. A sign states that water has flowed continuously along the channel for over a century since it was dug out, except during a severe deought in 2002.)
The trail continues up the other side of Water Canyon, and just after the bridge is a view of a small waterfall along the watercourse.
The trail reaches a junction soon after the bridge; to the right, the trail goes further up Water Canyon to the top of the waterfall. To the left is Mossy Cave, a wide, mossy overhang in the Claron limestone. Water drips from the ceiling which freezes in winter to form icicles.
It’s a quick hike after the much longer Panorama Trail loop in the nearby Kodachrome State Park, and I’m back at the car in under half an hour. If you have more time, you could continue off-trail up Water Canyon beyond the waterfall.
Getting to Mossy Cave Trail
The start of the Mossy Cave Trail is along the State Route 12 (UT 12), about halfway between Tropic and the park turn-off at Ruby’s Inn. It’s 7.5 miles (12km) from the Bryce Canyon Visitor Centre, going north on the UT 63 (main park road) and then tuning right onto State Route 12. There’s limited parking, and the carpark is often full between 10am and 6pm – so it’s a good hike for early or late in the day.