Many people come to Bryce Canyon National Park to see the hoodoos, but few make their way over to the Water Canyon area and hike the Mossy Cave Trail. This part of the park may seem remote, but it is relatively close to the main section of Bryce Canyon and very much worth the time it takes to get here.
This hike includes a cave (with cool temperatures that will surprise you), a gorgeous waterfall, hoodoos and even an arch. In fact, few hikes in Bryce Canyon even have a little bit of water, so this trail is actually quite a unique experience.
This hike is fantastic for families, and highly recommended if you have the time while visiting this picturesque park.
We’ve covered the Mossy Cave Trail and many other great experiences in our downloadable itinerary for Bryce Canyon National Park. We also review what to reserve ahead of time, where to stay and what else to do while you are in the area. Make sure you check out our extensive selection of itineraries for the other National Parks as well!
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE MOSSY CAVE TRAIL
Mossy Cave Trail parking area, courtesy of the National Park Service
The Mossy Cave Trail is located in the Water Canyon area of the park, which is on Highway 12, east of the intersection with Highways 63 and 22. If you head here from the visitor center, you’ll drive north on Highway 63 until you come to the main intersection outside the park (which is after the town of Bryce, UT). Take a right (towards Tropic, UT) and drive about 4 miles and look for the parking area on the righthand side. If you are heading to Capitol Reef National Park, this is a great way to go, and you can stop on a great hike along the way!
- Directions from the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center to the Mossy Cave Trail (this will take about 15 minutes without traffic, which shouldn’t be a problem)
- Directions from Tropic, UT to the Mossy Cave Trail (this will take about 8 minutes and traffic is never an issue)
The parking lot for the Mossy Cave Trail is small, with only approximately 22 spots available. This usually isn’t a problem and you’ll likely be able to find a spot. Since this is a short trail, you can expect to see a parking spot open up around once every three minutes if the lot is full when you arrive.
Most hikers come here on their way to or from the park and are usually anxious to move on shortly after they finish their hike, so crowds are usually not an issue.
There are restrooms available at the trailhead, but there are none on the trail.
HIKING THE MOSSY CAVE TRAIL
Mossy Cave Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Before heading out on the trail, make sure you are prepared. The two most important things you can do are to make sure you have water and also sun protection (both a hat and sunblock is recommended). The entire trail is exposed, and even though you’ll be around water for most of your hike, there is little (if any) shade around to help out if you start to get exhausted.
The trail starts on the west side of the parking area and is made of packed dirt. Though this 1.0-mile (round-trip) hike is relatively easy, there is a total elevation gain of around 118 feet (depending on your route), making it not suitable for wheelchairs.
After approximately 0.1-miles of flat hiking, the trail crosses Tropic Ditch using a footbridge. Tropic Ditch is one of the features of this hike that really makes it interesting, but the truth is that it is completely man-made. In the 1890’s, while trying to fulfill a need for water in the town of Tropic, this waterway was constructed by diverting the Sevier River just east of Bryce, UT. It took three years and was done with hand tools. This diversion runs approximately 15 miles, before eventually draining into the Paria River.
We were especially in awe at the color of the water, as it had an aqua blue tint that really contrasted the surrounding red and orange landscape.
After 0.3 miles, the trail meets a fork. To the left is Mossy Cave, and to the right leads to the waterfall. We first took the left to take the 2-minute walk to Mossy Cave. Mossy Cave is created by an underground spring. You can’t actually enter the cave, but you can get close enough to feel the cold air coming from the cave and can peer into it. During some months, you can see icicles forming on the top of the cave as well as plenty of moss.
After retracing your steps briefly, turning left brings you up the trail, through a set of scraggly trees to the waterfall. While the waterfall isn’t going to break any records, it is cool to see it and take a few minutes to relax a bit.
From the waterfall, it’s possible to look to the northeast and see Turret Arch. This is not one of the more well-known arches in Utah, but it adds one more reason why this is such a unique trail.
- While this isn’t one of the more well-known trails in the park, we felt it was definitely worth the effort it took to make the short drive out here and recommend you do the same if you have the time.
- The town of Tropic, UT is just to the east on Highway 12. This is an alternative to staying in the town of Bryce (or in the park) if you are looking for something different or aren’t able to secure lodging in Bryce.
- To the east is the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. It contains sandstone cliffs and unbelievable scenery. The hiking here is quite impressive as well, and definitely worth visiting if you are heading to Capitol Reef National Park.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Be sure to get a copy of our Bryce Canyon National Park itinerary ahead of your trip. We cover this hike and many more in the guide, and also include a ton of other information for you to help with your planning.
- We spent two days in Bryce, and documented our experience in our blog, Two Days of Hiking and Riding in Bryce Canyon National Park. We also covered our favorite hike in the park in our article, Hiking the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trail. We also recommend the Bristlecone Loop Trail.
- We create vintage-style travel posters from photos that customers send us. This unique travel memory is a one-of-a-kind that only you will have and will ensure you remember your trip forever! We’d love to work with you.