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The Red Peaks of Bryce Canyon

By Kelly Ryoo

Jagged red rocks and evergreen trees sprawl throughout the vast canyon. A steller’s jay glides past me, flying over the cliff and into the canyon. I cautiously take a step towards the edge of the cliff, peering down at the sharp and deadly drop. I slowly inch away, standing at a safe distance from the cliff. I look up and continue admiring the beautiful red rocks of Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah.

The tall, skinny spires of rocks that are iconic to Bryce Canyon are known as hoodoos. They were formed through natural processes spanning millions of years, which can be summarized through three main steps. First, there were flat stretches of rocks (likely submerged in an ancient lake). Then, two tectonic plates — the North American plate and the Farallon plate — collided. This uplifted the rocks of Bryce Canyon to the goldilocks zone, which is the perfect elevation for forces of nature to create these hoodoos. At this elevation of around 8,000 feet, the temperature drops below the freezing point during cold winter months. Rainwater trapped in the cracks of the rock froze into ice, expanding by almost 10% and applying pressure that caused the rock to break apart. After 60 million years, the result is Bryce Canyon, the area with the highest concentration of hoodoos in the world.

Photo by Tim Golder on Unsplash

Bryce Canyon also offers a variety of trails that offer a closer view of these iconic hoodoos. My family and I chose to hike the Navajo Loop trail, which started at Sunset Point (located at the top of the canyon) and descended downwards. The trail followed a zig-zag path, which was quite steep and slippery due to the ice. As I carefully trod down the trail, the path began to curve between the hoodoos, offering me a very close-up view of the red rocks. Up close, the red and oranges of the hoodoos appeared even more vibrant. We also passed by the tallest hoodoo in Bryce (nicknamed Thor’s Hammer due to its hammer-like shape), which stretched up to 150 feet.

Once we reached the very bottom of the canyon, I looked up and gasped in awe: the hoodoos appeared to be even more tall and massive from this angle, almost like natural skyscrapers that towered over us. I sat down to catch my breath and admire the beautiful view before me: the sunlight peeking through the trees illuminated the hoodoos to shine a brilliant red, which sharply contrasted with the bright blue sky in the background. These hoodoos of Bryce Canyon were truly a spectacular natural phenomenon: nowhere else in the world could one find anything quite like this, but I was lucky enough to do so.

About the Author: Kelly Ryoo is a sophomore from Cupertino, California, majoring in Computer Science and English. One of her favorite travel destinations is Rome because of its rich history and delicious pizzas.

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Guac is an award-winning travel publication run by an interdisciplinary group of students at Cornell University. We aim to inspire our readers to celebrate cultural diversity and view the world with an open mind through delivering unique stories from people around the world.

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