• Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

    Bryce Canyon

    National Park Utah

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  • Bryce Point to Peekaboo Connector Trail Closure

    Due to a large rockslide, the connecting trail from Bryce Point to Peekaboo Loop is closed. Trail will be reopened once repairs are made. The Peekaboo Loop is open, but must be accessed from Sunset or Sunrise Point.

  • Backcountry Campsite Closures

    Due to bear activity at select campsites in Bryce Canyon's backcountry, multiple backcountry campsites have been closed until further notice: Sheep Creek, Swamp Canyon, Natural Bridge, Iron Spring, Corral Hollow, Riggs Spring and Yovimpa Pass.

Mossy Cave

View along Mossy Cave Trail

View along Mossy Cave Trail

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Mossy Cave is in the northern section of the park, located on Highway 12, approximately 4 miles east of the intersection of Highways 12 and 63. Look for a small parking area on the right-hand side immediately after crossing a little bridge. The Mossy Cave itself is at the end of a short trail. Here too you can see hoodoos and windows without having to hike a steep trail.

At first, this canyon known as Water Canyon, might look like any ordinary Bryce Canyon kind of canyon. It's not. From 1890-1892 mormon pioneers labored with picks and shovels to carve an irrigation ditch from the East Fork of the Sevier River, through the Paunsaugunt Plateau, into this canyon. Every year since its completion in 1892 (except during the drought of 2002), this canal known as the Tropic Ditch has supplied the communities of Tropic and Cannonville with irrigation water.

 
Geology
By definition Bryce Canyon is misnamed, it is not a real "canyon". Canyons are carved by flowing water. Most of the "canyons" of Bryce are carved by ice forming in cracks - a process known as frost wedging. Even though the Tropic Ditch has been flowing for only a century it has changed the geology of Water Canyon. As you hike up the Mossy Cave Trail, notice how the higher elevations of this "canyon" have the lumpy, broken, and random texture typical of Bryce Canyon and its hoodoos. You will also see how the lower section is without hoodoos, and has smooth angled sides looking like a 'V' in cross-section. Because of this little water course, it is unlikely that hoodoos will form here. The existing ones will eventually crumble and Water Canyon will have completed its metamorphosis into a "real canyon."
 
Waterfall at Mossy Cave

Waterfall along the Mossy Cave Trail

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Take the left fork of the trail up to Mossy Cave. Mossy Cave is not a cavern but a shelter cave. Here, depending on the season, you will see a large overhang filled with moss, giant icicles. Mossy Cave is a grotto, created by an underground spring.



Take the right fork of the trail and you'll end up above a small waterfall. Here, the rapid trenching of this stream has been delayed by a layer of Dolomite. Dolomite is a special form of limestone that is fortified by magnesium. Dolomite is not only harder than regular limestone, it also can't be dissolved by slightly acidic rainwater. Dolomite is what has created this waterfall and it is also the cap rock for our more famous and durable hoodoos.



Nature

The presence of water alone is what makes Water Canyon unique. Although you might not see them (animals tend to avoid busy trails - especially in daylight hours), a wide diversity of animals come here regularly to quench their thirst. The supply of water is still recent enough that nature hasn't quite caught up yet. Eventually more riparian trees like willows and cottonwoods will probably grow here. In the meantime you'll be surprised to see some plants that you might expect to find along a brook in a mountain meadow, such as Mountain Death Camas and Watson Bog Orchid.



Trails

The Mossy Cave trail is an excellent hike for children, senior citizens, or others wishing to see hoodoos up close but without having to hike long trails up and down steep slopes. It is rated as an easy trail with a round trip distance of .9 miles.



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Did You Know?

night sky over north american, central america and a northern portion of the south american continents

Stargazers have been coming to Bryce Canyon for centuries. The first "formal" star gazing programs began in 1969. Read "A Brief History..." by clicking the "more" link below. More...