Swamp Canyon

Forested canyon with tall bright orange limestone cliffs towering above
Swamp Canyon marks a transition from hoodoo-filled amphitheaters to more forested backcountry

NPS Photo / Peter Densmore

Quick Facts

Wheelchair Accessible

Swamp Canyon begins a transition from the hoodoo-filled Bryce Amphitheater to the steep cliffs and buttes that characterize the scenic drive and southern end of the park. Many people assume that Swamp Canyon must be a misnomer. Although it might be the last place on Earth you would expect to find an alligator, compared to the rest of the park it is a virtual wetland. Here, below the rim, two tiny creeks and a spring provide enough water to sustain more lush vegetation like grasses and willows. This canyon remains wet enough year-around that it is also home to tiger salamanders and wild iris. Bird watchers enjoy hiking the Swamp Canyon Loop Trail as it traverses four distinctly different habitats offering the chance to see a wide diversity of songbirds.


The moderately strenuous 4.0 mi/6.4 km Swamp Canyon Loop begins at the north end of the parking lot. The trail descends 647 ft/198 m to the canyon floor on a 3 - 4 hour hike. The Swamp Canyon Loop also provides access to the 23 mi/37 km Under-the-Rim Trail. See nearby Swamp Canyon Loop Trailhead for more information.

Landscape Features

To the Southeast

Mud and Noon Canyon Buttes can be seen. Buttes are halfway along the erosional continuum between plateau and pinnacle. Plateaus are large regions of uplifted land. Mesas are isolated portions of plateaus that, although much smaller than plateaus, are still wider than they are tall. As mesas erode they give birth to buttes, which are square shaped, being approximately the same width as they are tall. As buttes erode still further they spawn spires of rocks.
At Bryce, our spires, known as hoodoos, are of a very special variety. The classic way a hoodoo forms begins with a narrow fin of rock that eventually develops holes or windows through the forces of frost wedging. As the windows grow they become arches. Eventually arches become too large to support their roofs. The inevitable collapse of a window leaves behind two broken legs of the arch. At Bryce we call broken arches hoodoos.