On the website for Stone Canyon Inn is one of the area’s “best-kept secrets”—the Tropic Trail—and we planned to hike it that day. When we checked into the inn, we inquired about the “secret back entrance” to Bryce Canyon and were told the gravel road is well maintained and traversable by all vehicles. We had rented an SUV, so we weren’t worried about the road conditions unless a 4WD vehicle was required. We were also given directions and a hand-drawn map of the trail system.
To locate the trail, take Bryce Way about 2.5 miles after it turns southwest from the town of Tropic and follow the well-graded dirt road to where it dead-ends in a parking loop at the east boundary of the park.
If you are staying at the Stone Canyon Inn, turn right onto Bryce Way and follow the road until it ends. The road and trail are used by the park service crews, but since it was on a Sunday we were the only ones parked there.
The trailhead is at the national park boundary and is well marked. Climb the metal stairs located next to the locked cattle gate to begin your hike. The grade feels flat but actually gains about six hundred feet as it gradually ascends for 1.8 miles from the trailhead to the Navajo Loop Junction. At first, all you’ll see is juniper and bristlecone and ponderosa pines, but as you progress, the hoodoos will slowly appear through the green.
We started early, 7:30 a.m., and heard and saw no one except mule deer until we reached the Peekaboo Loop Trail, a three-mile loop with ups and downs. The only distraction, according to a local hiker, is the smell and occasional pile of horse poop. Neither bothered me, as I live near horses and longhorns and have grown used to horse and cattle manure.
After we hiked Peekaboo, we walked the Queen’s Garden Loop and part of the Navajo Loop. Unfortunately, the best part of the trip—Wall Street—was closed. In the early morning hours of September 2017, thousands of pounds of limestone cracked off the sheer canyon walls and fell to the floor, partially blocking the trail. This section remains closed due to the risk of additional rock falls. One park ranger told us the trail may have to be rerouted, but the National Park Service crews are working hard to restore the trail as quickly as possible. We put it on our list for a future vacation.
Note: Before you pack your pet into the car, check the park restrictions. In many instances, pets are prohibited on the hiking trails, and the park discourages leaving your animal in the car with the windows cracked and water provided. They can still die of heat exhaustion if the temperature is over 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).