It seems all national parks have their own particular "traverse" run of sorts, where you essentially run the length of the park or do some loop that requires extravagant mileage to complete, intended I assume for backpacking purposes but abused by the ultra-running community. Examples are the zion traverse, the R2R2R of the grand canyon, or the Teton circumnavigation. Utah is blessed with many national parks, so naturally a few are more popular than others. Bryce Canyon is I believe one of the "under-appreciated" national parks. Why? With attractions like Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands all attracting the Asian tourist hoards, Bryce is off in uncharted waters it seems. The nearest "town" is Panguitch. It has an Arby's that sometimes lacks curly fries. Unforgivable. The Bryce rock is extra chossy, kind of like how McDonalds is extra disgusting, so rock climbers don't flock to Bryce to climb. There isn't a river to swim in. The list could go on. The trail running however is just as good as any other national park run I've done.
The Under-the-Rim trail starts near the middle of the park and runs from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point, a distance of 23 miles. That wasn't quite long enough for a decent challenge so we decided to add on the Fairyland loop trail and link into the Under the Rim trail with the Rim trail(got that? one is under the rim, one is on the rim), for a solid 32 mile effort. Plus it serves as a complete North to South traverse of the park. Steve, Annie, and I had been wanting to add the trail to our hit list of NPS trail runs, so with Izzy and little Anna as shuttlers and the usual other idiots we invite along out of commission or the country, we drove down Friday night for a quick trip.
|The Under the Rim team|
Friday night was horrible as we made a poor choice to camp in a dirt field next to a cow pasture with the obnoxious cows mooing all night. It was also pretty cold and I failed to bring my warm sleeping bag. However, it was still cheaper than a $40 stay at the freaking ripoff Ruby's Inn campground. As soon as dawn hit, we were all up and ready to go. We set off at 7 am, slightly perturbed at the lack of accessible water and bathrooms at the trailhead.
The first 9 miles were fantastic running through the namesake hoodoos that patrons come to see. We were mostly alone on the Fairyland loop trail, and didn't have too many Japanese tourists to dodge on the Rim trail(un-NPS like). We met up with Izzy for a water refill, then dashed down into the canyon proper where the Under-the Rim starts. The run itself was awesome. We stopped often, going as fast as we pleased, walking the uphills and cranking the downs. The canyon feels very remote and wild which was great. The water is available and adequate, but very minimal. Only very small 1 inch trickles of water can be found periodically in small stream beds. We filled up whenever we could and prayed the unpurified water was clean.(steve and I failed to bring purification methods, much to Annie's displeasure). The NPS descriptions of where we could find water were mostly correct, although we found others and couldn't find one. Iron spring is definitely not a water source you want to have to use. It looked and tasted horrible.
|The standard but quality photo from Inspiration Point|
There weren't many highlights or lowlights, just ridiculously fun trail running in a majestic setting. We pulled into Rainbow Point after about 8 or so hours, depending on whose watch you checked. Steve's GPS watch stopped near the 28 mile mark, so elevation gain accuracy is subjective. Its minimal compared to the other serious NPS trail runs, likely only 6k or so. It is all runnable terrain if you want it to be, and there are no profanity inducing hill climbs (south kaibab) or dark times where you utter the words, "I wouldn't have minded if we had finished 3 hours ago(gannett peak). I would highly recommend this trail run to anyone looking for an adventure trail run, especially as a precursor to any of the other runs listed above, as this one seems much less difficult, but just as quality.
|NPS signs should rarely be obeyed as they will detract from adventure|
|The fairies running in Fairyland|
|After 5 minutes of running, Steve wished he hadn't brought his sleeves|
|Annie picked the same color shirt as the rock|
|Under the rim(the rim is above)|
|Tasty water. Annie trying to convince herself she won't need Giardia treatment|
|Cool burn running. (aesthetic, not cool that is got burned)|
|The finish. Rainbow pt is upper left.|