Hiking to the Mossy Cave trail at Bryce Canyon National Park might come with a bit of a surprise – if you’re looking for moss or a cave.
I’ve found the National Park Service descriptions confounding, but the maps are good, and that’s the important thing.
What you will find at Mossy Cave is, in my opinion, something better – water. Lot’s of it, falling off a cliff – as in a waterfall.
This Utah summer has been a scorcher so far, and the places for water recreation, especially in Bryce Canyon, are few and far between. That’s what makes Mossy Cave such a surprising delight.
The trail is at the end of the park off of Highway 12. It’s described as less than a mile long with an elevation gain of 200 feet. That much is true. It says it’s a streamside walk to a mossy grotto that fills with icicles in winter and dripping moss in the summer.
What it doesn’t say is that there’s a waterfall. In hindsight, you could say I’m dense that that of course if there are icicles, moss and a stream, there will be a waterfall, but it wasn’t clear to me the day I read the description and chose to hike it.
Despite my arrival at the trailhead being late in the day and off the beaten path, the lot was still full and I had to wait a few minutes for a spot to open up.
As I walked up the trail, it is surrounded by clusters of red, pink and white hoodoo formations and tall pine trees in a picturesque wooded landscape. Alongside the path was a slow-running river.
The river became wider and faster the further I walked. Along the trail, I passed several families with small children who were soaking wet and barefoot. The trail was more sandy than rock at that point, so going shoeless was ok.
At about the halfway point, you’ll turn a corner and the trail opens up to a full river, though the level is shallow. It’s the perfect spot for a picture. There you’ll likely also see children playing in the shallow water.
Further down, you’ll come to a wooden bridge and once you’re halfway across the bridge, you’ll see off a distance; on the right, there is a waterfall. It’s relatively substantial as far as waterfalls go—especially those in southwest Utah.
I, however, was still looking for the mossy cave. I hiked about the grassy path alongside the river and eventually, it ended within sight of the waterfall. I tried to see if there’s a cave behind the fall, but it didn’t look like it.
A couple of trails led further up the hill, so I took one and the trail became more strenuous, but still, no cave appeared, though the up-close views of the hoodoos were worth it.
While roaming those higher trails, I ran into several other hikers doing the same, looking for a cave. We all asked the same questions, “Do you know where the cave is?” None of us found it.
It was still a lovely, short trail, but perhaps it needs a better description or a new name.
Find Bryce Canyon National Park at UT-63, Bryce, Utah 84764.