Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Kelly
There are dozens of breathtaking hikes at Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Mossy Cave Trail was one of our absolute favorites. The Mossy Cave Trail is a short hike that packs a lot of punch. You’ll see a cave, a waterfall, a turret arch, a stream, and two bridges. This hike also happens to be the only trail at Bryce Canyon National Park that leads to a waterfall.
The Mossy Cave trailhead is a little off the beaten path, as the trail entrance is not within the main park’s entrance. Instead, you’ll need to drive about 15-minutes from the visitor center at Bryce Canyon National Park.
We recently completed the Mossy Cave Trail. It was one of the highlights of our 3-week-trip to Utah and Arizona. In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know to hike the Mossy Cave Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park!
Important Information About the Mossy Cave Trail
Length: .8 miles (1.3 kilometers)
Elevation Gain: 300 feet (91 meters)
Difficulty Level: Easy
Time to Complete: <1 hour
National Park Service Trail Website: https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/mossycave.htm
How to Get to the Mossy Cave Trailhead
The Mossy Cave trailhead is located off of UT-12. (About four miles southeast of the junction with UT-63.) The parking lot is located on the west side of the road. The parking lot isn’t huge, so you may have to wait for a parking space. For that reason, it’s a good idea to complete this trail in the early morning or in the evening if conditions allow. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead, but there are no water services. Be sure to pack enough water for your party. Also be careful when entering and exiting the parking lot, as cars drive fairly fast along the highway.
|Bryce Canyon was just one of our stops during our 3-week road trip to Utah and Arizona. Be sure to read that post to find out our favorite stops!
Mossy Cave Trail Description
The Mossy Cave Trail follows along a stream and is incredibly picturesque. It’s also a very family-friendly trail. We took our toddler daughter with us and there were only a few places where we carried her or needed to hold her hand. (Always closely supervise young children when hiking.) Because it’s a short hike with a lot of interesting natural features, it will definitely capture children’s attention!
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There are two bridges along the trail that cross the stream. You can access the stream at either bridge by following the small path down to the water at the beginning of each bridge. If it’s during the summer, you may want to wear your swimsuit and river shoes so you can enjoy some time by the cool water. We saw plenty of people splashing in the water. We also think it would be an ideal picnic location if you’re looking for a scenic lunch spot! Because it’s such a short hike, you don’t have to pack your food and picnic supplies very far.
After you pass the second bridge, the Mossy Cave Trail comes to a fork. To the left up a short distance, you will find the mossy cave. To the right, you will reach Tropic Ditch Falls. You can easily see both because it’s such a short trail. (And we recommend that you do see both!)
The Mossy Cave Trail is an out-and-back trail. When you’re finished looking around, simply return the way you came.
It’s always a good idea to check current trail conditions before your visit. The National Park Service’s website will post alerts about the Mossy Cave Trail.
Our Trip to the Mossy Cave Trail
We saw so many things on this hike! Copied below are some of our trip highlights.
The cave itself is technically a grotto. (So don’t get your hopes up to see a large cavern!) It’s really more of an overhang with moss growing underneath it. The cave was formed by a natural spring below the surface. During the summer, the cave is filled with moss. During the winter, it’s often filled with large icicles. It’s definitely a unique natural feature that is distinct from the area around it.
The stream that runs along the Mossy Cave Trail is part of the Tropic Ditch. It provides a stark contrast to the arid environment! If you have time, it’s definitely worth it to sit by the stream and observe the flowing water.
Waterfall (Tropic Ditch Falls)
The waterfall along the Mossy Cave Trail (Tropic Ditch Falls) is about 15 feet tall and can be accessed in two places. The first option is to take the path before the second bridge down to the stream. If you walk up the stream a little ways, you’ll be at the foot of the waterfall. The second option is to stay on the trail, cross the second bridge, and then take a right at the fork. That will lead you straight to the top of the waterfall. There aren’t many waterfalls in Bryce Canyon National Park, so this is the place to go if you want to see a waterfall! (And usually kids love seeing waterfalls during a hike, so it can be an added bonus if you have children with you.)
Hoodoos at the Mossy Cave Trail
You’ll also see hoodoos along the Mossy Cave Trail. (Hoodoos are tall columns of weathered rock.) The hoodoos were formed by water erosion during many years of freeze-thaw cycles. When water gets trapped within limestone and freezes, it expands and erodes the rock. For this reason, the hoodoos are shaped in unique and whimsical patterns. This hike is an excellent choice if you want to see hoodoos up close without completing one of the more strenuous hikes within Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon is famous because it has the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world!
If you head to the right at the fork along the Mossy Cave Trail, you’ll be able have an excellent view of the Turret Arch. When we visited, a small dirt trail to the window of the arch was closed. We really enjoyed seeing the natural rock window! (And that was even after we had seen many at Arches National Park!)
Bridges at the Mossy Cave Trail
There are two bridges along the Mossy Cave Trail. We found that the backdrop behind the first bridge was perfect for photos! You can capture the stream below the bridge and the hoodoos behind it all within one photo.
Preparing to Hike the Mossy Cave Trail
It’s important to follow all park regulations and practice good safety measures while you are on the Mossy Cave Trail. If you plan on walking in the water, bring water shoes to protect your feet. We recommend that you bring plenty of water to drink while you are out out hiking. We like to bring an insulated water bottle so that our water stays cool during a hot hike. Anytime you’re out hiking, be sure to have a first aid kit with you. It’s also a good idea to bring a water filtration straw just in case. Also be sure to bring your favorite sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection.
It’s also important to follow Leave No Trace principles anytime you’re in the wilderness. This is the primary ethical code for preserving the outdoors for future generations. Essentially, you’ll want to leave nature exactly as you found it. Following these guidelines will help protect the national parks for many years to come!
Summary: The Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon
The Mossy Cave Trail was one of our favorite hikes at Bryce Canyon National Park. The trail was very short and easy, but it was full of fun things to see. We highly recommend that you add this trail to your itinerary for Bryce Canyon National Park.
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