After spending the night camped in Red Canyon, I headed over to Bryce Canyon.
They seem to have a shoe fetish there.
But first, here’s a picture of me in the park.
That was taken 52 years ago; I’m the boy on the left.
The first hint that Bryce is really concerned about footwear is on the Park radio before you even enter. All the National Parks have an AM informational radio station you can turn to (usually 1610 AM) as you enter.
So here is part of what you hear approaching Bryce:
Here’s a transcript:
Looking for a good hike?
Bryce Canyon’s Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop is arguably the best 3-mile hike in the world. The safest and most scenic way to hike this trail is to travel in a clockwise direction. Start at Sunset Point, walk along the rim to Sunrise Point, then descend to the bottom of the canyon on the Queen’s Garden Trail, then finally back up to Sunset Point through either half of the Navajo Loop Trail.
Stay tuned for the following safety messages:
Park elevations reach over 9,100 feet. If you are not accustomed to high altitude, even mild exertion can leave you feeling light-headed and nauseated. Take plenty of water with you and drink often. Wear a hat and sunscreen and sturdy hiking boots that provide strong ankle support and “lug” traction. This is essential for anyone wishing to hike down into the canyon. Tennis shoes or trainers are often insufficient. Unfortunately, inappropriate footwear is consistently the cause of injuries and sometimes even fatalities at Bryce Canyon.
Then as you enter the park itself, you get a copy of “The Hoodoo”, the Park quarterly newspaper. Prominently displayed is this safety piece.
(I’ve edited out the text for points 10 through 4.)
Yoicks! I’m thinking those trails must be really rugged.
Anyways, I was really only there for the morning, so I decided to take their recommended loop hike. Hmmm. Let’s see, start at Sunset Point. And here’s the sign at Sunset Point:
Again, what’s with the trails?
Anyways, I went barefoot. Toes are about the best “lugs” there are, and I wasn’t too worried.
Here I am along the rim trail (which is mostly paved) between Sunset and Sunrise Points.
The trail really looked just fine. Here’s a shot of a series of switchbacks heading down into the canyon.
It was mainly small pebbles and dusty sand. In fact, it was a perfect material for leaving bare footprints in.
I must say, I had my bare feet commented on more on this little 3-mile hike than I did anywhere else during this trip. I suspect it is because of the kind of people on this particular hike. They tended to be simply tourists, as compared to the people on, let’s say, the Grand Canyon hikes who were real outdoors enthusiasts. Outdoors enthusiasts often really get the idea of hiking barefoot.
Tourists have never even thought about it.
One Israeli couple even wanted me to pose for photographs. But I also heard little gasps or comments all around me, and another couple just wanted to talk to me about it.
Here’s another overlook shot.
Once you get down into the canyon, there are quite a few trees, which give this nice juxtaposition.
Coming up the Navajo Loop Trail, the path runs through a fairly narrow gap that is switchbacks the whole way.
This was crowded as anything, and again I heard lots of folks noting my presence (and others asked me about it).
All in all, it was a very nice hike, and rather fun to be aware of the “commotion” around me.
And the end of it, I decided I wanted to check out their General Store, just to see what kind of sign they had. As I mentioned in Barefoot in the Parks, the concessions are not run by the Park Service itself, but is contracted out. In Bryce Canyon, that is Forever Resorts, a different company than either Mesa Verde or the Grand Canyon.
Here’s their sign:
“Footwear Required in Store”
That’s a unique one to me. I think it’s about the first time I’ve seen footwear mentioned without also mentioning shirts. And you wonder just what they are thinking.
Just what is it about feet that they generate this sort of attention?