The Riggs Spring Trail is a peaceful alternative to the flocks of hoodoo-gawkers in Bryce Canyon’s main amphitheater.
Riggs Spring Trail Guide
MAP: Trails Illustrated
PERMITS: required for camping, $5 per person
DESIGNATION: Bryce Canyon National Park
BEST SEASONS: summer, late spring, early fall
DISTANCE: 8.6 miles round trip
ELEVATION: trailhead – 9,115ft – high 9,115ft – low 7,440ft
WATER: available at the trail’s namesake Riggs Spring and Yovimpa Pass – water at Bullberry Spring is unreliable.
ACCESS: paved roads to the trailhead
DIRECTIONS: Trailhead is at Rainbow Point, at the south end of Bryce Canyon’s main scenic drive. Free shuttle bus service is not available here, but you may book a bus tour to the trailhead by calling 435-834-5290
ROUTE: well maintained, signed junctions
GUIDEBOOK: Moon Zion & Bryce
Here’s a schematic map that shows the layout of the Riggs Spring Trail.
- Rainbow Point (trailhead): 9,115ft
- Highest: 9,115ft
- Lowest: 7,443ft
- Gain: 2,248ft
- Loss: 2,248ft
A backcountry permit is required to stay at one of the campsites along the trail.
Fortunately the system is relatively simple – you can only get a permit at Bryce Canyon’s visitor center. There’s no way to make a reservation online through email, over the phone, fax, etc. You must be there in-person.
The earliest possible time to get a permit is 48 hours prior to your hike.
There’s a fee of 5$ per person, in addition to the regular park entrance fee.
This may come as a surprise in such a dry desert landscape, but Bryce Canyon has had an increasing problem with black bears. Once a bear learns it can steal food from unsuspecting backpackers, it progressively gets more aggressive and will ultimately lose its life. A black bear was killed at Bryce Canyon in 2010 for this exact reason.
Because of this, park rangers strongly recommend the use of a bear canister in Bryce’s backcountry. They’ll loan you one for free at the visitor center, but the ones they keep in stock tend to be heavy. Personally, I already own a lightweight bear canister – a worthy investment if you do a lot of backpacking.
Trail Description & Campsites
The Riggs Spring Loop is doable as a day hike, and also serves as one of Bryce Canyon’s few backpacking destinations.
If you’re in the mood for a quiet, more solitary hike through a coniferous forest, this is the one! Unfortunately this is Riggs Spring’s only winning quality. For striking photo opportunities and a hike among hoodoos you’ll have to look elsewhere, like The Fairyland Loop.
To go clockwise beginning at the Rainbow Point Overlook, you’ll follow signs for the “Under the Rim Trail” for about 0.2 miles. The trail will turn away from the Bristlecone Loop, and soon you’ll bear right, off of the “Under the Rim” Trail.
You’ll work a contouring, gradual descent below The Promontory and the pink cliffs rock layer (geologically of the Claron Formation).
In 3.6 miles you’ll pass Corral Hollow, the first designated backcountry campsite on the loop. There’s no reliable water here, and the site lies at about 7,800ft.
Continue for 1.7 miles (5.5 miles from Rainbow Point) and you’ll get to the Riggs Spring campsite. There’s water here (must be treated) and a group site for parties of at least 7 people, but no more than 15. The elevation is here about 7,450ft.
An additional 1.7 miles brings you up a steady incline to Yovimpa Pass, where the 3rd and final campsite is located. Here you’re back up to a healthy 8,400ft. Water is available from a historic concrete structure built over Yovimpa Spring – a reliable source.
Finally you’ll connect the last 1.6 miles back to Rainbow Point through high forest on the southern edge of the plateau.
NOTE: The clockwise direction (described above) involves a steeper climb at the end of the hike than if you were to go in the opposite direction. In the greater scheme of things, though, the difference in going counter-clockwise is nominal.
My Trip Note and Photos
I day hiked the Riggs Spring Loop on November 20, 2017. There had been a couple inches of snow, 2 nights prior to the hike.
Otherwise, daytime temperatures were ideal, and I had the whole trail to myself! That’s right, I didn’t see a single soul on the loop.