Distance: 0.8 mile out and back
Hiking time: About 0.25 hour
Best season: April–October
Hazards: Slippery stream crossings
Topo maps: USGS Tropic Canyon; Trails Illustrated Bryce Canyon National Park
Finding the trailhead: Drive UT 12 east from the junction with UT 63 to a marked pulloff on the south side of the road, 1.2 miles west of the park’s east entrance.
Trailhead GPS: 37.665747, -112.110227
This trail offers a short stroll into the reddish pinnacles of Bryce Canyon from UT 12, offering a smaller-scale sampler of the grandeur to the south for travelers who do not wish to make the side trip into the main part of the park. The stream flows found here are not natural; pioneering settlers diverted water from the Sevier River into Water Canyon via a series of canals to feed croplands around Tropic.
The trail begins by following Water Canyon up into the breaks, with a wall of impressive pinnacles rising to the west. Soon the path reaches the first of two stream crossings. The crossings are usually easy rock-hops, but they can be tricky during spring runoff. Near the upper crossing look up to view the natural arches and window walls in the cliffs to the west. Once the second crossing is made, a short climb leads to a T-intersection. To the right a short stroll leads to a 10-foot waterfall. To the left a brief but steep climb leads to Mossy Cave itself. This spacious alcove has been chiseled out by groundwater seeping through weaknesses in the bedrock.
In winter the seeps feed impressive icicle gardens, while in summer the water provides sustenance for a vivid growth of mosses.
Tips for Visiting Mossy Cave:
- Mossy Cave is an extremely popular trail in summer—consider visiting before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to avoid peak visitation.
- The Mossy Cave parking lot has recently been changed to improve traffic safety and flow. Slow down when approaching this area as vehicles may be entering or exiting.
- Only park in designated areas. Illegally parked vehicles may be damaged by falling rocks along roadsides.
- Delicate rocks and sensitive plants exist throughout this area, so please stay on the main trail and respect all posted signs.
- Please note that no camping is permitted in the Mossy Cave area, including the parking lot.