No warm-weather trip to Bryce Canyon National Park would be complete without a visit to the incredible Mossy Cave Trail. This beautiful hike is perfect for all ages and abilities, with its easy terrain and breathtaking views of cascading waterfalls, wildflowers, and awe-inspiring cliff walls. Plus, you’ll get up close to some of nature’s most unique formations like hanging gardens along the trail!
Be sure to wear clothes you can get wet since you’ll likely want to splash around for a while. Whether you choose to walk up the river or just take a break and cool down, this is the best Bryce Canyon hike on a hot day. If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon with kids, plan on stopping here. It’s one of our family’s favorite hikes and the kids beg to go back whenever we visit Bryce Canyon (which is frequently – perks of being a Utah local).
Distance: 0.8 miles total out and back
Elevation Gain: 300 Feet
Dogs Allowed: No
Head out to Bryce Canyon town and at the junction just north of town, turn East. This will put you on SR 12. While you’re out of the park here, you’ll be reentering the park again soon, so don’t be distressed. Drive 3.5 miles (5.6 km) east until you see parking on the right-hand side of the road. Only park your car in the parking lot, or your car will be ticketed and towed. DO NOT park along the side of SR 12. If there’s no parking at the parking lot, you’ll have to come back another time. Keep reading below for the best times to hike Mossy Cave that is not busy!
What To Wear For Hiking Mossy Cave
If you are planning on swimming, we recommend that you wear sturdy sandals and that you consider wearing swimming suits under your hiking clothes (especially for kids). With the high elevation of Bryce Canyon, sunburns happen quickly and are intense, so make sure to use extra sunscreen or consider sun-protective clothing.
The trail is just 0.8 miles round trip, making it one of the shortest Bryce Canyon hikes. If you’re hiking Bryce Canyon with kids, this hike is a must-do. It’s one of the few hikes in the area that has running water, so it’s at the top of our list for the best Bryce Canyon hike on a hot day. Despite its relatively short length, the Mossy Cave Trail is packed with beautiful scenery and unique geological features that are sure to impress.
As you begin the trail, the trail follows a gentle incline along the banks of the Tropic Ditch River. There’s a bridge to get across, and on hot days, the bridge area is filled with families splashing around in the water, often having a picnic. After lots of desert time in Southern Utah, the river is a refreshing sight!
The whole trail has a gradual uphill, but nothing too difficult. My kids have hiked it independently around age 3, so it’s not too hard. If you’re hiking the Mossy Cave trail with young kids, the most difficult part will be keeping them on the trail and not at the side of the stream throwing rocks the whole time! There is very little shade anywhere along the hike, so we recommend wearing a hat and sun-protective clothing (on top of swimwear for kids).
The trail is pretty straightforward and will lead you to a fork where you can go to Mossy Cave on the hiker’s left, one of the highlights of the hike, and to Water Canyon on the right. Plan on going to both!
The Mossy Cave is a small cave that is formed from the erosion of the soft sandstone walls of the canyon. The walls of the cave are covered in a layer of green moss, which gives the cave its name. The cave is especially stunning during the spring and early summer months when the moss is at its most vibrant.
There is a small waterfall that can be seen from the back of the cave. The waterfall is formed by melting snow and is especially impressive during the spring and early summer when the snowmelt is at its peak.
After visiting the Mossy Cave, hikers can continue along the trail to Water Canyon. Once you get back to the river, hikers will also encounter several small waterfalls and cascades, which are formed by the Tropic Ditch. The cascades are especially beautiful during the spring and early summer when the snowmelt is at its highest.
When To Hike Mossy Cave Trail
The best time of year to hike Mossy Cave is during the spring and early summer months. The wildflowers are in bloom, the moss is at its most vibrant, and the waterfalls are at their peak.
With limited parking, you’ll need to avoid crowds as much as possible. Plan to get to the parking lot before 10 am or after 6 pm (it regularly stays light until 9m in summer months).
While you can still hike Mossy Cave in the winter, you likely won’t want o get in the water, since Bryce Canyon’s high elevation makes it very cold in the winter months.
Tips For Hiking Mossy Cave Trail With Kids
If you’ve got kids, they’ll love this hike. Here are some things to know before hiking Mossy Cave with kids.
- Plan on wearing sturdy sandals for the hike instead of shoes. This is the best option for kids since they can get in and out of the water and not have to take their shoes off.
- Bring plenty of drinking water.
- Remind kids to stay on the trails to prevent erosion. While the water is tempting and alluring, talk to them about what would happen if everyone always cut off the trail to get to the river. Getting in the water at the bridges is the best option.
- Bring a picnic. This is one of our favorite picnic spots in Bryce Canyon for families!
Can You Swim at Mossy Cave?
Yes swimming is allowed. To avoid lots of extra trails and erosion, visitors are encouraged to only get in and out of the water at the bridge crossing. Lots of “social trials” have been created in recent years which is causing large amounts of damage. If it continues, there is a chance that water access will be limited by the park’s service in the future.
How Long Does It Take To Hike Mossy Cave Trail at Bryce Canyon?
Most visitors can do this hike in less than an hour. However, if you’re planning to play in the water, we recommend planning at least 2 hours in this area. Remember that the Mossy Cave Trailhead is outside of the main area of Bryce Canyon so you will have to drive about 15 minutes from the main entrance to get there.