Even if you don’t take the time to drive into Bryce Canyon National Park, you’ll still be able to see a handful of hoodoos, as well as a small waterfall and an icy cave, on this short hike (approximately 1 mile, round-trip).
As I came down the hill from Bryce Canyon, headed towards Tropic, I wasn’t looking for a trail to hike, and the truth is, I didn’t even know Mossy Cave existed. Instead, I was looking for a pretty place to take a picture of Utah 12, winding its way through a hoodoo-lined canyon. It wasn’t until I stopped here, that I realized there was more to see.
Mossy Cave Trail follows the Tropic Ditch, a canal that brings diverted water from the Sevier River into Tropic. Early Mormon settlers dug a 10-mile diversion canal that connected the river to this dry wash, turning it into a reliable source for water, and allowing them to establish the town of Tropic.
The trail follows the canal, as it passes through a small canyon that’s lined with plenty of pink and orange eroded cliffs. You won’t get as up-close to them as you would if you were hiking from one of the park’s overlooks (along Route 63) — but you’ll still get to see them.
The trail crosses the ditch, then comes to a split. If you turn to the right…
… you’ll continue to follow the creek, up to a small waterfall.
The truth is, the waterfall is not very impressive. A sign at the trailhead showed what the waterfall looked like when it was frozen — it’s much larger then, since the small trickle of water slowly builds up an impressive display of ice. I was visiting at the end of winter, but I guess it was already too late to see the falls frozen.
The official route appeared to end at the waterfall, but there were several well-worn routes around the area. I took a short jog up one, that climbed up a hill to a few hoodoos. The view was nice at the top, but not spectacular (and probably not worth the effort I put into climbing the steep slope). It didn’t help that there are power lines running through this area — so it’s tough to take a nice picture without wires in it.
Backtracking, I returned to the split in the trail, then took the other leg…
… which leads up to Mossy Cave. In late March, there was still more ice inside the cave than moss.
A closer look revealed that the ice was dripping, and probably wouldn’t be around for much longer. You can see, it had already separated from the ceiling of the cave, turning these icy stalactites into stalagmites.
The cave is fenced off, but you could probably climb around the fence and into the cave (although I’m sure it’s not recommended). To do so in winter would be quite treacherous, since everything is frozen — and in summer, it would probably be quite muddy, since I imagine the cave drips year-round.
Mossy Cave isn’t a must-see attraction, but it’s a worthwhile spot to stretch your legs and see a few hoodoos. If you had to make the choice, I’d recommend spending more time in the main portion of Bryce Canyon National Park, hiking trails that drop down from the viewpoints, instead of hiking here.
The trailhead for Mossy Cave is located on Utah 12, about 3.7 miles east of the junction with Utah 63 (the road into Bryce Canyon). Watch for a parking area at the side of the road, as Utah 12 drops down to the town of Tropic.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Bryce, Utah (U-63 at U-12), east on U-12 through Tropic and Cannonville, then down Cottonwood Canyon Road: