Park service seeking input on Mossy Cave visitor improvements in Bryce Canyon

Waterfall along the Mossy Cave Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Bryce Canyon National Park, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — There may soon be a new way to experience the Mossy Cave in Bryce Canyon.

The Mossy Cave Trail area of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Bryce Canyon National Park, St. George News

The National Park Service (NPS) is considering improving the visitor experience at Mossy Cave in Bryce Canyon National Park and is initiating a 14 -day comment period to request feedback on possible improvements.

The information obtained during this timeframe will be used to develop a proposal to address issues with the visitor experience. Once the proposal is refined, the NPS will begin the appropriate environmental compliance pathway which would lead to decisions for long-term solutions.

Mossy Cave is in the northern section of the park, located on state Route 12, approximately 4 miles east of the intersection of Highways 12 and 63. The trail is 0.5 miles in length and forks to provide access to Water Canyon in one direction and to view Mossy Cave itself in the other.

Because Mossy Cave access is directly along SR-12 and outside of the main park gate, it is considered a quick way to experience the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon and to enjoy one of the limited water features in the area. 

Mossy Cave has become an increasingly popular area in Bryce Canyon due to several factors including overall increased visitation at the park and a surge in social media postings about the trail. As a result, visitation has significantly increased over the past two years.

Since last June, visitation increased by 20% with 6,000 more visitors visiting this small area in one month than in 2019. The original infrastructure at Mossy Cave was not designed to accommodate the amount of use now happening, the NPS said. This increased use has led to safety concerns as vehicles park along SR-12 for some distance in both directions after the original parking lot is full and pedestrians must walk along the highway to reach the trailhead.

Undated picture of winter landscape with windows and arches of a hoodoo at Mossy Cave area of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. | Photo by
dpenn, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The increased number of visitors on the trail itself has led to vegetation trampling, litter and other impacts caused by crowded conditions, NPS said.

To accommodate this increased use, improve pedestrian safety, and better protect park resources, the NPS is working with Utah Department of Transportation and Garfield County on potential improvements.

Considerations include adding an overflow lot further east along SR-12, along with an access trail to connect to the Mossy Cave trailhead as an initial step to improve safety.

Given the level of visitation already taking place along the current trail, longer-term improvements to better direct foot traffic and protect natural resources could also be considered. Such improvements could include moving the current trail and developing different viewpoints. Additional trails in the area are also being considered to disperse visitation and to provide access to viewpoints and areas of interest.  

Comments may be submitted by writing to: Superintendent, PO Box 640201, 3000 S. Hwy 63, Bldg #1, Bryce, UT 84764 or [email protected]. Comments need to be submitted on or before August 7, 2020.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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