Bryce Canyon has some of the darkest night skies in the lower 48 states. It’s no surprise the park also boasts the most-lauded astronomy program in the national park system. But now and then, they think it’s pretty cool to offer up a hike under the bright light of a full moon.
As their website dryly notes, this hike is only offered twice a month. (I can only imagine that some people must have asked for it to happen more often. Sigh….) It’s generally offered May through October. However, 2010 dates also have two special hikes that will happen on snowshoes. Cool! The Park provides the snowshoes free of charge, which they also do for their winter snowshoe hikes. One snowshoe full moon hike is tomorrow, Saturday the 20th; the other is December 20th, a Monday. I’m going to try to make the December one, which also happens to be a total lunar eclipse.
How to do this hike:
1. Get thee to the visitor center the morning of the hike by 8am to sign up for the hike. The line can start forming at 7:30 am! While the hike is free, you must sign up in advance, as space is limited.
2. Attendance is capped at 60 people, with only 30 allowed for snowshoe hikes. These hikes are really, really popular, so do get in line early if you want to go.
3. You are required to wear hiking shoes or hiking boots. This would mean no sandals or other footwear.
4. Kids under 6 are not allowed.
5. No lights of any kind are allowed! No headlamps, flashlights, or flash photography. There’s a reason it’s a full moon hike. Take my word for it: the Utah night is so well-lit by the full moon you can read by it. Seriously.
Tips on doing this hike:
1. The trails (which are only announced to attendees when you pick up your ticket) can be steep, so make sure you are ready.
2. Bring a jacket, even in the summer. Bryce Canyon is at 9,000 feet and can get chilly at night.
3. The park suggests that when signing up for a Full Moon Hike, don’t drag along your kids that early in the morning if you then expect them to remain sweet little angels on the late-night (in summertime) hike. This is good advice. Send one adult member of your party to sign up, if possible, and let the kidlets sleep a little more.
Random facts about this hike:
1. “Dark Rangers” are park rangers with extra training in astronomy. They lead the Full Moon Hikes.
2. Depending on the time of year, the hikes start anywhere from 5:30pm (winter) to 9pm (midsummer).
3. Don’t despair if you are too late to get tickets. Even though you’ll miss out on the ranger talk, you can still hike on your own along the rim under the full moon. And that, my friends, is still a pretty cool option.
[photo courtesy of the National Park Service]