Riggs Spring Trail
Elevations: 1,635 ft. loss/gain
• Rainbow Point Trailhead (start): 9,115 ft.
• Yovimpa Pass: 8,355 ft.
• Riggs Spring: 7,480 ft.
Trail: Excellent, well maintained trail
Season: Summer to mid-fall. The trail is usually covered with snow from mid-November until mid June. For current conditions call the Visitor Center, Bryce Canyon National Park, at (801) 834-5322.
Vicinity: Bryce Canyon National Park
This loop hike can easily be completed in one day, but Riggs Spring is such a pleasant place to spend a night it would be a shame not to. The loop can be walked in either direction, but if you are interested in taking photographs the western half of the loop is prettiest in the morning when the eastern sun is shining directly on the Pink Cliffs. Unless you are getting an early start, save that section of the trail for the second day.
Although there are a few nice views of Bryce Canyon’s famous rock formations on this hike, the main attraction is the forest itself. At the higher elevations you will be in a heavy forest of spruce, Douglas fir, white fir, and an occasional bristlecone pine. Near the bottom the forest changes to ponderosa pine. Riggs Spring is surrounded by huge 150-foot ponderosa pines, with nice grassy areas for pitching a tent. One couldn’t ask for a finer spot to camp.
There are several trails leaving Rainbow Point and the trail to Riggs Spring is not clearly marked, so be careful not to take a wrong turn at the beginning. Start out by following the Bristlecone Loop Trail near the rest rooms on the east side of the parking area. After just a few hundred feet the path forks; take the left fork. A few hundred feet later you will come to a four-way junction with trails leading to Yovimpa Point, the Bristlecone Loop, and the Under the Rim Trail. Turn left here along the Under the Rim Trail. The trail will immediately begin loosing elevation, and after another hundred yards you will come to the third trail junction. This time there is a sign directing you to bear right for Riggs Spring.
As the trail descends it makes a wide swing to the east to get around the Pink Cliffs, then turns west after 2.5 miles and doubles back under the cliffs. Once you are under the Pink Cliffs the trail dips in and out of three small drainages before turning south to follow the Mutton Hollow Drainage for the last 0.8 mile to Riggs Spring. You will pass by the Corral Hollow campsite 1.3 miles before you get to the spring.
From Riggs Spring it is 1.6 miles back to the top of the Pink Cliffs at Yovimpa Pass. The trail climbs steadily upward but the elevation gain is only 875 feet. The Park Service maintains a small well just below the pass, and you will see a dirt access road to the pass coming in from the north. The trail turns east at the pass, and generally follows the rim above the Pink Cliffs back to Rainbow Point. There are a number of fine views along the trail; at one point you will be directly above Mutton Hollow looking south towards Riggs Spring 1.4 miles away. The Park Service has buried a pipe line under the trail to get water from the well at Yovimpa Pass to the restrooms at Rainbow Point, and occasionally you will see short sections of the pipe that are no longer buried. That is, however, only a small distraction along the scenic trail.
Be sure to watch for bristlecone pines near the edge of the rim. These ancient trees are often found in high, exposed areas where other trees don’t do well, and they frequently live for more than 3,000 or even 4,000 years. They are easy to identify because of the way the needles grow all along the branches, giving them the appearance of fox tails. The needles are generally about 1 1/2 inches long with each bud producing a bundle of four or five needles.