Did you know that Bryce Canyon National Park has a waterfall? While the park has several awe-inspiring trails there is only one that leads you to a waterfall, and most visitors miss it!
The Mossy Cave Trail leads you to a small cave, or grotto, but the highlight is the nearby seasonal waterfall. Most visitors miss out on this waterfall due to the fact the trail is located outside of the park entrance.
Doesn’t matter which season you are visiting, Mossy Cave is always worth it. In this post I share 6 reasons the Mossy Cave Trail is worth visiting, trail stats, and a little history on how the waterfall came to be.
Mossy Cave Trail Stats
Difficulty | Easy
Hiking Distance | 0.8 miles
Elevation Gain | 300 feet
Total Time | 0.5-1 hours
Dog Friendly | No Dogs Allowed
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1. Mossy Cave Trail Is Right Off The Highway
Whether you’re visiting Bryce Canyon National Park itself or on a Utah road trip, Mossy Cave is easy to find and access. It is conveniently located 8 minutes from the park entrance right off US-12, one of Utah’s scenic byways.
US-12 is the road you’ll be traveling down if visiting the Utah Mighty 5. It connects you from Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park and beyond. The views along this route are stunning but some places, like the Mossy Cave waterfall, are worth stopping at to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.
Since Mossy Cave is part of the national park an entry fee is still required. It is $35 per car but you’ll have to pay at the park entrance. If you have the National Parks just be sure to leave it on your dash when you park!
There is a good sized parking lot and pit toilet at the trailhead, but if this parking lot is full you can park at the overflow lot just past it. If you’re traveling with a large trailer or RV you’ll want to park in the overflow lot.
2. Mossy Cave Trail Is Short & Accessible
From the parking lot it is just 0.4 miles to the grotto and then another short excursion down a trail that splits off towards the waterfall. Once the trail splits it gets pretty steep no matter if you visit the grotto or the waterfall. This part of the trail is considered moderate, but luckily it is only for a short distance!
The map below depicts the location of each so you can see the distance relative to one another.
What makes Mossy Cave Trail really accessible, though, are the bridges that span across the creek (known as the Tropic Ditch), so you don’t have to get your feet wet.
Even better- on the second bridge you get a direct view of the waterfall. This means you don’t have to hike up the steep section of the trail to take in the beauty of it!
If you’re feeling adventurous you can explore below the second bridge and walk right up to the waterfall itself rather than taking the trail which leads you to the top of it.
3. You Can Cool Off In The Water
While the water is not deep enough for swimming it surely is deep enough to dip your feet in and cool off during the summer months!
If you choose to explore below the second bridge and walk to the base of the waterfall you can do so by heading upstream in the Tropic Ditch. For those who don’t want to get their feet wet don’t worry- there is a narrow dirt trail that travels alongside the ditch for you.
The water is ice cold and refreshing but the creek bed is rocky. Bring your water shoes to protect your toes and give you some grip!Women’s:
4. Mossy Cave Trail Is Family Friendly
Since the Mossy Cave Trail is right off the highway and short in distance I’d consider this one very family friendly. When I visited I witnessed visitors of all ages exploring! Even if you aren’t a hiker this little roadside excursion won’t be an overkill.
It is a great spot to get out of the car and stretch your legs while allowing the kiddo(s) to let off some energy. The flow of water is strong for little ones so if you let them go in the water they’ll need your assistance.
The nps.gov website asks visitors to enter and exit the water near the bridges where trails are already in place. Entering and exiting elsewhere will create new social trails and harm vegetation. Remember the Leave No Trace Principals!
5. Learn The History Of Mossy Cave
We can’t forget the fact that this area is rich with history! Did you know that this waterfall was man-made?
The Mossy Cave Waterfall is also referred to as the Tropic Waterfall, which is part of the Tropic Ditch. This irrigation ditch was dug out by early Morman pioneers. They worked from 1890-1892 to dig out the 10 mile long canal in order to provide water recourses to Tropic, a community at a lower elevation.
There is an informational sign near the top of the waterfall that goes more in-depth on the historical facts. Be sure to look for it during your visit if you want to learn more!
6. Mossy Cave Transforms In Winter!
Bryce Canyon National Park is a snowy wonderland and if you’re visiting during winter you need to visit Mossy Cave! The cave is much more interesting during the winter because icicles form and hang in the opening.
Not only that but the waterfall freezes during winter, making it Bryce Canyon’s only frozen waterfall. It is actually quite impressive in size and is thicker than I expected. It is likely you’ll have the place to yourself or only be sharing it with a few others because this season is less popular for visitors.
What Is The Best Season For Mossy Cave?
The Bryce Canyon area can be enjoyed year round. It sits at a higher elevation than surrounding areas which makes it a little cooler during the hot months.
Of course if you want to walk through the water in the Tropic Ditch it is best enjoyed during the summer or warmer temperatures.
However the grotto really transforms and comes alive in the winter. Water freezes and forms giant icicles at the opening of the grotto, making it look like a mini ice cave. The nearby waterfall also freezes, making it Bryce Canyon’s only frozen waterfall!
Treat It Like Home!
When visiting Mossy Cave and it’s waterfall don’t forget to treat them like your own. Help preserve and protect our lands by following the Leave No Trace Principals:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
Recap Of Visiting Mossy Cave
After a handful of trips to the Bryce Canyon area I finally made it a point to stop at Mossy Cave. Now I wish I would have done it sooner!
I wore my Chaco’s during the summer so I could walk through the water and it was the best choice I made besides choosing to visit in the first place. It was early July so the ice cold water was appreciated. Being able to see a waterfall in Bryce Canyon National Park felt like such a unique experience. Pair that with the history of the Tropic Ditch and it quickly became the recipe to my adventure happiness!
More In Bryce Canyon Country:
- Expert Guide To Hiking Fairyland Loop In Bryce Canyon
- 6 Best Bryce Canyon Winter Hikes And Things To Do
- Hiking and Camping at Lower Calf Creek Falls, Utah
- Complete Hole in the Rock Road Hiking and Camping Guide
- EVERYTHING to know about driving Cottonwood Canyon Road, Utah
I’d love to hear from you!
Have you visited Mossy Cave and it’s waterfall yet? Or is it going on your next Utah road trip itinerary? Share in the comments below!