The 25-mile-long park runs north to south over a series of heavily eroded canyons, the largest of which is Bryce, the heart of hoodoo-land. Though a handful of hikes drop into Bryce, the 6.5-mile Queen's Garden/Peekaboo figure eight is the best. Descend via the Queen's Garden Trail, then pick up the Peekaboo Loop Trail at a signed intersection. From there you'll crisscross a ridge crowded with spires and climb back out of the canyon through Wall Street's towering limestone "skyscrapers," some up to 20 stories high. The next day, explore the northernmost part of the park on the eight-mile Fairyland Loop Trail, which navigates a hoodoo graveyard of stumpy towers rising to the canyon rim. This area also hosts popular full-moon hikes (get free tickets the morning of at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center). If there's no moon, you should show up anyway; amateur astronomers are almost always scanning the sky, billed as one of the starriest in the lower 48. On the last day, stop by the Hat Shop (3.8-mile round-trip from Bryce Point) to ogle top-heavy red hoodoos sporting gray limestone chapeaus.
Designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, best known for Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel, the 1925 Bryce Canyon Lodge is blessedly TV free. Cabins book up early (open April 1 through October 31; $165; www.brycecanyonforever.com).
Backcountry permits, $5 for two people. Seven-day entry pass, $25. Campsites, $15 (nps.gov/brca).
Originally published as part of "America's Ultimate Parks 2008," National Geographic Adventure magazine