We were staying in Mt. Carmel Junction, UT, just outside of Zion National Park. We had big plans for our first full weekend in the area. After spending a Friday evening at Zion, we spent a full day at Bryce Canyon National Park on Saturday. It was about an hour drive to Bryce from the East Zion RV Park. This park is known for crimson rock formations called hoodoos. The towering rock formations are carved out by wind and water erosion.
As usual when we visit National Parks we try to get to the visitor’s center first. We like to make sure to get information from the rangers about the day hikes, even if we have an idea ahead of time of where we’ll be hiking. We also make sure to get the pin for our collection before they close for the day. Taking the bus at this park is definitely the best way to get out to the trailheads. There is limited parking throughout the park, but they have a huge overflow lot near the visitors center. The drivers also seemed to be very knowledgeable about the park. One driver in particular was full of great stories and pointed many things out on the ride.
We rode the bus to Sunset Point, where the Navajo Loop Trailhead was that we’d be taking to hike down into the canyon. After the warm weather we experienced at Zion, we weren’t too thrilled with the cold temperatures at the rim of Bryce Canyon. Fortunately, we were prepared, and brought plenty of warm clothing.
We descended down into the canyon along the Navajo Loop Trail. There were so many unique rock formations, even just at the start of the hike. We made sure to get our touristy picture with “Thor’s Hammer,” one of probably thousands of balanced rocks you can find throughout Bryce Canyon National Park. This part of the trail was pretty crowded, with many other people also trying to get their photo op. We had plans to see much more though.
We continued down a series of switchbacks. It stated to get much warmer as we hiked down into the canyon, so we were able to shed some layers of clothing. We continued along the Navajo Loop into “Wall Street,” the only slot canyon in Bryce. It is also home to some very tall Douglas Fir trees. The rest of the loop back to the rim was closed, so we backtracked the trail to find the Queens Garden Trail. This is a longer loop that would take us back to the rim at Sunrise Point.
We didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife along the trails, but there were plenty of chipmunks. I was even accosted by one as I knelt down to get his picture. He climbed right up my back and onto my backpack. It was very clear that park visitors have been feeding the wildlife, which is prohibited and not good for the animals for many reasons. As we hiked through the canyon, we admired the sharp contrast between the orange rocks and the blue sky.
The canyon floor, to our surprise, had many trees and also was an interesting site to see with the hoodoos towering over us. The most challenging part of the hike was at the very end. Although the park literature calls the Queens Garden Trail easy, the hike back up the switchbacks to the rim was exhausting.
After completing the hike, we took the bus to Inspiration Point. After a short (uphill) walk, we were treating to an amazing panoramic view overlooking the park. Although we were tired from our earlier hike, it was worth going up there. Once we felt we were properly inspired, we took the bus back to our truck. We decided we might as well finish our day by driving the rest of the park and traveled all the way down to the end of the road at Rainbow Point. The road down there had no shortage of stunning scenery and wonderful vistas. We took a moment to get out and get one last view before we’d head back to the RV park. There was also some snowpack left, so these native midwesterners took a moment to remember why we spent the winter in the Southwest.
A single day in any National Park is never enough time, but as always we did our best to make the most of our visit. It was a long exhausting day, and we definitely think a visit to this park should be on everyones list of places to see. Steffanie and I agree that the hike we did in Bryce Canyon was unquestionably one of the best we’ve been on.