Bryce Canyon & Zion National Park
by Kaylee Sypherd
The evening we left Grand Teton National Park, we drove as far as Sandy, Utah (15 minutes south of Salt Lake City) and decided to call it a night. The next morning we had a lazy start to our day, ate some breakfast, then got on the road around 9 am. By then the road was beginning to wear on us! The drive to Bryce was only going to take us four hours; a short drive compared to what we had been dealing with daily! As we approached Bryce, we entered the Dixie National Forest which covers around 2 million acres in Southern Utah. This forest has just as many beautiful red rocks, hoodoos and Ponderosas as Bryce has to offer, but doesn’t cost a thing to enjoy whether you’re biking, hiking, camping or off-roading. We stopped off at the Red Canyon visitor’s center and decided to do a quick hike before entering Bryce Canyon, and I’m glad we did (no people on the trail!). The trail we did began out on the Pink ledges trail and this is where describing it gets confusing:
- We went from Pink Ledges Trail → Hoodoo Trail → Birdseye Trail → Photo Trail → and came back on the Red Canyon Bicycle Trail (collectively around 5 miles).
What better way for me to have my body shocked back into the heat than to enjoy it in a gorgeous desert-scape like Dixie NF? After enjoying our hot little hike, we hopped back in the car and drove another 20 miles to get to Bryce! Once in the park we chose to do the 3 mile out and back hike that branches of off Sunrise Point. By then…I was SIZZLING. After just having spent almost a week in 40-50 degree weather, I was dying…but the views helped! The reddish, burnt orange hoodoos were unbelievable! It was a sea of fire-like rocks as far as the eye could see, speckled with flakes of green where the ponderosas stood. I’ve lived in the desert for most of my life but this desert was something different; something incredible! Utah’s landscape never ceases to amaze me every single time I visit. The squirrels and chipmunks along the trail were quite the characters, especially when interacting with my dog (they were clearly used to human interaction). Needless to say, we got some to model for us. When we finished up our hike, we rested up for a while then hopped back in the car to head for Zion (90 miles away)!
Just like with Yellowstone, we pulled into the park JUST after the rangers had left the front gates. Even though none of the facilities were going to be open, we still decided to drive through the park and enjoy the sites we could…I mean, no one goes there for the visitors center, right? Immediately after entering we were greeted by the local mountain goats. There was nobody on the roads so we were able to stop and enjoy them as they crossed the street and went up the side of a mountain. Even though the two parks were less than 100 miles apart from one another, their landscapes were SO different! Zion has a mix of burnt-orange/red and off white mountains that reach up toward the sky, and each of the mountains seem to have a different texture (checkered, smooth, striated, etc). We came in through the East entrance and headed towards the West.
- If you choose to go that route, you drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel…which is an insane architectural feat! The tunnel stretches 1.1 miles right through the mountain and was finished in 1930 (which is mind blowing in its self). If you’re in an RV…or any other large vehicle measuring over 11’4’’ tall or 7’10’’ wide, then you will need to obtain a tunnel permit (any vehicle over 13’1’’ tall is prohibited). These permits can be obtained at the entrance station for an additional $15 and is good for two trips through the tunnel.
We got to the visitors center at the west end and got out to stretch. We walked across a bridge that had a creek just beneath it and sat on a ledge at the end of it. I was sitting there on the ledge as my pup looked behind me. Just as her nub began to wag, I turned around and was nearly face to face with a doe, she was less than five feet away. We both were surprised and I got up as she wandered down near the creek. I was able to stand on the bridge and watch in silence as she drank and was greeted by a buck. It was a remarkable moment. As sad as I was about not being able to camp in Zion, we were still able to experience and see so much. We drove, we soaked up the sights and watched one hell of a sunset. Zion treated us well.
Next stop..Havasupai Falls!