Just ninety minutes down the road from Zion National Park is Bryce Canyon. Despite being the scene of an epic birthday meltdown (yes, mine), it was probably my favorite park on the Grand Circle. At one-quarter the size, it is much easier to take in than Zion, which contains an enormous backcountry that most visitors never see. Bryce also has one of the best park lodges there is: While the rooms are spartan, the location on the edge of the canyon between Sunrise and Sunset Points can’t be beat.
As with Zion, we took the approach of driving the entire length of the park road on the first day, making stops at viewpoints along the way and taking short hikes along the rim. This is another park that one can enjoy even without hiking. In fact, it is important to realize that the altitude may mean that even walking short distances may be more difficult than normal. However, the layout and multiple intersecting loops make tailoring a hike for one’s fitness level fairly easy. Note: All hikes begin with descents into the canyon, so you must take care to remember that you may have a steep climb out.
There’s not much flora or fauna to be seen at Bryce; this park is all about the odd geological formations. We were stunned into silence by the beauty of Bryce Amphitheater with its curious hoodoos.
Of course, this beauty was somewhat marred by the fact that it was f*cking freezing. [Note to self: Visiting a park that sits at 8,000-9,000 feet in mid-October might not be the best idea.] We got up to take pictures at sunrise and, almost an hour later, I could no longer operate my trusty Pentax K1000 due to my fingers being about to fall off.* Good times.
Even though we stayed only one night at Bryce, being up so early, we did manage to get in a good hike before leaving, combining the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trails to make one 3.5-mile loop. Word to the wise: Descend into the canyon via the steeper Navajo Loop Trail rather than the reverse. This trail descends over 500 feet in .75 miles; the featured photo above was taken looking back up and out of this entrance to the canyon.
Once you exit Wall Street, the trail opens up, and you can either loop around and head back up to Sunset Point via “Thor’s Hammer” or continue on to the Queens Garden Trail, which eventually exits the canyon at Sunrise Point.
Just writing this post and looking at these pictures again is making me want to go back.
Entry to Bryce Canyon National Park is $25 per car for seven days. If you are doing more than one park, I recommend getting the annual parks pass, which is $80. The pass is good for a full year and can be used to cover the entrance or other fees at over 2000 federal recreation sites. For example, I can use mine to visit Muir Woods, which is just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
*Note: As I got prints from both sets and scanned them, I am not sure which photos are mine and which are by The Boys. You should assume the better ones were taken by The Boys.