Bryce! There are not enough adjectives to describe this park. It’s truly amazing. If by chance you are planning a trip to Utah and don’t know which national parks to visit, Bryce should not be the one that gets cut from the list, in my humble opinion.
Our visit to Cedar Breaks was shorter than we had anticipated because of the cold. The weather had warmed up when we arrived home and a beautiful afternoon was before us, so we hopped on the park shuttle for our first visit to Bryce. Stopping at the visitor center, a park ranger told us that for some great views, Bryce Point was the place to start. We followed her instructions and got off the shuttle there, walking the rim trail down to Inspiration Point before getting back on the shuttle. The first glimpses were astounding.
This formation of hoodoos looked just like a castle fortress.
Where our home was sitting for these few days, we joined in a happy hour with our neighbors, and they outlined the perfect Bryce hike that they had been on. Start at Sunset Point, go down the Wall Street portion of the Navajo Loop, into the Queen’s garden trail, back at Sunrise Point, and hike on the rim back to Sunset.
Temperatures were in the 30’s on the morning of our planned Bryce hike day. I procrastinated, wishing desperately that it were warmer. Cal was running circles around me getting ready for our day. If we set a depart time, he doesn’t waver from it. I layered up, we hit the trail, and I was glad we stuck to the plan. This was the sight that greeted us when we set out:
Our neighbors thought it would be better to hike down to Wall Street rather than going up at the end, as they had. It is switch-back after switch-back from the canyon rim all the way down to the bottom:
The next two pictures are inside Wall Street:
Looking for information about one national park or another, I came across a blogger (I don’t know who, so if it was you, please let me know and I’ll give credit!) who stated:
“In the Grand Canyon you are looking down at the rocks,
In Zion you are looking up at the rocks,
In Bryce you are in the rocks.”
So true, but in Bryce, only if you take a hike!
After awhile I finally warmed up and we found a log off the path to sit and strip layers down. Cal was zipping off the bottom portion of his pants when a couple came along and asked, “Would you like us to take your picture?” I looked around, not thinking it was a particularly photogenic spot, but said “Sure!” And we liked the one they took. They even graciously took it from Cal’s knees up, so you can’t see that he still has one pant leg only partially off.
The couple was from Arkansas and later we met another from Switzerland. We crossed paths frequently with both couples and found many things in common as we hiked. Finding people to walk with always makes a hike more fun.
Queen’s Garden has a lot of hoodoos, but this one has been famous for decades because it resembles a statue of Queen Victoria in London. The sun was in the wrong place for a photo, but it is below, and I think it looks like she is sitting backwards on a resting camel.
The hoodoos on the rest of the hike were simply stunning. All one has to do is turn a bit, or take another step, and there is a totally different view.
As the morning went on, the crowds picked up. Climbing back up to the rim, we decided our neighbors’ advice was very, very good.
The National Park Service calls this park “poetry in stone”. Some excerpts from the brochure: “Stand at the rim in early morning and experience the chilly dawn, crystalline blue sky, and rocks ablaze with the ruddy light of sunrise.. the sun arcing across the sky casts a kaleidocope of slowly altered hues and shifting shadows over the land… At Bryce Canyon the forces of weathering and erosion never rest, not even for a day.”
Bryce is a collection of giant natural amphitheaters. It contains the largest number of hoodoos in the world. Because of its remote location, it doesn’t receive as many visitors as Zion or Grand Canyon. It didn’t seem remote to me, but then, it was pretty much on our route going east.
The shuttle at Bryce goes as far as Bryce Point. Like Zion, it doesn’t require reservations. Unlike Zion, the road continues past the last stop for another 17 miles. We drove out to the end, which is at Rainbow Point. On the way, we passed miles of devastation from a recent fire. I’ve seen this before in the West, and it always leaves me feeling sad. It takes decades for a forest to recover from a fire.
On the way to Rainbow Point, the cars thinned out and so did the air. The elevation here is 9,100 feet. It wasn’t as high as Cedar Breaks, so we weren’t in as much snow, but high enough to feel as if we were on top of the world. The air was quiet and all we could hear was the cries of a hawk circling above us. It was so good to just stand there, look out, and contemplate the view, which was well worth the drive.
On the way back, a sign pointed to a view point for Natural Bridge, and we were glad we made this stop:
Underneath the bridge, could it be…Yoda?
“Did you see Bryce?” If the answer is “Yes!”, everyone just smiles. The park and all its wonders was unforgettable, and I continue to love the surprises, and the natural beauty, of our national parks.
Next time: Scenic Route 12