Day II In UTAH
Hoodoos, hoodoos, everywhere! Famous for her gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, pinks and reds and oranges gently soaking the sky and warm stones, Bryce Canyon provides an exciting playground any time of year. Easily accessible for most anyone, one can park at Sunset Point; in less than 100 yards, the earth yawns open, greeting people with sights such as these. Or, for the more active amongst us, there is a spectacular network of trails both around the rim and through the hoodoos!
Notorious outlaws hid here! Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, as a break from riding horses, causing havoc and stealing money, would evade the law in the canyons of Bryce. While wandering, it is quite evident that the hoodoos and caves provide great cover.
The creation legend: Before the Mormons settled the area, many generations of Native Americans lived here. According to lore, the Legend People were first to inhabit this stretch of earth. These creatures had the ability to shift shape into human-esque figures from lizards and birds. The story thereafter is a bit unclear, but essentially they were evil and were therefore turned into rocks–the hoodoos! Hoodoo also means ‘to cast a spell.’
These rock formations are found no place else in the world…so how did the hoodoos happen?! Legends aside, consisting of a mixture of limestone, siltstone, dolomite, and mudstone, the different rocks experience different types of erosions at different rates, thus leading to the vast variations and unique shapes. Rain and ice are the main perpetrators, whereas wind, somewhat surprisingly, is more benign. It rains only about 19 in. per year on the plateau, but it snows approximately 100 inches!
Visiting and Hiking Bryce Canyon
Less popular than other Utah national parks, such as Zion and Moab, Bryce offers a variety of charms: thinner crowds, somewhat cooler summer temperatures, accessibility, an incredible network of trails, and star-gazing opportunities. While May & September are the best months to go, the park is open year-round, with an abundance of snowy adventures as well. We explored Bryce Canyon mid-April, and, despite knowledge of the approximate 8,000 feet of elevation, we were pleasantly shocked by the amount of snow!
Our Bryce Canyon Adventure!
After a thrilling day in Zion and the sleep of the dead at Canyon’s Lodge in Kanab, we awake in the midst of more incredible red rocks and extreme hunger. Happily, at the hotel across the street (owned by the same people), we stuff our faces at the breakfast buffet–Belgian waffles, fried chicken, yogurt with granola, and fresh grapefruit? Yes, please! After which, I save this tub of cuteness from the middle of a four-lane road…he looks like he’s been snacking on too many breakfast buffets, and also like he needs some Head & Shoulder’s dandruff shampoo. Just as cute as he is chubby, he follows me with many tail wags to the reception, where they go about finding his owners. He really has no sense of self-preservation, but at least he has the whole I’m sweet and adorable thing going for him.
We pack, roll into the Jeep, and drive an hour or so. It feels like nothing; there is so much to see, so much beauty, between Kanab and Bryce! To the left, as we drive into the park: things to climb!
Technically, this is not Bryce Canyon. But the views are….well, you see. Great way to warm up and stretch the legs, and prepare the eyes, as you enter Earth Mars!
Click here for a detailed map of the area!
Upon arrival in Bryce, navigation is totally easy; after taking a clearly-marked right off the main road, it is a straight shot into the park. If you click on this map link, you see the first offshoot is closed in the winter (aka when we were there in April). This is Fairyland Point, and prime stargazing in the summer months. It connects to the Rim Trail as well, so, if you are relatively fit and broke, you can hike into the park for free!
Continuing onward, you see the fee stations and overflow parking. We showed our snazzy park pass and did not bother with the visitor’s center; the charm of April includes those low crowds and extra freedom to explore! After parking near the Sunrise Point horse corral, we eagerly hopped out and took off, coffee in hand. Well, I took off, with a purpose, because I like to imagine I have a great sense of direction and knowledge about trails. Disclaimer: I did have a map in my pack. But more for dire situations–the trails are well enough marked, and I did check closures.
Anyhow, Jeremy’s initial reaction: this seems very overrated so far. 20 steps later, to the edge of the canyon: woahhh!
We continued left along the rim, suitably named the Rim Trail, toward Fairytale Point. For the entire walk, stunning sights abound. After seven minutes of walking, we saw almost no one for two hours or so. It was perfect. At Fairytale Point, we feasted on trail mix and apples, continuing on the Fairyland Loop Trail and diving down into the canyon, snaking through the hoodoos. Approximately 8 miles round trip from the parking lot, we lost all concept of time. Everything was amazing, and we were in our own little world, only interrupted once by a man with a bounding German Shepherd pup. We completed the entire hike in about 3.5 hours, right before the skies ripped open and a waterfall fell out. It was one of those beautifully crisp, refreshing days, the days where you feel extra alive!
- Check trail closures! We had planned on hiking the Navajo Loop, only to find a snow closure. Luckily, we stumbled upon the aptly named Fairyland Loop. While listed as a strenuous trail, the only reason it is considered as such is its length. For more trail options and a map, click here.
- Pack ample water and snacks. Bryce, the town itself, is in the middle of nowhere; thus, all food items cost double. If you want beer….Utah still has a 3.2% law. So, while the beer has catchy names like ‘Polygamy Porter’ and ‘Hoodoo Brew,’ it cannot be more than 3.2% alcohol by weight and sold in stores. Interesting, no?
- Come back in the dark, or camp. When snow is cooperative and the road is open, drive straight to Fairyland Point (can be accessed without paying any fees) for the sunset, and wait. It’s the best time of day; I was the only soul there and napped in my car while awaiting the pitch black of night. I opened my eyes, and bam! An explosion of sparkly across the sky, with the occasional purple flash of the shooting star.
100% recommend making the slight effort to explore Bryce Canyon if you are even remotely in the area. One full day is alright for the trip, but two is even better; even the road trip from Zion is stunning! Wide open spaces, imaginations running wild and a glimpse into what the Wild West would have felt like.
Any other places you feel necessitate a visit, but are not overwhelmed by tourists? Please comment below; I am always looking for more places to add to my list of adventures!