12 August 2015

USA Road Trip | Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

The more and more I think back on our road trip through the US, the more I realise just how much I love Bryce Canyon National Park. We headed there from Zion National Park (via Cedar Breaks) so you would've thought we would be all National-Parked-out. I was pretty much ready to be disappointed after Cedar Breaks, which was such an unexpected surprise, but as soon as we were walking amongst the hoo doos (the pillars of rock) I knew this place was special.


Bryce is one of the smaller parks in Utah, which you probably only need a few nights to cover (we only had one and it was admittedly a bit of a push doing both sunrise and sunset) BUT it's truly spectacular and it shouldn't be missed!
What I love most about Bryce is how different it is; we felt like we were on another planet, like we were on a Disney set of Mars!

Sunset

We plonked ourselves at Bryce Point an hour before sunset. Well, that was waaaaay too eager as the real magic starts after sunset as the golden colours wash over the hoo doos. As much as I loved Sunset, I didn't see how the view was any better than Cedar Breaks... then we hiked just after sunrise and that all changed.

Sunrise

Unless you plan on doing the Under the Rim Trail and camping along the way, there are a few trails that can be easily completed in a day. I recommend parking at Sunset Point early early and walking the short distance to Sunrise Point to watch sunrise (this way your car is right there after your hike). The ranger did say that Inspiration Point/Bryce Point give arguably slightly better views. However, by watching at Sunrise Point we maximised our time by walking straight on to the very popular Queens Garden Trail before it got too busy.
Make sure you wrap up warm for sunrise, as it can be pretty chilly, but in the height of the day you'll want to be wearing as little as possible. Choose wicking fabric and layers to allow for the huge temperature change!

Queens Garden Trail



This trail is labelled the most beautiful 3 mile hike in the world and it's easy to see why! Originally I got a little confused with the NPS map, as The Queens Garden Trail isn't a whole loop so you need to link it up.

Navajo Trail & Wall Street

We choose the Navajo Trail to hike back out of the amphitheatre as we had heard great things about the part dubbed 'Wall Street'. We were not disappointed! From walking through open space and intertwining pillars of rock; to a tall crevice of bright red rock and tight zig zags taking us back up to the rim.

Scenic Drive

We took the scenic drive down to the end of the park. The buses only run this far a few times a day, so if you have a car it's worth using!
The views are all fairly similar if we're being honest (but still awesome), although the Natural Bridge is a pretty cool sight.
We'd planned to do the Bristlecone Loop at the end of the drive, which is more wooded and at a higher elevation than the main amphitheatre. I say planned, as we met something that stopped us in our tracks...
Jesting about the mountain lions and snakes...
Yes. A rattle snake right on the path. At first we just backed off and let it cross our path. Once we could see it was clearly off the path we thought we would man up and carry on walking... Well, you could tell we were the Brits, as we practically shoved each other over to get away. We asked a lovely family if we were right to be scared "Rattle snakes? Oh yeah, they'll kill ya!". The rangers did tell us later on that they would be unlikely to kill us instantly but they were not to be laughed at!
After that we were very much ready to retreat to the Mustang and be on our way!

Useful Information

  • Drive to the park - the buses aren't as convenient as they are at Zion.
  • Wear your layers to sunrise (and don't miss sunrise!!)
  • Accommodation options include the park lodge, camping, Ruby Inn (with all it's different options) is just outside the park and the size of a small village, hotels along the 12. We stayed at the intersection of 12 and 89 and I wouldn't have wanted to be any further away (30 minutes is quite far enough when you're planning sunrise)!
  • Food options are a little limited around the park, so perhaps consider self catering.
  • Allow enough time to do sunset and sunrise - two nights is perfect.
  • Link to Bryce Canyon map and map of Bryce Amphitheatre
  • Map of the area (including Zion, Grand Canyon, Cedar Breaks etc.) which is definitely worth printing and having in the car!

PS. Missed my posts on Zion National Park (part 1 & part 2) or Cedar Breaks? Find out more about America's great national parks.

PPS. Next up is Sin City, for a little break from national parks, so keep your eyes peeled on the Facebook page!
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