Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

So to recap, on this epic trip thus far I've been to three of the five national parks in Utah. Starting off with Arches, Canyonlands, recently Capitol Reef and now Bryce Canyon. Months before taking this adventure, friends and family who had also luckily had the chance to get out to Utah constantly harped about Bryce. "Dude you've gotta get to Bryce" or "The Hoodoos will blow your mind," were common remarks that came up in travel conversations. More on what a Hoodoo is later in this post. After checking out Calf Creek Recreation Area's massive waterfall, I continued on Utah State Route 12 towards the towns of Cannonville, Tropic and finally Bryce until I arrived at the park entrance.

What's the biggest difference about Bryce Canyon National Park compared to its siblings? The elevation. At its highest point, Bryce sits at 9.115-ft. The temperature here in the evening were definently a bit more chilly than other parks. The park itself is close to 57-miles long and you'll need at least two days here to see soak it up. Some of the best hiking I did out in Utah happened at Bryce. And I regret not spending more than two days here. A good friend and coworker from the Wisconsin DNR is spending a few nights backpacking there this spring which makes me insanely envious.

Start off by parking north of the General Store and descend almost a thousand feet into the amphitheater littered with thousands of pink coral-colored rocky daggers, aches, hoodoos and formations joined by a fleet of junipers. Hike along the upper rim trail until you get to Sunrise Point and dip down along the Queens Garden Trail which eventually connects to the Navajo Loop Trail. Combining these two trails allows your for a few hours of awe-filled exploration as you meander through the slot canyon that is Wall Street and past landmarks like past Silent City and Thor's Hammer. One of my favorite surprises of this park was just how rich in trees Bryce was. Green, giant junipers and bristlecone pines everywhere! I want to hug all of them. This high desert and its pallet of colors intrigues your mind.

Okay, what's a hoodoo? According to the National Park Service, said hoodoo is a tall -up to 150-ft-, skinny spire of rock protruding from the bottom of arid basins and broken lands. Hoodoos are often seen in the High Plateau region of the Colorado Plateau and in the Badlands regions of the Northern Great Plains. Read more about them here.

The best tip I can offer, is that during the day, the trails aforementioned above can get obnoxiously busy and crowded...but for whatever reason once the sun starts to hide- they're a ghost town. During sunset I had the entire iconic amphitheater area to myself. Maybe the cold freaked people out but getting to hike among the glowing hoodoos under a Utah sunset claims a spot in my award book for the most beautiful things I've ever seen.  Looking back at the pictures below I can't help but just 'Wow'. Take your absolute, sweet, merry relaxed time and stay in the amphitheater until it's dark. This could be the most memorable thing you do in any Utah national park. Bury yourself deep in the hoodoos once that sun starts to fall west.

In the morning, get in your car and drive the 18-mile long Rim Road Scenic Drive which takes you south you up to the highest point in the park, Rainbow Point. Here you'll really get a prized view of the grand amphitheater, Utah's Paunsaugunt Plateau which Bryce sits atop of and the wash of forests below. On the way back, stop at all the viewpoints and overlooks, especially the 85-ft Natural Bridge for a few great pictures. Bravo, Bryce Canyon, Bravo. I'll be back very soon.