Bryce, Utah – July, 2017 I was beyond excited to finally see Bryce Canyon. When we came this way in early May of 2015 it was still too cold to visit. This national park sits at close to 8000 foot elevation.
The weather forecasts at that time of year were not at all appealing. We weren’t interested in freezing our butts off! Now that we were planning a visit in July, that elevation was very welcome.
We could not get a reservation inside the national park so we chose a private campground about 20 miles from the park’s entrance. Red Canyon RV Park was a good jumping off point. Our full hookup pull thru was around $40 per night.
We arrived and got set up before lunch as is our M.O. After a quick bite we were ready to get a look around and do some hiking. We didn’t want to drive to the national park that afternoon.
We were in luck. We only had to head east a few miles to reach the Dixie National Forest and the scenery changed dramatically. We were soon engulfed in vivid red cliffs.
We stopped at the National Forest visitor center and picked up a hiking guide. Several hikes left from their parking lot so off we went. There were many intersecting trails so we weren’t sure what trail we were on all the time. Around every corner was a new view.
We were having so much fun we had wandered a few miles before we hardly realized it. We found these cool caves toward the end of the hike. We were too pooped to try to get up to them by that time although we really wanted to explore them.
Thankfully we only had to find a path down to the road and there was a bike path on the other side that easily got us back to our truck. Here is a view from across the road of the area we climbed around.
The next morning we jumped up bright and early and headed to Bryce Canyon. We drove to the visitor center, checked it out, and got a map. Then we waited out front for their shuttle.
Bryce has a shuttle that continuously makes the rounds of all the popular spots in the northern portion of the park. We love being able to hop on and off a shuttle at will. And it makes it so easy to hike between stops and not have to hoof it back the way you came.
The shuttle is optional in this park. You can drive everywhere if you want. But we usually choose a shuttle when available. Why hassle with traffic and parking when someone else is willing to do that for you?
This morning our plan was to ride to the end of the shuttle line, Bryce Point, and then hike the Rim Trail back to Inspiration Point. From there we could choose to hike further along the rim or ride a bus to each of the next viewing points. Here is our first good view of the canyon from Bryce Point.
And further along the trail, a look back at Bryce Point from the other side of the canyon.
In no time we put a couple miles behind us and reached Inspiration Point.
We then chose to ride the shuttle to the other easily accessible viewpoints.
The next day we took a guided tour of the southern two thirds of the park which is not serviced by the shuttle. The park service offers free tours each morning and afternoon. We reserved a spot on the 9:30 am tour. The bus can pick you up from any of several points in the park; the campground, the visitor center, the lodge. We chose to board at the bus terminal.
For this tour you stay with the same bus, driver, and group of passengers for its entire length. The tour is about 3 hours. You are driven to the southernmost viewpoint in the park, Yovimpa Point. Then the tour stops at each of the viewpoints along the way back.
I didn’t think the views were as spectacular as the ones in the northern part of the park. But they are still pretty awesome.
My favorite stop of the tour was Natural Bridge.
The tour was fun and better than driving the whole route ourselves. Our driver had lived in the area for something like 30 years and had worked for the park for more than 10. He was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining.
The next day we headed to Utah’s Kodachrome State Park which is about 20 miles southeast of Bryce.
We hiked the Grand Parade Trail before 9 am. This trail included a couple of box canyons which were fun to explore. It was challenging to photograph them at that time of day. But it made for a comfortable hike.
We then got back on Scenic Byway 12 and continued east through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It was an incredible drive with plenty of oohing and aahing, and head turning (on my part, Jim had to keep his eyes on the road). There were unfortunately hardly any places to stop and take it in. One of the only scenic pullouts afforded you this incredible view.
The pink cliff at the top is called Powell Point and the area below it is dubbed the badlands. According to the placard this was the “last uncharted territory in the continental US”. By 1879 Powell’s men had filled in the blanks.
We continued on to the town of Escalante and visited the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center there. We wanted to take a back way home and they gave us a Forest Service map and assured us that our truck could easily manage the route. Turns out almost any vehicle could drive the well maintained but gravel FH 17. It took us up and over a mountain for some spectacular views. Do you see the rain coming down on the left side of this picture?
We then headed down the other side of said mountain to the ghost town of Widtsoe. There are only a couple old buildings standing and there are some newer residences in the area.
The way the light played inside the building was really cool.
We then visited their old cemetery which was pretty interesting.
By then that storm was catching up to us so we headed the truck toward home.
Our last morning we again hiked in the national forest. Arches trail was only 2 miles from our campground.
Depending on whose description of the trail you were reading, there were one to two dozen arches that could be seen from the trail. This is probably because unless you inspected them closely it was not always clear what was a true arch.
It was also not entirely clear where the trail was much of the time. Nevertheless, it was fun trying to spot as many as you could while scrambling up and down the hill and around the various hoodoos and formations. And it was an enjoyable hike that was easy to complete before we got on the road to our next destination.