If you talk to people who have been to Utah, their eyes light up as they remember the first time they set sight on its glorious red rock that in some parts, just never seems to end. When I think of my own experience, I think of the musical Beauty and the Beast. The awe-inspiring stage set and costuming blows you away again and again; just when you think the performance couldn’t get any more colorful, any more energetic and any more theatrical, it wows you even more, just like every turn on a winding road does in southern Utah.
While I had been to Utah before and had even skied in its glorious snow, I had never been to Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion or some of its incredible monuments such as Cedar Breaks which I didn’t take in this past trip.
I can’t recall how many times on the trip when I felt, “Grand Canyon, eat your heart out, you don’t have anything on southern Utah.” It’s appeal and likely reason for its world wonder fame has to do with its sheer vastness and experience you have at the bottom of the canyon, yet Bryce Canyon and the drive along Burr Trail just outside Boulder Utah deserves to be on that “wonder” list.
Referred to as a geologic fairyland of rock spires, Bryce is an incredible maze of reds, yellows, oranges, pinks, creams, and muted blue purples, all eroded from soft limestone, the colors changing shades on the hour as the sun shifts.
What’s great about the canyon is that it is sectioned off as a national park, so its protected, meaning you can still find remote areas to take it all in without swarming tourists mingling about. Perhaps it was just the time of year (early May), but even though you could find people on each viewpoint and trail, the number was small enough to get into a “nature” zone, get away from human life and have moments with Bryce and Bryce alone.
There are massive amphitheaters cut into pink and yellow cliffs, with warm cream tones and blues mingling throughout the layers. Aside from the viewpoints, you can go down into the canyon itself which I highly recommend, because it is here where you get that sense you have in Africa, where you can imagine primitive ancestors living centuries and centuries ago, whether or not they did or not.
With nearly 36,000 acres of rock formations, forest and trails, there’s a lot of wonderment to keep you mesmorized whether you’re there for two days or two weeks.
The vegetation and the rock itself was what really drew me in. As I mentioned in my blog post Bryce Canyon: New Graphic Tripod Trial in the Bitter Cold, I really love close up time with the rock formation. It’s the textures and depth of the land that turns me on rather than the expansive aspect of a horizon. Perhaps it’s because I like getting my hands dirty; I like being “in” a situation creating from within rather than observing from the outside.
You can find Pinon pine, juniper, wild flowers, Gambel oak, Blue spruce, Limber pine, Bristolecone pine, Douglas fir, and Aspen pine among other plants which thrive in cool moist conditions. You can also discovered wildlife and birds such as the Utah prairie dog, gray fox, striped skunk, badgers, coyotes, black bears, marmots, golden mantled ground squirrels, beavers, red tailed hawks, mountain bluebirds, woodpeckers, owls, and ravens.
Trails worth taking are from Fairyland Point: Fairyland Loop Trail and Rim Trail. From Sunrise and Sunset Points, you should definitely check out the Queen’s Garden Trail from Sunrise Point and the Navajo Loop Trail from Sunset Point. (part of the Navajo Loop Trail was closed when we were there and it’s often closed when there’s too much snow, so be sure to check conditions).
Inspiration Point is breathtaking and from here, you can venture along a path which has been described as a fantastic maze of hoodoos in the “Silent City.”
It’s the sort of place where you can sit and gaze for hours and find yourself relaxing into it. From Bryce Point, you can start Rim, Peekaboo Loop and Under-the-Rim Trails.
Specifics: From Bryce Junction seven miles south of Panguitch on U.S. 89 (where I also captured some amazing shots), turn east14 miles on UT 12, then three miles on UT 63. Or, from Torrey (near Capitol Reef National Park – also breathtaking), head west 103 miles on UT 12, then turn south three miles.