I don’t mind admitting I’d never heard of Bryce canyon until we got chatting to a very cool retired gentleman in a bar in Jackson Hole.(I am known to start talking to anyone who gets within 5 feet and in the US many folks are the same so we met many new friends along the way. He was telling us how he’d retired with his wife, they’d bought a camper van and were touring all over the US for months on end. The #Vanlife dream for many and the joy of the experience was clear on his face . We shared a beer or two more , some
We got talking and we mentioned our planned route , and how it meant we just didn’t have the time to make the Grand Canyon. His advice was instead to try for Bryce Canyon, to him every bit as interesting and less known, and a fairly quick hit – doable in half a day if you just took the road route through it.
The current leg of our trip should have seed us come down from West Yellowstone into Salt Lake city for a short stop off before heading to Zion but on the road we stopped at one of MANY gas stations strung along US highways and while we sat on the forecourt benches enjoying the welcome hot sun i got the map out for a scan.
Hitting Bryce meant actually overshooting Salt Lake to the south but I calculated we had time so off we went.
You travel first through Dixie National Forest along those amazing wide highways that stretch to infinity and then arriving at Bryce you find there is a great 7 stop scenic route in and back out the park , giving us a great taste of what were there and amazing views.
The landscape is amazing – Hoodoos (stacks of rock) rise in groups like vast stone armies and the land behind vanishes at the horizon – the scale of the US and its natural landscapes never creased to amaze us, each state like its own country almost. Coming from a small island like the UK you soon realise the sheer scale of some other continent when you travel not by air but my road or rail.
Driving along and up the scenic road in Bryce you can stop along the way to view the amazing scenes and take those all important photos but taking time just to stand or sit and take it all in is so worthwhile.
I read a report a few years back , when digital photography was really taking off that suggested when we take so many pictures our memory stops “recording” so much as it knows we have banked it somewhere else. I try now to slow down , take less pictures (VERY hard on this trip) and just let it wash over me instead of jumping out, snapping and moving on.. I’d be very interested to hear other folks experience or opinions of this!
Horseshoe amphitheatres and hoodoos carved by natures sculptors – Wind, Frost and water .
An extract from the official Bryce Canyon website gives us some great insight into its history and formation as a National Park
“Bryce Canyon National Park lies on the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in south central Utah. Bryce Canyon National Monument (administered by the U.S. Forest Service) was originally established on June 8, 1923 to preserve the “unusual scenic beauty, scientific interest, and importance.” On June 7, 1924, the monument’s name was changed to Utah National Park and it was transferred to the National Park Service. On February 25, 1928 Utah National Park was changed to Bryce Canyon National Park. Subsequent legislation enlarged the park to its current size of 35,835 acres.”
Arch formed by wind eroding small weaknesses over countless thousands of years.
Formed from a varied selections of river erosion, tectonic movement, from and wind the shapes, Hoodoos, amphitheatres and arches of Bryce are like a geologists fantasy land! For a longer exploration of the geology check out Wikipedia here but for us it was enough just to enjoy it for an afternoon!
These 3D maps in each park were brilliant for planning routes and getting a real sense of the landscape not possible from ground level.
There is a lot of hiking and back country camping options at Bryce , like in most US parks, check out their website for details and information on planning and booking necessary passes. as well as safety tips.
Roadside Hoodoos – walking among them gives a tiny sense of what it must have been like for the Utah regional tribes who lived in and celebrated these beautiful landscapes.
Next stop…. Salt Lake city then on to Zion! Check out the other reports in the series and I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and feedback !