Southern Utah part 1 of 4 – Bryce Canyon

I’ve got one thing to say about Southern Utah…. I can’t wait to go back! Many of my friends know I have a weakness for National parks but to hit four of them in a little over a week is pure bliss. A bit rushed but I think I got a good feel for the parks but left plenty to explore for future trips. (click on images to enlarge)

Back in May 2011 I took a 1.5 week trip to southern Utah with my wife and an old school friend. We flew into Las Vegas then drove through Zion (briefly),  Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Yes I listed five parks but Zion was such a brief stop I don’t consider it a proper visit on this trip. I’ll do a write-up on Zion in a future posting from a previous trip.

Near the Nevada and Utah state line

It’s difficult to realize how Las Vegas is really an over developed desert until you drive away from the bright lights and ostentatious water fountains. As the cell phone reception grew faint, the land got barren and hot. Fortunately as we passed the Utah state line, the landscape became more mountainous and beautiful.

Kolob Canyon

On the way towards our first destination of Bryce Canyon, we decided at the last moment to stop by a little visited part of Zion National Park called Kolob Canyon. It’s located in the northern reaches of Zion National Park right off highway 15. Because it was getting late at around 5 or 6pm (park office closed), we were able to sneak into this scenic 5 mile road for free. The scenery is spectacular reminding me of a reddish hued Yosemite. Again, little did I know that the scenery would just get better from here.

Our lodging in Tropics. Fortunately only for one night.

We got to a tiny town outside of Bryce Canyon called Tropics late that night and bedded down in a log cabin. It certainly didn’t feel like the tropics. No coconut trees, no beaches… just red rocks. The following night we stayed at the Best Western located just outside the park. Oddly enough it seemed to be inundated by “older” folks.

Finally made it!

Yes there's a name for those amazing formations.

We get ready to tackle the 1.3 mile Navajo Loop trail. Old school friend (L) & Susy (R)

We were actually descending 550'. Amazing isn't it?

Openings are made large enough for horses to go through for trails that allow horseback riding. Near this part of the trail we decided to take a little detour to the Queens Garden Trail.

Yes this narrow crevice (aka slot canyon) is part of the trail.

I have to agree with Susy at how great this park is. And hiking the trails is a great way to get away from the crowds and tour buses

Normally when the guides describe a trail as moderate in difficulty, I normally have no problems attacking it. But in this case with the dry, arid, & hot conditions Navajo Loop was a bit more challenging than anticipated. We also made a few detours onto Queens Garden trail and ended up at Panoramic Point.

Overall there were few others on the trails heightening the sensation of being one with nature. Although this is a great park for those who only plan to drive by each scenic viewpoints, you won’t get the full experience by looking at it from afar.

Yep this park is pretty high in elevation. Notice the smattering of snow in the background.

Nature was creating bridges long before man did.

Uh, I guess I meant arch not bridge. Click on the photo to enlarge.

No I didn't run into any bears on this trail.

As we hiked on higher elevation trails, we ran into more debris...

...and more snow. We couldn't follow the trail and didn't get far.

I have to admit this is the best park I’ve been to for those with an aversion to hiking. Every scenic stop is completely different. Fortunately we were there during the low season so I’m sure the tour buses were at a minimum.

Next post… Capitol Reef National Park.

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