Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is only 80 miles from Zion. For travelers approaching from the west, U.S. 89 connects with Utah 12, which passes through the sandstone arches of Red Canyon on the way to Bryce Canyon.

For those arriving from the east, the park can be accessed via the spectacular drive from Hanksville through Capital Reef National Park and Escalante. This drive in itself is an event. We’ve frequently made the run between Bryce Canyon and Moab and enjoyed it. This is undoubtedly the drive where you will encounter more change of scenery in one day than in any other drive. Leaving Moab’s red rock country with its canyons and arches, you’ll arrive in Hanksville. From here, Utah 24 heads west alongside the Fremont River and in amongst the massive buttes of Capital Reef.

Heading south at Torrey, you’ll pass through the Dixie National Forest, where groves of aspens glitter in the sun as you first climb and then descend through the forest. Exiting the forest at Boulder, the landscape changes to an open and desolate area. Escalante Canyon was formed as the Escalante River rushed through, and you’ll spot oasis in spots amidst the dry desolation. The road passes along a narrow, twisty ridge with large expanses of desert on either side before it descends into the lowlands around Tropic that lead into the floor of Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon is at the end of a spur road heading south from Utah 12. This road passes by Ruby’s Inn, a large tourist center that features lodging, a full-service campground, helicopter flights through the canyon, or any other visitor service you could imagine. Continuing on to the park, you’ll arrive at the visitor center, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and a pair of campgrounds with no hookups. From here, you can drive to one of the many viewpoints that overlook the canyon, such as Sunrise Point, Rainbow Point, Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Farview, or Fairyland Point. Each view is unique and all look down upon the wind-eroded hoodoos. The spires reveal the various layers of geology and are multicolored, which is the key to their beauty. Sunsets can be particularly impressive. The low angle of the setting sun brings out all the hues of reds and bright ambers in the hoodoos.

A number of hiking trails descend into the canyon. One popular route is the Navajo Trail, which begins at Sunset Point and wraps around Thor’s Hammer before passing through Wall Street and returning to your start point. This 1.3-mile loop is rated at moderate difficulty but is one of the most scenic and heavily traveled trails. The 3-mile Tower Bridge trail takes you through Bristlecone Pines, which are thousands of years old, and passes by the China Wall on its way to the bridge. While hiking, be sure to wear comfortable hiking boots with good lugged traction soles and hats, and bring plenty of water. For those who would rather ride than walk, trail rides on mules and horses can be taken on a number of trails.


When to Go

Southern Utah gets hot during the summer. Summer temperatures typically range in the 80s, although temperatures in the canyon itself are significantly hotter. Plus, the Bryce Canyon overlooks average 9,000 feet of altitude, which makes the sun’s UV rays intense and the air thin. Visitors need to be properly prepared for this environment. Zion is lower, with the valley floor in the 7,000-foot range, but temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees, and there isn’t much breeze in the canyon. Spring and fall are good times of year to visit. The brilliant fall colors can make a September trip quite enjoyable. Snow and ice can make a winter trip a real challenge and certain roads, and trails may be closed. Even in May, the Narrows at the end of Zion Canyon’s Riverside Walk trail, may be impassable due to heavy snowmelt runoff. Regardless of the season, these two parks offer some fantastic views unavailable elsewhere.


Sources

Zion National Park (435) 772-3256
www.nps.gov/zion

Bryce Canyon National Park
(435) 834-5322 www.nps.gov/brca