Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park was located about 15 miles from where we were staying at Red Canyon RV Park near Panguitch, UT. We had visited Bryce Canyon back in 2007, but we wanted to see it again.
Bryce Canyon National Park lies along the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. It is not a canyon at all, but a series of natural amphitheaters formed by erosion along the edge of the plateau.
As we mentioned in our last post, we had a problem with our washer/dryer, and we were waiting for a repair part to arrive. We got the part on Monday and got the washer/dryer fixed; but over the weekend, we had plenty of time for sightseeing while waiting for the part to arrive.
We started our visit to Bryce Canyon with a stop in the visitor center to watch the movie on how the canyon was formed. Most of the national parks have movies that tell about the park, and all the ones we have seen have been excellent.
From the visitor center we drove to the far (south) end of the park to a pair of adjacent overlooks called Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point. Here, we enjoyed the expansive views to the south.
Looking south from Yovimpa point you can see the red cliffs at the edge of the plateau trail off in the distance.
And looking north from Rainbow point you can see the curve of the southern part of the amphitheater. The elevation at the southern end of the park is over 9,000 feet above sea level.
Bryce is known for its red, orange, pink and white cliffs and spire-like formations called hoodoos. The hoodoos were formed in the same way as those we saw in Red Canyon. Relatively warm days in winter cause some of the abundant snow (Bryce gets an average of 8 feet a year) to melt and run down into cracks in the rocks. Cold nights cause the water to freeze and expand, which enlarges and extends the cracks. Heavy summer rain storms wash away the smaller pieces of rock creating gullies. Capstones protect some of the underlying rock as the gullies widen creating fins of rock. Continuing freezing, thawing and erosion further divides the fins into hoodoos.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a relatively easy park to visit in one day if you're not planning to do a lot of hiking. The park road is only about 16 or 17 miles long, and most of the main overlooks are either right along the road or only a short walk of a few hundred yards from the parking area. The southern end of Bryce Canyon doesn't have as many hoodoos as the northern end, so if you were really pressed for time, you could just visit the northern part of Bryce Amphitheater from Bryce Point to Bryce Canyon Lodge.
Fortunately, we had more time so we stopped at all the overlooks. The next photo is from Ponderosa Canyon looking south out into the valley. Ponderosa Canyon is a couple of stops north of Yavimpa and Rainbow Points (about 3 miles), but already the formation of fins is more evident.
Continuing north about another mile, the next stop was Agua Canyon. Here, we saw more distinctly-formed hoodoos, including the one in the next photo that looked like someone with a large head holding a baby.
At the same stop was another interesting hoodoo that was a large, jagged rock perched on top of a pillar. The flat top to the pillar is a harder capstone that is protecting the pillar from being eroded away.
Natural Bridge is located about 1.5 miles to the north of Agua Canyon. Bridge is somewhat of a misnomer because the definition of a natural bridge says is was formed by a stream. This formation was created by the same forces that create hoodoos, so it is technically an arch.
We made several additional stops as we drove north. The views were breathtaking. However, with all of the national parks, pictures don't do justice to the beauty. There's just nothing like seeing it in person.
Unlike Zion National Park, private vehicles are still permitted everywhere in Bryce. However, there is a shuttle that runs from outside the park, to the visitor center, and makes several stops along the popular, northern end of the amphitheater. The shuttle is a good way to get around if you want to sit back and let someone else do the driving. Bryce Point is the southernmost shuttle stop. At Bryce Point, the pink and red cliffs extend out farther from the rim, and the hoodoos become more numerous.
Probably our favorite overlook was Inspiration Point. From this area you can see dozens and dozens of fins and hundreds of hoodoos.
Sunset Point is on the opposite side of an amphitheater from Inspiration Point. At Sunset Point we listened in on a ranger talk about the geology of the area and how the various rock layers were formed as sediment under a sea that once split North America, and under a large, inland lake that once covered much of Utah. The different layers are the result of advancing and retreating water levels. We also enjoyed views of more fins and hoodoos. The next photo from Sunset Point is looking back toward inspiration Point.
Numerous hiking trails start at the northern overlooks. Although there is a trail along the northern part of the rim that we followed several times for short distances, most of the trails drop down below the rim and are quite steep. We considered taking the Navajo Loop Trail, shown in the photo below, that starts and ends Sunset Point. However, we changed our minds when we saw how steep it was. Not only that, but part of the loop was closed due to a rock slide, so we would have had to hike half the trail, then turn around and retrace our steps.
After our stop at Sunset Point, we headed toward the park exit. Still within the park boundary, but outside the entrance station is a one-mile spur road to Fairyland Point. There was a trail at fairyland point that wasn't too steep at the start, so we followed it for a ways. Although the hoodoos here weren't as spectacular or as numerous as they were at Inspiration or Sunset Points, the trail let us get a closer view of some of them.
We also got a nice view of Sinking Ship. The tilt of the rock layers looks like the prow of a ship that is sinking.
When the trail at Fairyland Point started to get steep, we turned around and headed back to the car and back to the motor home.
As we said, the parts for the washer arrived on Monday as scheduled, and we were able to get the washer fixed and to catch up on laundry. Never thought the sound of the washer/dryer could sound so sweet. Catching up
on laundry was important because our next stop was at a state park without sewer hookup. We'll tell you about the state park in our next regular post.