Sunday, November 13, 2016

Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks


We had the extreme pleasure of visiting Utah for the first time mid-March of this year. If you have never driven through Utah, you really should. You just don't want to look anywhere but out your window when you are rollin' down the road. Utah has what they have dubbed "the mighty five" national parks in the southern part of the state. We really wanted to visit all five but we just couldn't fit Capital Reef National Park into either of our Utah road trips, sad day.

Our first stop in Utah was Bryce Canyon National Park. We pulled into the KOA in Cannonville, Utah, about 15 minutes north of the park, late in the evening the first day. It ended up being a great little park and we really loved the location. It had a playset for the kids, a dog park, and the other campers were super quite as night. We got up the next morning and headed into Bryce Canyon.

Day one was an extra special day for us because we were meeting up with two friends. We were so pumped! After the visitor's center we headed straight to Sunrise Point and our first hike of the day. We did the Queen's garden trail combined with the Navajo Loop to make about a 3 mile hike. We met up with Evan and Casey about halfway through the hike... they caught up with us because two grown men hike A LOT faster than a 4 and 5 year old... and it was lovely to catch up in such amazing scenery.


 Bryce Canyon is mostly known for it's Hoodoos, these tall columns of rocks. They are amazing to view from the lookouts, but up close they are absolutely mind blowing. After we finished the hike we all piled in the truck and went to explore some more of the lookout points. Our last stop was the Bristlecone Loop Trail. It was at the very last lookout point and at the highest elevation of the park, which meant we got to hike in the snow!

Casey and Evan spent the night at our campsite and we took off first thing in the morning and did the Mossy Cave Trail. It is a hike outside of the actual Park but still surrounded by hoodoos. You get to hike by a stream, over a cool bridge, watch a waterfall and finish off with a cool cave view, all in under a mile round trip. It was a great finish to a short visit with friends and Bryce. After this, we said our goodbyes and headed to Zion National Park.

 We entered Zion through the south entrance and the view that greeted us was truly other worldly. Huge hills of rocks with the most interesting striation lines looming on either side of the truck. I felt like a kid with my nose pressed against the window. We drove straight through the park without stopping because we were towing our camper. Oh yes, I shouldn't forget that if you enter through the south gate and are towing a camper be prepared to drop $15 for your tunnel pass, even if you have tiny rig like ours. We literally missed the cutoff by about two inches! The Mt. Carmel Highway tunnel is a really cool feature of the park and definitely worth the drive through... just leave your camper behind. :)  We camped at Zion Campground, and although it was VERY crowded and a little noisy at night we really enjoyed the convenience of this site. Let's be real honest, if you are near a National Park chances are you aren't going to be at the campground much. We set up camp, and then we just couldn't resist watching our first night's sunset in Zion. We headed back into the Park and hiked up Canyon Overlook Trail just in time for the sun to go down. Even though it was pretty crowded, it was still magical!

Our first full day in Zion started with the Visitor's Center (of course) and a visit to the Emerald Pools, a really busy but beautiful trail. The Lower Pool was okay but the water falls you get to walk under that feed the pool were beautiful. The climb to the second pool is pretty easy and it is a really interesting little body of water. The Upper Pool is a busy uphill hike with no shade. By the time we made it to the top, with the crowd we were in, I was in a foul mood, but that quickly changed when we found our own little spot to sit back and really look around. You are nearly surrounded by 2,000 feet of sheer rock face with a gentle flowing waterfall (kind of misty) feeding the biggest of the three pools. We ate our lunch up there and let the girls have a blast playing with all the other little kids who were hopefully falling in love with our beautiful planet. The hike down was much quicker and we took a side trail back that added a little distance but offered us some solitude. From here we caught the bus to see the Weeping Rocks. It was a short hike up to a nook under the weeping rocks were you could reach out and catch the water in your hands. This stop would probably not be considered as grand as most of Zion but it was really amazing to touch water that had spent twelve hundred years traveling through rock to finally be set free! They say it is a great stop for kids but every adult I saw there was thoroughly enjoying such an up close view of this phenomenon. Our next stop was the ranger station to catch a ranger talk and turn in our junior ranger books. The girls thought it was hilarious when the ranger added "you have to clean your room and eat your veggies" to the pledge. They STILL laugh about it! Before we headed back to the campground we decided to try to find one of the 'off the beaten path' trails we had read about to Pine Creek Waterfall. Sidetone, a lot of National Parks have off the beaten path trails you just have to do your research or talk to a Ranger. They are usually awesome trails that are way less crowded. This hidden trail did not disappoint. We had to jump from huge bolder to huge bolder, climb over rocks and through holes, but when we finally got to the waterfall it was magic. We were alone and it was serene and absolutely stunning. It felt like we were the boys from Lord of the Flies exploring a new uninhabited place, except without the weird pig head and stuff. It was a great ending to the day.

The waterfall at the first pool.

Zadie posing at the third pool.

View when leaving the third pool

Weeping Rock

A travel companion we found on the trail to the secret waterfall.

The secret fall... Right after this picture I tried to climb the rock to sit behind the fall... I did not succeed and we were all surprised I didn't break anything coming down.

 We were moving pretty slow by day two Zion. We didn't leave the camper until lunch time. We took a picnic back to the south side of the park, found a pull off that looked interesting, and we ate lunch and explored. Then we headed back to catch the Trolley and investigate the Riverside Walk trail to the Narrows. It was a cold wet day and we knew that we wouldn't get to do much of the Narrows Trail, since it is though an already cold river, but we still had to see this iconic Zion spot. We did a couple of the first river crossings in the trail but with the water temp being around 45 degrees we gave up pretty quickly. BBBBRRR!!!!

I love how dramatic these walls are.

We headed back to Arizona on day four and camped in Paige. Paige is a must see city if you are in the area. It is stocked full of nature's spectacles from Lake Powell, to Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. We camped on Lake Powell, toured Antelope Canyon and did the quick hike to Horseshoe Bend just in time for sunset. Even though we only had 24 hours in this magical place I think we did a pretty great job of seeing all the sites! 

Horseshoe Bend

Antelope Canyon

The moon shining over Lake Powell.