Bryce Canyon National Park ~ October 19, 2014

The sun was setting when Highway 9 dead-ended into Highway 89. The intersection was labeled on the map as “Mount Carmel Junction.” We found the junction to be a quaint town with an awesome motel.

Thunderbird Motel, Mount Carmel Junction

The Thunderbird Lodge was a welcoming site after the previous night’s cheap Bates-like motel in Springdale. Even though the Thunderbird was more than 62 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park, we checked in for two nights recognizing our fatigue and yearning for a comfortable respite. Those two conditions had us sleeping in the next day and not arriving at Bryce Canyon until 1 p.m.

Bryce Canyon from Inpsiration Point 1

The gorgeous canyon is sprawling and includes some long looping trails on the northern and southern ends.

Map 1

But with only a half-day to immerse ourselves, we chose to stick to the heart of the canyon and the short, but steep, series of connecting trails near and below the visitor center.

The half-mile trek along Rim Trail from Sunset to Sunrise Point provides amazing photo opportunities.

Thor's Hammer from Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon NP
Thor’s Hammer from Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Queen's Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon NP 1

From Sunrise Point we cut down onto Queen’s Garden Trail which had us winding closely around and through the hoodoos and natural bridges.

Queen's Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon NP 11

Queen's Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon NP 4

The vibrant orange shades changed and gleamed as we passed through the hoodoo forest down into the canyon floor. Strolling along the pine-lined path was shaded and peaceful,  a great place to rest before ascending back up and out of the canyon.

Canyon Floor, Bryce Canyon NP
Canyon Floor, Queen’s Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

At the intersection of Navajo Loop Trail, we chose to take the outer section of the trail through “Wall Street,” so named, I assume, because of the towering slot canyon walls.

Wall Street 1, Bryce Canyon NP
“Wall Street” – Bryce Canyon National Park

In total, the 3-mile loop took us about two and half hours and that included many stops to bask in the geological phenomenon in which we were hiking, and to take photos of course.

We cooled our heals over a late lunch in nearby Bryson City before driving through the park’s northern border to Mossy Cave.

bryce-canyon-national-park-map
Source: National Parks Service

The cave, which we failed to capture, is what I would call a grotto and would have been more exciting, or at least worth the drive, if we had been visiting in the spring rather than a very dry October.

We did learn that the arroyo the trail follows was hand dug over a century ago by a community of Mormons. They’d dug the 15-mile trench to tap into the Sevier River as a water source for their town, Tropic.

Bryce Canyon from Inspiration Point 1=4
Bryce Canyon from Inspiration Point

With sunset nearing we backtracked past the visitor center to Inspiration Point. We’d been told that at dusk, spectacular colors cast across the hoodoos and canyon.

Bryce Canyon from Inpsiration Point 2
Inspiration Point View, Bryce Canyon National Park

Upon arriving, clouds rolled over the western skyline and blocked what I imagine would have been stunning views.

Bryce Canyon from Inpsiration Point 3
Getting inspired at Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

Our disappointment didn’t last long though. As we walked along the platform in awe of the canyon’s magnitude and beauty, the sun dipped below the horizon and the clouds rose slightly, alighting the distant hilltops ablaze with color.

Sunset from Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon NP 1
Sunset from Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

A perfect send off to a perfect day in Bryce National Park.

More Pics…

Trey on Queen's Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon NP

Queen's Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon NP 6

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Queen's Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon NP 5

Zion National Park, Utah ~ October 17-18, 2014

Leaving Las Vegas we were once again traveling in “we will figure it out” mode. Oh, we knew where we were heading, Zion National Park, but had no idea whether we’d spend the night there, nearby, or move onto Bryce Canyon. Sluggishness had delayed our departure so we didn’t arrive in Zion until 4pm…  much too late to snatch a camping site.

Court of the Patriachs, Zion NP
Pa’rus Trail, Zion National Park

Thinking the remaining daylight was all the time we’d spend in the park, we hopped on our bikes for a quick tour.

The Pa’rus Trail is a paved path that begins near the visitor center, wends around the campground and along the Virgin River for 1.7 miles…

Virgin River from Pa'rus Trail, Zion
Virgin River from Pa’rus Trail, Zion

…ending at the intersections of Hwy 9 and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Crossing Pine Creek, Pa'rus Trail, Zion
Crossing Pine Creek, Pa’rus Trail, Zion NP

We continued up (and I do mean up!) Zion Canyon Scenic Drive for an additional five miles, stopping to take in the scenes of Great White Throne, Court of the Patriarchs, ant-like hikers clinging to cables along the West Rim Trail…

Zion National Park 2

Heading Up Floor of the Valley Road, Zion NP

…beautiful passages of the Virgin River, and wildlife.

The Virgin River, Zion 1
The Virgin River, Zion National Park

At the road’s end, we were captivated by the towering Temple of Sinawava—the 3000’ canyon wall that entices hikers into its chasm, The Narrows.

Temple of Sinawava, Zion NP

Alas, we had figured it out… with hands on our breaks and feet off our pedals we sailed downhill and then back to the nearest town – Springdale, Utah – to find a hotel and prep for the next day’s hike.

The Narrows, Zion NP 4
The Narrows (Virgin River) – Zion National Park

The Narrows was the most extraordinary, and probably our most memorable, hike of this six-month trek.

It’s not really a trail, or rather, the trail (Riverside Walk) ends after a mile, and to continue into The Narrows one must enter and follow the Virgin River upstream.

The Narrows, Zion NP 10

The Narrows, Zion NP 9

The water was frigid, but the heat and blood flow generated from traversing over rocks helped our toes acclimate pretty quickly.

Fall Colors 1, The Narrows, Zion NP

Water and mineral stained canyon walls were capped with plant life and fall colors. We’d entered a seemingly mystical environment, surreal, but not without lurking dangers.

The Narrows, Zion NP 2

The river is unpredictable in flow and depth, and I once found myself suddenly waste deep.

The Narrows, Zion NP 3

As we slogged farther into the narrowing canyon its rock walls grew higher and more solid.

The Narrows, Zion NP 6

The Narrows, Zion NP 8
Trey in The Narrows, Zion National Park

Time passed, but without a sense of our pace in the water, we had no idea of how far we had traveled. There were no mile markers, probably because it’s not a trail, but when we reached an intersection with another canyon that broke off to the east, Trey correctly estimated we’d hiked about a mile and a half since entering the river.

The Narrows, Zion NP 7

We followed what ended up being Orderville Gulch for only a few hundred feet before turning around and heading back downstream.

Turnaround Point, Orderville Gulch, The Narrows, Zion
Our turnaround point: Orderville Gulch, The Narrows, Zion

At 6pm, we left Zion National Park via Highway 9 and with senses of accomplishment and regret.

Zion East Side of Tunnel 5
Zion National Park – East of Hwy 9 Tunnel

The Narrows was an amazing hike, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will stay with us forever; yet Zion had many gifts and trails we were leaving uncharted. As the majestic beauty of Zion’s eastern border folded out around us…

Zion East Side of Tunnel 4

…we concurred, we’d have to make a return trip.

More Pics…

Virgin River from Pa'rus Trail, Zion
Virgin River from Pa’rus Trail, Zion
The Narrows, Zion NP 5
Trey hiking The Narrows, Zion National Park
Zion National Park 4
Zion National Park