Utah Vacation: Bryce Canyon Edition

Previously on Adventures in Utah

We headed down to Bryce Canyon on Monday morning. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon. It is also kind of a boring drive. Once you get out of the Salt Lake City area there is a long portion of the drive before you get to the Bryce Canyon area where you’re just driving along interstate 15 and aside from some mountains in the far off distance it feels like driving along an interstate. It gets very rural so there isn’t much to look at in the way of anything but some scrub brush and some occasional little towns. As a city girl, I am always fascinated by the people who choose to live out in these places in the middle of nowhere. Let’s just say I was really happy our rental car had satellite radio.

Other highlights from the road trip include watching two sheriffs chasing a calf that escaped from somewhere down the side of the road with a lasso. Also we passed the end of interstate 70 in Cove Fort, Utah. Well technically the town is about 10 miles away from there, but there is nothing at that point so I guess that land is incorporated into that town. At any rate this is only interesting to me because the opposite end of interstate 70 is in Baltimore and I drive on it all the time. There is a sign in Baltimore that lists the mileage to Cove Fort on 70.

I know, I know you’re saying get on with it. I don’t care about your lame road trip stories. Fine. Let’s move along to actually getting to Bryce Canyon.

2013-05-07 09.57.47Food and Lodging

First let’s just say there is not much around Bryce Canyon. There’s two hotels, a couple of little old motels, a lodge inside the park and if you don’t manage to find somewhere to stay at one of those there are plenty of campgrounds and RV parks. If you don’t want to camp or stay in an RV I would suggest booking your lodging early, especially if you’re going during prime season.

I hate people so I like traveling on shoulder season. It usually means the weather isn’t too bad and there are far fewer people to deal with. In this case we didn’t see too many Americans, but I think all of Europe must have been traveling to Bryce Canyon while we were there. I’m pretty sure I heard more people speaking French and German than I did English the entire time we were there.

Traveling at non-peak time was definitely also beneficial for eating on this particular leg of the trip as there are also only a handful of places to eat. The first night we ate at Ruby’s, which the restaurant in Ruby’s Best Western. They had a buffet or menu you could order off of. I wound up eating off the buffet, which stood about on par with eating off a Shoney’s buffet. Sorry middle America but my palate is slightly more refined than that, and I can’t say I really enjoyed anything I ate there.

My recommendation for anyone who is discerning about food is to eat at the Lodge inside the park. We had both lunch and dinner there our second day and they actually served fresh food, so it was a vast improvement over the previous night’s dinner even if it was more expensive. They do a sandwich, soup, salad buffet for lunch or you can order off a menu. I enjoyed the buffet there and was happy to eat some soup for lunch as it was snowing outside (Yes, snowing. More on that later). For dinner they start you off with some nice warm rosemary bread, which was delicious. I had the swordfish special for dinner, which was fantastic. I didn’t want to stop eating it despite the fact that they of course gave me way more fish than I needed to eat.

Hiking

If you like to hike I would definitely recommend Bryce Canyon. It is incredibly beautiful and there are some great trails. It’s also a park that definitely behooves you to hike down into the canyon. There’s some great views from places on the rim, but I really liked the experience of being down in the canyon. If you aren’t in shape or have any kinds of mobility problems for whatever reason I wouldn’t say it’s a great park for spending much time in. You can still drive through the park and stop off at the 13 viewpoints, which are all beautiful, but there aren’t many flat or paved trails. One of the flattest trails we hiked was at the far end of the park and at over 9,000 feet in elevation so you still have to have some stamina to do it. If you’re planning on hiking any of the trails I would highly recommend hiking boots for most of them. Even most of the more level trails aren’t paved and can be rocky. The support around your ankles in addition to the treads is key as you really wouldn’t want to sprain an ankle on the uneven terrain. Not to say that I didn’t see some people hiking in ridiculous shoes. I saw a woman hiking the hardest trail we did in the park in loafers.

After we arrived on Monday afternoon we did the Queens Garden Trail, which is supposed to be the easiest hike into the canyon. I actually thought it was slightly more difficult than the one we did the second day because parts of it felt steeper even though overall the elevation descent and climb is smaller. This was also my favorite of the 5 trails we hiked in Bryce Canyon. I thought it had the best views.

The weather while we were in Bryce Canyon was all over the place. We pretty much experienced every kind of weather possible. During this hike we got thunderstorms and hail. Luckily for us it was tiny little hail. It was actually ideal because it was pretty much only hailing. There was not much rain. As all of this started just as we were getting to the bottom of the trail, there wasn’t much to be done but hike on through the storm. The fact that it was hail meant we didn’t get soaking wet, and the fact that it was tiny meant it didn’t really hurt when it hit us.

Hail
Hail

Enjoy some additional pictures of the Queens Garden Trail.

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Tuesday morning we started off with a short hike outside the main gates of the park. It’s about a 3 mile drive from the main entrance to the Mossy Cave trail, but it’s worth going a little out of your way to hike. It’s the one part of the park with a river running through it and it has a waterfall, so there’s some nice views. There is a fork in the trail. One side takes you up to the titular mossy cave, which is moss covered in the summer and filled with ice during the winter. It wasn’t much of either while we were there, though there was evidence of both. The other side of the fork takes you over to the waterfall. It’s a short trail, only .8 miles round trip. The elevation change is 300 feet, which now that I see it seems crazy since the Queens Garden trail is a 320 foot elevation change but seemed way harder than this one.

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We then drove to the far side of the park and hiked the Bristlecone Loop, which is a short 1 mile loop with an elevation change of only 195 feet. This one is fairly level though there is a bit of climbing. It’s not just steep up and down like the hikes into and out of the canyon though. You are at over 9,000 feet elevation for this hike though so if you have trouble breathing even this hike probably isn’t for you. Bryce Canyon is also part of a national forest, and this hike takes you into the forest. You do get some views out into the canyon at some points, but this was my least favorite trail because most of it was just looking at trees, which I can do on hikes at home.

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Just as we were finishing up our hike of the Bristlecone Loop it started to snow oh and thunder too. It was also really windy so it was not a nice gentle snow. It was a frigid pelting you in the face snow. Even more so when you tried to look down into the canyon and the snow was flying out of the canyon at you. As we were at the far end of the park when the snow started our plan was stop at the various lookout places along the drive back. We still stopped at most of them, but gave a couple a pass because we couldn’t bear the thought of getting out of the car and out into the blowing snow. My pictures don’t really do the snow storm justice, but you can see the snow in some of them.

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As I already mentioned we stopped at the Lodge for lunch and decided we would see what the weather held for us once were done. Happily it quit snowing while we were eating so we continued on with some additional hikes. We started off with the Navajo Trail, which is normally a loop trail, but one side of it was closed down while we were there. We were still able to hike down one side and back up that same side though. This trail was the one trail categorized as moderate. It was about 1.2 miles the way we did it and with a descent and climb of 550 feet. The trail has a lot of switchbacks though so I never felt like it was as steep as the Queens Garden Trail was. You can see two parallel natural bridges near the bottom of this trail. I did hear someone who had done the trail before say that she liked the other side of it better, so I wonder what we missed due to that part of the trail being shut down.

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After we finished the Navajo Trail we finished off our hikes with a quick jaunt on the Rim Trail. The Rim trail just as the name would suggest goes along the rim of canyon. The entire trail runs for 11 miles, but we only did a small part of it. We had done about a mile or so of a different section the first day after finishing the Queens Garden Trail. The Rim Trail is the only trail in the park that is partially paved. That is the part we did after finishing off the Navajo Trail. It’s a short 1 mile round trip trail. It’s definitely not a very exciting trail, but is probably the only trail many visitors to the park see.

Bryce Canyon was absolutely beautiful and if you ever get a chance to go there I would highly recommend it, especially if you like to hike.

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