A visit to Utah was long due in my list. During thanksgiving break, I finally got the chance to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon National parks. The red canyons in Zion towering on all sides resembling Martian land is a one-of-a-kind sight. The Hoodoos which you can see in Bryce Canyon national park are such unique formations where each of them look so different from different angles. At first glance, I was convinced that it was the work of some extremely talented sculptors, who, with the help of the government planted these things here. Well, I still secretly think so, but the boards on the canyon walk state that they were formed by air and water erosion. Trust me when I say this – this place will make you truly appreciate mother Nature’s magnificence.
The weather was perfect in both Zion and Bryce National Park during our visit (the end of November). Since Angels Landing is a fully exposed hike, the cool breeze really helped us with the strenuous climb. For the Narrows, we rented drysuits which helped keep us dry for the most part. In Bryce, it was like a perfect Fall day in California, so you can imagine our delight!
Here’s what we covered during our 4 day long trip (Click on the day for a route of the map)
Day 1 :
We flew into Vegas the previous night and started driving to Zion around 10 am. The drive is approx. 4 hours with gorgeous views of mountains and grasslands on both sides of the road. By the time we reached, we hardly had about a couple of hours of sunlight so we picked a short hike. The emerald pool hike is about 2.3 miles round trip and rated as a moderate. Since we went during late Fall, the emerald pools were more like puddles 😀 We hiked till the upper Emerald pool area where we encountered this gorgeous insanely flat rock standing right above the pool. It was so smooth and flat and vertical that I thought there’s no way this was formed by erosion (My denial to admit that it was all nature’s job started right here :D) We caught a good glimpse of the Red canyon during this hike, which is what you will pretty much see during this time of the year. I would suggest doing this if you are visiting during spring/summer since it will be much more greener with more water in the pools.
Day 2 – The Narrows
We stayed at this place called the Zion Mountain Ranch which is on the east side of the park. It was a quaint little cabin nestled in the countryside where we caught glimpses of deer every morning grazing right outside our patio. They didn’t have Wifi but they had a DVD player (OMG!) and we rented a few DVDs from their office and lived a typical 90’s life for two nights 🙂 I highly recommend this place if you are looking to stay close to the park as it has a major location advantage. The road to/from Springdale gets congested with traffic every morning/evening since most people stay on the west side of the park. We didn’t have the issue and we also got to drive through the park everyday, taking in the never ending amazing views. So we started around 6 in the morning and headed to the Zion Outfitters to get our rental gear to hike the narrows. They work on a first-come-first-serve basis, but if you are planning in advance, you can reserve your gear at Zion adventure company too. I personally felt the latter had better gear and service.
The Narrows hike starts off with the Riverside walk where you need to walk on paved path for about a mile before you get into the river. We were advised to change into our gear at the beginning of this hike, but I would suggest changing just before getting into the river (you need to carry your hiking shoes with you during the Narrows hike either ways). When we initially got into the river, our feet got wet since the shoes aren’t waterproof, but we got used to the cold once we started walking. It was one of a kind experience and I highly recommend renting the right gear if you plan on doing this during the colder months. I did not carry my camera because of the fear of falling into the water (Which didn’t happen, yay!) but here are some pictures that I took on my iPhone
We hiked a little beyond the fork which lead to Orderville canyon (The narrowest part of the Narrows) and turned back. It was around 5 miles roundtrip from that point and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It was a unique experience and not too strenuous so I would highly recommend this hike to anyone who is planning to visit Zion.
Day 3 – Angels Landing
We started off with full enthusiasm after hearing numerous stories from our friends about how scary this hike was. Honestly, I’m a little scared of heights but I made up my mind to get to the top in one way or the other. So the hike itself isn’t too hard if you take enough breaks in between. The challenging part is the last 0.5 miles of the hike where you have to literally hold on to metal chains for dear life and climb on rocks. It was scary, but fun at the same time. I made sure I didn’t look on either side while climbing because it was just a steep drop of a few hundred feet. The view from the top was absolutely stunning, but I wouldn’t call it the best I’ve ever seen. It is totally worth doing at least once, just for the experience.
Day 4 – Bryce Canyon
We drove from Zion and stayed at Best Western at Ruby’s Inn in Bryce for the night. We wanted to catch the sunrise at Sunrise point, so we got up early and made it to the lookout right on time. Oh my, it was the most amazing sunrise that I’ve seen till date! The best part was the element of surprise since we were seeing the Hoodoos for the first time. I can’t describe which one was better, the first rays of light falling on the Hoodoos or the magnificently lit skies. It was one of those moments where I wanted time to just freeze. I etched that moment in my memory forever and started back to our room to get ready for exploring the rest of Bryce.
There is a rim trail which is about 4.7 miles that goes along the rim of the canyon and offers stunning views. We were very tired from the previous two days of hiking so we decided to go to each of the view points by car. We stopped at Sunrise point, Sunset point, Inspiration point and Bryce point. My favorite was the Inspiration point which was had spectacular view of most uniformly formed Hoodoos that you will see in the park. There is enough hiking trails to keep you occupied at Bryce for an entire long weekend. Here are some pictures from each of the view points –
So this sums up my trip to Zion and Bryce National park. If you haven’t visited Utah, I highly recommend doing it. It’s one of those places that you can visit during any time of the year. Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to visit because the crowd isn’t too bad and there’s a chance that there is snow in Bryce (it did last year) which makes it look even more stunning if that’s even possible! Hope you guys enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it 🙂
Until next time,