Bryce Canyon, not a canyon at all, is actually a series of massive, natural amphitheaters lining the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Located 50 miles northeast of Zion, it’s also 1,000 feet higher- and much cooler- than Zion National Park. Driving along the 18-mile main park road, we stopped at lookouts claiming over 9,100 feet elevation. Although the park covers 35,835 acres, you can get a good feel for it’s highlights in a full day, if you plan properly.
Bryce Canyon’s Hoodoos
Bryce isn’t technically a canyon because it wasn’t created by water erosion. Rather, headwind erosion carved the amphitheater features from the Paunsaugunt rocks.
This erosion process excavated the delicate and colorful rock pillars known as hoodoos. The stars of the show, these features are the iconic symbol of Bryce Canyon.
The hoodoos bore a striking resemblance to the fairy chimney rock formations of Cappadocia in Turkey’s central Anatolia region. In fact, I kept thinking to myself, this is America’s Cappadocia!
It’s one of the strangest, most magnificently intriguing natural sites you’ll ever see
Of the three national parks we visited on our Utah trip, Bryce Canyon might just be my favorite. The park receives a fraction of the visitors that Zion and the Grand Canyon report, supposedly due to its “remoteness” (although it’s only an hour’s drive from Zion). We encountered so few others on the trail that we actually got to know the few people we continued to bump in to (there are three intersecting loops on the trail we picked, so we often crossed paths with the same people).
The hike we chose, Queens Garden/Peekaboo/Navajo Loop, is one of National Geographic’s 20 best national park hikes. I loved the constant elevation change, descending in to the “canyon” then climbing out – four times or so. The landscape variations of snow, rock, trees, towering canyons and wide open plateaus left no room for boredom. Clean, refreshing air, invigorating temperatures made the thinner atmosphere easier to tolerate (expect to huff & puff a bit at 8,000+ feet, though!) More details on this epic hike forthcoming (next post)!
Bryce Canyon is a photographers playground. I thought I was bad. Alan took over 1,000 photos! In fact, he stayed about 30 minutes behind me, so distracted by the art of his subject matter.
Have you been to Bryce Canyon National Park? What were your impressions?