Jul 24, 2012

Bryce Canyon National Park

After a a fun stay in Zion, we headed over to Bryce National Park. The drive was about 2 hours. On the way we stopped at Checkerboard Mesa. It stands tall, about 10 miles from the end of the tunnel on Highway 9, resembling a checkerboard.


Checkerboard Mesa rising tall

Closeup view of Checkerboard Mesa 


We could not imagine what Bryce looked like. We had a long way to go before we even entered the park, but were gladly welcomed with views like this.

Hoodoos along the UT 12 driving in from UT 89

The drive on UT 12 was just so beautiful. It was almost sunset and the entire area was lit up in hues of red \ orange and brown. The picture below is of the Red Canyon Tunnel which was a gateway to a natural wonder.

Red  Canyon Tunnel

Days spent at Bryce: 1 night and a day

Best place to stay: Stay within the park or near the entrance if possible. There are also hotels in Tropic, about 7 miles from the entrance. Staying closer to the park is convenient should you wish to go back into the park to see the spectacular night sky (which you must!).

Some of the things we would recommend to experience the park are the following:

** MUST SEE VISTA POINTS**
We whole heartedly recommend the following must see vista points: 

1. Sunrise Point
2. Sunset Point
3. Inspiration Point
4. Bryce Point


The names to these points are very apt and say it all as to the experience to expect. As you may have guessed, the best times to be at Sunrise and Sunset points are at Sunrise and Sunset. Bryce Point Amphitheater is a must see. The views are fantastic.

** HIKE AMONGST THE HOODOOS IN QUEENS GARDEN**

One of the best ways to experience the park is of walk among'st the hoodoos. The Queens Garden trail is a popular one and is quite easy to hike down from the rim to the base amongst the hoodoos. It is steep in some parts but manageable. I would not recommend strollers. Its best to leave them at the rim and walk down. Its just beautiful. If hiking with smaller children please hold on to them since the path can be narrow at points with sharp drop-offs.

Close up of the Hoodoos
For more information on hoodoos click on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoodoo_(geology).


** VIEW THE NIGHT SKY**

This is a must see and you should try and avail of this opportunity to see the Milky Way over Inspiration Point. Do check the weather when planning to avoid disappointment. We had an exceptionally cloudy sky that day however we were rewarded the next day at Arches National Park. 

Things to Note:

The popular vista points can be experienced in about half a day. However,  if you plan on hiking, more time will be required. The views are very pretty, some with expansive views of the park and some with numerous hoodoos with the sunlight doing its magic. The pictures below say it all.

It was very cold that day ( Memorial Day Weekend ). Do plan to carry warm jackets\ sweaters and mittens. The temperature in Zion the previous day was in the upper 80's F, however at Bryce it must have been around 60 F. What a vast difference! 

Photo opportunities: Bryce canyon is known for its natural beauty. On that extremely partially cloudy day, each moment brought a different color to the hoodoos with the sun peeping from behind the clouds. Amphitheatre \ Bryce Point in particular was one that we most enjoyed.   


View from a vista point

View while hiking down the Queen's Garden Trail

The multi colored hoodoos

Hikers on the trail amidst the Hoodoos. 

One of the best vistas to visit
Hoodoos


View from Amphitheatre

The Grottos and arches
Bryce Canyon = CHECK. Our next destination was Arches NP. More about it in my forth coming post. Till then enjoy viewing the pics.

Jul 22, 2012

Zion National Park, Utah

One of my favorite destinations. Zion. As quoted in http://www.zionnational-park.com "Unlike the Grand Canyon where you stand on the rim and look down into the canyon, in Zion you stand on the canyon floor and look up! "

To see the route we took, click HERE. The quaint little town of Springdale is the closest and the most convenient place to stay if you are visiting Zion. Surrounded with deep red colored towering mountain walls all around, it is beautiful at sunrise and sunset! To ease traffic, there are regular free commuter buses to the entrance of the park. With various stops near the hotels along the way, this is one easy way to experience the park to hop on and off at your convenience. The buses are however available only from April to October. The transfer buses stop at the visitor centre from where you can pay your park tickets and take pictures with the sign board for your scrapbook, then board the shuttles to enter the park.

 
Road leading towards Springdale


Parking is limited near the visitor centre considering the crowds that visit during the summer months.

WHAT TO SEE :

Travelling with a toddler you are restricted to hikes and look-out points which are easy/moderate and can support stroller access. Here are some of the must dos:


RIVERSIDE WALK TEMPLE OF SINAWAVA.

Pathway along the Riverside walk

This is the last point on the park shuttle route. A very nice hike for the evening. The walk is along the Virgin river and is very scenic. You will be walking very close and parallel to the towering walls of the narrow canyon and the river. This is a easy stroller friendly hike. Kids would definitely enjoy this. The end of the riverside walk is the rock formation called the Temple of Sinawawa. This is also the entrance for hiking the Narrows. Typically the Narrows are closed for hiking until mid-june due to high water levels. However please check the nps.gov website for updates. Hiking the narrows can be challenging with smaller children since you would be hiking in knee deep water or more in places. So plan accordingly.


BIG BEND:
Standing here one can get a 360 degree angle view of the majestic rock formations and of the Virgin river. It would definitely make a beautiful panoramic picture.

WEEPING ROCK:

The hike to this point from the bus stop is pretty steep but the view is so worth it. The view is amazing from up here. Its a high open colorful rock cave with water dripping from the rocks and hanging gardens above. You can get views of the entire canyon standing here. Due to the dampness it can be a little chill. Don't miss out on this trail.

Weeping Rock photo point

Picturesque view of the valley from Weeping rock point

LOWER EMERALD POOL TRAIL:
Trail to Lower Emerald Pool Trail

This is a gradual, uphill walk that leads you to one of the prettiest waterfalls with a pool that has an emerald color.

View from under the Emerald falls
COURT OF THE PATRIARCHS:
View from Court of the Patriarchs
Get an impressive view of the towering peaks of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, The Moroni and Sentinel. The trail is a short but steep and is well paved with some great views once on top. 

PA'RUS TRAIL:
This is a easy and very scenic trail along the virgin river, you can use it to get from the Zion visitor center to canyon junction or vice-versa with unique vistas facing either direction.

View from the Pa'rus Trail

The view from Canyon Junction

CANYON OVERLOOK TRAIL:
Valley view with switchbacks from Canyon overlook trail

This trail is a little beyond the Zion tunnel toward Mt Carmel Junction. Inaccessible to strollers or wheelchairs, it is about a 1 mile hike up and definitely not for those who are have fear of heights. There are a couple of steep drop offs and the path has a rocky climb. At one point you will have to bend low at a caved in area. Once on the top, the views are unimaginable. You will be standing about a 1000 ft above the valley. The area is fenced near the edge. The steep switchbacks and the towering cliffs with the amazing view of the entire valley make it one good reason to make the trek up.


ANGELS LANDING:
Zoomed in view from the bus looking up towards people trekking on Angels Landing
Hiking the Angels Landing, well that's for another visit.  Please check the nps.gov website for more information.

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