With the rain beating down on our little tent in Zion all morning, we had no choice but to try and pack it up as quickly as possible before setting off to Bryce Canyon National Park. The torrential rain had splashed muddy gravel all over the tent, it wasn’t pleasant packing the bastard away!
With Bryce only a 2 hour drive from Zion, there wasn’t much hope in the weather changing and sure enough we arrived to more rain.
Bryce Canyon National Park has two big “first come first served” campsites, Sunset and North. We picked North. Camping is self registration ($20/ night). Its safe to say driving around a sodden campground looking for a place to set up isn’t the best experience, the whole place looked grim!
After deciding a new spot in North’s Loop D would be our home, we paid for just one night and (rather than set up the already soggy tent in more rain) headed to the visitor centre to find out what Bryce had to offer. Naturally, given the weather, the centre was packed with people trying to get some shelter so we headed to the theatre to check out a 30 minute film and dry off.
Bryce Canyon sits at the top of the Grand Staircase Escalante (the Grand Canyon is at the bottom) and is a weird amphitheatre made up of ‘hoodoo’ rock formations eroded by wind and rain. At over 8000 feet and with no big towns around it also boasts one of the best places in the US for star gazing - when its not pissing it down obviously!
After a quick break in the weather, we managed to get the tent up but lunch quickly became an ‘in car’ activity when the heavens opened again. The temptation just to think sod it and go out for a walk was there but instead we decided we should shower (it had been too long) ($3 for 8 minutes). I had 6 minutes of wondering what else to do. Post clean, we were delighted to see some blue skies on the horizon so headed out to the nearby ‘Sunrise Point’ for a quick look. The view from the rim is amazing, we had both never seen anything quite like it. Tall tower like rock formations (called hoodoo’s) dominated, all different colours from the layers of rock and sediment that they are made from. Its a really unusual sight.
After sunset the sky looked fairly clear so I decided to hang around and wait for the stars to come out while George headed off to a 3 hour astronomy lesson, complete with telescopes. After I’d had enough of standing in a pitch black canyon that’s home to mountain lions I headed over to pick George up from her star class with all the other geeks!
With blue skies and bright sunshine, our decision to stay for another day rather than attempt to see Bryce in the rain paid off. We decided to take on a challenging figure of eight hike that encompassed the ‘Queen’s Garden’, ‘Peekaboo Loop’ and the ‘Navajo Trail’. It added up to just shy of 5 miles. The Queen’s Garden and Navajo leg of our loop were fairly crowded as they are both accessible from the rim however the extra 3 mile Peekaboo Loop was much quieter. All of the trails consisted of big steep switchbacks (brutal at altitude and in the sun) in and around the thousands of hoodoo’s and trees that lined the canyon.
After our hike we headed out in the car to the far end of the park to have lunch at Rainbow Point before working out way back along the viewpoints on the park’s 18 mile scenic drive. We had read that ‘Paria point’ was the place to go for sunset so we made our final stop there. It was dud advice so we quickly drove around to ‘Bryce Point’ where the view and sunset was a million times more impressive. It just goes to show you can’t rely of recommendations all the time.
No night photography on the agenda as we needed to be up early the following day…