Bryce Canyon National Park


At this point in the trip, my travel plans were a bit fuzzy.  On my way into Bryce Canyon, I had considered a quick drive through the park, with a couple of stops at overlooks, then leaving, making my way back to some yet-to-be-determined motel on I-15 long after dark.  After just a few minutes at Bryce Canyon, I knew that plan just wouldn’t do.

I changed the plan to include an overnight stay outside the park, then an early morning hike into the amphitheatre.  With that decision made, I figured I’d drive the entire length of the park drive this evening, then save my more in-depth exploration of the hoodoos for the next morning.

Paria View

As I headed into the park, I somewhat arbitrarily started selecting overlooks to visit.  The first was Paria View.  This meant driving past several other overlooks which are closer to the park entrance, and I’m not really sure why I did that.

There are a total of three overlooks on the side road that leads to Paria View.  Paria is the most distant, so I started there and worked my way back.  In my opinion, Paria was not the most impressive of the three, and you could probably skip it, unless you’re determined to see Bryce Canyon from every possible angle.  The picture above…

… and this one were about the only impressive views I found here.

Bryce Point

As I headed back to the main road, I detoured out to Bryce Point, which as you can see, is a much more popular destination for visitors.  There were at least 100 people crowded onto the tiny overlook point.  I think what amazed me most, aside from the views here, is that almost everyone surrounding me was speaking something other than English.  America’s National Parks are wildly popular with foreign visitors, but this was more apparent at Bryce Canyon than anywhere else I had been.  It seemed that everyone else around the world saw Bryce as a gotta-see-it destination, while Americans have almost no idea it even exists.

I also noticed everyone on that narrow peninsula was laughing and having a great time.  Meanwhile, I was tired and running around trying to take pictures.  They were having more fun than me.

But enough about the crowds, let’s talk about the view.  Bryce Point turned out to be about a hundred times better than Paria Point.  It’s right in the middle of the amphitheatre, and an endless sea of hoodoos fills your entire field of vision.  Some are red…

… others are pink or nearly white…

… and trees are scattered in the valleys between them, just to add a little green to the colorful mix.

Inspiration Point

Almost back at the main road, I took another detour to Inspiration Point.  This is another good location for viewing the countless hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, but this stop requires a little legwork.

Inspiration Point is 200 feet lower in elevation than Bryce Point (Bryce Point is at 8,300 feet, Inspiration Point is at 8,100 feet), but as you climb up to the viewpoint, you’d swear it’s higher.  The path is right at the edge of the amphitheatre, and climbs a steep slope that easily gains 100-200 feet in just a short distance.  (For some perspective, check out the first picture on the next page–that high point is Inspiration Point.)  Of course, all that work pays off…

… with a view that’s simply too wide and extraordinary to capture in one frame.  You’ll still get a fairly good view even if you don’t climb the entire way.

At any point on the climb to the overlook, you can walk right up to the edge of the amphitheater, where weathered trees hold on for dear life.

Back at the main road, I turned south.  From this point on, you won’t see many hoodoos.  The amphitheater may be behind you, but there’s still plenty to see.

Natural Bridge

This is an easy stop–virtually no hiking required.  The natural bridge formation is right next to the parking area, which is right next to the road.  Early evening is not the best time to see it, or take pictures of it.  By the time I arrived, it was nearly completely in the shadows.  And no, you can’t walk under it.

On To Rainbow Point…

There are several more overlooks as you continue south on the park road.  Since it was getting late, I didn’t stop at any of them.  The views from the road are pretty nice, though.  When you see this red and white outcropping, you’re nearly at the end.

Rainbow Point is the southernmost stop on the scenic drive.  From the point, you get a great view in every direction, although it’s not a view of anything specific–just the same old extraordinary landscape that fills every square inch of Utah.

I did manage to find a few hoodoos here, but not many.

Shadows were already starting to overtake the view.  So, I turned around and headed back the way I came–backtracking is the only option at the southern end of the scenic road.

There are a few trails that leave from Rainbow Point, including a short loop through ancient Bristlecone Pine trees.  If you’re a hearty hiker, you could also take the Under-The-Rim Trail, which runs all the way back to Bryce Point.

I don’t think the drive to the southern end of Bryce is something you must do.  It’s a nice alternative to hiking, if you’re spending a couple of days here.  But, if you only have one day, or just a few hours, your time would be much better spent hiking below the rim in the main amphitheatre.

Sunset Point

After a very long drive back up the park road, It was nearly sunset, so I selected the most appropriate viewpoint: Sunset Point.  I don’t really know why it’s called that, though.  The view here isn’t much different than Sunrise Point, a short distance away.  No matter where you stand along the rim of Bryce Canyon, you’re looking east.  This means when the sun is setting, it will be behind you, and the hoodoos will fall into darkness long before the sun is completely down.  I only took a couple of pictures at Sunset Point, before leaving for the night (I still had to find a motel–as you might recall, it wasn’t in my original plan to stay here).  The best time to take pictures of, or simply to see Bryce Canyon, would be in the early morning, just after sunrise.  And that’s when I returned.

The most popular place to stay at Bryce is Ruby’s Inn.  It’s much more than an inn–it’s more like a small town, just outside the park boundary.  Ruby’s has hundreds of rooms, but they’re booked quickly by tour groups.  I ended up staying at Bryce Canyon Pines Motel, a few miles west on Rte. 12 from the park entrance.  It’s old but clean, and while it cost more than it should have (about $65), it was still less than a room at Ruby’s, and convenient to the park.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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