Named after a settling Mormon pioneer, the entrée for this week’s destination is in the Beehive State of the USA, Utah. On the Great Staircase Plateau , which extends from Utah into Arizona, you can find: The Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park and last but not least, Bryce Canyon National Park. In it’s eerie magnificence, the park is still not as renowned as the two aforementioned parks with less visitors annually; we see it as just as much of a spectacle.
Through the powers of erosion, numerous large semi-circular openings have been carved into the sandstone rocks, called amphitheaters- owing to their gladiator arena-esque appearance.The crowd-puller of Bryce Canyon National Park , are the tall alien pinnacles – the hoodoos (similar to what you can find in Cappadocia, Turkey). These hoodoos can reach 45 metres in height and are littered all over the landscape, adorning the many amphitheaters.
This geological haven is situated in the south of Garfield County, in between the city of Panguitch to the west and the town of Tropic to the east. The area was made a National Park in 1928 during President Warren G. Harding tenure and was also the home for settling Mormons in the late 19th century. Now, as we mentioned earlier, Bryce National Park is situated specifically on the eastern rim of Paunsaugunt Plateau- a smaller section of the much larger Great Staircase Plateau we hunted at earlier.
At around 2,700m above sea level, the park is one of the highest points in this highland area, meaning the weather can be variable and the nights can be cold. Between December and February the area can be coated in snow and the summer can offer warmer temperatures and sunshine- so it’s really down to your personal preference and also the type of photos you want to capture
The major & minor airports which you could start your journey from are as follows North-South:
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) (439km) 4-hour drive
Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC) 83 km closest 1.5 hour drive
Saint George Regional Airport (SGU) 139km less than 3-hour
McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas (434 km) 4-hour drive
Whichever your chosen starting destination, you will begin your road journey on Interstate 15 (I-15) before eventually embarking on the US-Route 89 (US-89) in which other state route roads take you to the National Park; these are the two main highways when traveling to Bryce National Park.
e.g. From Salt Lake City, take the Utah State Route 20 (U-20) (exit 95) eastwards off I-15 onto US-89, then travel the US-89 southwards (past Panguitch) onto State Route 12 (U-12) * rumours have it as an incredibly scenic route* , before turning right at Tropic Junction to travel southwards through Bryce National Park’s very own state route, (U-63).
The National Park is open 24/7 365 days. There is an entrance fee of $20(~£15) per person via pedestrian mode of travel, if using a car or motorbike to explore via U-36 costs are $35(~£25) and 30$ (~£21.50) respectively. Annual passes are $35– so this would be the reasonable option if planning to revisit. There are also entry fees for tour vehicles so check with your tour company if you incur any of these charges. If you’re travelling by foot, no worries there is a free shuttle bus to take you to all the main spots. These passes are excellent for you to explore at your own pace, and to incentivize this- there are two main campgrounds $20(~£15) per night (tent) to camp and lodges/ hotel ranging up to $114(~£82) per night.
Adventure, Adventure, Adventure
Bryce Amphithearte is the main attraction, and the iconic view you see in most photographs. It’s the largest amphitheatre at around 15km². There are a great many vantage points to indulge in the scenery, including Sunrise Point, Sunset point , Bryce point and Inspiration point, each offering their own unique vistas.
For those who have a penchant for the outdoors and hiking, there are a plethora of trails (easy-moderate-strenuous in difficulty) descending into the valley from the amphitheatres- Mossy Cave trail is a popular one, just following along the rim be sure to look out for unique features such as Thor’s Hammer and Natural Bridge ! Alternatively you can also explore the area nonchalantly on horseback or speedily via ATV tour. Also, the dark knight sky offers wonderful stargazing opportunities
Not to be missed is the incredible panorama awaiting you at the end of U-36. 30km from the start of Bryce National Park are Rainbow Point and Yovimpa point, the highest vantage points in the whole park. Rainbow point looks north towards the amphitheatres you just explored and Yovimpa Point… well, looking as far south as your eyes can see into the horizon- behold the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Other things to do
-A trip to Zion National Park after is not a far-fetched idea!- it’s a 1 hour 30 min journey from Bryce National Park and you can take the US-Route 89
– The rocks seen at Bryce National Park date back to the Cenozoic geological period (66million years) much younger than the rest of the Grand Staircase. But this is nothing compared to the Grand Canyon and Zion Valley. In fact the youngest rocks at Zion National Park are the oldest at Bryce National Park
– Hoodoos occur on dry drainage basins, where erosion has depleted all the clay-rich soils and that’s why the vegetation is limited. They form due to alternating layers of hard rock covering soft rocks inside them.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s location, see you next week!