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Monday, October 12, 2015

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Here we are.  

My last Utah National Park in the five park "Mighty Five" tour.
and I am not ready to be done with Utah's National Parks  

Before I get started I need to clear the air.  While these pictures are so beautiful, and a great representation of each park, they cannot compare to the real thing.  No pictures can do this amazing park justice.  (Can you tell Bryce was one of my favorites?).  I just hope that I have inspired you to pack your bags and check out America's National Parks for yourself.  All 58

Welcome sign to Bryce Canyon National Park 
Now, Bryce. 
I went into this National Park really open minded and unexpecting (and in the off season for less crowds!).  This girl does NOT do crowds and I have visited every Utah National Park outside of the busy summer months.  

 Things you should know:  Bryce is at a higher elevation than the other National Parks.  Because of this, Bryce has a shorter season than the other parks and will be a lot cooler and have snow during the cooler months due to its high elevation.  Dress accordingly!  Also, there is a 30$ fee per car to enter the park.  We use our National Park pass that lets us into ALL the National Parks and forests for 80$ a year.  If you don't want to drive through the park, there is a shuttle that runs throughout the park during the summer months, ending in October.  

I knew Bryce was known for some pillar looking rocks called hoodoos and that is about it.  My oh my was I in for a surprise.  Just the same as every National Park, we pulled into the park, flashed our America the Beautiful Annual National Park pass. and headed into the visitors center.  We confirmed that the one dog friendly hike in the park was Sunrise Point to Sunset Point, and made our way to the trailhead. 

Bryce Canyon National Park 
We bundled up and headed for the dog friendly hike starting at Sunrise point.  The distance between sunrise and sunset point is 1/2 mile and brings you  along the rim and to two overlooks where you can catch amazing (amazing) views of Bryce (with your dog!)  

Fun Fact:  Even though its called Bryce Canyon, its not actually a canyon... Bryce is a giant natural "amphitheater".  The hike from sunrise to sunset point trail gives you amazing views along the edge of this amphitheater.  No fence included.

Amphitheater at Bryce Canyon National Park 
Okay, walk up to the rim and and look down.  I was not expecting anything this crazy beautiful.  It was absolutely amazing seeing this park, this view in person.  This amazing rock formation as far as the eyes can see. 

Views at Bryce Canyon National Park 
Bryce Canyon National Park 
Bryce Canyon National Park 
Bryce Canyon National Park 
Wind, water and time formed this amphitheater. 
Bryce is so unique because of its "Hoodoos".

"Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins and "broken" lands. Hoodoos are most commonly found in the High Plateaus region of the Colorado Plateau and in the Badlands regions of the Northern Great Plains. While hoodoos are scattered throughout these areas, nowhere in the world are they as abundant as in the northern section of Bryce Canyon National Park. In common usage, the difference between Hoodoos and pinnacles or spires is that hoodoos have a variable thickness often described as having a "totem pole-shaped body." A spire, on the other hand, has a smoother profile or uniform thickness that tapers from the ground upward.
At Bryce Canyon, hoodoos range in size from that of an average human to heights exceeding a 10-story building. Formed in sedimentary rock, hoodoo shapes are affected by the erosional patterns of alternating hard and softer rock layers. The name given to the rock layer that forms hoodoos at Bryce Canyon is the Claron Formation. This layer has several rock types including siltstones and mudstones but is predominately limestone. Thirty to 40 million years ago this rock was "born" in an ancient lake that covered much of Western Utah. Minerals deposited within different rock types cause hoodoos to have different colors throughout their height"

Thors Hammer and Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park 
Formational Process:

"Hoodoos are formed by two weathering processes that continuously work together in eroding the edges of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The primary weathering force at Bryce Canyon is frost wedging. Here we experience over 200 freeze/thaw cycles each year. In the winter, melting snow, in the form of water, seeps into the cracks and freezes at night. When water freezes it expands by almost 10%, bit by bit prying open cracks, making them ever wider in the same way a pothole forms in a paved road."

Four step formation process (Plateau-Fin-Window-Hoodoo)

Trails at Bryce Canyon National Park
Not only do you get to see amazing views from above, but you can actually hike down into and between the hoodoos.  See that trail in the picture above and below? You can walk right down into the amphitheater.  But that hike was so amazing that you are going to have to check back in Wednesday to hear all about my hike in the hoodoos.  YES! I hiked in the hoodoos!

Bryce Canyon National Park
After taking in the amazing views of the amphitheater, we decided to drive the 19 mile (one way) scenic drive to the end of the park. Like all of the National Parks, you can see some of the best sites from your car and from the scenic overlooks. Drive along the scenic way and stop at all of the overlooks.  Gorgeous views just steps outside of your car is the beauty of our National Parks.  

Colored hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park
The colors of the hoodoos gave them another dimension.  The layered stacks of white and red rocks are absolutely surreal.  One of my favorite parts about Bryce were all of the benches.  Everywhere you walked, you could see a beautiful natural bench with the most incredible view.  Just imagine sitting on this bench with that view.  Only thing that could make it better would be a hot cup of cocoa. 

Benches and views at Bryce Canyon National Park
Benches and views at Bryce Canyon National Park
Again... these benches! 

Taking in the views from one of the benches 
Tree at Bryce Canyon National Park
Trails in the amphitheater at Bryce Canyon National Park
We decided to hike the Bristlecone Loop trail.  Just a beautiful quick 1 mile loop hike around the park with some gorgeous viewpoints.  Bryce Canyon is an amazing mix of red rock and ponderosa pine.  Deep green of the pine and reds of the rocks all day every day.  

Bristlecone Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park
Bristlecone Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park
Bristlecone Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park
Natural Bridge at Bryce Canyon National Park
Another stop along the scenic drive was THIS.  A beautiful natural bridge/arch found within just steps of your car as you drive along the scenic route. 

As you drive back down from the end of the scenic drive, each view will just get better than the next. By this point in the day, the sun had changed and the hoodoos were so different with the setting sun.  

I can't get enough of the hoodoos.  Some of the Hoodoos are named and the names are quite interesting.  Below you will find "Thors Hammer".  You can also find The Hunter, fairyland hoodoos, and Queen Victoria. 

After a long day exploring Bryce, hiking Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, driving the 36 mile round trip scenic drive, taking pictures, and completing an amazing 3 mile hike (I am talking about Wednesday!), we packed up to head back to the city.  

Extras:  In case you forgot anything during your time in the park, down by the lodge, you will find an adorable general store with everything you could need to hike, camp, and spend the day in the park.  Everything from sunscreen to food snacks and beer can be found here.  There are also bathrooms and showers here by the lodge.  Lastly.....remember, it is a National Park so all the trails (except for Sunrise to Sunset) are off limits to dogs.  We chose to visit the park in October when the weather was nice and chilly and we could leave Olive in the car for short spurts to hike a few of the trails.  

After leaving Bryce, we passed through the Red Arch Road Tunnels and headed back for SLC. Red Canyon borders Bryce and has some beautiful views if you have time on your way out of Bryce. 

Southern Utah is so amazing.  5 National parks all relatively together, and all so unique.  The scenery is so different and diverse than northern Utah.  I love the desert, the rock, the canyons, and the crazy waterfalls.

Bryce took my breathe away.  
My favorite of Utah's National Park.  
Bryce needs to be on everyone's to do list.  

Other posts from this trip:


  1. So gorgeous!! I think Bryce Canyon was my favorite park of my entire western roadtrip. I went in early November last year so definitely agree with you on avoiding the crowds :) We didn't hike in the hoodoos though, that sounds so cool!

    1. The off season is SO much better! So glad you loved Bryce too! Definitely hike the Navajo/Queens Garden Loop Trail next time you are there!

  2. Katie, these photos seriously make me want to cry. I can't even imagine how this national park looks in "real" life. I love that you've been so inspiring for people to get out and see these parks. They are truly incredible! Don't be surprised if I show up on your doorstep next Spring ready to do some national park exploring. ;)

    Seriously! Awesome!

    1. Thank you SO much! Um.. PLEASE come show up at my doorstep I would see them all again in a heartbeat!

  3. I can not even believe how gorgeous these photos are. Like UNREAL! I'm at a loss for words. That happens like twice a year.

    N- Naomi in Wonderland


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