The Otherworldly Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon amphitheater at sunriseAn ancient Paiute story tells of the Legend People who once lived in present-day southern Utah who weren’t so good. Because of their bad deeds they were turned into stone by the coyote. Now it’s a land of funky red rock formations – a magical fairyland known as Bryce Canyon National Park.

In reality, the formations also known as hoodoos and goblins are formed by a very quick erosion process as opposed to most rock weathering in the southwest like in Zion NP, Arches NP or the Grand Canyon, which can take thousands of years. The weathering process at Bryce can take only hundreds of years. This is because of the stone and the climate. The hoodoos are created through a process of water seeping into cracks of the stones and then freezing. Because the process is so much quicker, the formations are more fragile and will most likely be completely different in a hundred years.

Last week I went to Utah for business and pleasure. On the way up I took the opportunity to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, one of Utah’s national parks I hadn’t been to. I arrived just in time for the shuttle tour to Rainbow Point, the highest spot in the park at the very end of the plateau. The park isn’t actually a canyon. It is a plateau.

natural bridge at Bryce Canyon National ParkThis was a great way to start my short visit. It gave a fundamental overview of the park, the geology of the region (the grand staircase), the history of the area as well as other little insights to Bryce. The bus took us to the end where we got out and went for a short walk to two overlooks at Rainbow Point. As we journeyed back down the spine of the park, we stopped a few times for other overlooks. This tour doesn’t take you to the most popular area of the park – the amphitheater – because you can easily get there from any of the campgrounds, the lodge or the standard park shuttle, but the tour is worth it so you don’t have to drive the 18 miles up and back to see all of the vistas.

Bryce Canyon National Park from Rainbow Point

From the tour I drove into the park to see the visitors’ center. I bought my patch and took a look around the museum. I also learned sunset and sunrise times since I would be camping in the park and wanted to see the amphitheater at its peak. I learned I still had a few hours before sunset so I headed to Sunset Point to do a short hike into the amphitheater.

This was the perfect time since the sun wasn’t beating down and it created some great light and shadows. I ended up taking the Queen’s Garden loop trail that took me into the heart of this fantastical place from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point.

Instead of just looking down at them from the rim, I walked among the monolithic rocks and through the narrow-walled paths that make up the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. The trail is about 2.5 miles. It was steep going in and coming out but not that bad. The trip to Bryce would not have been complete without this hike.

Bryce Canyon AmphitheaterBryce Canyon amphitheaterBryce Canyon Amphitheaterhiking in Bryce Canyon queen's gardenBryce Canyon hikingdoor in the wall at Bryce CanyonKevin Earl at Bryce Canyon National Parkoverlooking Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

The sun was setting behind the plateau as I was coming up out of the twisted labyrinth. I overheard a ranger in the visitors’ center say – Bryce is not a sunset park. I agree. The position of the amphitheater isn’t ideal for sunset, but it is perfectly situated for sunrise!

After staying overnight at the Sunset Campground in the park, I woke just before the sun. It helped that there was some bird acting as my alarm clock at about 5:30 – just one bird loudly repeating itself. It was enough to get me packed up and get to Sunrise Point just in time for a spectacular show of nature.

Bryce Canyon Amphitheater at Sunrise

Sunrise watchers at Bryce Canyon National Park

people watching the sunrise

As the sun rose in the distance, the warm morning light hit the hoodoos and walls of the amphitheater bringing them to life. I watched and was mesmerized and at peace while I took in the morning show. Just another witness of a loving Father in Heaven.

That was all the time I had in Bryce. I’m glad my path took me this way so I could take a few moments of my life to experience something so gloriously wonderful. If I were to return I would definitely take more time hiking in the park. It may even be fun to take the Rim Trail just over 20 miles from the top of the park to the bottom. Of course it would take a couple of days, but it would be beautiful.

In my next post I’ll share my adventures on the way back to Arizona stopping at a national monument and another historic site. What was the last national park you visited?

To see more photos from my Bryce Canyon adventure, visit my Flickr photostream.

2 responses to “The Otherworldly Bryce Canyon

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