While it was lovely to see the two National Parks in Moab again (Arches and Canyonlands), the true excitement about planning this year’s visit to Utah would be finally getting to see 2 new National Parks that had long been on my bucket list—Bryce Canyon and Zion.
I originally thought I’d fit in visits to Capital Reef, Escalante, and drive the entire scenic Highway 12 byway all within the one week I had to get from Moab to Zion. But, I quickly realized I’d made the classic “new full-timer” mistake of trying to cram simply way too much into too short a timeline. So, most of those plans got tossed onto the “next time” list, and I focused solely on Bryce for the next few days (with a stop beforehand to “Camp Wally” in Richfield to take care of boring life stuff like grocery shopping and a hair cut!).
The last week of October at Bryce Canyon had a few sunny days forecasted in the low 60’s (with night temps dipping down below freezing). But it was “now-or-never” as the following week’s temps would go even colder with some first snows predicted. So, I topped off the propane tank, bundled up, and headed up to 8,000-feet!
As I turned onto Scenic Highway 12 towards Bryce, the sun was beginning to set onto Red Canyon. The views were getting better and better!
I didn’t make any advanced reservations as I thought there’d be a half-dozen campground options nearby, but everything seems to close by mid-October at these elevations, so as I rolled into Bryce, my only remaining options were a single remaining “first-come-first-served” loop of the North campground within the park, or the super-pricey Ruby’s Campground just up the road.
Luckily, I was able to snag a nice site within the park. I picked a pull-thru site that had no trees above it and no trees to the West thinking I’d get plenty of sunshine for my solar panels.
But, note to self—watch out for tall trees to the south!
Those darn trees shaded my panels nearly all day long every day, and I ended up having to run my generator quite a bit to recharge the batteries! Apart from that newbie mistake, I enjoyed being in the park and close to all the viewpoints and trailheads.
For my first full day of exploration, I followed the herd of tourists and visited Sunrise Point in the morning, and Sunset Point in the afternoon. Still, the colors and views of the canyon full of “hoodoo” rock formations was just stunning to finally see in-person.
It’s hard to get a sense of the size of these hoodoos until you look closely and see full-sized fir trees dwarfed by the stone formations on all sides.
The late afternoon sun reflects and illuminates the hoodoo tops at Sunset Point. I loved watching these rocks glow!
I walked down the first few turns of the Navajo Trail to get a preview of the hikes I had planned for the next day and it more than whet my appetite! More about that hike in the next post!