Question. What happens when the cabin fever sets in and a wanderlusting-blonde realizes that she has a free weekend to spare? She plans a weekend getaway. That’s what.
As it was a last-minute decision, we chose our destination quickly (choosing a location somewhat close to home), booked a hotel room, and packed our bags, and before we knew it we were on an adventure to one of Utah’s mightiest parks: Bryce Canyon National Park.
Located in southern Utah, about four-hours from Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of Utah’s “Mighty Five.” Utah has not one, not two, but five National Parks within the state, and while Bryce is one the smaller parks, the 56-square-miles pack a punch. Visitors are treated to incredible hiking, wildlife viewing, three campgrounds, and recreational activities that cater to all outdoor enthusiasts. Bryce is also open year-round, so visitors can play under the stars to celebrate the summer solstice, or experience the wonder of snowshoeing among the red rocks during the winter months.
For our weekend getaway, we reserved a room at Ruby’s Inn just outside of the park boundaries; and after checking-in we hit the ground running. I browsed over the park map and noticed a theme among the park’s highlights — Fairyland Loop, Inspiration Point, Queen’s Garden, Rainbow Point, and Thor’s Hammer — and for a second I wondered if we accidentally made a wrong turn and ended up in some alternative Disney theme park. The park map said Bryce Canyon National Park, and it certainly looked like Bryce, yet I wasn’t expecting the Disney-esque namesakes.
The scenic drive along Bryce Canyon’s rim is 38-miles (round-trip) and there are 13 incredible viewpoints along this route. The best way to conquer this drive is to first drive to the end of the road and then stop at the viewpoints on your way back towards the Visitors Center. If you follow this advice, every viewpoint will be on the right side of the road making it easier to pull into the small parking lots and eliminating the need to turn across oncoming traffic.
As it was our first visit to the park, we were most excited to see the park’s signature features: the large collection of vibrant orange sandstone hoodoos. The tall spires of rock chiseled from the constant barrage of wind and water range in size from six-feet up to ten-stories high; and while hoodoos can be found on every continent, Bryce Canyon National Park has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world. At least for now, anyways.
During our visit we stopped at every picturesque look-out, completed a few quick hikes, and of course, enjoyed the ‘forest of stone’ that is the Bryce Canyon amphitheater. I stood at the viewpoints in quiet silence as I soaked in the incredible scenery, and I couldn’t help but feel humbled (and slightly spoiled) that we have so many beautiful parks right in our own backyard.
So if you’re visiting Utah or find yourself with a weekend to spare, Bryce Canyon National Park is the perfect destination for adventure. Do not miss these must-do activities on your next visit to the park:
1) Find Inspiration at Inspiration Point
2) Galaxy Gazing
Random fact: I’ve been wanting to capture an epic photo of the Milky Way for a few years now. And when we visited Bryce our visit just happened to coincide with the best time to star gaze — it was a new moon and we were in a dark sky park — however, just as the sun fell below the horizon storm clouds moved in. Sadly, overcast skies and star-gazing do not coexist, so we’ll continue chasing those stars on our next adventure.
3) Watch the Sunrise at Sunrise Point
You know that overcast sky I was just talking about? Those clouds hung around through sunrise as well. Hopefully your luck will be better than ours. 🙂
4) Search for Fairies on the Fairyland Loop Trail
Spoiler Alert: there are no real fairies on this trail. However, a quick jaunt on this trail and you’ll feel like you’re in another world. Get lost in the dramatic landscape and enjoy the views.
5) Horseback Riding
This is the wild, wild, west. Right? (Anyone else just have a Will Smith flashback?) 🙂 While we didn’t book a horseback riding tour on this trip, it is definitely on my to-do list for next time. Animals, nature, and epic photo ops — sounds like a combination for the perfect afternoon adventure.
On a hike up to Albion Basin a few years ago, I realized that while we have found incredible adventures around the globe, we still had a lot left to explore in our own “backyard.” On that hike I created a goal to visit all Five National Parks in Utah, and so far I’ve explored Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, and now Bryce. Which means we only have on park left. Capital Reef: We have you in our sights.