After leaving Capitol Reef, we drove the 3 hours down Route 12 to Bryce Canyon National Park last Friday morning. After arriving and setting up, we decided to tackle the Fairyland Trail, a ~7.5 mile loop that starts at the canyon rim, dips own along the bottom of the canyon, and then climbs back out. Like our other hikes in Utah, the terrain and plants changed along the way, with more plants at the bottom of the canyons and sparse pines along the top.
Here’s some of the sites we saw along the way:
We saw a bunch of “hoodoos” which are formed when the canyon erodes. The rock sometimes forms “fins” first, which occasionally form arches, but in Bryce they typically erode in such a way to leave these singular rock towers. Unlike other formations, Hoodoos are lumpy, because the hard and soft rock layers erode at different rates. Another interesting change was that the canyons looked more like sand dunes, unlike other parks with more steep sheer walls or smooth, rounded slickrock.
If you are also interested in the driving and camping part of our adventure, read on…
One thing that Adam promised to explain in more detail but that I will touch on here is how we are actually finding places to camp every night. The short answer is that many parks have some first come first serve sites with a late-morning checkout. In those places, if you drive up sometime before or around then, you can typically find a spot and then go through the formalities. In our whole first two week stretch of camping, we only had two experiences with full campsites, in which we had to drive another few miles to find a place to sleep. However, with these famous national parks, we were always worried about finding a spot, so we tried to arrive in the morning. I am sure you can all imagine my joy as I tried to balance drinking my morning coffee with appropriately timed restroom stops so as not to slow us down.
Anyway, so on Thursday, April 9th, we drove from Capitol Reef to Bryce. We were on the road by 8 am, but it was 11 am before we drove into the campground. We were very surprised to see only about a third of the camping spots were full, but when we consulted our trusty park newspaper and saw overnight lows of just above 20⁰, we realized those temps might be keeping people away. I will admit that I sat IN the tent for an hour in the afternoon to keep my fingers warm enough to write a blog post.
These campsites were some of the nicest we’ve seen, they wrapped around the side of a mountain, providing shade from pine trees and a little privacy between sites. It was also amazing to switch from vault toilets to flush toilets, but mostly because there were real sinks. No one will be surprised to hear that your hands get really dirty really quickly when camping. It’s also nice to actually wash your face when you’re a few days away from your last shower and probably a few days before your next.
That night, after dinner, we made our first trip campfire and roasted marshmallows. Making a fire in a national park takes a little bit of planning, since you need to purchase firewood and bring your own kindling. The general store had wood, and the guys there were nice enough to give us a few cardboard boxes to get things started.
The next morning, we woke up to frozen water bottles and ice on the tent, and decided to head down to Zion for warmer weather. Since we really wanted a camping spot there, we didn’t do any further exploring at Bryce Canyon and we completely skipped the second set of trails at the south end of the canyon.