After a great day in Zion, it was on to Bryce Canyon. We were stuck with a walk-up campsite in Bryce, and since they supposedly fill by midmorning we accepted the fact that we were in for another early start. Luckily, the parks are not too far apart.
After securing our site in North Campground, we headed out on the rim trail, which was easily accessible from our site. The Rim Trail took us to Sunrise point, which provided some great vistas of the famous Bryce Amphitheater. From there we veered off onto Queens Garden Trail, which took us down into the canyon (actually, Bryce Canyon isn’t a canyon at all, it’s part of the Colorado Plateau, but hey… either way, we walked down) through some great rock formations and then back up the steep Navajo Loop Trail to get us back to Rim Trail. Queens Garden took us through several stone doorways and past numerous dramatic hoodoos, the tall rock formations for which the park is famous. Navajo Loop made up for the Queens Garden descent with a significant ascent through a cool stretch called Wall Street, where the walls got quite narrow around the trail.
After enjoying our packed lunch with gorgeous views of Bryce Amphitheater before us (not too shabby), we continued further on Rim Trail to Sunset Point and Inspiration Point, two additional viewpoints. Unfortunately, Bryce Point, at the end of the trail, was closed.
Our afternoon was spent driving the scenic road and taking in the vistas at Natural Bridge, Agua Canyon and Rainbow Point. Before coming to Bryce Canyon I suppose I had expected the landscape to resemble that of Zion. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The scenery in Bryce is truly like no other. The hoodoos and other rock formations create an otherworldly landscape that looks like it should be inhabited by mystical creatures. Bryce is definitely worth the trip, but unless you’re an avid hiker I’d say you could see the main sites in a day. If you have to divide up your time between Zion and Bryce, spend more time in Zion. Don’t skip Bryce, though! It’s a gorgeous place unlike any you’ll see elsewhere.
From Bryce, it was on to Capitol Reef National Park, in the south central part of the state. Another walk-up campground meant another early morning for us. Capitol Reef only has one campground with 71 first come, first serve sites, and we wanted to be sure we got one. I’m glad we made the effort because the campsite is lovely. The site’s many trees provide some good shade and Utah’s classic red stone cliffs tower above. A family of deer grazed in the bordering orchard much of the time we were there. Yes, Capitol Reef is home to a fairly extensive fruit orchard that grows a variety of fruit and nuts, depending on the season. Visitors can wander the open orchards and eat as much fruit as they want while there, free of charge. Taking fruit for the road incurs a $1/pound fee. After checking out the visitor center, my husband I started our time in Capitol Reef with a stroll through a couple of apple and pear orchards, where we tasted the local crop.
Then it was on to the Rim Overlook trail, a 4.5-mile trek that leads up to some nice scenic overlooks. We took our time with the trail, and after completion were ready for lunch, which we enjoyed back at the campsite. Following lunch we were in for a treat. The Gifford Homestead sells a variety of homemade fruit pies, which we indulged in after lunch. The afternoon was spent cruising the scenic drive, enjoying the views and relaxing at the campsite.
One of the nice things about Capitol Reef is that it’s less crowded than some of Utah’s other, more popular sites. I think it’s also under-appreciated. The landscape here is truly exceptional – like something out of an old western movie. I don’t think more than a day is needed to enjoy the park (again, unless you’re a serious hiker/backcountry enthusiast), but it’s definitely worth the stop.
Utah, you’ve been good to us so far!