National Park Centennial and a wedding anniversary obviously goes together, yes? My wife and I had a weekend trip to Zion and Bryce during this past Labor Day weekend and it was fantastic to spend countless hours in the outdoors. Everything from walking, hiking, running, tripping, wading and staring up at the Milky Way with a gazillion stars. Both Zion and Bryce are magical places where you can spend a month and still not see it all.
Day 1: Zion East Rim Trail
We flew into Vegas and drove up north-east towards Zion. With the long weekend, Springdale (west entrance) was going to be a bit of a zoo (and it was). So we decided to stay past a few miles off of the east entrance. By golly the night sky! It’s one of those things you forget it exists until you see it. And then you realize how you’ve missed it all along.
We decided to take it easy on day one and hiked up on the East Rim Trail. It was fairly exposed, but the overcast totally helped keeping things cool. I think we saw about 5 hikers in total giving us the much needed quietude. We climbed up to the ridge, about 3-4 miles in and decided to turn around. In the afternoon we parked at various lookout points along Hwy 9 and explored things like the Checkerboard Mesa.
Day 2: Bryce
On the way to Bryce we stopped briefly at the Red Canyon, the first stop along the scenic Hwy 12 and an awesome intro to Hoodoos. It was so much fun to run up these really steep, grippy, sandstone trails!
Unlike Zion which wows you even as you approach the park entrance, Bryce is a lot more modest. At 8,000 feet you pull into the park entrance totally unaware of the Hoodoos that are hanging up just over the cliff. You walk wondering if it was worth it and then BOOM! I don’t think I’ve heard my wife say ‘ridiculous‘ as many times as she did that day. The iPhone cameras (or pictures in general) really don’t do justice to the magnitude of awesomeness this place has.
This massive amphitheater of Hoodoos, carved simply by water freezing and thawing overnight under extreme temperature differentials, blows your mind. From Sunset Point, we dropped down into the canyon along the ‘Wallstreet trail’ and walked towards the ‘Queens Garden Trail’ to finally pop back out at the Sunrise Point. Absolutely ridiculous views. Incredible what artistry Nature is capable of, given water, wind and lots of time.
We knew it was going to be crowded, so we left early and got a parking spot right outside the West entrance. Our original plan was to venture into the Narrows but it was pretty cold in the morning and during the shuttle ride decided to hike up Angel’s Landing instead. In the Sierras it would be blasphemy to lay down concrete slabs and rebars on ancient sandstone wall to get visitors up to a magical place. But here, apparently it’s a-okay.
I was so incredibly happy on the hike up the wall, including the 21 steep switchbacks called the Walter’s Wiggles. I was running up some parts too. But when we got to the Scout’s Lookout and had to walk up the 0.5 mile stretch over a narrow ledge and steep drop-offs, I got my first bout of Vertigo. Never knew I had developed this over the last decade. I couldn’t make it past the first few yards and had to sit out of this. Kinda lame really. However, my wife went on ahead and I’m super proud/happy that she was able to do it.
After we came back down, we had a quiet lunch next to the Virgin River and then decided to wade upstream into the Narrows. My wife stayed behind on this one and I ventured into the Narrows and made it past Orderville Canyon. This was a lot of fun. I was basically hiking/wading upstream on a river through narrow canyons. 1,000 feet walls on either side with a 20 feet-wide river bed. Better read the Flash Flood advisories before you venture in as there’s really no way out if one happens. In some parts the water level was waist deep, but overall it was super meditative. You lose most of the crowd in the first 10-20 minutes anyways.
That was one awesome way to spend our anniversary. Two National Parks in one weekend and a million hours of trail dust. I’ll take this any day. Coming up in less than a week – Coastal 50K! So not trained, but so looking for it.
Have you been to Zion and/or Bryce? What was your favorite?
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