Utah really does spoil the traveller with the number of National Parks and amazing views it offers. I mean, every State does in its own way, but Utah just seems to have a plethora of weird and wonderful places to explore. And so we wasted no time in heading from Zion National Park over to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Bryce Canyon National Park.
Bryce Canyon National Park starts at around 8,000 feet above sea level and stretches up to around 9,200 feet. It is famous for hoodoos – strange spikey stems of rock left over as the rest of the plateau erodes around them. Looking a little bit like one of those nail beds you see at circus shows and in torture chambers, the hoodoos stretch across the view, catching the light like nothing else I’ve seen. It’s very cold and generally covered in snow here in the winter, and has desert-like sunshine in the summer, which means the landscape continues to change every year as the surface levels disintegrate and fall away.
Bryce Canyon National Park.
We squeezed our bikes into the carpark close to the Visitor’s Centre (it was super busy) and watched the National Park Service video before using the shuttle bus to visit Inspiration Point and Sunset Point, both of which offer beautiful views of the hoodoos in the valley below. We walked to Sunrise Point before catching the bus back to the Visitor’s Centre, and realised we’d “done everything” we could without getting back on our bikes and riding through the park ourselves.
Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park.
The free shuttle bus at this particular National Park only takes visitors to a very small portion of the points of interest, which is a shame as this I think this actually discourages people from leaving their car in one place and taking the more eco-friendly transport and means the small parking lots along the main road were really busy (and a little chaotic in places!). We were much more impressed with the shuttle bus system in place at the Grand Canyon National Park, which meant we could leave the bikes in one place all day and explore very easily. It’s also worth noting that Bryce Point, which is said to be one of the most spectacular views in Bryce, is closed this summer – the NPS are doing extensive construction work and you can’t get to it by bus or in your own vehicle. We didn’t know this until we were inside the park and spotted a notice close to the shuttle bus stop, and those that paid on the gate specifically for this park may well feel a little miffed that there was no notice before paying. Worth bearing in mind if you’re visiting this year.
Natural Arch at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Back on the bikes we rode the full length of the National Park, about 18 miles, to Rainbow Point. It was well worth the ride down (and not a bad road either), as the views are just wonderful. There are lots of other great views along the road, which follows the edge of the Canyon, and we stopped at a few including Natural Bridge and Faraway View, which sits at 9,200 feet. How many times have I described views on this road trip as stunning? But yes, it was stunning.
Looks like a Simpson’s character!
It’s important to remember to bring drinking water and snacks when you visit Bryce Canyon National Park, even if you don’t do much walking, as you are easily at altitude sickness height; know when you are getting symptoms and do something about them straight away so it doesn’t linger or start to affect you more seriously. Being affected by altitude is strange – you might start getting a headache and get out of breath more easily than normal, or even start getting tingly lips and fingers and struggling to find words.
Tar snakes in Utah – those black strips of tar melt in the heat so it’s best not to ride over them, especially on the corners!
As with many National Parks you are very limited on accommodation options here at Bryce National Park. Just down the road from the entrance is Ruby’s Inn, currently celebrating 100 years of offering food and lodging to those visiting Bryce. It’s huge – practically a village: a large Best Western motel, at least a couple of restaurants, huge RV park, general store, camping store, post office, and more. You might not be surprised to learn it’s not cheap, but it’s in a great location and is an interesting place to stay. I would say if you’re going to eat in the buffet restaurant go early, as coach loads of tourists take over the place during normal dinner hours.