Utah 2001
Utah 2001
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Bryce Canyon National Park
Thursday, January 4, 2001

Today, we're driving back into the park on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway which is supposed to look really great when the sun is rising in the east. We see lots of different mountain formations - the most curious is a whole mountainside covered in a checkerboard pattern of horizontal and vertical lines.

Zion rock formations Zion rock formations Zion rock formations

Although we are still kind of sore after the long hike yesterday, we take a short hike on the Canyon Overlook Trail. It runs alongside a deep, narrow canyon and ends on a platform overlooking the Zion Canyon valley - "one of the few places in Zion where your view is drawn down instead of up", says a metal plate quite correctly.

Zion rock formations Zion rock formations Canyon Overlook Trail

After this, we drive on to Bryce Canyon National Park. The closer we get to the entrance, the more often we see those needles of red rock ("hoodoos") that are typical for Bryce.

Highway-side hoodoos Highway-side hoodoos Highway-side hoodoos

Inside the national park, we drive up and down the scenic drive and visit all the viewpoints. Each offers a different breathtaking view of the hoodoos. At some points, there are only some very big needles, on others, there are literally thousands of them covering a vast amphitheater-shaped area. The rock is glowing in all shades from white to orange to red. We also see one big, very high arch towering right in front of one viewpoint.

Hoodoo group Hoodoo group Multi-coulored hoodoos
Thor's Hammer Matthias at Bryce Amphitheater Arch

Shortly after noon, we feel adventurous and book a helicopter flight over the canyon. Now this is exciting! We fly over the deserted plateau for a mile or so, and then the ground suddenly seems to drop away to give way to the Bryce Canyon amphitheater. Seeing all the hoodoos from the valley side rather than the canyon rim gives us a whole new perspective. Because the air is so clear (we have a perfect blue sky again!), we can see for hundreds of miles over the valley.

Nils and Matthias in front of the helicopter Approaching Bryce Canyon Hoodoo formations
Aerial view of Bryce Amphitheater Arches and hoodoos below the canyon edge View of the valley

After the flight, we drive back into the park to visit some more viewpoints and take a short hike into the canyon. We decide to take the Navajo Loop Trail because it isn't too long (only 2.2 km round-trip) and seems quite interesting from the description in the park guide. However, what we see is much better than what we had expected: On a series of switchbacks, we walk down to the bottom of Wall Street, an extremely narrow and extremely deep canyon between some massive hoodoos. Since it is close to sunset, the rock shines in deep red light; an incredible contrast to the deep blue sky.

Wall Street from above Navajo Loop Trail switchbacks Matthias Navajo Loop Trail

Down at the bottom of Wall Street, we feel really small, completely alone and surrounded on all sides by over 100 meter-high walls of rock. It is totally silent. Inside the canyon, everything shines in red light, and if all that was not magnificent enough, there are tall Douglas firs growing inside the canyon - with thin, branchless stems that reach up high to the rim of the canyon and only there carry a crown of branches. The word "sanctuary" comes to mind - even the soft whirring sound of our camera seems to be too loud for this place.

Bottom of Wall Street A look back up the trail Douglas firs growing in the canyon

Navajo Loop Trail beyond Wall Street On the other side of the Wall Street canyon, there is a small light forest surrounded by walls of hoodoos. Climbing back up on the trail, we pass close by two more natural bridges. We could even walk on one if a warning sign wouldn't discourage us. We come back up to the rim of Bryce Canyon in time to see the last sunlight fading on the maze of hoodoos.

We visit the last few viewpoints we hadn't seen yet and then finally leave Bryce Canyon, deeply impressed. While it is getting completely dark, we drive halfway to Capitol Reef National Park and finally stop in Escalante for the night.

What an incredible day - perfect weather, an awesome place, virtually no other people...

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© 2001-2003 Matthias Book (Text), Nils Grunwald (Photos)