After leaving Zion National Park, we drove to the next destination of the Grand Circle: Bryce Canyon National Park.
We were not quite sure though, which route we would have to take to leave Zion and go to Bryce. There is a road that goes east through the park and through the 1.1 mile long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. However, due to heavy rains that undercut the road, it was only temporarily reopened and still closed for large vehicles (buses and RVs). We weren’t sure whether our Joshie would be allowed to drive through, but he was.
This saved us about 62 miles (about 100 km) and gave us the opportunity to also do the little Canyon Overlook Hike which starts right after you leave the tunnel.
Along the way: Dixie National Forest
We noticed on our way to Bryce the climatic distinction: It became much colder and soon there was snow. Bryce Canyon is about 300 m higher than Zion National Park and receives more precipitation. Although this year Zion received 4,6 times as much precipitation than last year: 34,16 cm from October 1, 2018 to March 6, 2019 – compared to 7.37 cm the year before.
Along the way we came across the Dixie National Forest and we also stopped several times to take some pictures.
Bryce Canyon National Park
After a while, it became colder and we saw more and more snow:
As usual, we first went to the Visitor Centre and learned, that the shuttle bus doesn’t operate yet. The nice woman from the visitor centre gave us great hiking recommendations and also informed us about trails and roads that are still closed due to the snow. As there was no shuttle yet, we drove the scenic route with our campervan and visited the overlooks as outlined in the shuttle bus map.
We then drove to Bryce Point and when we looked down, we were speechless. Seriously… the view was unbelievable and I am afraid, that the pictures don’t really cover it. It’s impossible to describe but our minds were blown.
Some of the rocks look like churches or cathedrals.
The pinnacles are called “hoodoos” and the information brochure outlines how they are formed:
Hoodoos don’t grow like trees but are eroded out of the cliffs where rows of narrow walls form. These thin walls of rock are called fins. Frost-wedging enlarges cracks in the fins, creating holes or windows. As windows grow, their tops eventually collapse, leaving a column. Rain further dissolves and sculpts these limestone pillars into bulbous spires called hoodoos. The delicate climatic balance between snow and rain ensures that new hoodoos will emerge while others become lumps of clay.
At some point (it was really cold and we weren’t dressed accordingly), we had to leave Bryce Point and continued the scenic drive.
After we finished the scenic drive, we drove to Ruby’s Inn RV Park & Campground, which I had booked while on the road. As we as renters are responsible for protecting our Joshie from freezing (it even says so on our restroom door), we needed a powered site so that we could use the on board heater. We got a nice spot for Joshie and stayed here 2 nights:
Fairyland Loop Trail
The woman at the visitor centre highly recommended the Fairyland Loop Trail, which is 12.9 km long and has 523m elevation. We started early in the morning; packed with plenty of water and food and dressed for the occasion (several layers of cloths including long underwear; trekking poles, hiking boots).
The trail as AMAZING – we stopped every few seconds to take a picture. We were constantly stopping; lost for words or stammering things like “UNBELIEVABLE” or “HOLY SHIT” ?
One stop on the way is the “Tower Bridge”:
Scenery changed along the way as it got warmer.
And then there was snow again.
After more than 3 hours we arrived at the Fairyland Point (2365m), where we took a break.
From Fairyland Point we took the Rim Trail back to the start of the hike; i.e. the Sunrise Point. We had been warned that some hikers get lost and that we should NOT go left. We started to follow the footsteps, but Marcel felt we were to far off. So we looked at Google maps – which surprisingly worked – and then we heard a woman in front of us shouting: “Do you think, we are on the right way?” She was hiking by herself and we met her a few times already during the day. Anyway, we weren’t on the right track, so we turned around and after a while we saw the sign to the Rim Trail that someone had left, but which we had overlooked before:
The woman, who had initially planned to do this hike with her son during his spring break (but he then had to study), joined us for the last part of the trail. We exchanged our travel stories and chatted all the way. This helped me a lot, because the last part through deep powder snow was actually more strenuous than the beginning of the hike. The views were nevertheless stunning of course:
And after 5 hours, we finally made it to where we had started:
Unfortunately due to the weather, many tracks and outlooks were still closed. Otherwise we would have stayed one or two more days in Bryce Canyon National Park. Instead we drove into regions that were a bit warmer. But first we had to stop at the Mossy Caves, where waterfalls freeze in winter and you can see amazing ice formations.