I return to give you the absolutely gorgeous Bryce canyons in some more detail.. While Grand Canyons may have a lot of tales to tell, Bryce canyons just fulfills your dreams and fantasies of seeing castles and queens. Age and even erosion indeed can add beauty in its own right..
However, the rocks exposed in the Bryce canyons are younger than the Grand Canyon, about a 100 million years old, the youngest in the ‘Grand Staircase’ formation: headed by the Grand canyon rocks, followed by Zion National park rocks that lie in between Bryce and Grand canyons, both in age and location. The series of natural amphitheaters in Bryce were carved on the sides of the Paunsaugunt Plateau by erosion and frost weathering; the formations of hoodoos and grottos are typical of this region. Since the amphitheaters did not arise because of erosion caused by a central stream, unlike the Grand canyons ( the Colorado river being the central stream there), the name Bryce canyon is a misnomer: it is not really a canyon.
Bryce is mysterious and beckoning while the Grand Canyons seem more like an open documentation of 2000 million years of the Earth’s history. I have been asked which of the two places I would recommend. Depending on who is asking, if there was only one place they can go to; for the general traveller, or a photographer and hiking enthusiast I would recommmend Bryce. For a geology enthusiast, a pro hiker looking for a challenge I would recommend the Grand Canyons.
There are several popular trails in Bryce, they are of moderate intensity largely on account of steep climbs and the elevation (of about 8000 ft- 9000ft). We did two of the trails, in two days. The Queen’s garden trail, Navajo trail; all the view points, with Inspiration point being my favorite: it has the view of the Silent valley (see the photos below) left me speechless. I felt the wizard’s spell lingering.. perhaps only for the wicked (like me!). The sunset and rainbow points are also breathtaking and the natural bridge (which is an arch) is also a wonder. In fact, nowhere else have I seen every turn-out, turn out to be that worthwhile.
As I have mentioned before I think, I am not a landscape photographer ( as in, it is not my preferred type of photography). However, when the views are this levitating.. I will be whatever they want me to be.
There are not many options to eat in or around the park, off-season. We stayed at Ruby’s Inn ( also called Best Western) and there were always huge lines at peak lunch time and dinner time. We were usually lucky at breakfast and got seated right away. Food is not outstanding but service is good. One night we dined at a very closeby restaurant: the Bryce Canyon Pines (also a motel) and their home -made pies were really as good as advertised. One of the four days we were there, we drove down to a nearby town called Panguitch (still about 20-30 min drive) from the park for lunch and had a surprisingly good lunch at a ‘Flying M Coffee shop’. Their coffee was very good ( and one of their wall hangings said, ‘Our coffee is so good even we drink it’). There is a lake a bit way off from the town, called Panguitch lake, quite beautiful, but it was too cold to stand around and take in the view for long.. It was very secluded and a little frozen in parts.
Our last day we drove down to the Escalante region, happened to reach a Petrified Forest state park right by the Wide hollow reservoir. I had not seen a petrified forest before this and even if you don’t take the trail you can still see a very large tree trunk that is now petrified wood right at the beginning of the trail. The trail itself was quite fantastic, starts at about 6000ft going on to probably a few hundred feet higher at the top most part. The ‘sleeping rainbow loop’ connects to the main loop-trail and is definitely rightly named by someone musical.. The myriad colors of petrified wood, from red, orange to bright purple are something to behold indeed! It is slightly steep in regions, but well worth it, like we were advised by a very nice family walking their dog, two little kids in tow who were getting back to their car from the trail. They were dressed in T shirts while we both looked like we were just getting ready to go to the arctic circle.
After this trail we went towards to Escalante state park and were not at all surprised to find the gravel road that we had been warned about. We did find it surprisingly hard to drive on ( I suppose not that surprisingly). We managed about 10 miles, made it to the Devil’s garden and back thanking our stars.. Not advisable unless you have a four wheel drive or can drive 10 mph with constantly chattering gravel for 56 miles, but we will get a four wheel drive if we do return. The park is relatively less traversed on account of being back country, I imagine all year.
Even in off season, seeing the lines in Ruby’s Inn, one can only imagine the crowds in real season.
Prime reason #1 to return is to participate in one of the dark ranger led the star gazing program in summer, offered thrice a week. It was overcast all three days we were there. But the eerie silence and the ever staring hooodoos covered with snow are a sight in themselves at night.
Overall an excellent four days. One of the best short trips I have been on and highly recommended. Additional photos below.