After our quick tour around Salt Lake City, Utah, and seeing the hilarious Book or Mormon, it was off to the wilderness of Utah. With an early departure, we were off driving to our first stop, Zion National Park. It ending up being a little over 4 hours of driving, but it was actually a really interesting drive. Progressing through Utah, you could see the landscape change as we followed the mountain range south. And then, round the last bend, things got wild quickly.
Wow. We fell in love with Utah right then. This place was surreal.
Our plan for the day consisted of seeing how far up Zion Canyon we could walk. The parking lot for the park was full to capacity, so we had to find a spot in town and then walk to the entrance. There were shuttle buses running to the entrance, but it was honestly quicker to just walk in. Unless you are staying in the lodge, this is the only way in (well, technically you could walk the whole way, but these buses were much faster). Our cousins came through again, they have a yearly pass to the National Parks, allowing us to skip the long line at the entrance and walk right in. Its awesome how they have so many parks close by that something like that is worth it. Someday…
The National Park Service runs buses from the entrance to various points inside the park that are good starts to the trail system. Get ready for a 40 minute recording, some interesting, most not, on the way to the canyon trail start. The drive, however, is spectacular. This place should not be on a bucket list, it should be number one on a “my next vacation is…” list. These pictures do not do it justice. Wildlife was everywhere along the drive.
Thanks to the tip from our cousins, we had bought water shoes just for this. While it could be done in sandals, or old gym shoes, this made it far easier. And a rubber toe box will save you an infinite amount of pain. In addition, they brought a few hiking poles as well. This saved us countless times from landing in the water. Considering the size of some of the rocks, it would not have felt good. Get water shoes with a rubber toe.
We made it somewhere around a couple miles up, turned around, and headed back. Once you get past the first two bends or so, the crowds really dropped down and it was very peaceful.
Our cousins had rented a house via vrbo.com in town right next to Zion for the night. Steaks, some veggies, and maybe a few beers and bottles of wine made for the perfect end to the day. And a later than expected rise the next morning!
A quick breakfast and we were on our way over to Bryce Canyon National Park. The drive out of Zion to Bryce was like being on Mars, completely otherworldly. Deer, mountain goats, all kinds of wildlife everywhere. Sharp switchbacks leading to epic vistas. This place is just begging for a marathon! Hear that NPS???!!!!
With our delayed start to the morning, plus wanting to get pictures every 5 seconds along the way, we ended up with not much time in Bryce (as we had a flight out of Salt Lake that evening). One thing we saw on the way in was that there was a paved bicycle trail all the way from the Red Canyon Campground, part of Dixie National Forest, all the way into Bryce National Park. That would make for one heck of a scenic ride, we are totally doing that next time!
My favorite part about Bryce was how driving into the park you had no idea what was just on the other side of the tree-line. Sure, I’d seen pictures online, but all of a sudden, the trees part and the view takes your breath away. It looks like a painting, another seemingly impossible to believe sight.
After a quick hike and checking out a few of the trail-heads, we had to head north. We wanted to stay, quit our jobs and just national park hop for awhile. A day doesn’t do these places justice, yet somehow I feel a week or a month wouldn’t either.
The drive back north is pleasant, and we took a little more scenic route, watching the red rocks slowly disappear, giving way to the taller peaks ahead.
We made it just in time for a quick goodbye, a promise to be back, and a race to the plane to board. As seems typical for our Southwest flights, it was running late with no notification. Oh well, its fun to get a workout before getting on the plane!
We often say how we wish to be back to places we traveled. We have certainly seen some amazing places, and been beyond lucky to experience some of the things we have experienced around the world. And yet, just short plane ride away was the place where I know we will be back. To us, it is worth skipping out on seeing something new and coming back to Utah and exploring further. It seems like there is something new just around every bend.