When is a canyon not a canyon? When it is actually a collection of giant amphitheatres. Bryce Canyon may have a deceptive name, but there is nothing misleading about its beauty.
Only a couple of hours away from Zion National Park, Bryce was a quieter place to stop and explore for a night. We again got lucky and snagged one of the last available campsites, with the two campgrounds filling up for the final weekend of National Park Week. Once we had sorted out the tent and grabbed some food to cook that night, it was off to explore via the scenic drive. I am particularly impressed by the emphasis the National Park Service places on accessibility. Whilst there are loads of options for people who want to explore further, for anyone who is unable (or simply less inclined) to set out on a hike easy access has been arranged. Roads are maintained and link together a lot of beautiful sites. As well as this, individuals with permanent disabilities are eligible for an Access Pass, which allows for free entry to the parks, whilst senior citizens can obtain a lifetime pass for just $10. It is just another thing that impresses me about the National Park Service.
Bryce is known for its intriguing hoodoos, the rock formations that emerge out of the ground. According to the Bryce Canyon website, it is not flowing water that has carved out the landscape – instead it is a result of ‘frost-wedging’. For more than half of the year, the temperature gets above and below freezing on a daily basis. This causes the water to seep into fractures in the rock during the day, then freeze and expand at night to chip away at the rock. The result is the landscape we see today (which is therefore in a continuous state of change).
We opted to enjoy the formations from the lookout points this time, as we arrived late and would be leaving early the next day. From our vantage points, snow was still visible in the amphitheatre, and the towering hoodoos looked like something from a far fetched fairytale.
It is the kind of place where you can imagine spending a day getting lost in the world of hoodoos. Alas, we stayed at the top and looked down upon the magical land of Bryce Canyon, before heading back to our campsite for dinner. The regular appearances of fire grills have allowed Ashby’s inner pyromaniac come to the fore, and meant my contributions to dinner have been the simple role of observer.
Despite not venturing into the ampitheatre, we did decide to wake up early the next morning and check out the hoodoos as the sun rose. I can report that the below freezing temperatures certainly happened when we were there, and it was jolly cold getting up. And, as luck would have it, we also choose the morning where the cloud cover interfered with the sunrise. I admit, I chickened out and only lasted about ten minutes at the viewpoint before my extremities got too cold, leaving Ashby to continue his photo taking. Despite the cloud, he still got some lovely photographs.
With feeling returning to our fingers, we returned to the tent to pack up, grab a cooked breakfast from a nearby restaurant, and then got back on the road again. Next stop: the gods’ playground, Arches National Park.