We finally got our van back from our builder in early November and decided to take her on a fully built maiden voyage down to the Bryce Canyon National Park area over Thanksgiving.
This was our first trip to the Bryce area.
We drove down to Kodachrome Basin State Park Wednesday knowing that we‘d be fighting some holiday traffic…and we did. The wind was kind of nuts as well.
Kodachrome Basin S.P. is about 30 minutes east of Bryce Canyon N.P. and so by the time we arrived at the Bryce View Campground, we decided on a short bike / hike to Shakespeare Arch / Sentinel Trail. Note: Shakespeare Arch is no longer, but we knew that going in.
The first full day of our trip, we went to Bryce Canyon N.P. We stopped by the Visitor Center, went to Sunset Point, and hiked the Queen’s Garden / Navajo Loop (modified for Winter hiking). Worth it.
And, then stopped by Mossy Cave on the way back to camp. If pressed for time, I would tell you to skip Mossy Cave and spend that time elsewhere.
These were all pretty popular sites, but since it was our first trip to the park, we wanted to get an overview. We talked to a Park Ranger who recommended the Fairyland Loop for a bit less populated trail.
We had originally planned to try to do Bryce N.P. and Zion N.P. in the same trip, which seems like a relatively common strategy. But since our campsite at Kodachrome Basin put us approximately 30 minutes east of Bryce, that made the trip down to Zion close to two hours and more windshield time than we wanted to spend given our relatively short stay.
Instead we pivoted to a day in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM). For more on the different types of public lands, check out That Wild Country by Mark Kenyon.
Initially, I had some trouble figuring out where GSENM was located. This is because the GSENM is close to 1.9 million acres. It turns out, Kodachrome Basin is surrounded by GSENM and a main access point is very close to the entrance of the State Park.
Our first stop in GSENM was Grosvenor Arch – a super impressive double arch. Highly recommend stopping to see it if you are in the area.
Then we got our first taste of slot canyons by hiking the Cottonwood Narrows. This is a non-technical (i.e., no rappelling or rock climbing) option that is good for families.
Back at camp we did the Panorama Trail on bikes. Very worthwhile.
And found the showers at the … campground. The showers are really nice. Like, really nice.
The weather was finally warm enough to spend a bit more time outside at night and the stars were absolutely amazing. I tried for a few pictures, but didn’t have any that turned out good enough to post.
For our second day at Bryce Canyon N.P., we decided to hike the Fairyland Loop trail. This one met all the important criteria: beautiful scenery and not heavily trafficked.
And then we drove out to the south end of the park, did a short hike, and took in some of the vistas.
In some of our earlier trips, we tended to have pretty ambitious plans and go pretty hard. This resulted to a couple of events that we less than affectionately referred to as Daddy Death Marches. I have tried to learn from these experiences.
Unfortunately, we had another one in Red Canyon.
We decided to hit Red Canyon on the way home. Red Canyon is essentially one canyon before you get to Bryce. And since it is in a National Forest, not a National Park, they allow mountain biking on some of their trails.
We chose the Thunder Mountain Trail. I had done a bit of research on the trail ahead of time and read the descriptions in a couple of guide books. I am pretty sure none of the author’s of those guide books have ridden this trail. A few factors made it not the trail we should have picked this day. It turned out to be a bit longer than advertised. It was most definitely an expert level trail (should have a black diamond rating). And there’s a fair amount of climbing and some pretty difficult technical bits – including one stretch along an exposed ridge line with consequential drops on either side. All in all, just not what we wanted to get into.
But, we did it. Walked a bit more than intended.
I would recommend the trail for serious riders, who want a serious ride.
Then we drove home Sunday evening – fighting holiday traffic most of the way.
Overall, an excellent trip. We enjoyed the area quite a bit and have a list of things we would like to do when we are back in the area including more time in GSENM, getting over to Zion, and possibly catching a meteor shower.
Check out a few prior adventures: