I started my national park quest in 2014 to visit at least one national park per year during a long weekend. So far I have been to Grand Canyon National Park in 2014 Labor’s Day weekend, Arcadia National Park in 2015 Memorial Day weekend, Arches & Canyonland National Parks in 2016 end of April, and Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks in 2017 July 4th weekend. I happened to have JetBlue credit that I need to spend before it expires, I browsed the calendar to see if there’s any long weekend left that we are available to go…sure enough…Veteran’s Day weekend! The flight to Salt Lake City was the cheapest so which national park we can go from Salt Lake City? It was obvious Bryce and Zion were the choices!
We flew out on Thursday night and arrived on 11:08 PM; the rental office closes at 11:30 so we had to run over to the counter and made it! I remembered last time we flew into Salt Lake City, our flight was delayed so we couldn’t pick up the rental car until the next morning. It sure saved us a lot of time for not having to get back to the airport to pick up the car! The car pick-up was fast and they ran out of full-size car that I reserved, the guy said we can upgrade to a SUV for free or downgrade to a mid-size. I discuss with Jason that it might be helpful to have a SUV as up on the mountain might snow even though the gas efficiency might not be as good. We decided on the SUV, it was almost brand new!
We drove to our hotel for the night: Best Western Plus Airport. The room was spacious and clean; the mattress was surprisingly comfortable!
They have refillable toiletries and my favorite aloe based products. However, I don’t like the smell, it doesn’t smell natural!
I bought my own aloe scrub that I got from South Africa, it became my favorite scrub and it smelled so naturally fresh!
We had a great night sleep thanks to the comfy mattress. Free breakfast was included and it was nothing spectacular as expected. After the quick breakfast and filled up our water bottle, we got on the road for our near-4 hour journey to our first destination: Bryce Canyon National Park. I was surprised that there was no snow up on the mountain; I remembered it was snowing in April when we went to Arches National Park passed through the same road. When we almost reached Bryce Canyon, I looked at the gas meter, OMG we used 3/4 already! That was when we realized this SUV has a small gas tank so from then on, we paid special attention to the gas meter, yikes!
The landscape started to look a lot more like it with red rocks and there was a pullover so we stopped to snap a photo. It is the Red Canyon!
Route 12 is a very scenic short drive to Bryce Town.
We filled up gas in Bryce Town before entering Bryce Canyon National Park. We made good use of our annual National Park Pass that we purchased on the Yellowstone trip 🙂 First stop was the visitor center where we used the clean bathroom and briefly checked it out:
With limited daylight in November, we had no time to lose so first stop: Sunrise Point at 8015 feet above sea level. The small parking lot was pretty empty, I was surprised by not many people visiting the park even though it was a long weekend. The temperature was perfect for hiking in the 60s. From the parking lot, we followed the paved route to Sunrise Point and within minutes, the unbelievable views of the colorful canyon landscape appeared!
The layers of red, orange, and white on the rocks were fascinating!
To get up to the viewing platform of Sunrise Point, a little more hiking up the hill is required. It took our breathe away both the view and the hike up at high elevation! Look the infamous hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park!!! I had been to Grand Canyon, Arches, and Canyonland and this was the first time I have seen the hoodoos!
Panorama of Queens Garden Trail below:
We decided to hike down on the Queens Garden Trail….we kept walking down and down which was easy and I was thinking wait till we have to head back up LOL! We were closer and closer to the hoodoos and stopped every few steps to take photos. The good thing was it was almost no one there so we had all the spots and took as many photos as we like, loved it! It took time to get the right angle as we had to be careful with no guardrail whatsoever and made sure the rock is stable before we sit or stand on it!
Being afraid of height, my knees were shaking standing there for this photo….Jason hurry up!!!
Phew, I survived!!!
How can Mother Nature created such a beautiful landscape???
The colorful “sand dunes”:
It was like a painting for real!
I wondered what caused that stripe of white and how many thousand of years it took to create that?
The rock formations were very pictureque and fun to take photos with 😀
And there is this hole that you can get to the other side….natural or manmade?
It was perfect for my size LOL!
Not so for Jason haha advantage of being short 😛
I think the top was where we were and we walked all the way down…the amazing hoodoos!
I got very close to those two hoodoos 😀
We decided to turn back as the Queens Garden Trail will eventually lead to Sunset Point and we didn’t want to hike back to get our car. The way up was so hard especially we haven’t had lunch yet!
We made a few breaks for water before we made it back up to the parking lot, phew! We drove to The Lodge at Bryce Canyon thinking to have lunch at the restaurant there….guess what….the whole lodge was closed for the season! Urg!!! I looked at the map and pointed Jason to drive back to Sunrise Point where there’s a General Store there. Luckily, the General Store has some quick fast food enough for a quick lunch. We ended up having hot dogs and a cup of chili:
Those were like 7-Eleven quality but tripled the price as expected inside the national park. Our lunch cost $15.01!
There were some tables inside the General Store for us to sit down to have our quick lunch.
After the quick bites, it was time to burn off those calories! We headed to Inspiration Point; we saved Sunset Point for sunset.
The viewing platform offered great panoramic views of the hoodoos and canyon below:
We walked a little bit on the Rim Trail for different perspectives.
It was a semi-cloudy day and the light was already bright reflected by the bright orange, yellow, and white colors of the stones.
A closer look at the colorful layers…for this trip, we only brought our 16-35 mm f/2.8 lens with us so that was the most I could zoom in!
Next, we went to Bryce Point at an elevation of 8300 feet! One of the famous hoodoo: The Hunter but the view was partially blocked.
When we reached Rainbow Point (elevation 9115 feet), it was already in the late afternoon that at this angle, the hoodoos were in shadow.
Same as in Black Birch Canyon:
There were more stop points on the way but most of them are covered by trees blocking the views. We drove all the way to the end – Rainbow Point but the views were similar to the above where they were in shadow. We turned back to Natural Bridge to photograph the arch.
We headed back to Sunset Point as the name indicated great for the sunset. It wasn’t sunset yet and we had time to do another hike, Jason decided to hike down the zig-zag road on the Navajo Loop Trail; there were a lot more people down there!
We didn’t know what’s down there but it seemed cool to walk down via the zig-zag road.
The angle of the sun….we’ll make it back before sunset!
The road has some lose rocks on it so careful on your steps.
A closer look at the rock, they looked like chipping!
The sunlight reflected by the orange and reddish rocks made the trail looked like glowing colors, it was spectacular.
When reached down to what it looked like a slot canyon and don’t forget to look back to the top….woah! The bright glowing orange color was so vivid that was eye blinding!
The love the shades of purples in the slot canyon!
And I was dressed for it? LOL just kidding, I didn’t plan it!
I couldn’t believe how those trees managed to grow in this only narrow opening!
It was a hidden gem, definitely worth the hike down for beautiful photos!
The hike up was much better than I anticipated being in high altitude, perhaps the slowly graduated road helped instead of a steep incline at Queens Garden trail.
The hole, will this someday become an arch?
When we got up, many photographers were there and have setup their tripods to claim their spot for the sunset!
That was when we saw the most people of the day! The famous Thors Hammer on the right:
A look back of the trail that we just came back from:
We waited patiently and getting cold into the sunset….it wasn’t as spectacular as the sun wasn’t as strong and semi-covered by the clouds so not strong light reflected by the rocks. As the sunsetting….
Right after the sunset, we went back to our car and made started our 2-hour drive to Springdale, where we stay for the night. It was getting darker and darker and not many cars on the road. We passed through this zig-zag mountain road through Zion National Park – the famous Zion-Mount Carmel Highway! It was totally dark that we couldn’t see anything so we just focused on the curvy road. Jason got trained to drive those hairpin turns in Almafi Coast so this was very easy for him haha!
We stopped at Thai Sapa for dinner and the place was packed! We had to wait over half an hour for a table! The food was expensive but at least tasted okay. I ordered a curry and Jason ordered a fried rice. Boy, they nickel and dime on the meat and seafood..to add shrimp it cost like extra $5! The “basic” was the chicken without extra cost….my curry chicken:
Two main dishes and one Thai Iced Tea cost us $44.00, expensive Thai food!
It was after 9 pm when we finished dinner and checked in at La Quinta Inn & Suites at Zion Park/Springdale. Our room was spacious but the mattress was not comfortable at all, I wished we had the mattress from the night before!
I checked the weather and it was cloudy at night so we didn’t take a chance to go out for Milky Way photos. Plus, we will need to wake up early for our drive to Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab before 8:30 to try our luck at the lottery for The Wave by 8:30 AM (spoiler alert…we didn’t win…so sad!). We were so tired after the hikes we did throughout the day at high elevation, my favorites were Queens Garden Trail and the trail down to the “slot” canyon-like. I think the most beautiful views are from Sunrise to Inspiration Point and the viewpoints beyond that weren’t as spectacular! If you have limited time in Bryce, I highly recommend those two trails and those viewpoints 🙂