6 things to know about the Zion-Bryce duo

Zion National Park is majestic as shown from the trail to the Upper Emerald Pool. (Kevin Kaiser | Travel Beat)

Zion National Park is majestic as shown from the trail to the Upper Emerald Pool. (Kevin Kaiser | Travel Beat)

In the southwest corner of Utah is an unexpected treasure trove of national parks and monuments that will take your breath away.  Literally.

At these higher altitudes, flatlanders may have a little difficulty breathing and hiking.

But once you get acclimated (plan for a couple of days), head out to enjoy the parks gracing this wild and wonderful land. The two featured in this post are Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.

Each is beautiful in unique ways as the terrain varies from one to another. Here are 3 things to know about each — before you go.

Bryce Canyon hoodoos

1. Take a hike.

This is a view from Wall Street of the sky and surrounding hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park. (Cheryl Welch | Travel Beat)

This is a view from Wall Street of the sky and surrounding hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park. (Cheryl Welch | Travel Beat)

Bryce hikes are ethereal with their red rock spires and sprawling canyon bottom.

You can view the hoodoos from below or above. Just know that it’s a long ways down, and seemingly longer way back up (with no elevator). Take your time and take plenty of water.

If you suffer from altitude sickness, this might be your best bet of where to start your trek as it’s at a lower altitude.

2. The weather can change rapidly.

Be careful.

You could start out cold with hats and gloves on and then peel of the layers as it heats up.

Take at least a small backpack to gather all your belongings (and carry plenty of water and snacks) as you will need your hands free for hiking (preferably with sturdy shoes and hiking sticks). Stay on the trail and time your hike so you’re out well before dark.

3. Stay overnight then start early.

Photographers love the variety they can capture along the Navajo Trail as they exit the canyon floor and head up into the Queen's Garden. (Cheryl Welch | Travel Beat)

Photographers love the variety they can capture along the Navajo Trail as they exit the canyon floor and head up into the Queen’s Garden. (Cheryl Welch | Travel Beat)

There’s a beautiful lodge and cabins at Bryce National Park, as well as campgrounds.

Stay here for at least a night to capture sunset over the hoodoos and then get an early start on the round-trip loop to the bottom of the canyon. One, maybe two, day would suffice here as it is a relatively small park.

One of the best hikes starts from the lodge and proceeds southwest toward Sunset Point to take the switchbacks down through Wall Street. The crack through this towering cliff forms an entrance to this other world of red rock. Then take the Navajo Loop Trail your way along the creek bed and up through the Queen’s Garden and back to the visitor center. It’s a few-mile hike and, other than the trek up to the Queen’s Garden and out, it’s fairly level along the canyon floor.

That slog up the cliff is a bit grueling, but there are plenty of benches to sit, catch your breath and look out at the hoodoo formations.

Zion’s splendor

1. Stay at the lodge.

The lodging within Zion National Park has a lot to offer to those seeking solitude and convenience to the park's many offerings. (Cheryl Welch | Travel Beat)

The lodging within Zion National Park has a lot to offer to those seeking solitude and convenience to the park’s many offerings. (Cheryl Welch | Travel Beat)

The logistics of Zion are wide open to those who sleep at one of the cabins or the lodge rooms.

The shuttle bus stops right out front, taking you deeper into the park. Plus, you’ll get the red pass that allows you to drive into the park to the lodge (others will be stopped at the visitor’s center and required to take a shuttle). Plus, the lodge is old school awesome with rooms nicely appointed.

You can rest during the heat of the day and go back out for mornings and sunsets.

2. Plan for at least two or three days here.

There are a lot of hikes through the park, and they take quite a bit of time.

If you only do a day, you’ll be scrambling to fit in just a small fraction of what the park offers. You can drive just outside of the park for restaurants, or eat at the lodge. There are even rentable bikes and racks so you can take your bike back into the park and explore if you want to avoid the shuttles.

Plenty of options abound to enjoy a few days in this peaceful place.

3. Take heed of these don’t miss spots.

A waterfall continues to fill Lower Emerald Pool late in the year at Zion National Park. (Cheryl Welch | Travel Beat)

A waterfall continues to fill Lower Emerald Pool late in the year at Zion National Park. (Cheryl Welch | Travel Beat)

The lower, middle and upper Emerald Pools hike takes you up high enough for iconic views of the cliff walls of Zion and the river that runs through it. If you go in the spring or early summer, you’re more likely to have super photogenic falls, whereas in the fall, it might be more of a trickle.

Here’s what you need to know: It’s worth it.

Angel’s Landing is also a doozy, more for those who are OK with heights and those in better shape. Then there’s The Subway walk through a river that’s superb.

And don’t miss the Kolob Canyon part of Zion National Park. It’s up the way from Zion on I-15 north and offers several hikes back to some freestanding rock arches.

Make sure to pack plenty of water, have layers (weather can also change rapidly here), a shady hat, sturdy hiking boots, a map, and hiking sticks.

Once you leave Zion, go the back way through the tunnel and south. The views are spectacular as you exit Zion this way.

NOTE: Both of these national parks are phenomenal, making for great photos and a whole lot of peace and serenity once you get on the trails. For those with mobility issues, there are plenty of paved paths around Bryce’s canyon rim, and Zion has bike and walking paths all along the canyon bottom for glorious heavenward view.

2 Comments
  1. Me and my husband were just at Zions national park staying in a really nice hotel! We did make the mistake of only staying one night and ave regretted it ever since. There is just so much to do and to see as it is a beautiful area. I think if we are able to go next time, we will definitely plan on staying at least 2 or 3 days.

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