The tunnel shortcut between Zion and Bryce Canyons
This is the Bryce Canyon end of the tunnel. Pretty spooky inside as there are no lights in the tunnel. There are several "galleries" or windows which do let in some light.
The second target on our trip was Bryce Canyon National Park. We decided when we entered Zion to buy an Annual Pass to the National Parks even though we didn’t get the American Citizen rate or a seniors discount. I am not sure if it was a financially good deal but it was certainly convenient.
There are a couple of ways to get from Zion to Bryce. One is to go back the way we came and take the long way around Zion (147 miles). The other is a shortcut (72 miles) that involves a road with many twists, turns and switchbacks plus a one mile tunnel. There are rules about over height and over length vehicles as well as stories about delays when they restrict traffic to one way to allow these behemoths to use the tunnel. After this build up we were a bit disappointed when the ranger in the tourist info centre scoffed and said there would be no problem (his comment - it is much easier than driving in LA!!). Wisely, we started on the "short cut road" at 7am so avoided all the traffic. The traffic was minimal and it was actually fun (for me;
Rock walls on each side
On our way to Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon, the road went between these massive rock walls.
Dianne got to drive it). The campground
The reservation system was again a bit weird. The non-RV sites were supposed to be first come, first served but there were many sites that were reserved. We managed to score a nice one, close but not too close to the washrooms and water. And we could have campfires.
Much to my surprise, the two couples at the next site were from France! Unlike the couples in Zion, they had a site to themselves. We had some good laughs. We were constantly surprised at the number of European visitors. The Park
Even though Bryce is so close to Zion, it is completely different. In Zion you are at the bottom looking up; at Bryce you are at the top looking own. Zion is a bunch of huge, solid rock formations; most of the formations in Bryce are on one side of a very long ridge. The walls consist of impressive spires, hoodoos, fins and all kinds of weathered stone formations.
It is also much higher; average elevation between 8,000 and 9,000 feet compared to Zion's average of 3,000. No wonder we wore hoodies and warm socks to
We didn't know about Red Canyon until we drove through it on the way to Bryce Canyon. We made a return visit there.
bed. The trails
There are two types of trails; rim walks and valley walks. We concentrated on the rim walks. The views are spectacular. It’s amazing how you can look at a scene then move 100 yards and look at it again. It is quite different. Most of the views are looking more or less straight down but you can actually see for miles.
You can walk from the campground to many of the trails but one of the most interesting trails involves driving about 16 miles to the end of the park. We started off toward the farthest viewpoint and got about as far as you could go from your car when the hail started. Luckily there was a small shelter where five or six of us hunkered down until it stopped. We continued the walk, saw the neat views and returned to Big Red. Just as we got in, the skies opened again and it hailed pea-sized hail for about 10 minutes.
It was incredible to see how much accumulated hail was still on Big Red when we got to the next view point. So much so that a chap asked if he could
As we hiked along the scree on the path to see the tunnels from the viewpoint, we came across these phlox growing in the barren ground.
take a picture of it. He and some buddies had ridden their motorcycles through it and he wanted to show other friends what they had to ride through.
Our last hike involved taking one of the trails down towards the bottom of the canyon. What looked fabulous from the top was even more spectacular when down in the canyon. The only problem was that it was uphill all the way back. Red Canyon
Close to Bryce Canyon National Park is Red Canyon National Forest. We managed a side trip to this site to take the Tunnel Trail. It isn’t that long but does go up fairly steeply and there is some scree that must be crossed to get to the viewpoint. But it was worth it. The “tunnels” are more like arches that were created in 1925 to make the drive to Bryce Canyon more spectacular. As if they needed to.
We also took a hoodoo trail and visited the tourist information centre. We really like these smaller info centres as the staff are not usually as busy and you can have some great conversations. Mossy Cave
There is a trail to Mossy Cave
The Tunnels at Red Canyon
More like arches but still well worth the steep walk up to the viewpoint.
and Waterfall that is part of Bryce Canyon National Park but you have to go outside the main park and back in some miles away. A bit unusual but worth the side jaunt. Especially as it caused us to investigate the town of Tropic which happened to have a great ice cream shop. I didn’t even mind not getting a cappuccino; it was that hot. Onward
Our next stop is at Natural Bridges National Park. Just how different can this park be from the two very different canyons we have been visiting? ToBeContinued.
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