Home » 1999 Cross Country Road Trip

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Wednesday, August 4, 1999 - 9:00am by Lolo
180 miles and 4.5 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


As we approached Bryce Canyon on Route 12, we drove through Red Canyon getting a preview of the wonders to come. Red Canyon and its brightly-colored oddly-shaped hoodoos are part of the same Claron Formation as Bryce. However, since it's not part of the National Park, such normally forbidden activities like mountain biking and ATVing are allowed. I made a mental note to come back here some day to mountain bike through the hoodoos. It's frustrating at times because it's hard to know everything about an area on your first visit. The first visit is kind of like a scouting mission where you get an overview and touch lightly on as much as you can; the next time you can focus and dig deeper into the good stuff.

Gaidus family at Bryce CanyonGaidus family at Bryce CanyonSince the campgrounds inside Bryce National Park didn't take reservations, I had made reservations for us and our friends at Ruby's Inn RV Park, right outside Bryce. This was our first RV trip and I was still rather paranoid about having everything reserved in advance. The wing-it, free-spirit feeling only came later after a few years of experience and Herb's nagging. Also, although the kids love the natural beauty of National Park campgrounds such as the ones we had just left at Zion and the Grand Canyon, they occasionally need a commercial campground "fix" complete with pool and hot tub. Sometimes the adults do too, so we spent a few enjoyable hours lounging and hot tubbing while the kids played in the pool.

As late afternoon approached, we were all pretty anxious to see the sights, so we climbed into one RV and set off to catch the evening light at Bryce. After stopping at the Visitor Center and buying the obligatory hat pins, we set off on the 17-mile scenic drive through the park stopping at the different viewpoints along the way. The views down into the intricate maze of colorful hoodoos in Bryce Canyon Amphitheater were breathtaking.

The next day we were determined to hike down into the canyon and get up close and personal with the hoodoos. To our dismay, it was raining. Somewhat disappointed yet still undaunted, we purchased rain ponchos in the gift shop and set off for Sunrise Point where we were to begin our descent into the canyon. Just as we parked the RV, the rain stopped and the sun came out once again allowing the hoodoos to show off their brilliant colors. What luck! We hiked down the Queen's Garden Trail where we sat on a bench and admired an amazing hoodoo which looked exactly like a queen sitting on her throne. We then took the Navajo Loop trail, which is a pretty steep climb out of the canyon, back to the rim at Sunset Point. This 3.5 mile hike was pretty strenuous, especially for 7-year-old Alexis, who we had to bribe with granola bars and candy to keep her moving. Also, Andrew and Tommy took turns giving her piggy-back rides. Once back on the rim, we walked the Rim Trail back to Sunrise Point. Later we read in the guidebook that they actually recommend taking this hike in reverse, doing the steeper descent from Sunset Point first. Oh well, maybe next time.

That night we took the kids on the Ruby's Inn Cowboy Cookout, which was lots of fun. A covered wagon took us through the forest outside of Bryce where we were attacked by Indians. Having survived that, we continued on to a delicious Chuck Wagon dinner complete with barbecued chicken, Dutch oven potatoes, corn on the cob, etc. Once dinner was complete, the hoedown began. The Dansie family has been running this Cookout since 1987 and they really do put on a good show. We're not much into hoedowning though, so it took some convincing to get the kids out on the dance floor, but they did and I think they had a great time do-si-do-ing.

That night was to be our last night with our friends before they headed back to Las Vegas to return their rental RV and fly home to New Jersey. We had had so much fun together and so many laughs that it was sad to think of them leaving, but we were glad that they were able to share at least a part of our first RV experience with us.

Hey, but it wasn't over for us yet--we still had another week and a half ahead of us.


Bryce Canyon National Park, which is located in southern Utah, is a geological fairyland, an intricate maze of wondrous shapes and formations. The oddly shaped pinnacles of rock, called hoodoos, display a mysterious blend of colors--warm yellows and oranges, and more dramatic pinks and reds--that provide a continuous show of changing colors with the rising and setting sun.

Like Zion National Park, Bryce is part of the Grand Staircase, which is a series of plateaus formed by the uplifting and tilting of the Colorado Plateau millions of years ago. Bryce occupies part of one of these plateaus of the Grand Staircase called the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon at all, but rather a series of amphitheaters cut into the Pink Cliffs of the Paunsaugunt Plateau by millions of years of erosion from flowing streams. The centerpiece of the park is the 6-mile square Bryce Amphitheater with its intricate maze of whimsically-shaped hoodoos.

The rock spires (hoodoos) are the result of erosion in rock layers that vary in hardness. When water flowed through the cracks in these rocks, the softer rock wore away leaving behind the harder, erosion-resistant caps. The ongoing cycle of freezing and thawing continues to dissolve the softer rock, constantly changing the shape of the hoodoos. This continuous erosion is also causing the plateau cliffs to recede at the rate of about one foot every 60 years.

Bryce is much smaller and less intimidating than Zion and the Grand Canyon and much easier to explore. You can stand at the edge of the plateau rim and gaze down into the maze of hoodoos below or descend the trails from the rim and wander around among them. There are several good hiking trails. The Rim Trail runs 5.5 miles along the edge of the canyon, rather than taking you down into it, providing splendid views from above. Another great choice for a hike is the Queen's Garden Trail down into the canyon itself. Or if hiking isn't your thing, you can take the 17-mile scenic drive through the park, stopping at the numerous viewpoints along the way. You can either take your own vehicle or the free shuttle bus.

There are 2 campgrounds in the park. Both of them work on a first-come, first-served basis.

Bryce Canyon National Park location map

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