In October 2016, I went with my friend, Eileen, to visit several of the national parks in Utah and Arizona. We spent 10 days hiking over 100 miles, camping, and eating dehydrated meals/PB & J. While it definitely wasn’t glamorous, it was one of my favorite trips I’ve taken. Today I’ll be writing about experience in just two of the national parks we visited: Zion and Bryce Canyon.
Tip: If you are going to visit several national parks in a year be sure to purchase the National Parks Pass for $80. It is valid for one year and can be used by two different people and it is good for all of the National Parks in the United States.
Zion National Park: We drove to Zion from the south and arrived in the early afternoon. We went directly to the History Museum and left our car and caught the shuttle to the Angel’s Landing trailhead. Good news there are bathrooms and water filling stations at the trailhead! I definitely recommend carrying a fair amount of water as well as a snack to enjoy at the top of the hike 🙂 The hike was amazing and the view just kept getting better and better the more you climbed. I also loved the fact that the end of the trail involved some more challenging hiking and ropes/chains we needed to move across the rock faces.
Travel Tip: the hike may not be for you if you are afraid of heights and wouldn’t be considered family friendly. Also, if you start hiking and want to do a portion only there is a great viewpoint below the most difficult section of the hike. It is right after you finish the section of what feels like never ending switchbacks and offers beautiful views of the canyon below.
Travel Tip: Make reservations in advance if possible because it is very popular park to visit and the campgrounds usually fill up.
After we hiked Angel’s Landing, we went to the Watchman campground to set up camp for the night. Since the campground didn’t have showers, we went into the town of Springdale to find a shower after several days of going without. The next day we woke up early and went into Springdale again to rent gear to hike The Narrows.
Travel Tip: If you are planning to hike the Narrows for most of the day I recommend getting the boots and possibly the waiters depending on the time of year. I also recommend bringing a jacket because you are in the shade most of the day.
Some people hike without gear but the water was already cool in October. We opted to get the boots and waiters because we were going to spend the entire day hiking. We took the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava stop and started our hike! We weren’t sure what to expect temperature was going to be but we were very glad for our jackets because the tall canyon walls blocked the sun from reaching us for most of the day. The hike was amazing and we had a great time traversing our way up the riverbed! We hiked for around 7 hours total and definitely could’ve kept going! Zion is one of the national parks I would love to return to so I could do a multiple day hike down The Narrows as well as do the Observation Point hike. However, I think for the amount of time we had we picked the best hikes and they were both challenging and beautiful in two very different ways.
Bryce Canyon National Park: After we left Zion we went to Bryce Canyon. We camped at the North Campground which was first come, first serve and cost $20 a night for the tent. It was close to the visitor center and the entrance to the park. Even though it wasn’t high season, the campground was very busy and we had to loop around twice to find a spot. This was partly due to the fact that we got there closer to dark but I definitely recommend getting there in the afternoon if at all possible.
Travel Tip: All of the campgrounds in Bryce are first come, first serve so try to get there in the morning or early afternoon.
After finding a spot to set up camp, we set up the tent and cooked dinner. The next day we decided to hike the Queens Garden, Navajo, and Peekaboo Loops in a twisting combination. This hike gave us a great views of the hoodoos and took most of the morning. The hike was more crowded but as you moved away from the Queens Garden and Navajo loops it became less crowded.
Travel Tip: Start early in the morning to avoid the crowds and keep in mind that you are hiking down first.
After we finished that hike, the had lunch overlooking the canyon. After lunch, we hiked the Fairyland Loop which was less crowded and still very beautiful. We were exhausted after hiking both but it was a great way to see a lot of the park. We hiked a total of 17 miles that day! We then went to Bryce Point to watch the sunset. While the sunset was nice, the real win was watching the sunrise from sunrise point the following morning. The colors on the rocks was absolutely breathtaking and it a must for anyone that visits the park. After sunrise, we hiked the Sheep Creek Trail to finish our time at Bryce. The trail was a nice change because we didn’t see anyone else and it was through the woods. The hoodoos in Bryce Canyon were amazing and I definitely recommend visiting this park!