Zion and Bryce Canyon
This month’s trip brought me into Utah for the first time, with plans to see both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. We spent two days in Zion and one day in Bryce Canyon, starting early to avoiding the busy holiday crowds. Utah’s canyons and mountains were very impressive, especially where covered with snow.
Date Range – February 12-15
Campground – Private land
Distance – 435 miles
Closest Town – Virgin, UT
The drive out on a Friday afternoon should have put us near Zion around 9pm, but afternoon traffic outside Los Angeles set us back a few hours. We didn’t arrive in Springdale until just before midnight. One of my favorite things about driving through the night is the surprise of a new landscape in the morning. The view the next day a bright mix of wide green trees and tall red cliffs in all directions.
The first stop was the Emerald Pools trail which looped around the green ponds back into a tall waterfall that poured down onto a mound of snow. We stayed for a while, but decided to head out when a group with more than 10 children came to challenge the silence.
Before leaving for Kolob Canyon, we stopped by the visitor center in an attempt to find tips on a more secluded campground than offered in the park itself. We got a few leads and headed out and around towards the northwestern part of the park. Kolob Canyon was incredibly impressive, with the tall snow covered peaks and deep red canyon walls. The hike up to Timber Creek Overlook revealed panoramic views of both Kolob Canyon and the Pine Valley Mountains.
One of our options for camping was on Bureau of Land Management land, but the better option was on private land. There’s a man who owns some land near Virgin between Kolob Terrace Road and North Creek who opens it up to campers at no cost. We found a spot next to the creek and set up camp. The ground was a fine powdery sand, perfect for walking around barefoot at night.
The next morning we made the drive up to Bryce Canyon where the landscape was covered in over two feet of snow. Temperatures steadily crept below freezing as we climbed to around 8,000 feet above sea level. Walking around the hoodoos was pretty cool, though the trails were pretty icy.
The final day of hiking back inside Zion was designated for Angels Landing, which was the main attraction for myself. We didn’t get the early start that we wanted, but it worked out when the sun was at it’s peak by the time we reached the top. The chained section wasn’t as treacherous as I anticipated, and we got the chance to spot a critically endangered condor sitting within the canyon.
A California Condor sunbathes below Angels Landing
This was a great overall trip, especially with the campground we stumbled upon. I can’t understate how awesome the campsite was with the clay sand to walk around on 50 feet from a creek. Between the three main attractions of this trip, I’d list my order of favorites as Kolob Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and finally Angels Landing.