Above: Bryce Canyon National Park. Courtesy Library of Congress. Right: Looking up at some of the spires in the park. Courtesy National Park Service.
Bryce Canyon is one of those places that's so colorful, it looks as if Disney had been involved. But they haven't. It's only grand and glorious nature that has taken out its vibrant palette and brushes the canvas of this Utah park with such colorful hues.
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Bryce Canyon National Park Then
Long before it's designation as a national wonder in the 1920s, Bryce Canyon had been a series of wondrous amphitheatres that nature had carved from colorful rock. Somewhat misnamed as the area is not actually a canyon, but a series of those amphitheatres in horseshoe style, the pristine views that abound within, and above and beyond, them, have marvelled Indians, trappers, and vacationers for hundreds of years. Actually, people havce inhabited the area for 10,000 years. That's right, 10,000. Paleoindians passed through the area then, the Pueblo and Paiute tribes hunted there in summer after that, and Mormon pioneers eventually came to inhabit nearby areas, harnessingd the water for the valleys below. There's never been too much full time habitation, however, as the harsh snowy winters are tough to endure, even today.
Photo above: Early view from 1925 of Bryce Canyon Lodge. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: Back patio at Bryce Canyon Lodge. Courtesy National Park Service.
Bryce Canyon National Park Now
Although not at the top of the conversation about four corners national parks and their next vacation due to its larger cousins at the Grand Canyon and Zion, (but it's not like Bryce doesn't have a whole lot of fans with over 2 million attending each year, just that the Grand Canyon gets over 4 million and Zion nearly 3 million) there are those that think Bryce Canyon may be the best of them all. That's purely subjective, of course, when you're talking about some of the most majestic scenery in the United States, ... actually anywhere in the world. So if you're venturing out into the southwest for a vacation, don't miss out on Bryce Canyon National Park. You'll be glad you ventured a bit further north from that Grand Canyon and those walls of wonder at Zion.
In some ways visiting Bryce is a more personal experience, but that may be because it's size, at 35,000 acres, is not as overwhelming as a national park like the Grand Canyon with its more than a million acres, or even Zion, which is four times as large, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both. It's possible to hike the length of the tough loops if you're into backcountry adventure, and perhaps complete the thirty miles without spending the entire summer to do it. But it's not like there's not a whole lot to see. There are so many viewsheds, amphitheatres, and recreational opportunities to whet that natural wonder, plus horseback riding, park ranger tours, a shuttle bus (it runs April to October, usually from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.), and a whole lot more.
Bryce Canyon has been a protected place within the national park service since Warren Harding made it a national monument in 1923. Five years later it was designated a national park.
It's All About the Views - They are almost impossible to describe, so the only real way is for you to see them for yourself. Whether you take the free shuttle or choose to walk or ride around the park by yourself, stop at the many viewpoints around the park. From Sunrise Point to Sunset Point, to Inspiration Point or Bryce Point, or all the way south, eighteen miles, to Rainbow and Yovimpa Points, there's so many wonders in that spectrum of colors which abound at every turn, you many even need an extra camera card to capture it all.
T-Shirts and Souvenirs
Bryce Canyon T-Shirts and Souvenirs. Official gear from Americabesthistory.com.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Things You Should Not Miss
1. Take the free shuttle bus to the favorite spots at Bryce. It's not mandatory, (you're still allowed to drive), but can be a great way to wander the park and leave the driving behind. The shuttle can be boarded from outside the park and at over a dozen other places around the park. For those that like something guided, there's even a twice daily guided shuttle bus to Rainbow Point. This tour takes about four hours.
2. Take the hike, and we mean that in a good way. There are a variety of hiking trails ranging from easy to hard. Remember, plenty of water, good shoes, and the park is at high elevation, so this may not be for everyone.
3. Let a ranger be your guide. Check at the visitor center for the daily schedule of walks and talks. Whether you're into history, or geology, they're an invaluable guide to what makes Bryce Canyon such a special place.
Photo above: Bryce Canyon in snow from Piracy Point looking northeast. Courtesy National Park Service.