Bryce Canyon NP - Amphitheater Hike
Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
34Trip End Aug 23, 2010
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Well, the folks we talked to yesterday were right - the views from the top of the canyon are nothing compared to walking among the hoodoos themselves!
This national park is so unique that even its features seem to have individual personalities all their own.
The "problem", if you can even call it that, is that so many American National Parks make such a small proportion of their space readily accessible to your average, garden-variety tourist. For example, I think I heard somewhere that 20% of Yosemite is in the Valley, which is visited by almost everyone who enters the park. But that means that 80% of the protected area is never even seen by at least half of the people who go there, and an even smaller percentage is actually experienced or enjoyed by those who leave the major roads and hike or ride out into the wilderness!
In much the same way, Bryce Canyon is beautiful and anyone in the area should at least stop by and see it. But ideally, whenever you do get there, you will have left yourself enough time to hike down into the canyon and commune with the "inhabitants". I couldn't believe how much the landscape changed just depending on which side of a hoodoo you were standing, or how the lighting shifted depending on whether it was slightly before or after noon!
In fact, I was really pleased to see that of all the national parks we have visited, Bryce seems to do the best job of advertising hiking trails and advocating getting right up close and personal with nature. Check out their website's Virtual Tour if you haven't already!
The trail we took was described as a "figure eight" in the park newspaper, starting from Sunrise Point and taking the Queen's Garden trail down into the amphitheater. Then we (eventually) found the Peekaboo Loop - narrowly missing a rattlesnake on the trail as you can see! - and we added a "bonus" leg by hiking back out to the rim at Bryce Point. That spur was not included in the literature, probably because of the additional elevation and exertion that it took, but we thought it well worth the effort because many of our best "hole-in-the-rock" and arches pictures were taken on that little addition.
We ate lunch at the top of Bryce Point, and then back down to finish the other half of Peekaboo Loop, which was in and of itself quite an unexpected workout!
(See first switchback photo.) Then we finally clambered out via the Navajo Trail (see subsequent switchback photos!), which was partially closed due to a rockslide the night before. Thus the trails were swimming with maintenance crews, and luckily so as they were always good for a story or little-known fact about the nearby features!
The flip side was that we tried to stay ahead of the noisy, dusty motorized wheelbarrows, and the sun was out in full force by early afternoon, so when we finally emerged we were POOPED!!!
(The picture at left is really a video of the barrows maneuvering up the switchbacks, so don't forget to click-and-play! And please let me know if the videos don't work for you - I think there is a Flash plug-in you might have to download or I could try something different when I post them.)
All in all our trek totaled about 8 miles and 2,100 feet: not bad for the second outing of the season!
Although perhaps I should wait and see if we can walk tomorrow before I gloat. ;)
We probably won't get to it on this trip, but while on our walk today some fellow hikers recommended the Fairyland Loop through the north end of the park for great scenery and a lack of crowds.
Those of you who remember our penchant for huckleberry ice cream from last spring will be happy for us that we unexpectedly found some of the best ever at Old Bryce Town! The scoops were so large and piled so high that we joked afterwards about eating a "huckleberry hoodoo". And it was a bonus that we got to talk to a very knowledgeable fellow RV'er (complete with Siamese cat!) at the neighboring rock shop! :)