Over the next few days, we visited the top and the bottom of “Grand Staircase Escalante”: a series of giant plateaus and cliffs that form “steps” from southern Utah into Northern Arizona. The top step is Bryce Canyon, with it’s ubiquitous sandstone spires, called “hoodoos”.
We left our campsite near Capitol Reef on my 33rd birthday. I called home using the free WiFi at the Torrey Visitor Center.
Then we drove southwest down Hwy 12, which is the second road we’ve been on called the “Million Dollar Highway”. It was very slow- going, but it took us on top of ridges with some cool views.
We were so happy to park up. Just outside Bryce Canyon National Park, Dixie National Forest has a bunch of dispersed campsites. Our site was large and we spotted a few grazing deer!
The National Park Service wasn’t messing around when they set up the park. They have frequent shuttle buses that bring you in. There are very good bike lanes that even went out to our campground! Like other national parks, there are recycling bins and water refill stations everywhere. But Bryce also has bars, pizza restaurants and free bus tours. They even publish their own seasonal paper, The Hoodoo. Their motto: “Hoodoo you love?”.
We rode our bikes in and took the bus tour! The tour lasts for three hours, schlepping you to the farthest point in the park, Rainbow Point, and stopping at a few viewpoints on the way back. Maybe not surprisingly, we were the youngest people and some of the only ones without giant visors. Our driver’s name was Jay and he made the three hours pretty entertaining.
Feeling less sedentary, we walked the combination of the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trails. The Hoodoo recommended doing it in a clockwise fashion and we completely back that. It was a walk you might come across in a dream.
The Navajo Trail loop was full of tourists! But they were all going the opposite way. We still preferred the direction we went though; there was a surprise at every turn!
The following day we drove to St George, near the Nevada border. We had ourselves a “big city” kind of day: we did laundry, washed the van, went to mall to buy new shoes, ate at Cracker Barrel with our gift card, and finished with long showers at Planet Fitness. It’s funny how, after weeks of trying to avoid overpriced tourist shops, you’re actually happy to see the big chain stores!
We went back to gym the next morning and actually worked out. Edd always does the 30 minute express workout while I use the free weights.
At the grocery store cafeteria we got two bean burritos for a dollar. Their in-house Starbucks was doing a buy-one-get-one cold brew special, and we jumped on that. It made our burrito lunch fancy, and caffeinated our afternoon drive to the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon
We crossed the Arizona border on our way to the Grand Canyon’s north rim. This is the less popular side because it’s farther away from civilization. But there were plenty of places for us to set up camp in Kaibab National Forest, just outside the north rim entrance.
When we parked up, we saw we had a missing hubcap! Also, three of our cupboard latches have broken so our dishes currently live in the sink. We are looking pretty ragged and we haven’t even left the US.
The next day we went to the park’s north rim lodge. It has a huge veranda where you can eat dinner overlooking the lowermost step of the “Grand Staircase”.
We drove to a few other viewpoints. Then we walked the Cape Final trail to another lookout point, which the ranger had recommended. The trail took us through the forest, so it was nice and shady. But I think I would have rather taken the trail down into the canyon, at least partway.
The top and the bottom of the “staircase” looked and felt completely different. Exploring the trails at Bryce Canyon was perfect. The next time we visit the Grand Canyon, I’d do a mule ride! Or some rafting? I love being inside canyons, looking up.
But we weren’t done with our Southwest adventures yet! We were still going to see Aunt Maggie in Flagstaff. And it’s a good thing there weren’t any staircases there!