When my friend Daisy met Kevin for the first time, she immediately started asking him about Utah’s National Parks. Unlike most Canadians, Daisy actually knew what these parks had to offer. She even followed them on Instagram. As an avid hiker, exploring and hiking through these National Parks was on her bucket list.
At the time, I hadn’t even been to Utah. Needless to say, I was not following their conversation and was quite confused. Were we talking about the same place?
So when Kevin and I started planning our trip through some of Utah’s National Parks, I immediately invited Daisy. She picked some dates, hopped on a plane and showed up ready to go.
It was time to start crossing off some bucket list items.
Our first stop was Bryce Canyon National Park located 4 hours South of Salt Lake City. We left first thing in the morning to ensure that we had the entire afternoon to explore!
We were sssoo excited!
While the parks in Utah are out of this world, a drive through Utah can be extremely unexciting at times. So when we caught our first sights of red rock, we grabbed our cameras and starting snapping pictures.
We must be getting close.
As we pulled through Red Canyon, our excitement started to escalate. Kevin pulled over the car and we got out for some pictures.
“Should we go across the road and get more pictures with the red rock?!” Daisy questioned with excitement.
“Oh I think we’re going to see much better than this soon,” I answered back laughing.
She really had no idea what was coming.
Before we knew it, we were officially driving into the park!
We parked our car at Sunset Point, loaded on our day packs full of water, slathered ourselves with sunscreen, and adjusted our hats. Kevin and I extended our walking poles, slipped our hands through the straps and gripped the handles.
We were ready for our first hike through Bryce Canyon National Park!
As we took off towards the trail, Daisy stared at us in awe. “You guys look like serious hikers!”
Maybe it was the poles, maybe it was my knee strap, or maybe it was Kevin’s hat. But she was right. We are serious hikers.
Well, we look like serious hikers anyway.
As we approached the viewing area of Sunset Point, my heart started thumping with anticipation. Then I got my first full view of the Canyon and it, literally, took my breath away. The hoodoos in the canyon are unlike anything I’ve seen before. These tall skinny spires of rock, in all different colours and sizes, covered the canyon floor.
While I saw pictures prior to arriving, nothing could have prepared me for the beautiful colours, features and unique landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park. It is ssoo much better than the pictures.
Kevin smiled as he witnessed us experiencing it for the first time. “It’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?”
“It’s unbelievable!” we both kept repeating.
Seriously, how does something like this even exist?
Well, 30 to 40 million years ago, the rock of Bryce Canyon National Park formed as a plateau in an ancient lake covering most of Western Utah. This plateau consisted of siltstone, mudstone and limestone. Minerals deposited within the layers of the different rock created the variety of colours we see.
Over thousands of years, hoodoos slowly formed from this plateau through frost wedging and water erosion. In the winter, melting snow seeps into the cracks of the rock and freezes at night. As the water freezes, it slowly expands creating larger cracks in the rocks. Through other parts of the year, slightly acidic rainwater formed from the canyon slowly dissolves the limestone in the rock. In the summer, floods from monsoon type rainstorms flow through the canyon removing debris and further erodes the structures.
Over time, this erosion process enlarges fractures in the plateau to form narrow walls or fins. These narrow walls are eventually eroded away to form windows and arches in the rock. Finally, as the windows expand, the arches collapse leaving behind the hoodoos as they stand today.
While this process is seen in rock throughout Utah and in other parts of the world, no where are hoodoos as abundant as the Northern section of Bryce Canyon Nation Park.
How lucky for us?
After a small period of shock, Daisy and I erupted in excitement. We couldn’t get enough pictures of the canyon, of each other in front of the canyon, and of us together in front of the canyon. We wanted to capture every detail we possibly could.
I think it was at this time Kevin realized the hike was going to go much slower than anticipated…
Eventually, we made our way to the start of the Navajo Loop to lead us down into the canyon to experience the hoodoos up close and personal. We planned to combine the Navajo Loop with the Queen’s Garden Trail for a 2.9 mile (4.5 km) hike.
Over the next hour and half, we wound through the canyon’s path and along its rock walls. As Kevin kept his pace while soaking in the scenery, Daisy and I constantly fell behind taking as many pictures as we could. Every new turn and new angle presented new views we needed to capture!
We could not have chosen a better hike that day. The Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail is the best way to experience the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park. The views from Sunrise and Sunset Point on the rim are incredible but we got a totally different experience of Bryce Canyon from its canyon floor.
After the hike, we continued to drive further into the park and along the rim of the canyon to capture more spectacular views from above.
We all left the park that day incredibly satisfied and with immense gratitude. How lucky were we to get to experience such a special place on Earth?
For Daisy, her first taste of Utah’s National Parks was far better than she ever could have imagined!
Could it possible get better than this?
Next stop, Zion National Park!