We left Page this morning, heading for more red rock country. We stopped for a quick look at Lake Powell (and a couple of quick Arizona geocaches), then drove straight to Bryce Canyon. It was only 60 miles from Page as the crow flies, but took 2.5 hours by road.
Although Bryce Canyon is at high altitude (between 8,000 and 9,000 feet), it was surprisingly warm with temperatures well above freezing. We were able to enjoy a picnic outside at Sunset Point. The view from Sunset Point was beautiful – it looked out over Bruce Canyon, the largest of the amphitheatres in the park. Bryce Canyon has a unique landscape made up of thousands of pillars of rock called “Hoodoos” which are caused by erosion and water freezing in rock cracks. Looking at the view from the top, I did have my doubts that this park was going to be as spectacular as the others. I wondered if I was starting to get slightly immune to the sight of amazing red rocks?
After we were re-fuelled from lunch, we set off on a 3 mile hike down into the amphitheatre. The Queens-Navajo trail loop was described as “the best 3 mile hike in the world”, so we thought it was worth checking out. As we dropped below the rim of the canyon, it became an entirely different world. It was like walking through a fairy tale land, with the contrast of the intense red rocks and the snow everywhere. The entire hike was snowy and icy, but we are quite used to that now. In fact it was wonderful to have the snow and ice back after three days at lower elevations. We will really miss the snow when we leave the South West.
The trail took us to the bottom of the canyon, along the canyon floor through a forest and then back up a different part of the canyon. The hike back up was steep and shady with switch backs. It was a bit like following the orange brick road. We have seen some amazing places over the last three weeks, but for me this hike topped them all. The surreal landscape and the incredible contrasts made it the best hike yet.
We must be getting fitter as the climb back was no problem, even at high altitude. The muscles were still a bit sore from the horse riding, but the legs felt much better after a decent hike. We checked into our hotel after the hike and had a lovely soak in the outdoor hot tub. The pool was out of action though – frozen solid! This is a lovely new hotel and we were lucky to be upgraded to a suite. It’s nice to have a bit more room to spread out.
The dinner choice here was an easy one as there is only one restaurant open off-season. In spite of the Rough Guide describing the Cowboy Buffet and Grill as having “consistently atrocious food”, we enjoyed a perfectly edible buffet. We are looking forward to another day here tomorrow to explore more of the park.