Bryce to Zion National Park
May 29, 2011
Bryce Canyon, Sunset Point
We spent our time at Bryce Canyon at Sunset Point, from which we took the Navajo Loop Trail. The Sunset Point was crowded when we left for our hike, but when we returned shortly after noon, it was totally swamped with people and vehicles. We were told that Memorial Day Weekend is their busiest of the year. So we fled toward Zion National Park. From Bryce Canyon it was about 90 miles to Springdale, Utah where we had reservations. We left Bryce about 12:30 and reached the Zion east gate at about 2:20.
Zion National Park
We drove from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park. The dramatic colorful rock formations are evident here at the entrance gate to the park. It was very windy and cool - a striking contrast to our last visit here when it was 105 F!
The dramatic mountains were visible from the very beginning of the 12 mile drive to Springdale through the southern part of Zion National Park.
Checkerboard mesa is one of the famous landmarks of Zion which we remembered from our first trip. Its strange rectangular grid of cracks is pretty distinctive. It is very close to the east entrance.
What I had not remembered was that Checkerboard Mesa essentially has a twin, and that together they tower over the roadway at the entrance to the park.
This is a roadside view about 10 minutes into our drive. I was intriqued by the coral-colored sand which accented the green sagebrush.
Perhaps a native of the area would find this quite ordinary, but I found it abosolutely exquisite. The combination of sand, sagebrush and pine, other desert plants, and the rock structures put me in a reverie.
The road is included in this view to show the scale of the formations and the nature of the road through this valley.
I was amazed at the places where trees could hold on, and at the lush green of the vegetation.
Now these are some tenacious trees! I can't believe that large trees can survive in a crack up on a rock wall!
We got this fantastic view of this mountain to the north of the road at about 30 minutes into our trip. We had reached the queue for the tunnel at about 25 minutes in. If you have to wait, they certainly provided some nice scenery to entertain you. Actually it only took us about six minutes to get through the tunnel from the time we entered the queue.
The towering red rock structures are hard to believe.
This particular mountain is what comes into my mind to characterize Zion. It is an amazing massive piece of red rock!
We are in a line of traffic going down the long switchbacks on the westward side of the tunnel. It had just taken us 30 minutes to reach this point from the east entrance, so it was quite efficient.
We had seen a couple of windows as we came through the mile-long dark tunnel, but that didn't tell you how far from the top of the rock we were. The picture above shows you, and I was amazed at the height of the rock. The window in that massive rock looks tiny, but as you can see at right, is is on the order of 20 feet wide.
We continued the short distance toward the westward entrance of the park. The beauty of the weather enhanced the beauty of the massive rock formations of western Zion.
We reached the town of Springdale, just on the southeast corner of Zion Park at about 3pm, and took this picture of the mountains of Zion Park from the front of the motel. The motel, and in fact all of Springdale, was nice and clean and accommodating. We took about an hour to settle into our rooms and then took off for a late afternoon trip up Zion Canyon on the free shuttle buses.