Okay – back to those awesome canyons!! We left our beloved boon-docking site outside of Zion National Park and headed to Kanab, Utah. Instead of driving up to Bryce with the trailer, we opted to stay in (cringing here) an RV park in Kanab. Three reasons: the weather was supposed to get real cold up in Bryce Canyon and possibly snow, we wanted to charge up our batteries, and I wanted to take advantage of the campground WiFi to get some blog posting done and job searching.
Some advice regarding RV/campground review sites is in order here. I checked with some RV park review sites prior to making reservations and the RV park we decided to stay in received *mostly* really good ratings – especially with regards to WiFi, which was the main reason I chose this spot. I am learning that while these reviews can be somewhat worthwhile, there are definite flaws.
To end this RV park saga on a positive note, we were able to get our batteries charged up, and we could walk to the local grocery store.
BRYCE CANYON – LAND OF THE HOODOOS!
My first impression of Bryce Canyon was how utterly different it is from Zion. The name Bryce Canyon is somewhat misleading as it is not technically a canyon but a series of large amphitheaters carved out of the limestone rock. Over time, water seeping into cracks was subject to a “freeze-thaw” weathering action and this type of erosion formed the basis of the geological landscape we see today. The cracks were formed during a major uplift many, many years ago that created the Colorado Plateau and the Grand Staircase. The principle rock in Bryce Canyon is referred to as the Pink Cliffs – an apt description given the color of the rock!
Our plan was to only spend one day in the park so we had to make some decisions regarding how to budget our time. We wanted to get down into the canyon and hike for most of the day, and the Peekaboo Trail was recommended to us by some folks we talked to in Zion. We hiked what is referred to as the Navajo-Peekaboo Loop starting at Sunset Point. The total mileage is about 5 miles – so perfect for half a day of hiking!
The Navajo Trail descends steeply for about a mile and then intersects with the Peek-a-Boo Trail.
It was hard to keep up a strong pace – around every corner in the trail there was another photo opportunity!
I would highly recommend this trail – while it’s not extremely strenuous it does have multiple elevation changes along the way to keep things interesting and it’s not hard to keep the heart rate up!
After our hike on the Peek-a-Boo Trail, we had some daylight left so we decided to take a driving tour along the whole park to the end of the road at Rainbow Point. We stopped at all of the scenic pull-offs along the way!
At Rainbow Point, there is a short 2-mile hike called the Bristlecone Pine Loop. We decided to hike this trail in search of some more of the cool pine trees! At the far end of the loop, there is a daunting drop-off and view of the valley beyond.
We enjoyed our day trip to Bryce. There are a number of other trails that would be nice to hike if we ever get in this area again. There are also some backpacking areas that might be appealing towards the south end of the park.
CANYON DE CHELLY NATIONAL MONUMENT
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is unique among our national treasures. It is located withing the Navajo Reservation near Chinle, Arizona. The area is administered jointly by the National Park Service and the Navajo Nation. The Navajo have made their home here since the 1700’s and they continue to farm and raise livestock within the canyon today. Because of this, many parts of the canyon are off-limits to tourists unless accompanied by Navajo guides.
We stayed in only campground within the park – the Cottonwood Campground. There are no hook-ups but there is a dump station on-site. The campground is operated by the Navajo and was very convenient for exploring the park.
There is only one trail that allows public access without a guide called the White House Trail. It leads to an ancient Puebloan village ruin that was occupied about 1,000 years ago. We opted to hike this trail and then take a road trip along the South Rim Drive to see more of the canyon from the top.
While the hike is only 2.5 miles round-trip, it is a canyon after all! So, it’s steep going down and steep going back up – no getting around that unless you take one of the jeep tours that drive you right up to the ruins! It’s an absolutely breathtaking hike. The canyon is beautiful. It’s not hard to understand why it’s been inhabited for thousands of years. What an oasis!
The White House Ruins are fascinating. There is a tall fence that prohibits access up close, but you can still get a pretty terrific view of the ancient village and some petroglyphs.
Since it was October when we visited, the farms were all put to rest in the bottom of the canyon, but you could still see evidence of the small plots of cultivated earth.
Our drive along the South Rim road was relaxing and we stopped off at many of the overlooks along the way. Usually, in the parking lots of the overlooks, there would be several Navajo selling various pieces of artwork and crafts. While we did not buy anything, we did chat with many of the merchants and it was interesting to hear a little about their lives and some of the crafts they were selling.
I highly recommend taking the time to detour to Canyon de Chelly if you are in the area. It’s deep in Navajo country, and not exactly on the way to anywhere – but well worth the effort. By the time we left, we were enchanted with this special place. There truly is something very mystical about the place.
One more canyon to go – but I’ll leave that for the next post since it’s in Texas!