Too Hot and Too Crowded in Zion National Park? Try Bryce Canyon National Park
Zion National Park: Too popular?Zion is a beautiful park (by the way it is Zion, not Zions, and it is pronounced ZI'-on), but it is also way too hot and way too crowded. Approaching mid-August and the temps are finally dropping into the low nineties in Zion. That's great, but the crowds are not subsiding. To get into the park you have to sit in your car with the A/C running as you inch toward the entry gate. Once inside the park there may be no place to park so you would have been better off to park somewhere in Springdale and taking the free shuttle. If you do get into the park and find a place to park the shuttle inside the park may be completely full and you may have to wait for several shuttles to pass by before you can find one with room to board -- especially if you're with family or friends. A single person might be able to squeeze aboard.
Bryce Canyon National Park: Great alternativeSo, what is your alternative. You want to visit a National Park. You're in Southern Utah. Well, don't give up hope for a fantastic trip. Just an hour or so from Zion is another great National Park. The good news is that it is not nearly so crowded as Zion. More good news -- it is probably 15 degrees cooler. Bryce Canyon National Park is an absolutely stunningly beautiful park. And that is no exaggeration.
One of the wonderful aspects of Bryce Canyon is the opportunities provided to view much of the park by car and on foot. You can drive to many very scenic places and there are many short walks and trails at some of these points, making this an exceptional park for accessibility for those who might otherwise be unable to fully enjoy the park.
There are interpretative programs with Rangers offering talks, evening programs and even guided walks. These are offered year round and I would add that seeing Bryce in winter is worth making a second trip to Bryce -- the beautiful white snow on the glowing red rocks is a spectacular sight.
If you are a hiker you may already know that Southern Utah is a paradise for your favorite activity. Bryce offers a number of great hikes and they are all special. My most recent hike was a combination of the Fairyland Loop down among the hoodoos with a return to my starting point along the Rim Trail. This roughly 8 mile adventure takes you down to the bottom of the canyon and back up along the edge providing close-up views as well as panoramic vistas of the magical trail beginning at Fairyland Point. Allow 3 to 5 hours, depending on your pace. The elevation loss and gain is roughly 1700 feet. Do stay on the trail -- nature will provide sufficient erosion. Be sure your camera or phone battery is fully charged -- you'll want to take lots of photos. And, carry plenty of water, maybe a snack or two and please wear appropriate footwear. Save your flipflops for the beach. The trail is smooth enough for tennis/running type shoes, but hiking shoes/boots are even better.
When you get to the park you will be given a newsprint map and guide with lots of information. Be sure and read it before you start out on your tour of the park -- it will answer lots of questions and offer some good advice for things to see and do in the park.
Another special feature of Bryce is the darkness. If you can plan to arrive on a moonless night you have a chance to see something you may have heard about but never actually seen. The Milky Way (no, not the chocolate candy bar) is highly visible because Bryce Canyon is one of the darkest places on Earth. Venus and Jupiter will appear so bright that they will actually create shadows! But, if you can't make it on a moonless night you might want to shoot for a full moon when Rangers offer guided night-hikes among the moon-lit hoodoos.
Words of caution
Please leave your drones at home or locked in the trunk of your car. They are illegal in ALL National Parks and violators are subject to legal action and fines.
Pets are allowed only on paved areas and park campgrounds and must be leashed.
Enjoy our wonderful National Parks
And, Keep On Traveling!
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Robert Painter is an adventure travel writer currently residing in Southern Utah. When not traveling around the globe his time is spent hiking and exploring the wonderful and beautiful red rock surroundings of his new home.
Photos: Robert Painter