Bryce Canyon is located in the southwestern portion of Utah. It is a very scenic part of the Colorado Plateau, a plateau whose area encompasses the Vermillion Cliffs, Zion National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park, among other parks and natural areas. If you look at the geographical significance of Bryce in relation to the other areas mentioned, you see that Bryce represents the highest and therefore newest part of the plateau.
The area was designated as a park September 15th, 1928. It was named after a pioneer, Ebenezer Bryce, who actually built a road to the top of the canyon for retrieving lumber. This was around 1880 when it became known as Bryce's Canyon and then in 1924 the area was name Utah National Park and then 1928 trumped them all.
The elevation of Bryce is well over a mile high, I think it approaches 10,000 feet. At this elevation, days, even in the summer are relatively cool, but the sun is strong, so bring some sunscreen. The rainy season, usually from mid-summer to the end of summer, is usually heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon. In winter you can expect to see a good bit of snow, but, once again thanks to the altitude, the strong sun makes the days' temperatures mild. When I camped there last September, at night it got down into the 30's, which made for some cold sleeping in a tent, but the weather was beautiful during the day. If you go to visit, in my opinion, that would be the best time to go and camp.
Along with camping, there is a good bit of hiking that you can do if you visit. The camping can be done at marked out campgrounds or at large in the "backcountry". In order to camp in the backcountry, you need to obtain a permit first. There are some hotels set up just outside the park entry and there is a lodge now in the park too, if I remember correctly. There was also a big, fancy visitor center under construction when I went.
There are deer all over the place. I believe that they are mule deer. There are wolves or coyotes, which one I don't know, but I heard them howling when they woke me from my sleep at night. There are other large mammals, like bears and mountain lions too. The birds in the area include hawks and eagles and I think that California condors also have been spotted, thanks to a project at the Vermillion Cliffs to bring them back. Due to the elevation, I don't believe there are many reptiles, but that might be because I didn't see a single one.
There is little precipitation in the area and so most of the flora is adapted to a drier climate, small bushes and such. Somehow though, you still get those rather big ponderosa pines, which give you that rather nice foresty feel.
The big draw to the park are the vistas to the east. The park is set up more or less along a north-south axis and there are theatres, I don't remember the word they used, of hoodoos to the east side. You can walk down among them and look up at the spires of pink/coral/orangeish rock and marvel at their beauty. Two of the formations I remember were called Thor's Hammer and Wall Street. Thor's Hammer was a huge tower of rock that was hard to miss and Wall Street was a series of spires against a side of the canyon that had an arch of rock in it.
To walk through the main theatre in the park, it takes about 2 days to see everything. This is where most of the tourists go and as much as I got to see. The park is around 10 miles distance from the entrance to the opposite end. To get to the other end of the park, you could take a shuttle, no cost. I didn't get a chance to because I was at the park September 13 and because of the prior events, my flight back to the east coast ended up changing around my plans for my stay there. When you are looking at the hoodoos and facing east, there is a huge butte further east that also looks pretty cool and there is a valley between the park and the butte that appears rather idyllic.
I haven't seen a lot of the other parks, but the colors and shapes of the hoodoos make it very appealing, I encourage anyone to stop and spend a couple of days there when they go and visit the Grand Canyon or Zion.
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