Tour of Southern Utah continued…
After leaving Zion, we continued east on Route 9 to the Mount Carmel Junction. From there we headed north on Highway 89 through many small towns, including one that had a cluster of rock shops. My son picked the one that he had the best feeling about, and we pulled over to browse. Fossils, polished stones, crystals…very hard choices for a young man. Some encouragement was needed so we could get back on the road again!
After a short drive we were headed east on Route 12 and into Red Canyon. You can tell you’re getting close to Bryce Canyon, because of all the hoodoo formations along the road. They’re not nearly as spectacular as what you’d see in Bryce Canyon, but you get a good idea of what you’ll be seeing soon. What’s a hoodoo you ask? Hoodoo is the name given to the tall, thin spires of rock that Bryce Canyon is famous for.
Near the entrance to Bryce Caynon on Route 63 just off of Route 12, is a place called Ruby’s Inn. Established in 1916, it was once a small place, but has now grown into a full service resort. Several wings of rooms, a lodge, gas station, grocery store, swimming pool, RV Park, and my favorite, the buffet! The forecast wasn’t good for the evening, so we decided to get a room. Once checked in, we packed a lunch from the ice chest, and set out to see Bryce Canyon.
We took the turnoff to Sunrise Point to go hike the Queens Garden Trail. The drive to the trailhead is through the woods, and you still can’t see the canyon during the first part of the hike. The anticipation of the view builds as you start to realize how close you are. In just a minute or so into the hike, you reach the rim of the canyon for your first WOW moment.
Shortly after reaching the rim, you come to Sunrise Point, a high observation area above a spectacular amphitheater of hoodoos below. It’s fenced off, so you can relax a bit and not feel like you’re going to get sucked over the edge. Just below the point, the Queens Garden Trail begins. The Queens Garden Trail descends 320 feet, and is considered the least difficult trail entering the canyon from the rim.
But just because the trail is labeled as the least difficult, does not mean it isn’t a thrill to hike. There is a sign at the entrance urging people to have the appropriate footwear. The trail is kind of steep in places, and consists of slippery sand over hardpack. You definitely have to watch your footing. Although plenty wide, there are sheer drops at the edge of the trail at times. When Kristy and the boy wanted to lean over the edge for a peek, there was a lot of urging on my part to BE CAREFUL.
As you get further down into the canyon, you almost forget to marvel at the trail. It blends so well into the landscape as you wind in and out of the hoodoos. The National and State Park systems have created some pretty amazing things that allow us to experience the real world up close and personal. It’s sad to think our parks have been underfunded, and in some cases, even closed. I think people have forgotten that they are our country’s greatest treasures.
Once we had dropped most of the elevation, the trail flattened out, and the drop-offs were much less. Instead of looking down through the hoodoos, they now towered above us. Looking back, it was probably one of the most amazing parts of our Utah vacation. I felt like I had been plucked off the earth and set back down again in some other part of the world in a different time. Not simply the next state over, but in ancient Egypt perhaps. Something out of a movie.
Occasionally the trail would pass through little tunnels in the sandstone, giving the feeling that you were walking in an ancient temple. I half expected to see a pyramid or sphinx around the next bend.
We finally reached the Queens Garden, and decided it would be a great spot for a picnic. But mostly it was a chance to sit down, relax, and really be aware of the spectacular beauty around us. We tend to have attention deficit these days, and sometimes you have to remind yourself to stop, look, and listen. Not everything has to be rushed through.
After lunch, we retraced the path we had come in on. The climb back up wasn’t as steep as I had anticipated, and the scenery seemed all new from a different direction. Especially when it’s the type of trail that doesn’t let your eyes stray too far from where you’re stepping!
We returned to Ruby’s Inn after a fun day of hiking. The dark clouds had started to gather, and the wind was biting cold. I was glad to have the option of having a relaxing evening, and not be stuck huddled in the tent all night! We enjoyed a wonderful buffet with plenty of BBQ, and my son even got a swim in the indoor pool.
The next morning the family voted to move on down the road. Although Bryce Canyon National Park is quite large, and we had just barely explored it, there was still much to see down the road. We’ll definitely come back though, and hopefully even get to camp next time.
Next up…Kodachrome State Park!