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The American Southwest – Day 2/3 – Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks

After leaving Valley of Fire, we made our way to the outfitter town of Springdale, UT, just outside of Zion National Park. We got settled in at a cramped and packed tent site behind a Quality Inn, found some dinner and passed out. We were up around 5:30 AM to break camp, park at the main visitor’s center and hit our early morning tram through the park getting glimpses of the peaks as the sun started to rise. All the way out to the very last stop at the Temple of Sinawava, out along a 1 mile Riverside Walk where we saw some grazing deer, to the start of the Lower Narrows. We made our way through ankle all the way to neck high water crossings, with only a handful of fellow hikers coming and going in the early shade of the canyon. It was a crazy beautiful, magnificent hike that I would recommend to everyone. It is an out and back hike that is nice if you just want to go a mile in, or 10 to some of the backcountry sites, which I would love to do next time from the top down. We made our way close to 5 miles in near the Big Spring campsite. The place turned into a giant pool party of families on the last few miles back out, so get there EARLY if you are looking for some tranquility in the scenery. This area, sadly, is where I got tripped up and dunked the left half of my body in the water, bricking up my iPhone that was in my front chest pocket, so all my shots for these posts are either my old Brownie or my main 5D MKIII.

SHM_9044 SHM_9050Riverside Walk with first light in the distance

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Bryce Canyon National Park

From Zion, we made our way to the lesser known Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s an amazing crescent shaped park that hugs the rim of the canyon, filled with breath taking scenic lookouts, hoodoos, or tall spires that have been eroded over time, great star gazing, and a handful of pretty awesome looking back country sites in the canyon. We made our way in, set up camp at #250 at the Sunset Campground in the park and hit the trails. Our loop was the figure eight Navajo Loop – Peakaboo Loop – Queen’s Garden – and back out to Sunset point. It was around a 9 mile, fairly strenuous hike down into the canyon, through some amazing formations, and eventually wove its way back out. After that we walked to a handful of viewpoints and drove to the very end of the park for some others. Settling in from the day hike, we cooked up some brats, had some beers, a crackling fire, and had some great luck to catch a ranger-led star watching event at the visitor’s center. With 5-6 telescopes pointing to different spots in the night sky, we saw Saturn, Jupiter and its moons, Mars, and a number of constellations before making our way back to camp to look up from our site to the night sky as the full moon rose overhead.

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View of Thor’s Hammer from the Navajo Loop Trail

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Our loop – in blue, Navajo – Peakaboo – Queens Garden

SHM_9319The Wall of Windows off the Peakaboo Loop

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SHM_9350 vert 3 SHM_9364 SHM_9372 dip 4Campsite #250 at Sunset Campgrounds

SHM_9422 SHM_9429Sunrise from Sunset Point, appropriate.

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