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  • Lyndell Daniel

Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef, Utah

After an amazing, and too short a time at Zion National Park, we left way too late to head to our next stop Bryce Canyon. Leaving the Canyon overlook about 5.30pm it should have taken around 1 hour 20 minutes to reach Bryce Canyon, but there were stops due to the stunning scenery, which meant we arrived around 7.45pm. It was extremely dark (pitch black in fact) and we couldn't find the turn off for Bryce Canyon Lodge. We ended up pulling into the closed Visitor Centre and were lucky to find a local who told us to look for the tiny sign about a mile up the road. I was starting to think we would have to spend the night in the car.

In the daylight it was easy to find your cabin, but around 9.30 at night and in the pitch black, with a little headlamp, we did struggle. There appeared to be a maze of cabins and even with our map it took some time. Luckily everyone else was asleep, as we must have looked ridiculous with our headlamps, separating from each other and walking up each row of cabins peering at the numbers. I can guarantee there was no logic to the numbering system of the cabins :)

After a very late night (somewhere around midnight) we woke probably a little too late, but still managed to snap this shot of the canyon as the sun was rising.

Hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) exist on every continent, but at Bryce Canyon, is the largest concentration found anywhere on Earth. The views as you walk the Canyon Rim are amazing. I would assume most visitors to the park will spend at least some time marvelling at its four main viewpoints as we did, all found within the first few miles of the park: Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. You can walk easily between Sunrise and Sunset Points.

Remember though you are at 8,500ft and some people we talked to, did feel and struggle with the altitude. I believe we were lucky as we visited in late October and there were definitely very few people. I read that over two million visitors come to experience the otherworldly magic of Bryce Canyon National Park each year, most between March and early October.

There are many other viewpoints found all along the park's 18-mile main road which travels from the park's only entrance in the north along the plateau rim to its highest elevations in the south (over 9,000 ft / 2,743 m). So after spending some time walking the Canyon Rim, we drove along the park's 18-mile road, stopping at many lookouts. This is the view from Rainbow lookout.

We then headed back to explore the Canyon further. Bryce Canyon offers several day-hiking trails. Many of these trails are interconnected, as such you can combine several of the basic trails. We were heading below the rim to cover as many of the trails that we could whilst we had daylight.

Just keep in mind that all trails below the rim involve steep climbs out of the canyon, which can slow your ascent and at this time of year, it can become dark quite quickly. Two popular hikes are Wall Street and the Navajo loop trail. Both of the shots above are taken with our iPhone. The second selfie photo just didn't work, as we couldn't get up the hill quick enough for the timer on the iPhone.

Bryce Canyon is not a single canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls, carved into the edge of a high plateau. The most famous of these is the Bryce Amphitheater which is filled with irregularly eroded spires of rocks called hoodoos.

Different photo angles brought up different lighting of the hoodoos.

"Wind, water and time have eroded Bryce Canyon National Park's sandstone cliffs into otherworldly characters plucked from the unconscious of a mad Viking. Rows of humanoid pillars crosshatched by rock strata look almost intentional but perfectly surreal. So silent, eerie and beautiful." So improbable it has to be true.

The word "hoodoo" means to bewitch, which is what Bryce Canyon's rock formations surely do.

Hoodoos are tall skinny shafts of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins. In common usage, the difference between Hoodoos and spires is that hoodoos have a variable thickness often described as having a "totem pole-shaped body." A spire, on the other hand, has a smoother profile or uniform thickness that tapers from the ground upward.

We came across these Mule Deer after a nice dinner in Bryce.

Weather-wise, Bryce Canyon makes the mercury mercurial, with big temp shifts from season to season and even day to day. This is due to Bryce’s dizzying elevation — a cool 8,000–9,000 feet — and makes it a much cooler park than nearby Zion. Breakfast on the Rim - which was actually freezing cold following snow falls throughout the night; but how could you not brave the cold for such a view.

On the day of our departure, we wanted to also explore the wonders of the Canyon on horseback. A brisk early morning ride into the Canyon was fantastic.

Just like the images out of an old Western film.

So we were now on our way from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef via Scenic Byway 12: isolated canyons, grand plateaus that rise 9,000-feet above sea level, deep valleys that plunge to 4,000-feet and the natural and man-made history to prove it. This 124-mile byway is one of the most scenic in the nation. "Locals say you can do it in three hours or three days. Others say it will take three years to fully take advantage of all it has to offer." Unfortunately we didn't have three days or three years, but managed to see some magnificent scenery on the way.

It’s not often that a road makes a must-see list, but Highway 12 is not like most roads. Winding between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, the 124-mile road takes you on a whiplash tour of some of the most remote and diverse landscapes on earth, from sagebrush plains to rugged red buttes and alpine forests.

Plus, the road is a gateway to a bevy of state parks, national monuments and old-time ranching communities, offering dozens of chances to stretch your legs and blow your mind.

Once reaching our accommodation, Capitol Reef Resort, Torrey, it was time to lay the cameras down - well only for a short time anyway.

The view from our room.

The stars were magnificent – and the jackets important at -3 degree.

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