We just finished visiting all of the “Mighty Five” Utah National Parks and they do, in fact, all have mighty rocks. It really is unbelievable and awe-inspiring. Our last post had photos of both Arches and Canyonlands and this post includes Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. We are headed back home tomorrow so wanted to share our experiences one last time.
Capitol Reef National Park is located about half way in between Arches/Canyonlands on one side and Bryce Canyon/Zion on the other. It is one of the least visited Utah NPs but it was still very busy with parking at a premium as usual. The canyon in Capitol Reef was created 60 million years ago and is called a Waterpocket Fold. Not sure I totally understand it but when the two tectonic plates met, they caused the rock to fold upward. Waterpocket comes from the fact that the acidic rainwater has caused the exposed rock form an indentation which holds water. This area is quite green and has plenty of water for farming. It was settled by a small group of Mormon farmers and they planted fruit trees. They have preserved the orchards and some of the buildings and it is a different setting than we usually see at a NP. They even sell homemade pies every day and we may have indulged in one or two or four! In our defense they were small and delicious. The other really cool thing about Capitol Reef is that they have two scenic loop drives that are on dirt roads. We took the first one and were thrilled that we got to cross a river with the pickup. The second drive involved the Burr Trail Switchbacks, these were less thrilling and more scary in my opinion. We drove so close to the edge! Oh ya, one last thing. The weather in Capitol Reef was cold… it didn’t snow but was mostly in the 20’s at night and 30’s during the day. Lots of layers of clothes for us.
Next we traveled to Bryce Canyon and now we had the pleasure of cold temperatures and snow! The campground was only about 1/3 of the way cleared of snow and the NP was even less. We only were there for two days but it really looks like a place we need to return–once the snow has melted. The road into the park was only open about 3 miles in but we were able to see quite a bit. We did the short walk between Sunrise and Sunset Points on the trail that was covered with compact snow and ice. Makes for an interesting hike. We also went up early to get a sunrise photo and it was spectacular. Did I mention it was 10 degrees out when we left the trailer around 6 AM? It was a first for both of us.
So we left Bryce Canyon for Zion NP and they are only about 2 hours drive apart, but the weather couldn’t be any different. We arrived to temperatures in the 70’s and it was mid-80’s by the next day. It is also about 100 times more crowded! Zion NP gets over 5 million visitors a year. Yikes and they all have to park and ride the shuttle buses into the park. It does take a bit of the fun out of the visit but it is still a beautiful place to go. Mike was able to obtain a permit to do the famous Angels Landing trail and his photos are amazing. Just keep in mind that at some places the trail is less than 3 feet wide with over 1400 foot drop on both sides. The last 1/2 mile is very steep and narrow. It has chains attached to the rock wall to help you pull yourself up and generally hang on for dear life. It was not a Kris hike to say the least but I was jealous that Mike saw a California Condor while up there. There are only 500 living in the wild but that is up from 27 in 1987.
After Zion we started home and are making an overnight stop in Tehachapi. We are camped well off the beaten path with an small airport behind us. Fun watching the airplanes take off pulling a glider plane up with them. Since we have been hearing about a “super bloom” with the rain this spring, we drove south this afternoon to the California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster. The vivid colors in the fields are a sight to see. Enjoy the photos – it’s been quite a trip.
I absolutely love your fantastic, breathtaking photos! Sorry we can’t see more! But I’m hoping you’ll have some more travels to take us on😊
Each of you have missed your calling as a writer and photographer.
Thanks for the trip.
Looks like a fabulous experience!!
Enjoyed every minute of reading about your travels!