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Wowed by Utah - Zion and Bryce National Parks, April 2014

Wowed by Utah - Zion and Bryce National Parks, April 2014

Old Apr 25th, 2014, 07:03 AM
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Wowed by Utah - Zion and Bryce National Parks, April 2014

We spent a long weekend April 17-21 in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and had a lot of "wow" moments. I had no idea before I began researching the trip how many wonderful National Parks there are in and near Utah. What a treat it would be to have time to visit them all. We know we want to go back after the sampling we had.

We did the top-down Virgin Narrows overnight and had a great time. We were able to choose campsite #5 (there were three of us) and we were relieved when we got to it on day one. Campsite #12, the last site, was probably another two hours down the river, which would have been misery given how footsore we were when we got to #5--there was a couple on our shuttle that had drawn that site and we saw that they had instead camped illegally at a site a short ways down from us instead of pushing on to #12.

We brought our own camp equipment but we rented Narrows gear (drysuits, socks, sticks, and river shoes) from Zion Adventures. http://www.zionadventures.com/ We also used them for a shuttle to the trailhead at Chamberlain's Ranch. They were really great to deal with before we arrived--good communication. Once we were there it was horribly busy in the morning and felt a little frantic but it worked out.

The Narrows were incredible. We just kept looking around in wonder. We had so much of the first day to ourselves and even saw very few people until the last two or three miles on day 2. The last mile and a half were overrun with people coming down the paved path for a splash in the river. No problem taking the shuttle back to the entrance at the end of the trail.

Pros/Cons of our rental:
Drysuits - We were glad we had full dry suits. We all took at least one fall and the water was 46 degrees F. I was wearing layers and was never too hot. The Narrows are significantly cooler than the rest of the park because of the tall cliffs so even though it was over 80 degrees F for folks coming down for the day, we had cooler days and night was downright chilly.
Sticks - Essential. The only reason we didn't all have injuries. There are some really slick spots.
Dry socks/Shoes - Ugh. These were a con. We didn't have a good alternative but it would be worth exploring. All of us got terrible blisters. My second toes (longer than my firsts) were bruised. Our feet hurt by the end of the first day. We rallied the second day but were still uncomfortable. There's a reason we all carefully pick our hiking boots and this is why--hiking in something not your own just doesn't work well.

We loved Zion and since the Narrows was such a small taste we would love to get back and explore the other parts. Just driving through was a pleasure. We saw a rainbow just outside the park on the last day.

Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort - We stayed here because we wanted to stay in a wagon (which we did). The trip was hastily put together and we didn't realize we would drive all the way across the park from Springdale to get here so we arrived and left in the dark. What we saw looked like a fantastic family campground with lots of cool options like cabins, wagons, RV parking or campsites with plenty of great facilities. If you are fine not being in Springdale, this is a wonderful place and prices were really good.

Thai Sapa Restaurant This was our reward meal after the Narrows. It was not as extensive a menu as a normal Thai restaurant. But it was delicious and they try to source locally as much as possible. It's expensive (but then, a lot of things in Springdale are expensive).

Deep Creek Coffee - Yum! As someone who doesn't come from a place where funky little coffee shops are the norm I found this totally charming. My friend from Seattle considered it par for the course (but good). We got there right as scones were coming out of the oven and they had so many flavors it was hard to choose! Delicious!! And friendly.

Buying Alcohol So Virginia has ABC stores but you can buy wine and beer in grocery stores. In UT it's only beer in groceries so we made a second stop to get wine at the Switchback's restaurant in Springdale.
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Old Apr 25th, 2014, 07:14 AM
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Bryce Canyon

As we left Zion Saturday evening we knew we would only have Sunday in Bryce Canyon and we all started to question whether it was worth cramming it into the trip. But we had a hotel booked so we carried on with our hasty plan. Boy were we glad! We had a gorgeous, sunny, warm day and that first step up to the overlook made us all gasp in wonder.

We did a combination of the Navajo Loop, Queen's Garden, Rim Trail and then also drove to Inspiration Point, Bryce Point and Fairyland Overlook.

Bryce Canyon Best Western- Ruby's Ranch We actually booked at Bryce View Lodge but arrived to find we had been bumped into the Best Western. That's really the only game in town (there are two and they are huge) unless you camp. It was fine and we ate our breakfast in their restaurant (standard breakfast, like going to Denny's or Shoney's or something). They have a big facility to meet all your needs--activities, post office, groceries, souvenirs, ABC.

Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant - Surprise hit of the trip. We were looking for a lunch stop on our way out of town and figured everything was going to be the same so we'd just stop here. They advertised their homemade soup and pie. We loved it. My husband ate an elk burger (his order was a little messed up but it was Easter Sunday, for goodness sake, so I am sure they were overworked and understaffed), and my friend and I had grilled cheeses and soups. We were all pleased with the meal, the atmosphere, and the old country music playing as ambiance. The homemade piece of blueberry banana cream pie we shared was outstanding! Wish we could have tasted all the pie flavors because there were a lot!

A few pics of the trip here:

Everyone can enjoy these parks in one way or another and they are fantastic.
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Old Apr 25th, 2014, 07:27 AM
Join Date: Aug 2012
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"and that first step up to the overlook made us all gasp in wonder."

Oh yes, I remember that feeling too. Bryce Canyon is so special.

Thanks for sharing your fun trip.
wekewoody is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2014, 09:32 AM
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Thanks for the report. Utah is addicting, just wait until you get to Arches and Canyonlands, also awesome.
emalloy is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2014, 11:26 AM
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We originally wanted to go to those first but it was Jeep Week. So we are saving them for later--we already had what we wanted to do there planned so we can't wait!
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Old Apr 25th, 2014, 01:57 PM
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Thanks for posting a report, schlegal1. The parks are spectacular, and I'm glad you had good weather in April.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2014, 02:03 PM
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Great report about a gorgeous place. Thanks.
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Old Apr 25th, 2014, 02:16 PM
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Old Apr 26th, 2014, 05:22 AM
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Wonderful report. Zion is one of my most favoritest places on earth. I spent a week there a year ago and could have stayed much longer. I was able to do the Narrows from the bottom up. I was the first hiker on the river, and didn't see a single soul until the turn around point. Both beautifully quiet and eerie at the same time. I took one spill in my dry suit and since it wasn't fully zipped up I got soaked & chilled. You are 100% correct that the Narrows is cold, and not just the water. Thankfully I was able to strip down and dry/warm up in a patch of sun on a big rock.

There are many other just as amazing aha moments at Zion - at or near Angels Landing and Observation point are two of them. You can also do an East-West traverse of the park and see the high plateau as well.

reading your report makes me want to add Narrows top down to my list.
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Old Apr 26th, 2014, 05:48 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I was mesmerized by Bryce Canyon. I remember just standing there and being transported to another world. Such beauty created by Mother Nature!
schmerl is offline  
Old Apr 27th, 2014, 05:49 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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Thank you for the trip report. Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure! And you even discovered Bryce Canyon Pines restaurant - best patty melts and pie!

The scenic and cultural wonders of Utah are so numerous and incredible - you have just scratched the surface. After many trips to Bryce and Zion, I am still blown away every time I visit. Just wait until you get on Route 12 as you head east through Escalante to Boulder, to Capitol Reef and Moab. There are so many more wonders to explore!
sharondi is offline  
Old Apr 27th, 2014, 02:04 PM
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Wow, you all are making me want to make our next trip a repeat to Utah!
schlegal1 is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2014, 09:19 PM
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 555
Agree with slowing your trip down.

DV is a fascinating vacation - not in summer. The best book is:
The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park.

For Zion/Bryce, I recommend this book

RVvagabond is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2014, 09:19 PM
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 555
Agree with slowing your trip down.

DV is a fascinating vacation - not in summer. The best book is:
The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park.

For Zion/Bryce, I recommend this book

RVvagabond is offline  
Old May 4th, 2014, 10:26 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Thank you! We are going this Sept. These types of posts keep us excited!!
eroz is offline  
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