American Southwest Trip, 2018: Bryce Canyon – Thor’s Hammer and Rim Trail

This final batch of photos from my visit to Bryce Canyon National Park consists of shots from the other leg of the Navajo Loop Trail, where I partially descended for a view of the famous Thor’s Hammer rock formation before climbing back up and starting my full descent into the canyon down the Wall Street leg. Additionally, there are photos from my walk along the Rim Trail between Sunrise and Sunset points.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: Bryce Canyon – Queen’s Garden Trail

These photos are from my ascent up the Queen’s Garden leg of my 3-mile hike down into and back out of the canyon. As I’ve mentioned before, a stroll through Bryce Canyon National Park is like a visit to another world, and there are definitely some otherworldly looking photos in this batch.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: Bryce Point and Paria View

These photos are from two scenic lookouts, taken shortly after a massive rainstorm finally subsided. I had thought the entire day was going to be a washout and considered giving up, but I stuck it out and was rewarded with some beautiful scenery. The first few pics, shot at Paria View, feature multiple rainbows shooting down from the clouds, though one rainbow is most prominent.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: Bryce Canyon Navajo Loop

These photos are from my descent down the Wall Street portion of the Navajo Loop trail. The Wall Street name apparently comes from the high walls and narrow passageways (known as a slot canyon) characteristic of this part of the trail. A lot of these shots have that “alien planet” feel. Some of the more interesting pics depict tall trees rising up through the canyon walls to find the sun.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: Bryce Canyon Lookouts

These photos are from three different lookout points in Bryce Canyon National Park. The first few were taken at Piracy and Fairview Points as the sun finally peeked through the clouds toward the end of a dreary day. The majority of the remaining photos were taken on the following sunny day at various spots along the Inspiration Point trail.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: A Rainy Day in Bryce Canyon

My first day in Bryce Canyon National Park was mostly a washout as it stormed heavily all day, but the skies did clear enough toward the end of the day for me to get some decent photos. I had tried waiting out the storm at my hotel but after a while I decided that I didn’t want to lose my entire first day (having already sacrificed my planned stop at Red Canyon) so I made my way out in the rain.

I started by driving all the way to the highest point at the end of the park, hoping the rain would be gone by the time I got there, but instead the rain turned to snow at the higher altitudes and the ground was covered in ice. I didn’t even bother parking the car after reaching the top since I was only wearing a windbreaker and also because I didn’t want to be stuck driving on icy mountain roads when it got darker, so I just turned around and drove back down the mountain. As I made my way down, the rain finally started to subside and I was able to hit some scenic lookouts.

The one good thing about driving through Bryce in a heavy rainstorm was that I practically had the entire place to myself. At some points it was eerily quiet, without even the sounds of birds or insects to break the silence. And some of the photos I took, while shot at a much lower than ideal aperture because of the gloomy conditions, have a unique look because of it.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: Bryce Canyon Floor

After spending a couple of days in Angel Canyon at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the next leg of my southern Utah tour sent me north to stunning Bryce Canyon National Park. These are the photos I shot upon reaching the floor of Bryce Canyon after descending the Wall Street arm of the Navajo Loop and before ascending back up to the rim via the Queen’s Garden trail. The entire loop is nearly three miles, with the floor portion of the trail taking you through a pine forest. It rained a bit when I reached the bottom with some thunder in the distance, but most of the hike was pleasantly sunny and took about three hours, counting photo/lunch stops.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: The Movie

This compilation of the videos I shot on my trip last summer features footage of Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Zion national parks, as well as Cedar Breaks National Monument and driving footage through Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, including Route 66.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: National Park Wildlife

After so many consecutive Northwest trip posts, I’ve decided to start mixing in entries from my other recent trips to add some variety to my blog feed. This is the first batch of photos from my trip to the American Southwest this past summer, featuring shots of animals from Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon.

I shot a little bit of everything on this trip: mammals, birds, and reptiles. Many of the animals showed no fear of humans—one of the elk practically let me walk right up to her. I also saw bison on my way into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon but chose not to stop for photos since I already had so many bison photos from my Yellowstone trip. I believe that I heard rattlesnakes during one of my photo stops on Route 66 in the Mojave Desert, but I did not see them, and was not about to go looking.

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Back to the West

After last year’s trip to the American Northwest, I’ll be turning right back around this summer and heading out to the American Southwest. I’ve always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, so I thought I would organize a big trip around it that will include visits to Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah, and a lot of driving in between. Here is my rough itinerary:

Days 1-2: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

I had originally planned to start at Arches National Park in eastern Utah and work my way down through the other Utah parks before finally ending at the Grand Canyon, but I concluded that Arches was a bit too far away from all of my other stops on this trip (and the car rental fees were much more expensive at the nearby airports), so when I stumbled onto this animal sanctuary located right in the middle of my other destinations, I decided to make this my first stop after flying into Vegas.

What better way to use the volunteer hours my company allocates to me than by spending two days hanging out with dogs in a beautiful canyon? The sanctuary is also home to cats, horses, rabbits, pigs, and other animals, but as a dog lover I’ll be focusing my volunteer time with the dogs. And when I’m not volunteering, there appear to be some good hiking opportunities in the canyon, while at night I may be able to bring one of the dogs back to my cabin for a sleepover, which would be neat.

Days 3-4: Bryce Canyon National Park

I’ll be spending the next two days in Bryce Canyon. In-park lodging was already booked up so I’m staying just outside the park, but Bryce appears to be fairly easy to explore by car. I’m thinking my first day will be a drive-through to stop at all of the overlooks since it will be a partial day, and I’ll return on the second day for specific hikes.

Days 5-6: Zion National Park

I’m very much looking forward to my two days here as everyone raves about Zion. Like with Bryce, the in-park lodging at Zion was all booked up, so I’m staying just outside the park. The good news is that my hotel is right across from a shuttle stop and from what I’ve read, you essentially need the shuttle to get around the park anyway, so there’s not a huge disadvantage to beginning outside the park.

Days 7-8: Grand Canyon North Rim

At last, the reason for the trip. My first two days at the Grand Canyon will be spent at the less-popular North Rim. Most tourists go to the South Rim because it has all of the facilities and iconic views, but many visitors actually prefer the less-crowded North Rim in spite of its more limited facilities (there is only one lodge here, in a more rustic setting of cabins and motel rooms). Although I will be spending more time at the South Rim, I have a feeling that I will end up counting myself among those who prefer the relative tranquility of the less-touristy North Rim.

This was the hardest place to find lodging for. If you don’t stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge, the next closest lodging facility requires you to drive a considerable distance to get to the rim. I had to rearrange my trip to a couple of weeks earlier than I had planned just to find a couple of nights here. People start booking these rooms over a year in advance, so if you want to stay here, book early.

Days 9-11: Grand Canyon South Rim

The final three days of my trip will be spent on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The photo above will be the approximate view from my hotel; pretty cool. Interestingly, even though the North and South rims are fairly close as the crow flies, my drive from the North Rim to the South Rim will be the longest of my trip up to that point because of how much you have to backtrack and circle around by car.

The Drive Back: Route 66

Since I have a late flight home, I was planning to stop at Hoover Dam on my way back to Vegas and then spend any remaining time checking out some of the Vegas strip. But when I saw that my route will pass by a significant stretch of Old Route 66, I decided that I can’t forego the chance to drive on that historic highway. Depending on how long I decide to remain on the road (dare I drive all the way into the Black Mountains and up to Oatman?), I may not have time for Hoover Dam and definitely won’t have time to check out Vegas, but I don’t consider that to be a big loss since Vegas doesn’t particularly interest me anyway.

For the red-eye flight home, I decided to treat myself to first class since it only ended up costing about $100 more than I would have paid for economy plus and a checked bag, so that’ll be a new experience to be in front of the curtain. 🙂

Well, that’s the plan. Have you been to any of these parks or driven any of these routes? I would love to hear about your experiences, as well as any tips you might have.