January 2019 – Our wintertime National Parks Snowstorm Tour to Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon was incredible. What a thrill to see snow at both of those gorgeous National Parks. But the drive to get there and back was also spectacular, as it took us past many wonders of Utah’s and Arizona’s “Canyon Country.”
The area around Bryce Canyon was beautiful in its winter finery, and we got a huge kick out of driving the scenic roads and seeing familiar red rock formations peeking out from beneath a layer of snow.
The valleys near Bryce Canyon stood silent in their winter slumber save for a few homesteads here and there.
As we descended out of the high 8,000′ plateau where Bryce Canyon is situated, we said goodbye to the snow one last time.
The wonderfully scenic US-89 passes through spectacular red rock landscapes as it approaches and then leaves Kanab, Utah, and we reminisced as we passed the turn-off for the incomparable Wire Pass Slot Canyon hike and the charming Toadstools Hike, both barely noted with small brown signs on the highway.
And then we were suddenly immersed in the beauty of Glen Canyon. This exquisite canyon was carved by the relentless flow of the Colorado River which has sculpted the surrounding colorful sandstone into a myriad of shapes.
The Colorado River was dammed here to form Lake Powell, and the vivid blue of the lake set against the towering stone cliffs was jaw-dropping in the morning sun.
We had seen brochure pictures of Lake Powell like this, but to see it in person was a feast for the eyes. What a fantastic contrast — or complement — to the snow at Bryce Canyon and the mysterious light show at Grand Canyon that we had just witnessed days earlier.
We drove down to the beach to get a little closer to the water.
The stone monoliths towered on the other side of the small cove. What an exotic landscape!
There is a marina, hotel and restaurant complex on the shore at Lake Powell, and we could see the marina docks in the distance. The air became a little hazy as the day wore on, but the deep crimson red rocks were just stunning!
A group of houseboats anchored in the bay looked very inviting. We told each other we’ll have to do an overnight in one someday. A concessionaire for the National Park Service rents them out!!
The eye-popping Horseshoe Bend Overlook is a little bit south of Lake Powell, and although we’ve visited before (blog post here), we couldn’t drive through the area without stopping in to take another look.
We were shocked when we arrived to see that massive construction is underway in the parking lot and on the hill between the parking lot and the overlook to make it easier to support the enormous crowds of tourists that flock here every hour of every day.
What used to be a small parking lot will soon be at least four times bigger. A slew of vault toilets have been installed, and it looks like a road is going in to take tourists right to the rim.
Right now visitors still walk straight up over the berm on a dirt path to the overlook. The new road will go around the berm on the south side. It’s not clear whether walkers or motorized vehicles or both will use the road, perhaps only tour buses. We were also quite astonished to see a railing protecting part of the rim now as well. Now, anyone who is unnerved by standing on the edge of a several thousand foot drop can stand by the railing with confidence.
Most of the rim is still wide open and easily explored, however, and plenty of crazy people were doing their selfie stunts just inches from a lethal fall (a girl fell off and died over Christmas this year). But it was the beautiful lines and patterns in the rocks at our feet that really caught our attention.
This is a special little gem of a spot.
Whereas Horseshoe Bend is busy busy busy and a true jaw-dropper to boot, a nearby scenic overlook at Glen Canyon Dam is fully developed for people to explore but had no visitors but us when we stopped by one morning.
The Colorado River is visible four thousand feet below — just as it is at Horseshoe Bend a few miles away — and the rust colored canyon walls are incredibly sheer.
We just loved the lines in the rocks and the infinite variety of patterns they create.
It is a kid’s paradise for running around on the rocks.
Glen Canyon Dam is a short distance away tucked between massive cliffs!
Meanwhile, storms brewed above the mesas and mountains on the horizon.
This whole part of Canyon Country between Bryce Canyon, Utah, and Page, Arizona, is exquisite, and is truly a delight for photography. We were up with the chickens one morning to see if we could capture something special down at Lake Powell. And sure enough, the sun gave us a show to remember!
The sunrise was brilliant, but even as the sun made its appearance on one horizon, storm clouds were forming on the other. We loved the contrast of light and dark.
As the sun cast its last glow across the land before giving in to the coming storm, it lit the horizon’s classic southwestern horizon of mesas and rock pinnacles.
What a beautiful way to end our quick trip through Canyon Country to see the Best of the West under snow!
Before long we were back in our trailer in Phoenix getting ready to head out with our new RZR and try our new triple-towing adventures. But this week-long interlude at some of America’s most beautiful places in mid-winter is a trip we will remember forever.
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More info about :
- Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recration Area Official Website
- Horseshoe Bend Parking Lot Construction Notice and Railing Construction Notice
- Map of highlights on this trip
Other blog posts from our travels in the area:
- Arches National Park Utah – A Playground of Soaring Red Rock Bridges! 04/21/16
- Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!) 04/28/16
- Canyonlands National Park Utah – Hiking in the Needles District! 04/12/16
- Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah – Magical Sunrises! 04/23/16
- Goblin Valley State Park Utah – One Gigantic Playground! 04/20/18
- Goblin Valley, UT – Where the Ghosts Are 10/16/07
- Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks 04/05/19
- Moab Utah – Red Rocks and Snowcapped Mountains 04/14/16
- Monument Valley & Hite Scenic Overlook – Stone Towers from Below & Above! 03/15/19
- Natural Bridges National Monument & Utah’s Bicentennial Highway 06/15/12
- Newspaper Rock Utah – Petroglyphs and Rock Art from the Ancients 04/06/16
- Paria Rimrocks “Toadstools” Hike to A Hidden Canyon! 05/25/14
- San Rafael Swell, UT – Pictographs & Dinosaur Prints 10/12/07
- SE Utah – A Mars Colony, Wide-Angle Photography & Snowy Mountains! 03/22/19
- Traces of Antiquity and the Not-So-Ancient in Utah! 03/29/19
- Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park 04/16/18
- Valley of the Gods & Goosenecks State Park, Utah – Beautiful! 04/04/16
- Wire Pass Trail – Slot Canyon Hiking! 05/22/14
Our most recent posts:
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- Broken Arrow Trail in Sedona, AZ – What a Hike! 05/31/19
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