Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies

April 2017 – We left the wondrous Petrified Forest National Park with its incredible hikes and nearby Route 66 nostalgia and headed due north from Holbrook, Arizona, on Route 77 towards Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Route 77 in the Navajo Nation Arizona

Wide open lands on Route 77 in the Navajo Nation, Arizona

This interesting (although occasionally bumpy) rural road goes through the vast Navajo Nation. We were mesmerized by the classic southwestern vistas that filled our views for the first twenty miles or so. My long lens was in the trailer (sigh), so I didn’t get good shots of the amazing rock formations we passed.

A few years back we made a similar trek on the parallel Indian Route 12 and really enjoyed it. So, again, we decided to forego the more major highway (US Route 191) and take another scenic route instead.

Little did we know it was going to snow on us as we got into the higher elevations!

Snow on road Navajo Nation Arizona

When we climbed from 5,000′ to 6,500′ elevation, we got a spring snow storm!

This was our third trip to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon d’Shay), but like all of the National Parks and National Monuments, there always seems to be something new to see.

In past visits we explored the overlooks along the northern scenic rim road through the park and hiked to the jaw-dropping White House Ruin. So, this time we decided to explore a few spots along the southern rim road.

Tunnel Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tunnel Overlook, Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is a massive canyon formed by uplifts and the relentless flow of water, and today the sheer red rock canyon walls tower 700 feet above the lush green valley floor.

Far below us we saw trucks bashing through the water from recent rains.

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tsegi Overlook.

The only way to see the valley of the canyon is to take a private guided tour offered by the Navajo who live on the reservation that surrounds Canyon de Chelly National Monument. However, the North and South Rim Drives are open to everyone to enjoy for free without a paid guide.

Car driving in wash at Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

The only way to get into Canyon de Chelly is on one hiking trail (White House Trail) or on a commercial tour.

As we zipped in and out of the overlooks, the skies began to brood…

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV trip Arizona

The clouds were moving fast at Tsegi overlook.

…and the red rock cliffs seemed to swirl around each other in fabulously exotic shapes.

Junction Overlook Canyon de Chelly South Rim Road Overlook Arizona

The rocks formed beautiful shapes that were so much fun to climb on.

Sliding House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook

Eventually, we made our way to Spider Rock Overlook, one of the iconic images of Canyon de Chelly. We reached the overlook right at the golden hour before sunset when the rock itself was lit in rich burnt orange hues.

Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Spider Rock.

The day had been very cloudy and windy, but as if by magic, right as the sun began to set, we were blessed with the most astonishing display of colors in the sky.

Sunset spider rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

As the golden light faded on Spider Rock and the red rock cliffs, the sky began a light show of its own.

We each ran back and forth on the rim, unsure where to get the best views and which part of the sky would light up next.

Sunset at Spider overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Mark lines up his shot on the next rock outcropping (upper right corner).

Spider rock lost its glow but the fire in the heavens was just getting started.

Spider Rock sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona RV trip

Sunset’s brilliant display begins at Spider Rock.

Once the drama had played itself out in shades of orange, the skies turned vivid pink.

Pink sunset Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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The light show intensified and our two-way radios crackled as we called each other from opposite ends of the overlook.

“Did you see THAT??!!”

Colorful sunset Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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That sunset was breathtaking, but when morning came the next day and we ventured back out on the south rim drive, the drama in the sky was gone. We returned to Sliding House Ruin overlook because there is such a huge area to prowl around there, and looking down into Canyon de Chelly was as astonishing as ever.

Valley at Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook.

At Sliding House Ruin overlook there are endless stretches of flat and undulating boulders that head out in all directions on a promontory. Before we knew it, we had been there for hours running around on the tops of these cliffs and peering down into the tree-filled valleys below.

Of course, if you get too close to the edge in a place like this, it’s all over. A sign near the rim was a good reminder!

Sheer cliff warning sign Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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Red rock cliffs and green valley floor Sliding House Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

It’s a long way down…but what a view!

When I finally had gotten my fill of staring at the immense views in front of me, I glanced down at my feet and was taken with the rich hues and artistic patterns of the colorful lichen that was growing in and around the creases in the rocks.

Nature's artwork Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Nature’s artwork on the rocks.

Standing back and surveying the vast flat lichen covered boulders that stretched in all directions around me, I felt like I was looking at a modern art painting. Perhaps this is where Jackson Pollack got his inspiration!

Lichen on red rocks Jackson Pollack painting Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Jackson Pollack — Or colorful lichen on red rocks?

A little movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned to see a lizard scampering past. He stopped and stared at me as I snuck closer and clicked my camera’s shutter.

Lizard Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A lizard looks over at me as he runs by.

The spring wildflowers had started blooming, and Mark found a beautiful bouquet of Indian Paintbrush flowers.

Indian Paintbrush Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A dash of scarlet…

We stuck around and soon the sun was sinking low in the sky, and the shadows were growing long and deep.

Shadows at sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Long shadows made for a surprise selfie at Sliding House Overlook.

The clear sky meant there were no colorful theatrics in the sky for our sunset at Sliding House overlook, but the sun gave me a coy wink for a split second before it slipped out of sight.

Starburst sunset Sliding House Ruin Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A fleeting starburst at sunset…

It was hard to set the alarm for a pre-dawn hour the next day, but we bundled into our truck with hot tea and coffee in hand and drove out to Sliding House overlook once again where Mark caught the sun giving us a wink on its way up.

Sunrise Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

…and another at dawn.

Canyon de Chelly is a special place deep in the heart of the immense Navajo reservation. There is a dry camping campground in the town of Chinle that is run by the Navajo, and a few sites are big enough for a big RV.

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Zion National Park “West” RV Trip – Gorgeous Kolob Canyons!

October 2016 – Zion National Park in Utah is one of America’s most beautiful National Parks, and we were loving our RV trip to the main part of the park at Zion Canyon. A side trip to Kolob Canyons at Exit 40 on I-15 took us to a much less visited but equally dramatic area on the west side of the Park.

Kolob Canyons Road Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

Kolob Canyons Road is a spectacular scenic drive.

The stunning scenic drive through the Kolob Canyons region of the park is truly breathtaking.

We had been blown away by the fall foliage season on the San Juan Skyway in Colorado in late September where the aspen trees were cloaked in gold. Autumn comes four or five weeks later in Zion National Park, but the colors in the last days of October were wonderful.

Autumn Foliage Taylor Creek Trail Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

The trees were vivid colors.

As we followed Kolob Canyons Road, Taylor Creek accompanied us. Hardwood trees along the edges of this thin trickle of water were resplendent in their fall colors.

Fall Foliage Taylor Creek Trail Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

Fall foliage was at its peak in late October – Wow!

The red rock scenery was awe-inspiring too, with jagged cliffs towering in front of us and then surrounding us.

Fall Foliage Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

Kolob Canyons

Autumn Leaves Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

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There is no shuttle bus on Kolob Canyons Road, and there is very little traffic, especially in the early morning. We stopped at several pullouts to take a deep breath and savor the incredible views.

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah RV trip

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Kolob Canyons Visitor Center at the beginning of the scenic drive is at about 5,000′ elevation, and Kolob Canyons Road climbs about 1,000 feet to the Kolob Viewpoint at the end, about 5 miles down the road.

In comparison, Zion Canyon is at 4,000′ elevation.

So, there was a delicious mix of evergreens and deciduous hardwood trees that stand out against the red rock backdrop.

Kolob Canyons Red Rock Fall Foliage Zion National Park Utah

Fall foliage and red rocks – yum!

Red Rock Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

Trees perched on outcroppings of the red rock cliffs.

Kolob Canyons is an awesome area for photography, and our cameras were going wild.

Photography Kolob Canyon Road Zion Canyon National Park RV Trip

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Some of the best fall colors seemed to be down along Taylor Creek, so we decided to hike the Taylor Creek Trail to see if we could immerse ourselves a little deeper in the fall foliage.

Taylor Creek Trail Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah RV trip

The Taylor Creek Trail headed right into the fall color.

Taylor Creek Trail was an easy hike that took us under lovely archways of colorful leaves.

 Fall Color Taylor Creek Hike Zion National Park Kolob Canyons

We walked under an arch of autumn color.

We had the trail almost entirely to ourselves as we walked into a wonderland of fall color.

Taylor Creek Trail hike Zion National Park Kolob Canyons

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Because the elevation in Kolob Canyons is slightly higher than in Zion Canyon, late October was the ideal time to see the autumn colors along this creek.

Autumn color Taylor Creek Hike Zion National Park Utah

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Red rocks autumn leaves Zion National Park Kolob Canyons

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Being there at the right time for beautiful colors was a nice surprise, because, over in Zion Canyon we had found we were just a little bit early. The best time for that part of the park is the first week of November.

Fall Color Taylor Creek Trail Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

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Fall Foliage Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

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The red rocks of the surrounding peaks of Kolob Canyons jutted into the brooding sky, adding a wonderful burnt orange to the brilliant shades of the trees around us.

Taylor Creek Hike Zion National Park Kolob Canyons

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We were just having too much fun with our cameras here!

Photography in Fall Colors Zion National Park Utah

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As is always the way when we go on a gorgeous hike with our cameras, we soon got separated as we each scrambled off the trail here and there to explore inviting and hidden spots. Mark found himeself surrounded by maple trees and had fun with their bright red leaves.

Maple Leaf and acorn from Zion Canyon

Fall comes to Zion National Park.

Who knew there were maple leaves in the red rock desert canyons of Southern Utah?!

Colorful autumn leaves Zion National Park Utah

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We spent many hours on Taylor Creek Trail and didn’t even make it to the end of the hike!

Autumn colors Taylor Creek Trail Hike Zion National Park Utah

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Keeping tabs with each with our two-way radios, we finally made our way back to our truck. When I got there I found Mark had put pretty fall leaves all over my seat!

Autumn leaves in a truck

I came back to our truck to find my seat covered with fall leaves — fun!

It is days like this that make our crazy lives in our trailer so special.

Zion National Park RV Trip Kolob Canyons

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For RVers heading to Zion National Park, the one hour drive from Zion Canyon around to the west entrance at Kolob Canyons is really worthwhile. There is a campground on the west side of the park that is designed for tent camping and is suitable for truck campers and very short Class C’s.

Camping Zion National Park Utah

A full moon rises at Zion.

There are links with more info and big rig RV parking ideas below.

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Zion National Park RV Trip – One AWESOME Canyon!

October 2016 – Zion National Park in Utah is filled with towering rock formations that rise up alongside the Virgin River. It’s located in the heart of National Parks country, just 70 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park, 70 miles from Cedar Breaks National Monument and 110 miles from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

RV Camping on an RV trip to Zion National Park in Utah

Zion National Park is a fantastic destination for an RV trip

The views in Zion Canyon are utterly breathtaking.

View of Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah RV trip

Zion Canyon view – spectacular!

We had visited Zion National Park before, both in a tent and also with our first full-time RV. But each of those visits had been more of a survey trip than an in depth immersion. This time we took our time exploring.

The Watchman Zion National Park Utah

The Watchman at sunset

There are many ways to enjoy Zion National Park. One of the most fun ways to get an introduction is to walk along the Pa’rus Trail that goes alongside the Virgin River right from the Visitors Center.

Hiking Pa'rus Trail Zion National Park Utah

We walked the Pa’rus Trail and crossed several bridges over the Virgin River

This is a popular trail both for walking (including dog walking) and for riding bikes as well.

Bike Pa'rus Trail Zion National Park Utah

Biking is a great way to get an overview of Zion National Park, especially on the Pa’rus Trail

We took our bikes on it one day and saw some fabulous views.

Bicycling Pa'rus Trail Zion National Park Utah

Cycling the Pa’rus Trail

Biking in Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah

Pa’rus Trail – What a ride!

Rock pinnacles thrust up from the earth on all sides, and the trees were changing colors here and there in the cool October air.

The Watchman Zion National Park Utah

The Watchman in fall color.

We saw some little critters. A bird flitted between the branches of a tree and a ground squirrel paused to have a look at us.

Bird at Zion National Park Utah

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Ground Squirrel Zion National Park Utah

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The main road through the park is the 9 mile long Zion Canyon Scenic Drive which dead ends in the heart of the main canyon. Cars are restricted on much of this road and are forbidden for the last half of it from Spring to Fall, making it absolutely fabulous for a bike ride.

Bike Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

Cycling Zion Canyon Scenic Drive into the heart of Zion’s main canyon: Zion Canyon

Cyclists share this road with both chartered tour buses and the Park’s free shuttle buses, but the buses are infrequent enough that for most of the ride we had the entire road to ourselves. Awesome!

Cycling Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

We LOVED riding our bikes on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

The erosive power of the Virgin River is responsible for Zion Canyon, and the stunning scenic drive runs alongside it.

Virgin River Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah

The Virgin River cuts between the rock walls.

The Virgin River is shallow and filled with small rocks in some places.

Virgin River Zion National Park Utah

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As we got deeper and deeper into Zion Canyon, the towering rock walls closed in all around us.

Virgin River Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah RV trip

Tall cliffs and magical light in Zion Canyon

The canyon walls grew steeper and steeper, rising up around us on all sides as we approached the end of the road.

Bike Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

Views everywhere

Early in the morning, much of Zion Canyon was in shade because the rock walls are so high.

Zion Canyon RV trip Zion National Park Utah

Light and shadow change all day long on Zion’s cliffs.

But later in the day the sun rose high enough to light it up. As the sun traversed the sky, the walls on one side of the canyon were lit first. Then they became shaded and the walls on the other side lit up.

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

A gorgeous view from Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Amazingly, Zion Canyon National Park has a brewpub right outside the park. After a day of sightseeing, no one had to twist our arms to join the other happy tourists and find a table with a view to quaff a pint!

Zion Brewery Zion National Park Utah

What a great way to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

Zion Canyon Brewing Company Zion National Park Utah

A brew with a view!

In the late afternoon we watched the full moon rise through the sunset.

Full moon Zion National Park Utah

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Full moon Zion National Park Utah

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Zion Canyon is essentially an enormous (and enormously beautiful) box canyon, i.e., a dead end. And Zion National Park is immensely popular. A ranger told me 4 million people had already visited the Park in 2016 when we got there in October.

So, getting all these people in and out of the box canyon is no small trick. Zion National Park has done an amazing job of handling the traffic and the crowds.

For starters, car traffic is highly restricted for all but the Winter season. The parking lot at the Visitor Center fills as early as 8:00 a.m. during the peak season between Spring and Fall.

RV Parking Zion National Park Utah

Forget about parking at the Visitors Center after 8:00 a.m.
Luckily, there is parking in the town of Springdale, especially at the south end of town.

There are two excellent free shuttle systems to ferry people around both the town of Springdale and Zion National Park.

The Springdale Shuttle takes visitors through town and runs all the way to the Zion National Park entrance and visitors center.

The Zion Canyon Shuttle takes visitors from there all the way through the National Park to the end of the box canyon (which is also the start of the very popular Narrows hike).

Shuttle Bus Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

Free Shuttle Buses
The Zion Canyon shuttle (at bus stop #3 above) is efficient and easy to use.
A different shuttle — the Springdale Shuttle — serves the town of Springdale where you can park.
So… Park in town, take the Springdale Line to the Canyon Line which goes into the Park

There are about 9 stops on each route, and each one takes about 40-45 minutes end to end.

Passengers on the Zion Canyon Shuttle get to hear an interesting recording that tells all about the park, both its natural history and its human history. We took both shuttles quite a few times during our stay, visiting various overlooks and doing various hikes, and we found it easy and convenient.

Cars can drive into the park as far as the turn-off onto Route 9 East that goes through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. People staying at Zion Canyon Lodge, which is beyond that point, can get a pass to drive as far as the lodge and park their cars there. However, during the peak season when the shuttle runs (Spring to Fall), all cars are forbidden beyond the Lodge. During the Winter, the shuttle runs only on holidays, and at that time cars are allowed to drive the full length of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Anyone entering the canyon with a big dually truck like ours, or towing a trailer or driving a motorhome, will be informed that their vehicle will require a pilot to go through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on Route 9. There is a fee for this, as traffic in both directions has to be stopped. Years ago, we went through the Zion-Mt Carmel tunnel and drove the wild switchbacks of Route 9 in a minivan, and the drive is out of this world. So, if you have a car, do it!!

South Campground camping Zion National Park Utah

South Campground is right next to the Pa’rus Trail

There are two campgrounds that can accommodate small to mid-size RVs. Both are close to the Park entrance. South Campground is, ironically, the more northerly of the two. Watchman Campground is the more southerly one!

During our stay in October, the leaves were just beginning to change into their autumn colors. The peak for fall color is generally around the first week of November.

Fall color The Watchman Zion National Park Utah

Fall colors peak at Zion in the first week of November (this photo is late October)

RV trip Zion National Park Utah

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Zion National Park is a world class destination and we absolutely loved our stay this year! We’ll have more blog posts from our time there. In the meantime, we’ve got lots of links below to help you plan your visit.

Zion Canyon RV camping Zion National Park Utah

Zion National Park is an incredible destination

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Bryce Canyon – Rainbow Point – Bristlecone Pines and Sweeping Vistas

September 2016 – Our stay in Bryce Canyon National Park had been a wonderful immersion in orange and pink spires along the Rim Trail and on the new bike path that runs between Red Canyon and Inspiration Point. We’d even found a waterfall at Mossy Cave.

Shelter at Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Visitors’ shelter at Rainbow Point in Bryce Canyon National Park

At the far south end of the Bryce Canyon National Park, we hiked the Bristlecone Loop around Rainbow Point. We didn’t see a rainbow over the canyon, as we had at Fairyland Point, but the views were sensational.

Hiking Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

What a view! Rainbow Point at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

Rainbow Point View Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon National Park.

The orange and red rock cliffs had interesting windows and holes carved in their sides. Mark nudged me as we stared across the canyon and said, “See the Alice Cooper eyes over there?” Sure enough!

Alice Cooper eyes at Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Alice Cooper eyes…

This end of Bryce Canyon is the highest point in the whole National Park, about 9,100 feet in elevation, and it is just the kind of wind blown, rocky place that ancient bristlecone pines love to make home.

Brislecone Pine Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A bristlecone pine at Rainbow Point in Bryce Canyon

As we walked out on a bluff, we came across a large stand of bristlecone pine trees that had finally given up the ghost. Unlike the living 1,600 year old bristlecone pine we’d seen a month earlier at Cedar Breaks National Monument whose gnarled branches were vibrantly alive and covered with soft pine needles and pine cones tucked into its craggy skeleton, these trees were totally bare.

Three bristlecone pine trees Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Ghosts of bristlecone pine trees

They stood together, as if continuing an ageless conversation that had begun long ago, and their wood was bleached by the sun.

Bristlecone Pine Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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When I touched their branches and knocked on the trunks with my knuckles, their wood was as hard as rock and felt very dense.’

Bristlecone Pines Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The stand of bristlecone pines numbers just a few dozen trees, but each raised its branches to the heavens in its own graceful way.

Bristlecone Pine Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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At our feet, the trees cast beautiful shadows across the ground.

Bristlecone Pine Shadow Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A bristlecone plays with its shadow

The trees stand near the edge of a sheer cliff, and as we walked along the rim and looked back, we got an eye-popping view of the scale of people standing on the cliff, the tree skeletons, and the huge drop down.

Cliffs Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

People get a selfie by the bristlecone pines and cliffs at Rainbow Point

The National Park Service wisely warns people not to go too close to the edge, but it’s hard to resist…

Overlook Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Back near the start of the trail we came across a group of people staring intently into the woods, their cameras and cell phones held high.

People photography a buck deer at Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Nature’s paparazzi

Tip-toeing over to join them and see what they were looking at, we saw a beautiful buck nibbling on leaves in the bushes. He paused to stare at us all and then went back to munching the tender leaves.

Buck deer at Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A buck becomes the star of the show at Rainbow Point

We wrapped up our hike around the Bristlecone Loop and began to say our sad goodbyes to Bryce Canyon National Park.

We’d had an extraordinary visit this year, and we’d had a chance to take in some of the most beautiful spots in the Park. But we still haven’t seen it all, and we’ve made notes of the places we want to visit next time…

Posing Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon’s siren song will lure us back again and again.

If you are planning an RV trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, there is an awful lot to see and experience. Below are some links to help you plan your adventure:

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Here are some more links for planning a visit to Bryce Canyon National Park and doing the Mossy Cave hike:

More blog posts from our RV trips to Bryce Canyon

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Red Canyon Utah and the Bryce Canyon Bike Trail!

On the way in to Bryce Canyon National Park, visitors pass through stunning Red Canyon. The red rocks in this magical canyon are such a vivid color and such a huge surprise that visitors are instantly in a quandary — should they stick around and check out this gorgeous canyon they’ve never heard of before, or continue on the remaining 12 miles to Bryce Canyon, full speed ahead??

01 721 Hoodoos in Red Canyon Utah

For many visitors to Bryce Canyon, the warmup act at Red Canyon is a fantastic surprise.

Red Canyon is a beautiful area the has several wonderful hiking trails and lots of incredible scenery.

Hiking Pink Ledges Trail in Red Canyon Utah

Hoodoos at Red Canyon

We hiked the easy Pink Ledges trail that took us right into the heart of the red rock hoodoos in just a few uphill steps.

Hiking Pink Ledges Trail Red Canyon Utah

Views on the Pink Ledges Trail

We’ve hiked the beautiful trails in Red Canyon before, and it was wonderful to be immersed once again in this lovely red rock canyon that so many tourists blow right by.

Huge caves and holes in the rocks

Huge caves and holes in the rocks

The various hiking loops in Red Canyon can be mixed and matched to make a hike of any length, and the Pink Ledges Trail soon merged into the Bird’s Eye trail.

Heading out on the Bird's Eye Trail Red Canyon Utah

Views on the Bird’s Eye Trail

This took us out along the edges of the red rocks and rose higher and higher.

Hiking the Bird's Eye Trail Red Canyon Utah

Hiking the Bird’s Eye Trail.

Bird's Eye Trail hike in Red Canyon Utah

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We wandered back to the central part of the canyon and admired the twin hoodoos that stand like sentries high up on a ledge.

Closeup Hoodoos in Red Canyon Utah

Enormous stone sentries guard Red Canyon

Below them, we ran into a young couple sitting on a park bench enjoying the shade of a ponderosa pine and the views all around them. We found out they had just gotten engaged moments before, and they proudly showed us her beautiful brand new ring!

Couple on park bench in Red Canyon Utah

What a lovely spot to get engaged!

Red Canyon holds a special place in our hearts, because it was where we discovered the wonders of the RV lifestyle.

We were on a whiz-bang weeklong tour of Grand Canyon’s South and North Rim, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park with our tent and bicycles, back in our workaday lives long ago, and we wound up camping at Red Canyon on the suggestion of a forest ranger we spoke with when we stopped in at the ranger’s office on the way to Bryce Canyon.

After a beautiful day at Bryce Canyon, we returned to the Red Canyon Campground to a massive deluge and thunderstorm that was followed by two days of rain.

Tent camping Red Canyon Campground Utah

Camping at Red Canyon Campground holds special memories for us

After scurrying from coffee shop to lunch bistro to dinner restaurant around Panguitch and Brian Head, desperately trying to stay warm and dry, we returned to the campground to find all the other campers happily kicking back in their RVs. They were reading books and playing board games with the lights on in their rigs, while we crawled back into our dark soggy tent.

RV Camping in Red Canyon Campground Utah

Life can be pretty sweet in an RV

Within a few days, we were the proud owners of a Toyota Tundra truck and a popup tent trailer!

RV Camping in Red Canyon Campground Utah

Camping at Red Canyon in a popup – Fun!!

Of course, tent camping is absolutely wonderful too, and we look back on our tenting days with fondness. But there’s nothing like being warm and dry and having a comfortable place to sit that is sheltered and high up off the ground when Mother Nature decides to let loose with a storm!

Tent camping under the stars

Camping under the stars

Red Canyon Campground is an absolute delight. You can camp within view of the red rock hoodoos, and there are a few campsites that are big enough for a big trailer like our fifth wheel.

Another treat at Red Canyon is the paved bike path. Being at 8,500′ elevation, we had to work a bit with each pedal stroke, but the scenery was second to none.

Red Canyon Bike Path in Utah

Riding in the Red Rocks at Red Canyon

The Red Canyon Bike Trail goes all the way from Red Canyon to Bryce Canyon City, the little hamlet that used to appear on maps as “Rubys Inn” because it is home to Ruby’s Inn, a family run operation that includes an inn, restaurant and an RV park.

Biking on the Red Canyon Bike Path Utah

We love this bike path

Every time we’ve been to this area in the past, we’ve wished that the bike trail went all the way into Bryce Canyon.

Bicycling the Red Canyon Bike Trail in Utah

There’s a little bridge on the east end of Red Canyon

Bicycling the Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon Bike Path

The bike path runs parallel to the highway for some of its route

Lo and behold, the National Park Service granted our wish this season and extended the paved bike trail all the way into Bryce Canyon as of a few weeks before our arrival!! It is now 17 miles long and you can ride from the west end of Red Canyon all the way to Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon.

This project was undertaken and completed for the 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks this past August, and it takes a wonderfully winding route through the ponderosa pine forest right to the Bryce Canyon Visitors Center.

Bicycling on the Bryce Canyon Bike Trail Utah

The new paved bike path in Bryce Canyon passes through Ponderosa Pine forest

From the Visitors Center, the Bryce Canyon bike trail passes all the main overlooks and wanders away from the rim for a bit too as it swings by the Bryce Canyon Lodge.

Bryce Canyon Lodge Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon Lodge is on the route for the new Bryce Canyon bike trail

We had to get off our bikes and walk when we visited the overlooks in Bryce Canyon, but what a fabulous addition this bike trail is to one of the National Park Service’s premier parks. We were absolutely thrilled by the new bike path, and we rode it many times during our stay.

New Bryce Canyon Bike Trail to Inspiration Point

In Bryce Canyon we walked out to the overlooks

Hopefully the National Park Service will continue building bike paths at other National Parks. The bike trail at Grand Teton National Park is superb as well, and keeps getting longer each time we visit.

The best way to experience a National Park is to be outdoors in the thick of it, and how fantastic it is to be able to fly along and enjoy the views from the seat of a bike!

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Our previous RV trip to Red Canyon:

Red Canyon Utah – An Overlooked Treasure09/15/11

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Bryce Canyon National Park – Fairyland Trail – A Beautiful Hike!

September 2016 – Bryce Canyon National Park knocked our socks off at the main overlooks of Inspiration Point and the Rim Trail, where we shared our awe with thousands of other visitors. But a foray out onto the Fairyland Trail from Fairyland Point gave us a wonderful feeling of solitude and peace.

Hoodoos Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Looking down at Fairyland from the rim of Bryce Canyon

Driving into Bryce Canyon National Park, Fairyland Trail is the very first left-hand turn-off, and it comes up quickly, right after the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance sign and before the fee station.

Dawn Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Spires in Fairyland Canyon.

During our visit, one of the reasons this trail may have been so little visited is that there was no sign at the turn-off for people driving into the Park!! We zipped right by it on our first drive in.

Flowers at Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Wildflowers at sunrise.

We first visited the Fairyland Trail in the wee hours of the night to do some star gazing. It was an incredible experience that was both eerie and awe-inspiring.

After navigating the trail with flashlights in the pitch dark, it was quite an eye-opener to hike the Fairyland Trail by day and see what it actually looked like, minus the stars!

Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The beginning of the trail leading down into Fairyland Canyon

At the outset, the Fairyland Trail promptly descends into the depths of Bryce Canyon, and we walked between delightful spires and hoodoos that rose up around us.

Hike Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hikers slip between the hoodoos as they descend into Fairyland.

After a few twists and turns, the views opened up with rows of hoodoos close at hand and cliffs in the distance.

Hike at Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Turret formations Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

White and pink pinnacles.

Hiking Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The far south end of Bryce Canyon at Rainbow Point is home to a collection of ancient Bristlecone Pines. However, a few of these gnarly trees reach out over the Fairyland Trail too!

Bristlecone Pine on Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A Bristlecone Pine defies gravity and hangs out over the hiking trail.
What a way to spend a few centuries!

Bristlecone Pine Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hanging on by a thread!

We started our hike shortly after sunrise, and we were utterly alone on the trail for the first two hours.

Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The trail snakes its way through Fairyland Canyon.

We are slow hikers these days, because our cameras are very demanding, and they insist that we stop every few feet to take yet another photo! But we gradually passed through both wooded areas and beautiful open areas too.

Trees and walls Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The woods were thick in spots.

Red rock walls Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Red rock walls frame our view.

As we got deeper into the canyon, the pinnacles rose higher.

Hoodoos and trees Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hoodoos clustered on one side of the trail.

Hoodoos and spires Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Towering spires…

The red rocks are mostly a burnt orange kind of hue, but in certain places we found a rainbow of sandstone colors.

Colorful hoodoos Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Shades of pink…

Pink orange hoodoos Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

…and shades of yellow too

Finally we came across some other hikers on the trail. They were coming from the other trail head for Fairyland Trail near the center of Bryce Canyon and had been enjoying total solitude on their hike as well.

Fairyland Trail Hike Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The Fairyland Trail is an 8 mile loop with one trail head near Sunrise Point and North Campground in the heart of Bryce Canyon’s visitor area and the other trail head, where we started, by the Park entrance.

After following the Fairyland Trail through the canyon, you can return to your starting point by hiking on the Rim trail from one trail head to the other.

Hiking Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hoo dat in da hoodoos?

Or, in the summertime when the free shuttle bus is running, you can leave your car (if you drive into the Park) at one trail head, hike the loop to the other trail head, and then catch the shuttle back to your parked car and skip hiking the Rim Trail portion.

Beautiful Fairyland Trail Hike Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

What a view.

Glowing hoodoos Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A little closer.

One of the things we found really intriguing on our hike was all the dead and denuded ponderosa pine trees. Each one had a fascinating twisted wood grain like a candy cane that was clearly visible without the bark on the tree.

It made me wonder if, when they were alive and growing, the trees loved their surroundings so much that they continually turned around and around so they could take in the views in every direction!

Spiral wood grain ponderosa pine Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Spiraling wood grain of a dead ponderosa pine tree.
Did it turn as it grew to see the views in every direction?

Hikers we met on the trail told us a tour guide had explained to them that Ponderosa pines spiral spontaneously and instantly when they are hit by lightning!

This sounded a little far-fetched to me, so I poked around online and discovered that the current theory of why the ponderosa pines have a twisting wood grain is actually because it helps distribute water across the full breadth of the tree. By spiraling as they grow, each root can supply water to the entire tree. If one root dies, the impact on the health of the tree is minimized.

In addition, the angle of the spiraling turn of the wood grain is such that the tree can be as supple as possible and bend without breaking as it withstands high winds and heavy snow.

If you enjoy mathematics and mechanics, here is an interesting paper from the University of Utah that explains the theory in lots of detail: Why Grain in Trees’ Trunks Spirals

Along with the twisted wood grain in the dead ponderosas, we were equally fascinated to find some Abstract Art on another tree trunk where some worms or bark beetles had etched an elaborate pattern.

Wood carving Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Nature’s wood carving is a work of art!

As we hiked and the sun rose higher, the red rock formations began to take on an ethereal glow.

Windows Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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We got down to the base level of the hoodoos, and the pinnacles soared to immense heights.

Size of scale Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A tree is dwarfed by a stone pinnacle.

Magic Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Even though we had completed a good portion of the Fairyland Trail loop hike, we decided to turn around and retrace our steps. On our return trip, all of the views we had enjoyed all morning had a slightly different look now that we were in the light of midday.

Glowing spires Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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If you plan to take your RV to Bryce Canyon National Park and you have time to do some of the less visited hikes, Fairyland Trail is really rewarding, and early in the morning you will have the trail to yourself!

Hiking Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hikers on the Fairyland Trail.

There are links for planning an RV trip to Bryce Canyon below.

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Bryce Canyon – Hiking The Rim & Navajo Loop + A Tourist Time-lapse!

August 2016 – The views in Bryce Canyon National Park are absolutely breathtaking from the Rim Trail. This easy walking path extends for 5.5 miles along the edge of the canyon, going from Fairyland Point in the north and taking in the all the major overlooks until it arrives at Bryce Point in the south.

Sunrise Bryce Canyon National Park Utah View of Amphitheater

Bryce Canyon National Park at sunrise.

During our stay, we wandered up and down the Rim Trail many times, and we were stunned by the beauty every single time.

View from the Rim Trail 01 721 Sunset Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Good Morning from the Rim Trail

View of hoodoos from Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Huge orange pinnacles dwarf the evergreens – Fantastic!

But the magic of Bryce Canyon is to get down in among all those hoodoos.

Sunset Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah View from Rim Trail

A hiker snags a photo of this incredible view.

There are lots of hiking trails that wander between the peaks like thin pink ribbons strung all though the park. The tricky part is choosing which one to do!

Hikers Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A ribbon of trail leads down into the hoodoos.

As we descended down the Navajo Loop trail from Sunset Point, the rock walls and pinnacles rose higher and higher around us.

Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hiking down into the hoodoos.

Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hikers pause on the trail to take in the magnificent views.

The spires soared into the sky like turrets on a fairy tale castle.

Hoodoos Rim Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

This is a fairy tale landscape.

We hiked through this wonderland of rock formations utterly mesmerized.

Hiking the Rim Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Here and there, the rocks would open up, offering a view through a window to the canyon beyond.

Window Rim Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The rock formations seemed to grow up from the depths of the desert floor.

View from Rim Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Some rocks formed thin walls, creating craggy partitions within the canyon.

Windows Rim Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A tree perched on top of a rock wall showed us just how big the wall is — Immense!

The trail heads down many steep switchbacks, offering peeks into enticing nooks and crannies on its way to the canyon floor far below.

Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A glimpse down into the depths…

These hiking trails are extremely popular, especially in the summer months when families from around the world are on vacation. It doesn’t make the trails any less appealing, but it is truly astonishing to watch the throngs of people climbing up and down these trails.

One afternoon I got chatting with a traveler from Germany, and as we talked idly about his travels in Patagonia, I set up my camera to do a time-lapse video of the hikers walking up and down the top few switchbacks of the Navajo Loop Trail at Sunset Point in front of us.

The result was fabulous. Check out the action not just at the top of the trail on the right but in the lower parts of the trail on the left. This is one of Bryce Canyon’s most popular hiking trails at its peak in August – Yikes!!

To replay, click the circular arrow in the bottom left corner

Of course, not all of Bryce Canyon National Park is crowded, and it doesn’t take much to get away from the masses. But these popular trails are a total thrill, and they are well worth doing, even if you’re sharing the experience with a busload of tourists and all their Facebook friends!

For a more solitary hike, we set out on the much less visited Fairyland Loop Trail one morning at dawn. That was an exquisitely serene experience which I’ll share in the next post.

If you are planning an RV trip to Bryce Canyon, there are links with more info below.

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Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!)

April 2016 – Canyonlands National Park in Utah is so big and sprawling that it has two entrances at opposite ends of the park. The south entrance is a 50 mile drive to the south and west of Moab, and it takes you to the Needles District. The north entrance is a 30 mile drive to the north and west from Moab and takes you to the Island in the Sky district.

Hikers Utah Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky  Shafer Canyon

Canyonlands National Park in Utah – Island in the Sky

We had explored the beautiful pink and white spires of the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park a few weeks earlier on the Chesler Park hike, and we were eager to check out the vistas and views of the Island in the Sky district.

Shafer Canyon didn’t disappoint…Wow!!

Canyonlands Shafer Canyon Island in the Sky District Utah photography

Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park Utah

Although all of America’s National Parks are best enjoyed in depth over a several day period, with hikes out into the scenery to see the various sights up close, on this RV roadtrip we were doing a survey and an overview of all the beauty surrounding Moab.

We dashed into Canyonlands National Park for a day to check out all the overlooks and scenery visible from the main road.

White Rim Road Shafer Canyon Canyonlands Island in the Sky District Utah

The wild White Rim Road zig-zags across the landscape

We wandered around the overlook at Shafer Canyon for a long time soaking in the view.

A fabulous and enticing dirt road snaked across the canyon. This is part of the 71 mile long White Rim road that we had seen a few days earlier at Dead Horse Point State Park.

An intrepid jeep driver was descending a wall of the canyon near us. What a cool drive that must be. Someday!!

Shafer Canyon Canyonlands National Park White Rim Road Jeep travel Utah RV camping

The White Rim Road looks like quite a ride!!

Each canyon and overlook in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands is beautiful.

Hiking boots Canyonlands Island in the Sky District Utah

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Canyonlands National Park Utah RV travel Island in the Sky

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It had rained a few days earlier, and some of the depressions in the wide flat rocks were filled with water.

Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah RV camping

Puddles had formed in the red rock depressions.

Funny thing is that we kept getting in each other’s photos!

Photography at Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky District Utah

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And a few times we got in each other’s photos on purpose too…

Hiking Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah camping

Is that a painting behind us??

The red rocks of Canyonlands National Park and the white capped mountains in the distance made a beautiful contrast.

Red rocks snowcapped mountains Canyonlands National Park Utah

Red rocks and snowy mountain peaks – Gorgeous!

Utah Canyonlands National Park La Sal Mountains Island in the Sky

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Without a doubt, Grand View Point has the most dramatic landscapes in Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky district.

Canyonlands National Park Utah Grand View Point Overlook

Grand View Point looks out over a crazy landscape

Here the flat earth seemed to have been carved by an enormous stick that had been dragged across the land to gouge out a pattern.

Canyonlands National Park  Grand View Point Overlook Island in the Sky Utah photography camping

Nature’s handiwork – what a fabulous design!

The tiny White Rim Road was still visible, but it was impossible to fathom the size and scale of this immense landscape before us.

Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Grand View Point Overlook

I just LOVE this pattern!

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In the evening, our attention turned to the heavens. The southern part of Utah has some of the darkest skies in America, and the stars were thick above us.

Stars Canyonlands National Park Utah camping

There were layers upon layers of stars in the sky.

As the night wore on, the celestial dance in the stratosphere became ever more intense, and the clouds of stars that make up the Milky Way practically jumped out at us.

Milky Way Canyonlands National Park Utah Island in the Sky RV camping

The Milky Way came to life in the heavens.

Moab, Utah, is a wonderful destination for an RV roadtrip, and along with Arches National Park, Dead Horse State Park, the Canyonlands Needles District and Newspaper Rock, the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park has to be included in the Moab “to do” list.

RV Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah

The whole area around Moab is wonderful for an RV adventure.

And it doesn’t matter what kind of RV you have: big, small, new, old, solar powered or not, any kind of RV that can be driven or towed will fill the bill, and while we were there we saw some pretty unusual get-ups!!

RV fifth wheel trailer towing_

If you can drive it or tow it, any kind of RV will do!!

For more info about Canyonlands National Park, check out the links below.

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Canyonlands National Park Utah – Hiking in the Needles District!

March 2016 – Canyonlands National Park is a stunning and massive National Park full of red rock hoodoos and towering red rock cliffs and wonderful hikes.

Happy Hikers Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

We’d often heard about Canyonlands National Park and were excited to get here at last.

There are three districts within the Park, two of which can be accessed by car on a paved road: the Needles District in the south and the Island in the Sky District a 100 mile drive around the park to the north. After our brief stop at Newspaper Rock outside Monticello, Utah, we continued on the same road about 25 miles further north to the Canyonlands southern entrance at the Needles District.

Red Rocks Canyonlands Needles District Utah

Just standing in the parking lot at the trailhead our cameras began to click!

As we stopped at the entrance station to flash our pass and get maps, Mark joked with the attendant who had been making change and issuing passes to a line of cars all day long.

“So, this is what a degree in Forestry gets you…” Mark winked. “You might as well be working at fast food joint!”

The ranger gave him a wry smile. “Actually, it’s even better than that.” He said. “I have a master’s degree in Geology.”

We both got a chuckle out of that, but we understood exactly what he meant when went on, “All my colleagues are in Houston making six figures. But guess who’s jealous of whom?!”

Log Canyonlands Needles District Utah

All along the trail there were fabulous gnarled limbs and logs that were bleached by the sun.

We found out later that this ranger does a Night Sky lecture that is really awesome, but we were there for a daytime hike. He recommended we do the Chesler Park hike, and before we even got the truck parked at the trailhead, we were already immersed in red rock beauty.

This is a 6 miles out-and-back hike that is loaded with fabulous scenery right off the bat, so whether you go the whole distance or do just a small bit, it is really rewarding.

Needles District Canyonlands National Park Utah

On the Chesler Park hike, the scenery is awe-inspiring as soon as you begin.

Right from the get go, after a fairly steep bit of climbing, we were within range of the “needles” red rock formations that give this area its name. Along with the spiky needles, we were surrounded by cool rock formations of all kinds, and it was really tempting to stop hiking and just play in the rocks.

Playing in Canyonlands Needles District Utah

So many cool rock formations lured us off the trail, we found it impossible to stay on the trail!

The sandy dirt trail is very clear and easy to find in spots.

Hiking Trail Canyonlands Needles District Utah

In places the trail was a thin ribbon of sand.

But in other places it wanders off across vast flat rocks. Fortunately it is very well marked with little rock pile cairns.

Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands Needles District Utah

The trail wandered off over the boulders, kept in check only by the rock cairns rangers had built for hikers.

The fun thing is that there are hundreds of places to sneak off the trail and explore.

Gnarly Tree Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands National Park Needles

The views were inspiring in every direction.

As we followed the trail, continuously tempted by things that were off the trail, it occurred to me that you could do this hike a dozen times and have a totally difference experience each time.

Hiking Canyonlands Needles District Utah

Some rock formations resembled spires.

The “needles” stand in neat rows, and some rows are more needle-like than others.

The Needles Canyonlands National Park Utah

Suddenly we found ourselves standing among the needles themselves.

Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

The needles rose up hundreds of feet in the air.

The sky was filled with clouds, and the sun played with the rock formations, alternately shading them and lightening them up.

Trail to Chesler Park Needles Canyonlands National Park Utah

The entrance to Nature’s Cathedral…

Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands National Park Utah

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I was caught up by the incredible vistas of rock formations standing all around us, but Mark looked down at his feet and noticed some beautiful wildflowers.

Wildflowers Canyonlands National Park Utah

While I gazed at the mammoth rock faces, Mark noticed the little smiling faces of wildflowers at his feet.

We had been enjoying all kinds of different scrambles here and there as the trail wandered in and around the rock formations. Then, suddenly, the trail descended into a slot.

Skinny slot Canyonlands National Park Needles Utah

We shimmied through a skinny slot.

It was just wide enough to fit a person. We love little slots like this.

Slot Canyon Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

This was fun!

It wasn’t very long, though, and soon we were out at the other end. We took a break under an overhang.

Resting on Chesler Park Trail Canyonlands National Park Needles District

At the other end of the slot a huge rock overhang stretched over us.

We were both going crazy taking photos. Back in the rig, Mark played with one of his in black and white. Cool!

Old time photo Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

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We turned around to retrace our steps and saw the needles from another vantage point. What a spectacular area.

Red Rocks Needles Canyonlands National Park Utah

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This is a popular hike, and as we walked back we saw dozens of people of all kinds starting out. It’s a great hike for all ages. Lots of families had brought little kids who ran around on the trail, and older couples came with hiking sticks. We even saw a young couple doing the hike as a trail run. Wow!

Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands National Park Needles District

Hikers of all ages love the Needles!

When we passed a woman carrying a little while pooch with pink and purple ears, we knew we’d seen it all.

Dog on hiking trail Canyonlands National Park Utah

Even stylish pooches enjoy an outing on this red rock trail.

The Needles District of Canyonlands is stunning, and there are hikes galore. Lots of families were camping there for Spring Break (and more than a few mentioned having been caught in the snow in their tents a few nights back like we were).

Needles Red Rocks Canyonlands National Park Utah

The Needles District is said to be the more beautiful and less touristy side of Canyonlands National Park.

On the way in and out of Canyonlands National Park, there is a tiny homestead on the west side of the road that begs for exploration.

Tiny house homestead Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

We found an abandoned cabin just outside the park. Our “tiny house” on wheels is bigger than this!!!

This little cabin couldn’t have been much more than 250 square feet. We couldn’t resist poking around for a bit.

Tiny house antique homestead Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

I could barely stand up straight inside!

“Tiny houses” are very popular these days, and lots of people want to downsize into minimal square feet, whether on a foundation or on wheels. Imagine living in this wee cabin, miles from nowhere, during the winter. To stay cool in summertime, it even had an outdoor fireplace!

Tiny house outdoor fireplace hearth Canyonlands Needles Utah

The summertime fireplace was just beyond the front door.

If your RV travels take you through southeastern Utah, it is well worth the detour to visit both Newspaper Rock and Canyonlands, to check out the intriguing sites in between, and especially to do the Chesler Park hike into the Needles red rock formations!

More info and links below.

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Lees Ferry & Marble Canyon AZ + Pretty Paria River Hike

March 2016 – Arizona boasts lots of incredibly scenic drives, and one beauty is Routes 89 and 89A which double back on themselves between Page and Lees Ferry in the northeast corner of the state. This is a portion of the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway, an area that is great for RV travel. After our wonderful visit to the Horseshoe Bend overlook in Page, we drove to Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry.

RV at Lees Ferry Arizona red rocks

Lots of RVs drive the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway

At Marble Canyon, the Navajo Bridge spans the Colorado River. It was built in 1929 and was an important bridge because it made it possible to cross the moody Colorado River without taking the more antiquated cable ferry across at nearby Lees Ferry.

Cars were new in those days, and the ferry system wasn’t great for carrying cars across the river. In 1928 the ferry sank, killing three men, so the bridge, known then as the Grand Canyon Bridge, was a huge improvement.

Today the original bridge is a walking bridge that runs parallel to the newer highway bridge that was opened in 1997.

Navajo Bridge Marble Canyon Arizona

The old Navajo Bridge (left) is now a footbridge. Highway traffic takes the bridge on the right.

Sheer cliffs plunge down to the Colorado River on either side.

Navajo Bridge Lees Ferry Arizona

The Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River

We enjoyed a stroll on the walking bridge. The river is a looooong way down!!

Navajo Bridge Overlook Marble Canyon Arizona

The river is way down there!!

We had loved our stay in the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona, a few weeks earlier, but that little town is just the beginning of the southwest’s explosion of orange and pink color in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Spring was just beginning, and we saw bunches of tiny purple wildflowers here and there.

Wildflowers in Lees Ferry Arizona

Wildflowers were just starting to bloom.

The road that winds from Marble Canyon into Lees Ferry is lined with dramatic red rock cliffs, and it is a jaw-dropper of a drive.

Scenic drive to Lees Ferry Arizona

The drive into Lees Ferry is gorgeous.

The towering red walls are still eroding, and in one area there is a massive debris field of enormous boulders that have broken away from the cliffs and rolled downhill. From a distance they look like gravel, but up close these boulders are gargantuan.

Huge red rock boulders Lees Ferry Arizona

Boulders strewn like gravel around the cliffs are actually really massive!!

We meandered among them and took a breather on a rock, totally awed by the sheer scale of Nature’s handiwork.

Hiking the red rocks at Lees Ferry Arizona

We love red rock country!

The forces of wind and water shaped these rocks, and we saw a jagged tributary leading to the Colorado River where a stream carved a zig-zag pattern through the rocks.

Lees Ferry Arizona crack in the earth

A tributary makes its way to the Colorado River

Prior to the Navajo Bridge, Lees Ferry was home to a cable ferry that was originally built by John Lee in 1873. It was the only place travelers could take their horses and wagons and themselves across the tempestuous Colorado River safely.

At the river’s edge there is a boat launch now, and this is a popular put-in spot for river rafters heading down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Two groups of rafters were launching their rafts when we were there. One group was starting a 24 day voyage down the river and the other was starting a 16 day trip. What fun!

Colorado River Rafters headed to Grand Canyon

Lees Ferry is the start of the Grand Canyon, both geologically and for river rafters too.

Just downstream from the boat launch we found the Paria Riffle and white sand Paria Beach where the Paria River joins the Colorado River. This is a really beautiful spot with turquoise water and pink boulders. For those wondering, Paria is pronounced “PaREEa” and not like the word “pariah.”

Paria Riffle and Paria Beach Lees Ferry Arizona

The Paria Riffle and the white sand Paria Beach are very inviting

John Lee’s homestead is now owned by the National Park Service, and we roamed around a little bit. There is an orchard, and visitors can pick the apples and other fruit for free during the fall harvest. We found an old wagon sitting nearby and chatted a bit with an NPS worker who was tending the trees in the orchard.

Old wagon at Lees Ferry Arizona

We roamed around the grounds of the old homestead at Lees Ferry

The farm house itself is off-limits to visitors, and the National Park Service has an engraved padlock keeping folks out.

NPS Padlock Lees Ferry Arizona

No Admittance.
(What a nice padlock!)

The last family to work the farm and live in these buildings left in the 1960’s when the National Park Service bought the property. We wandered out beyond the farmhouse along the dirt road that passes the old farm fields, and we found an old Chevy dually truck sitting out there. As I looked at it, I couldn’t help but think of the day the first owner proudly put the key in the ignition and drove it home. What kind of deal had he struck with the salesman, and what did his wife think of their new wheels?

Antique Chevy truck Lees Ferry Arizona

The last family that lived in the homestead moved out over 50 years ago and left some things behind.

The dirt road that goes by the Lees Ferry Homestead (the homestead is called Lonely Dell Ranch) is the start of the Paria River Trail hike, and we followed the trail for a mile or so along the river.

Paria River Trail Hike Lees Ferry Arizona

From Lonely Dell Ranch, we walked along the Paria River towards Paria Canyon.

The red rock cliffs glowed a deep orange in the afternoon sun, and the cottonwood trees glowed green. What a spot!

Paria River trail hike Lees Ferry Arizona

How beautiful!

Paria River Trail hike Lees Ferry Arizona

Who knew this gorgeous canyon was back here behind Lonely Dell Ranch?!

There was a corral and cattle chute in a more distant farm field. I think farming and ranching would be a pretty enjoyable activity in a setting like this!!

Cattle chute Lees Ferry Arizona

We found a corral and cattle chute out beyond the farm fields.

We walked back towards the farmhouse and caught some trees shimmering in the sun.

Artsy trees Paria River Trail hike Arizona

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The Paria River trail at Lees Ferry is actually the end of the 40+ mile Paria Canyon trail that starts at the White House Trailhead and goes through Buckskin Gulch and the Wire Pass Slot Canyon. As we were walking, we met two hikers that were wrapping up a three day hike through Paria Canyon. They were tired and had sore feet, but they said it had been a glorious hike. That multi-day hike is said to be one of Arizona’s best.

Hikers on Paria River Trail Buckskin Gulch Lees Ferry Arizona

We met a pair of hikers doing the last mile of their 3 day Paria Canyon hike. Wow!

If it is anything like the mile or so we walked at the south end, it must be truly stunning. We were catching the late afternoon sun on the eastern red rock canyon walls, but glancing at the shaded cliffs to the west, we could see that they must light up in spectacular color in the mornings…

Dirt road Paria River Trail Lees Ferry Arizona

The golden hour just before sunset lit the red rocks beautifully

We didn’t stay long at Lees Ferry, but we got a taste that will bring us back. This is the edge of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, and the whole area is ripe for exploring.

Road at Marble Canyon Arizona

Rush hour on the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway

If you are taking your RV through northeastern Arizona from Page westward towards Jacob’s Lake and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Kanab, Utah or north towards Natural Bridges, the detour to Lees Ferry is really worthwhile. The combination of red rock canyons and riverside scenery is hard to beat!

RV camping Lees Ferry Arizona

Red rock country knocks our socks off every time we visit.

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More posts from our RV travels to NE Arizona and SE Utah:

Wire Pass Trail Slot Canyon – A FABULOUS hike further north in Paria Canyon
Two Gorgeous Paria Rimrocks Hikes – Easy to reach (and do) hikes at the far north end of the Paria River

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