Bryce Canyon National Park – “Mossy Cave” – Mystery Waterfall!

September 2016 – Just as headlines sell news stories, the same thing is true with hiking trails at the National Parks.

Red rock pinnacles Mossy Cave Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon has beautiful red rock hoodoos everywhere, even on the less visited trails.

At Bryce Canyon National Park there are lots of great hiking trails and overlooks with fabulously inviting names like: Fairyland Trail, Inspiration Point, Sunrise and Sunset Points and Peek-a-boo Trail to name a few.

Colorful trees and red rocks Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Wonderful colors on the Mossy Cave hike.

But up in the northeast corner of Bryce Canyon National Park, well off the beaten path, and not even on the main drive through the Park, there’s a hiking trail called Mossy Cave. This is an interesting name, perhaps, but it sure didn’t jump out at us and beg us to come check it out!

Bridge at Mossy Cave Trail Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The Mossy Cave trail crosses a cool bridge at the beginning of the hike.

I wonder if because of this rather drab sounding name, other visitors respond like we do and don’t bother to drive outside the Park and around to its far northeastern edge to find out what Mossy Cave is all about.

Whatever the cause, this hiking trail is very lightly used compared to the other more popular trails at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Red rock windows Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

“Windows” appeared high above us among the red rock formations.

My suspicion is that if this trail bore the name “Waterfall Cascades” or “Glittering Pools,” both of which is has, the trail would be overrun with visitors!

How fortunate that the feature this trail is named after is the other thing you’ll see on the hike — a shallow overhang that seeps water and is covered with various types of moss — instead of the beautiful waterfall!

Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The waterfall on the Mossy Cave hike takes a lot of people by surprise!

Mossy Cave Trail Waterfall Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A beautiful waterfall in the desert!

To a naturalist or biology expert, the mossy cave is probably the more fascinating feature on this trail. And photos we’ve seen of icicles in the cave during the winter are beautiful.

However, to everyday hikers and tourists, it is the waterfall and cascades upstream from it that are the real draw!

Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah Waterfall

Who knew Bryce Canyon had a waterfall?!

The branch canyon that Mossy Cave is in is called Water Canyon, and rightfully so. In the early 1890’s, mormon pioneers diverted some of the East Fork of the Sevier River to flow through here so they could use the water for irrigation purposes. With picks and shovels they carved a ditch and let the water flow.

Mossy Cave Trail Waterfall Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Silky falls and pools.

So, it is not a natural water course. But the waterfall itself is totally natural, and the water drops down over a red rock overhang as if this year-round stream were meant to be here and had been here all along!

Mossy Cave Waterfall Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A rush of water over the desert rocks.

The overhang is fairly large, so Mark slipped in behind it to get some very cool images.

Hiking under the waterfall Mossy Cave Trail Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The overhang makes it easy to walk under this waterfall.

Under waterfall Mossy Cave Trail Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

View from under the waterfall on the Mossy Cave hike.

View under waterfall Mossy Cave Trail Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

How refreshing on a hot day!

We walked upstream from the main waterfall and found that the stream is a babbling brook for quite a distance, tripping over stones and rocks along the way.

Stream Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

We turned the corner at the waterfall and found the hike continues upstream.

There are other smaller waterfalls too.

Waterfall Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Looking upstream.

Mossy Cave Waterfall Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

We discovered another smaller waterfall too.

We wandered back down the trail to a fork and took the path leading to the Mossy Cave. A short distance down the trail we came to the cave. The water was seeping through the rocks in such quantities that it was dripping from the roof of the cave onto the gravel floor below. Patches of moss covered the rocks, and the air was cool. The trail didn’t go inside the cave, but we could stand on one side and peer in.

Water seeps through rock and drips down moss in Mossy Cave Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Water seeps through the rocks and drips from the moss at Mossy Cave.

We ended up doing the Mossy Cave hike several times during our stay in Bryce Canyon. It is a short and easy trail that is lovely in both morning and afternoon light. And there are some wonderful hoodoos high up on the ridges.

Red rock window Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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One morning, as the sun was rising, Mark caught a fantastic starburst in one of the red rock windows.

Starburst Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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If you have already enjoyed some of the major hikes and overlooks at Bryce Canyon National Park, the Mossy Cave trail makes for a very pleasant trek. And on a hot day, what could be better than hanging around a waterfall!

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

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Bryce Canyon Gone Wild – Tempests, Rainbows & Wildlife

September 2016 – Bryce Canyon National Park is enchanting, and during our stay we were mesmerized by the beauty at Inspiration Point at sunrise, along the Rim Trail at the peak of midday, and descending into the Canyon along the Fairyland Trail in the early hours of the morning. We had lovely sunny weather for these excursions, but suddenly the skies went dark and storms threatened.

Storm Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

An afternoon thunderstorm rolls into Bryce Canyon National Park

Watching a storm develop in Bryce Canyon National Park is a thrill, and they are regular afternoon occurrences in late summer.

Storm at Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

A storm brews over the red rocks.

We had some all day rains, and on one of these days we drove down towards the south end of the Park. On the way, we stopped at Agua Canyon.

Colors at Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Looking down into the depths of Agua Canyon.

This is a beautiful part of Bryce Canyon in any weather, but as we climbed the trail that rises above Agua Canyon on its north side, we were blown away by how the colors of the soaking wet red rocks came alive.

Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Brilliant colors of wet rock pinnacles at Agua Canyon

With no shadows to define each vivid red and white pinnacle, the shapes blended together in fantastic patterns.

Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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A woman stepped out on a precipice to take a photo, and her tiny blue figure looked like a mere speck against this vibrant backdrop.

Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A woman is engulfed by the radiant red rock landscape.

We hiked higher and higher above Agua Canyon, smitten with the beauty of this canyon in these wet and miserable conditions. What luck to have discovered this spot on just such a day.

Photography at Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

They always say, “Bad weather makes for great photography,” and how true that was on this rainy day!

At the far south end of the park at Rainbow Point, lots of tourists were huddled under a shade ramada, bundled up to the hilt. The usually stunning vistas were invisible because of the mist and fog, but we found a spot where the fog lifted just enough to peer through.

Fog and mist Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The mist clears for a moment at Rainbow Point.

Out on the ranch lands around the edges of Bryce Canyon National Park, we saw some incredible storm clouds brooding in the sky.

Storm clouds in Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A storm sweeps across the plateau near Bryce Canyon.

Suddenly a bolt of lightning split the heavens above us.

Lightning strikes Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The gods let loose their fury!

We hopped in the truck to go do some errands in nearby Panguitch, and in no time we heard the unmistakable sound of hail pelting the truck’s roof. This was crazy! We were barely into the first week of September!

Hail at Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

We’re in a hailstorm!

The hail piled up and made a wonderful contrast to the wildflowers that were blooming by the curb.

Hail on roads Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The roads between the wildflowers turned white with hail pellets!

The hail was pea sized, but it made an incredible racket as it struck our truck’s roof. When we got back to the trailer, we were relieved that nothing had broken or been dented on our RV roof!!

Hail on the ground

Yup, that is definitely hail!

Wild thunderstorms and hailstorms brushed across the landscape more than once during our stay in Bryce Canyon, and at Inspiration Point one afternoon, we met a very soggy pair of hikers who had been hiking on the Peek-a-boo Trail for the last hour while we enjoyed the storm from the comfort of inside our heated truck!

Hikers in hail storm Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Soaked to the bone!

Getting caught in an afternoon storm turned out to be pretty common in Bryce Canyon at this time of year. During our visit we became accustomed to the gathering clouds and eventual torrents that took place every afternoon, but they caught lots of hikers and visitors by surprise.

The show must go on, however, and a wet group of tourists on a guided tour passed us as we arrived at Sunset Point, and each was adorned in rain poncho of a different color.

Photography tour in hail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The gods took pity on all of us drenched visitors, however, and one afternoon as we drove along the wet scenic drive through the park we could see the sun shining beyond the black clouds.

We whipped our heads around looking for the rainbow that had to be shimmering somewhere, and saw it was hanging over the canyon. We flew out to Fairyland Point, the closest part of the rim we could reach, and there was the rainbow, in all its glory, spanning the canyon.

Rainbow Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A rainbow sails over Fairyland Canyon

We watched in awe as it hovered over the canyon, and then grew brighter and dimmer at each of its ends, intensifying first on one side and then on the other.

Rainbow Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Rainbow Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The wild weather we were experiencing at Bryce Canyon National Park was an adrenaline rush, especially as we dashed around from place to place trying to catch the drama in the peak of action.

Back on our computers Mark had fun playing with some of his photos in Photoshop Elements. Suddenly a simple image of a tree against the red rocks was mirrored as if in a pond.

Mirrors Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A little wild magic applied later!

We were loving witnessing “Bryce Canyon Gone Wild,” and we soon saw lots more evidence of this National Park‘s untamed heart as creatures of all kinds wandered in and out of our cameras’ viewfinders.

One morning we took our gaze off the stunning red rocks at Sunset Point and noticed a young buck with fuzzy soft antlers peeking over the bushes.

Young buck deer Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A young buck appears behind the bushes.

How funny, a week later, to catch a mature buck with a beautiful rack standing in the bushes in almost the exact same pose a few miles away at Rainbow Point!

Buck deer Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A week later and many miles away another older buck strikes the same pose!

At Piracy Point we noticed a little chipmunk munching away on a pine cone. He was making quite a mess and had bits of his breakfast on his whiskers and fur.

Chipmunk Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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One morning we saw a sweet little face peeking out at us from the front tire of our truck. This little guy was the size of a chipmunk, but he was some other kind of critter.

We looked him up online, and discovered he was a little stoat. We hoped he’d stick around, but we never saw him again after that morning.

Stoat on a truck tire in Utah

A stoat peeks out at us from the front tire of our truck!

On another afternoon, we spotted a beautiful pronghorn antelope in the grass.

Pronghorn antelope Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A pronghorn antelope pauses in the grass.

He was part of a small group of pronghorns, and a few minutes later two more ran across the road.

Pronghorn Antelope Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A pair of pronghorn dash across the road.

As happens to us on every visit to Bryce Canyon National Park, we were utterly bewitched by everything we saw, from the turbulent weather to the animals that call the place home. It is pure magic!

RV camping in Utah

Fast moving clouds at sunset.

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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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More info about Bryce Canyon National Park:

More blog posts from our RV trips to Bryce Canyon

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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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More info about Bryce Canyon National Park:

More blog posts from our RV trips to Bryce Canyon

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Bryce Canyon National Park – Inspiration Point – OMG!

August 2016 – We have been fortunate to visit Bryce Canyon National Park three times in the past, and we often refer to it as our favorite of America’s National Parks. But this fourth visit with our RV was sensational.

View Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

Inspiration Point – Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

We overheard a ranger telling a newcomer that the best way to see Bryce Canyon National Park is to drive the 20 miles or so straight to the very far south end of the Park at Rainbow Point and then to turn around and drive back slowly, stopping at all the overlooks on the way back.

If you are into saving the best for last, then this strategy is fine. It’s also great for easing traffic congestion at the main part of the park.

Pink and White Spires Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

Orange, pink and white spires seen from Inspiration Point.

However, we say, “Life is short, so eat dessert first!” and “Go for the gusto!”

Our suggestion is to drive (or take the Park Shuttle) directly to the Inspiration Point parking lot, walk straight out to the rim, and feel the breath get sucked right out of you as you gape in awe at the wondrous landscape laid out in front of you.

Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

View from Inspiration Point.

Then, just like every other one of the thousands of tourists alongside you, you’ve gotta get a selfie. Of all the backdrops for self-portrait, this has to be one of the best.

Bryce Canyon RV trip Inspiration Point

Happy campers at Bryce Canyon.

The thing that sets Bryce Canyon National Park apart from all other magnificent, world class canyons, including its nearby little sister, Cedar Breaks National Monument is the jaw-dropping symmetry of the red rock formations.

Red rock patterns Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

Dizzying symmetry.

That wind and rain can join forces to carve sandstone into rows and rows of nearly identical pinnacles is extraordinary. There are legions and legions of hoodoos in this red rock army!!

Pinnacle closeup Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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Bryce Canyon National Park is a fantastic area for photography, and we shot five thousand images between us during our stay.

Photography at Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

What a place for photography!

Bryce Canyon National Park is a massive amphitheater of red rock pinnacles and pink and white striped spires. It’s as if the gods were playing on a huge red sand beach and created a million giant dribble castles.

Closeup spires Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

These are hundreds of feet tall! A person would be a mere speck.

There is a wonderful trail along the rim of the canyon that is wide and smooth and easy to walk on. There are also many hiking trails into the heart of the canyon where you have a view from the base of these towers looking up towards the sky. From Inspiration Point we could spot a few of these trails in the distance.

Hiking trails Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

A hiking trail weaves between the spires.

Some of the hikes are really popular and we could see people starting their hikes on the far side.

Hiking trails Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

People head into the canyon on a hike.

Here and there on the rim, a pine tree clung to the edge with a tenacious grip.

Pine tree Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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Following the Rim Trail up a steep climb past a series of overlooks, the final overlook is on top of the world and has a view across the entire canyon to the mountains, cliffs and valleys beyond. What a place to spot a soaring eagle!

Top overlook Inspiration Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bird’s eye view!

We are morning people, and we love getting out on the trail at dawn. One morning, the sun peaked through storm clouds in dramatic fashion.

Sunrise over Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

The sun works its way through storm clouds at dawn.

The rising sun lit a ponderosa pine in beautiful shades of vivid orange.

Sunrise Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon.

Even at this early hour, we were far from alone on the trail. Some people brought cups of coffee and wrapped themselves in blankets to see the sun rise. Others brought fancy cameras and tripods and staked out spots for beautiful photos.

All of us lined up and faced the far side of the Canyon, which is due east, like little birds sitting on a telephone wire.

Sunrise on the Rim Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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As I walked along the rim enjoying the glow of the sunrise light, I noticed a camera sitting on a tree branch. It was still displaying the image of a guy holding his hands out towards the rising sun. But the guy was nowhere to be seen!

Camera Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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When the final shades of pink faded to gray and the sun peeked over the horizon, everyone at the rim seemed to let out a collective sigh and begin to chat with each other. There were smiles all around.

Sunrise Inspiration Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The Rim Trail goes both north and south from Inspiration Point, and a walk in each direction is worthwhile, especially when the sky lights up at sunrise.

Trees at Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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Of course, Bryce Canyon National Park is all about vivid color, and the oranges, pinks, yellows and whites of the sandstone blending together in mesmerizing patterns. But even when the color is taken away, a black and white image of the Park is alluring.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah Inspiration Point Black and White

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Heading south a few paces from Inspiration Point one afternoon, we came across a different kind of red rock hoodoo than the precision cut ones seen in the views as you face north. These were more haphazard and jagged and they glowed in the afternoon light.

Tree at Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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Rim Trail Hoodoos Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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Pine tree Bryce Canyon National Park Utah Inspiration Point

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As the sun lowered in the sky, the craggy rock formations seemed to be lit from within.

Spires Rim Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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Pinnacles on Rim Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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Rim Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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In the same way that sunrise casts an angelic glow across Bryce Canyon in the morning, the light in the late afternoon becomes a rich orange, and it lit up the backside of a pine tree perched on the rim.

Sunset Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

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The sun sets behind the Canyon, that is, it sets behind your back as you face Bryce Canyon’s views. But once it has sunk below the horizon, the eastern sky takes on the unique pink and blue hues of dusk in the desert.

Sunset Bryce Canyon National Park Utah Inspiration Point

The desert sky turns pink and blue at twilight.

Inspiration Point is truly the most dazzling part of Bryce Canyon National Park, and whether you have three hours or nearly three weeks to explore the Park, as we did, it is a thrilling place to start.

RV camping in Utah

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For RVers planning an RV road trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, there’s more info and links below:

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Cedar Breaks National Monument – A Hidden Jewel in Utah

August 2016 – Cedar Breaks National Monument is a jewel of a destination in the heart of southwestern Utah’s many spectacular State and National Parks. It looks a lot like Bryce Canyon National Park, but it’s smaller, more intimate, less well known and much much less visited. On our last visit we wondered, “Is Cedar Breaks better than Bryce?

Photographer Sunrise Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument – WOW!

Cedar Breaks National Monument lies just above Cedar City, Utah, at a lofty elevation of 10,000 feet, ideal when the summer temps in the surrounding desert get unbearable.

Prior to visiting Cedar Breaks, we had an incredibly heartwarming experience while in Cedar City. Some of our readers might have missed this post, thinking it was just another bird story about the release of a golden eagle back into the wild.

However, if you have ever been a First Responder — working in law enforcement, search and rescue, fire fighting, EMT services or other professions that send you headlong into danger to help others get out of danger — this story will have special meaning for you. For those that have lost a loved one in the line of duty, this post will touch your heart.

It was one of the most moving experiences we have had in our nine years of travel. The link is here and also at the bottom of this page:

Eagle Whisperer & Healer of Angels – Martin Tyner of Southwest Wildlife Foundation in Utah

Soaring high above Cedar City, Cedar Breaks National Monument is a mammoth crater filled with pink and orange sandstone spires that jut up from the canyon floor like turrets in a fairytale castle. We snuck onto the trail before dawn to catch the soft colors in the sky above the canyon.

Sunrise Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Sunrise at Cedar Breaks National Monument

Suddenly the sun peeked over the horizon.

Sunrise starburst Cedar Breaks National Monument Amphitheater Utah

“Here comes the sun…”

All the exotic sandstone shapes in the canyon came to life in vivid color.

Dawn Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Early morning light at Cedar Breaks

Amphitheater Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

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The neat thing about hiking as the sun is rising at Cedar Breaks National Monument is that no one else is out there.

Sunset light Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

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Cedar Breaks is a quiet park to begin with, but at dawn the silence in this majestic canyon was broken only by the occasional bird chirping in the trees or the rustling of some small critter in the underbrush along the trail.

Dawn Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Patterns of light and shadow dance across the canyon.

There are quite a few overlooks that offer slightly differing views looking down into Cedar Breaks from above or across the canyon to the colorful walls on the far side.

Colorful Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Vivid colors — and dark pine trees — on the canyon walls

It is impossible to comprehend the size and scale of this canyon unless you are standing on the rim trying to take it all in.

Pinnacle red rocks Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Looking down into the Cedar Breaks amphitheater

Looking down from above, the red rock turrets at the bottom seem miniscule, yet the the tall pine trees offer a hint of their size.

Orange rock formations Cedar Breaks National Monument Amphitheater Utah

The tall pines were dwarfed by the fairy tale spires.

There are no hiking trails that go down into the Cedar Breaks National Monument amphitheater of rocks. This is a canyon that is enjoyed entirely from the rim up on top.

pink rocks Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

We could peer down from the rim, but there are no trails to the bottom of Cedar Breaks.

Even though people can’t crawl around in the depths of this beautiful canyon, the local marmot population wanders freely all over the place. These little guys are quite fearless, and I was amazed at how close they let us come.

Marmot Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A marmot pauses in the middle of his busy morning.

Cell phone and internet access is very sparse in this area, but I discovered that one place you can get a reasonable signal is at the overlook by the visitors center. One morning, I perched my laptop on the railing at this overlook, and started writing emails that were many days past due while I savored the view between sentences. Suddenly, I noticed a marmot was sitting on a ledge right in front of me.

Marmot Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

“Who are you writing to on your laptop??”

Darn if “being in touch with the world” on the internet wasn’t getting in the way of snagging a great photo at one of America’s most beautiful National Monuments!! What was I thinking doing email silliness instead of taking pics? Mark wandered by and snickered while he got a great photo of the little guy with the canyon in the background.

Marmot at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A marmot’s eye view of Cedar Breaks!

But my camera was way down in the parking lot in our truck! Oh well. I just watched the marmot as he went about his business with grass in his mouth and I went about mine on my laptop.

Fifteen minutes later, when I finally put away the darn computer, I was amazed that the little guy was still sitting there right in front of me, doing his thing with the grass in his mouth. So, I ran back to the truck, got my camera and came back to the overlook to get some photos of him myself.

Not only was he still there, he was kind enough to pose for a few shots.

Marmot Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

This marmot did his thing while I did mine until I finally went and got my camera!

Cedar Breaks National Monument is home to one of my all time favorite hikes, the Spectra Point Trail. This trail follows the rim of the canyon from the parking lot right out onto a huge peninsula that juts out into the middle of the red rock amphitheater.

It starts with a fabulous passage through tall pine trees that heads towards the rim. The heavenly scent of pine needles nearly knocked me off my feet!

Hiking trail Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Spectra Point trail heads through pine trees to the canyon rim.

We did this hike at dawn one morning, and as we looked back towards the parking lot, a dead tree was silhouetted against the colorful sky.

Dead tree at sunset Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

The bright colors of sunrise played behind an old dead tree.

This is an easy hike that has stunning canyon views the whole way. However, even though the path is wide and smooth, it goes uphill and downhill a lot, and being at 10,000 feet elevation, not only are the views breathtaking but you end up out of breath too!

Red Rocks Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

The views on the Spectra Point Trail were stunning.

One of the special treats at Cedar Breaks National Monument is the neighborhood of Bristlecone pines that lives near the end of the peninsula at Spectra Point. Many of these unique trees are 1,000 years old or more, and one beautiful biggie has celebrated its 1,600th bithday. We could see him standing half naked at his sentry point out near the end.

1600 Year Old Bristlecone Pine Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A 1600 year old Bristlecone pine tree stands sentinel at the end of the trail.

As we walked out onto Spectra Point, the Bristlecone pines crowded in around us. These trees are the very definition of “gnarly,” with claw-like roots that snake across the ground without bothering to tunnel underneath.

Bristlecone pine Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Bristlecone pine trees are gnarly and tenacious, hanging onto the rim of the canyon in brutal weather.

Life is tough here where they like to live, with high altitudes and strong winds, nasty cold winters and all too brief summers. I think these trees must slumber through life with just one eye open. Whole branches and trunks of these trees are totally devoid of any signs of life.

Yet there are a few branches on every tree that are covered in the softest bristles. For such craggy trees that are entirely bald and bent like little old grandpas, their short pine needles are as soft and as full of life as can be.

The 1,600 year old great-grandaddy Bristlecone of them all gave me pause for thought as I walked around and around it to try and fit its expansive branches into my camera’s viewfinder.

1,600 years is a very long time!

1600 Year Old Bristlecone Pine Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A 1,600 year old Bristlecone pine tree – a true antique!

There are lots of tree species that live a long life. In Arizona, the “ancient” saguaro cactus that preside over the Sonoran Desert with a regal (and whimsical) air don’t even bother to grow their first branches until they are 75 years old. And the grand multi-branched 150 year old beauties that dot the scorching desert were mere babes when Americans were first settling the Arizona Territory.

But this Bristlecone Pine in front of me predated those juvenile saguaro cacti by centuries PLUS a millenium. It even predated the “ancient” Native Americans who roamed this area! The prehistoric Anasazi people of the southwest who left their artwork behind on canyon walls didn’t make their mark until this Bristlecone pine already had a few hundred years under its belt.

This tree put its roots down right around the time that the Goths sacked Rome!

And it has looked out on this fabulous view at the end of Spectra Point the whole time.

Sunset light Spectra Point Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Spectra Point overlook at the end of the trail.

Besides red rock beauty and ancient trees, Cedar Breaks National Monument is also known for it’s incredible wildflower displays in mid to late July. The monument even celebrates with a special wildflower festival.

We got there a little late for seeing the blankets of wild color in the meadows, but brilliant yellow Snowy Goldeneye were blooming thickly everywhere, right up to the fencing by the visitors center.

Snowy Goldeneye wildflowers at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Snowy goldeneye swarm a fence post.

Snowy goldeneye wildflowers Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

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There were a few other pretty wildflowers here and there.

Wildflowers Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

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We just loved finding a bright red Indian Paintbrush tucked in between some low lying pine boughs.

Indian Paintbrush in pine branch

Indian paintbrush — surrounded by pine needles!

The weather in late August at Cedar Breaks National Monument can be very unpredictable. While many folks in other parts of the country were enduring an intense heat wave, we got hit with lots of afternoon thunderstorms that made the nights downright chilly.

Thunderstorm brewing over Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

August is thunderstorm season at Cedar Breaks.

One day we even got a wild hail storm that left a sheet of icy pellets on the road!!

Hail storm Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A surprise hailstorm left a layer of ice on the road… yikes!

Cedar Breaks National Monument is a little gem in Utah that gets overshadowed by the more famous National Parks nearby. But if you take your RV to southwestern Utah, a detour to Cedar Breaks is an absolute must!! There are some links for planning an RV trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument below.

Note: The road from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks (Rte 14) is steep and winding. If you have a strong engine in your motorhome or a strong truck to tow your trailer, it’s no problem. We towed our 14k lb. 36′ fifth wheel up the hill easily. Driving the road with your toad/tow vehicle first will help alleviate any concerns you might have (we did!).

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“Going to the Sun” from Glacier National Park’s East Side – Breathtaking!

June 2016 – During our visit to the east side of Montana’s Glacier National Park, we saw lots of storm clouds roll in and out, and at dawn and dusk the sky lit up in astonishing patterns and colors.

RV at sunset Glacier National Park Montana

We saw some amazing light shows in the sky.

The Going to the Sun Road is the famous and extraordinarily scenic drive that cuts through the center of the park from west to east, and one great way to do it is on one of the Red Bus Tours. Many of these buses were built by the White Motor Company in the early 1900’s but have been converted to run on propane and gasoline. Some have been in service since the 1930’s!

Glacier National Park Red Bus Tour

Here’s a fun way to tour Glacier National Park – with a Red Bus Tour!

We saw the red buses all over the place. They have tours of the west side of the park and tours of the east side of the park.

Red Bus Tour Glacier National Park Montana

What a classy ride!

Sometimes we saw them in groups of two or three. With the top of the bus rolled back, folks could stand up inside to take pics of the mountains with a totally unobstructed view. This seemed like the best way to enjoy this incredible drive, as the traffic can be pretty intense. Why not leave the driving to someone else?

Three Red Bus Tours Glacier National Park Montana

We saw the red buses everywhere!

Of course, there are many ways to enjoy the Going to the Sun Road, and driving it in a Led Zeppelin van looked pretty cool too.

Stairway to Heaven on the Going to the Sun Road

Take a drive up the Stairway to Heaven on the Going to the Sun Raod!

The views of Saint Mary Lake on the east side are just gorgeous, and we marveled at the ever changing colors of the water and the sky as the storms rolled in and out.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake – teal blue water under misty gray skies.

One of the nice things about driving your own vehicle (especially if you have a sweet hubby who chauffeurs you around) is that you can stop in every single pullout and see what’s there. We found wildflowers blooming on the banks of Saint Mary Lake.

Wildflowers Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Pretty flowers throw a splash of color in the greenery.

At the beginning of the Going to the Sun Road, we were greeted by tall, craggy, gray mountains that didn’t have a whole lot of snow on their peaks.

Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Going to the Sun!!

As the road twisted and turned and rose higher, the mountains grew taller too, and they were dressed in their snowy white best. The road snuck right through a mountain at one point too!

Tunnel Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

The Going to the Sun Road has snowy peaks and cool tunnels!

The temperatures quickly cooled as we climbed higher, and the snow on the highest peaks got thicker.

Snowcapped mountains Glacier National Park Montana

Mid-June in Glacier National Park!

Near the top, we found ourselves rounding a tight curve that took in an incredible view of the vivd green valley floor. What a setting!

Happy camper Glacier National Park Montana

The views down into the valleys from the Going to the Sun Road are stunning.

There were patches of snow on the ground in the valley, and the tall evergreens seemed miniscule so far below us.

Snow and trees Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Patches of snow were tucked between the trees in the valley.

In 1995, Waterton-Glacier National Park was named a World Heritage Site.

A century earlier, America and Canada joined hands across the border to to unite their adjacent National Parks, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park in Montana, USA.

12,000 years ago, thick, moving slabs of ice and snow — glaciers – carved the valleys between these towering mountains, giving them a distinctive U-shape.

Glacier valleys Glacier National Park Montana

Eons ago, glaciers carved wonderful U-shaped valleys.

Waterton-Glacier National Park is referred to as the “Crown of the Continent,” and no wonder. The spiky mountains that encircle the valleys and lakes look like a crown.

This area also straddles the Continental Divide, the ridge that runs north-south down the continent and separates the water flow through the eastern states provinces from that going through the western ones. The water that spills down the mountains from the Continental Divide in streams and rivers heads towards the two opposite and very distant oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Happy Campers Glacier National Park Montana

Happy campers on the Crown of the Continent.

Far below us, tucked between the cliffs and grassy slopes and pine trees, we spotted a waterfall that was about a quarter inch tall from our vantage point. No doubt this is a tall cascade that plunges down with a thunderous roar.

Waterfall Glacier National Park Montana

Far below us we saw a tiny waterfall.
A zoom lens brings it in close!

We found another waterfall right alongside the Going to the Sun road near the top of the continent’s crown. This one was wide and shallow, and it scurried this way and that as it rushed downhill between the rocks.

Waterfall Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

We explored a beautiful wide waterfall right by the road.

Up near the visitors center at Logan Pass, the snow was still very deep in places.

Thick Snow Glacier National Park Montana

Mark stands by a wall of snow at the visitors center.

Snow covered much of the ground, and it was really fun to follow the little animal tracks in the snow until they disappeared into round and deep holes. We didn’t see anyone peeking out of their burrows, but we knew they were under there. We threw a few snowballs at each other too!

Snow Glacier National Park Montana

The Going to the Sun Road had just opened at Logan Pass when we were there in mid-June!

There are three entrances to Glacier National Park on the east side. The Going to the Sun Road starts/ends in Saint Mary, but 37 miles south of there is the entrance at Two Medicine, near the town of East Glacier Park Village.

Two Medicine is home to a fabulous historic log building that was once part of the Two Medicine Chalet rustic vacation destination built by the Great Northern Railway in the early 1900’s. Today it is just the Two Medicine Store, but it offers a little bit of everything to visitors.

From souvenirs to guidebooks, hiking gear and tourist info, they also serve fancy fluffy lattes and yummy lunch fare and bottled microbrew beer. This cute cabin in the middle of nowhere has everything the modern hiker needs!

The Lodge at Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

This simple log building serves up cheap beer and lattes as well as yummy lunches and souvenirs.

We were shocked at how reasonable the prices were too, especially after visiting the village of Waterton in the heart of Waterton Lakes National Park where the prices of certain essential food items (beer) were more than double the norm.

We were also very intrigued to chat with our latte barista and find out she was a college student from Colorado who was working at the store as a summer job. Her boyfriend was also working a summer job nearby at Amtrak’s East Glacier Park station.

People often wonder how to make a living while RVing full-time. One option is to get fun seasonal jobs at popular tourist destinations. You just have to be as much of a go-getter as a college kid and be willing to do things like make espresso drinks or work at a train depot!

Inside the lodge at Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Inside the historic Two Medicine Store.

Mark had just purchased a Rokinon 12 mm lens for his camera, and he was absolutely loving the very wide angles that it could capture. He also found it made fantastic starbursts, so he had a wide-angle-starburst theme going for a lot of his photos at Two Medicine.

Starburst Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

A fiery sun shines on Two Medicine Lake.

Two Medicine Lake is a beauty. We wanted to get out on it for the little boat ride that goes across, but we ended up saving that treat for our next visit!

Beach Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Two Medicine offers Glacier National Park beauty with a bit of peace and solitude to go with.

There are lots of canoe rentals, and this lake would be a great place for a kayak too, especially in the mornings before the wind picks up.

Canoes Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Rental canoes wait for a ride at Two Medicine.

Besides camera-created starbursts in the sky, we also loved seeing the stunning crepuscular rays at sunset when the sun lit the sky on fire.

RV in sunset Glacier National Park Montana

The changeable weather at Glacier National Park created some wonderful sunrises and sunsets.

On the morning we left Glacier National Park, the gods treated us to some unbelievable theatrics in the heavens. It began innocently enough with a beautiful pastel sunrise over the mountains. The thick forest of dead trees below seemed to mirror the shades of gray in the heavy moisture-laden clouds.

Sunrise over dead trees Glacier National Park Montana

Storm clouds mirror the dead gray forest while pink shades dance in the sky.

As we drove, the sky began to turn wild shades of yellow and orange, and heavy rain fell from the clouds in the distance. We pulled over the enjoy the spectacle and were stunned by the light show that followed.

RV in dawn stormy skies Glacier National Park Montana

As we were leaving, the sky went wild.

The rising sun cut across the valley and lit the mountains in the distance with soft orange hues while rain fell from black clouds. Suddenly a brilliant rainbow appeared.

RV in rainbow stormy skies Glacier National Park Montana

Wow.

We ran around like mad snapping photos, and as if in joyful response to our excitement, the rainbow got brighter and brighter.

RV under rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow seemed to jump out of the clouds!

Then a second rainbow appeared outside the first one. This surely meant double good luck — but which one led to the pot of gold??

RV in a double rainbow Montana

And then there were two rainbows, one inside the other.

The outer rainbow eventually faded, so we knew it wasn’t that one! Off in the distance the remaining rainbow seemed to fall right into the heart of the valley below.

Rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow ultimately aims right at the pot of gold down in the valley at Glacier National Park.

As clouds slowly parted and we made our way back to our buggy, we were breathless with excitement. What a sensational light show that had been.

Rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow lands in the middle of the forest of dead trees, promising a new beginning.

We loved our visits to Glacier National Park this year, both the west side and on the east side. If you have a hankering to take an RV trip there too, there are more links for planning your adventure below.

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Glacier National Park’s Quieter Side – Saint Mary

June 2016 – After nearly six weeks in the Canadian Rockies, it felt funny to cross over the border with our trailer and be “home” again in America. And what a gorgeous spot we landed in — the east side of Glacier National Park in Montana! We were welcomed home with some incredible sunrises and sunsets.

RV at sunset in Montana

The mountain clouds gave us some incredible sunrises and sunsets.

Glacier National Park is joined with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park just over the border from the eastern side of Glacier National Park to create Waterton-Glacier National Park, and the beautiful scenery around St. Mary Lake was very reminiscent of the vivid blues and towering mountains we had been enjoying in Waterton Lakes National Park for the last two weeks.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake is reminiscent of Upper Waterton Lake just over the border in Canada.

There are three entrances to the eastern side of Glacier National Park, one at Many Glacier, one at St. Mary and one at Two Medicine.

Glacier National Park’s eastern side is adjacent to the Black Foot Indian Reservation, so the communities have a distinctly Indian flavor. We were amused to see a series of teepees set up for visitors who wanted to camp the way the Indians used to.

Indian Teepees in East Glacier Montana

Tired of your RV? Try a teepee!

The main entrance to Glacier National Park’s eastern side is at the tiny community of Saint Mary where the eastern half of the Going to the Sun Road that bisects the park from west to east comes to an end after passing by stunning Saint Mary Lake.

St Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake

There are many different hikes in Glacier National Park on both the eastern and western sides and in the middle too! We were on the hunt for wildflowers, and a ranger told us there were some beauties on the Beaver Pond Loop trail right by the ranger’s station at the St. Mary entrance.

So we set out on that trail behind a mom and her three year old daughter who was a real trooper. This is a flat and easy hike that took us out towards the bright blue lake.

Beaver Pond Loop Hike Glacier National Park Montana

The easy Beaver Pond Loop hike is not notable or exotic or a signature hike, but we enjoyed it very much.

The ranger was right about the flowers. They weren’t in thick abundance in vast fields the way we’ve seen in some photos of Saint Mary Lake, but they were definitely there, scattered about the meadows.

Wildflowers Glacier National Park Montana

Wildflowers were in bloom… wonderful!

Lupine wildflower East Glacier National Park Montana

A pretty lupine (“loopin”)

The flowers were so pretty it was impossible not to sit down among them.

Little girl in the flowers East Glacier National Park Montana

Simple pleasures.

Daisy blooming East Glacier National Park Montana St Mary

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The trail also took us through some nice stands of aspen and other wooded settings. Mark was totally in his element. He is a woods guy and a true tree hugger.

Tree hugger Glacier National Park Montana

Mark embraces his roots.

The most beautiful parts of the trail were a few off-shoots that went down to the pebbly beaches on Saint Mary Lake.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake has the lovely teal blue color created by glaciers.

The wind was quite strong and small waves lapped the beach, one after another.

Sitting at Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

The strong wind kept the waves coming.

The hike crossed the meadows before turning into the woods and then delivering us to the beach again.

Hiking Beaver Pond Loop Trail Glacier National Park Montana

Hiking across the meadows.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

What a view!

Near the end, we came across the original Park Ranger’s cabin for the eastern side of Glacier National Park. Built in 1913, the stories on the plaques told amazing tales of what it was like to live in this remote outpost with nothing but nature all around back in those days.

Ranger's cabin St Mary East Glacier National Park Montana

Back in the 1910’s, this is where the ranger and his family lived. No car, no stores…

One of the early rangers, Chance Beebe, went out hiking on patrol one day (there were no roads for cars in those days, and he preferred hiking to riding a horse). His wife and child were back at the cabin patiently waiting for him to return.

Suddenly, she heard something rattling around up in the attic of the log cabin. It was a mountain lion! He had jumped in from a tree through the open attic window!! Luckily, the mountain lion eventually went on his way, and she and her child were okay. When she told her husband about it later, he knew she wasn’t making it up when he saw lion paw prints in the dust in the attic!

The attic window has a wooden door covering it now, but the ground level window gives a glimpse of the simple life lived by the ranger’s family 100 years ago.

Ranger's house St Mary Glacier National Park Montana

Life was so rustic, the ranger’s wife discovered a mountain lion in the attic. Yikes!

One of the duties for rangers, both then and now, was to keep an eye on wildfires and try to extinguish them. In recent years, due in large part to mismanagement of the forests and wooded areas for a century, wildfires have become particularly intense.

Towards the end of the Beaver Pond Loop hike we came across a stand of trees that had been bleached silver by the sun during the years since a wildfire swept through the area. The tree trunks swayed and creaked in the breeze, as if they were talking with one another.

Live and dead trees East Glacier National Park Montana

Remnants of wildfires are prominently visible in all of the National Parks, and we found a ghostly tree community that was ravaged a while ago.

It was eerie and beautiful at the same time. We felt as though we had come across a community of ghostly tree spirits standing in each other’s company today just as they had for decades, but without even a hint an animal’s footsteps or the faintest rustle of a leaf.

Wildfire dead trees Glacier National Park Montana Saint Mary

The tree tops bent and swayed and knocked into each other and made wonderfully eerie noises.

We stayed among these skinny souls for a long time, looking for ways to capture the wistful beauty of this silver world.

Dead trees Glacier National Park St Mary Lake Montana

There was a special aura here that gave us a feeling of reverence.

The most famous part of Glacier National Park is the Going to the Sun Road, and we drove it many times during our stay. For a few days, the weather was misty and soggy, and the towering mountains were as mysterious as they were majestic.

Going to the Sun Road Saint Mary Glacier National Park Montana

The Going to the Sun Road looked more like the Driving Into the Mist Road.

On July 21, 2015, a wildfire erupted right along this road, sending huge plumes of smoke in the air and torching the forest. Again, we found ourselves wandering through wildfire devastation, but this one had happened just one year prior. And again, we found ourselves witness to an unexpected beauty.

The trees were wet from the mist and rain, and they still bore the scars of charring from the fire. The bark was peeling off many of them, revealing rich brown wood beneath, and tiny hints of life grew at their feet.

Stand of dead trees from Reynolds Creek Wildfire Glacier National Park

Last year’s fire was a fresh memory for these trees.

One of the surprise blessings of a big wildfire like this along a famous scenic road is that it opens up the view.

As the years have gone by, many of the most scenic roads in America’s National Park system have lost their views because the trees that were saplings when the road was built have grown tall and strong — and totally blocked the view.

We found this was true on much of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we have seen it on many other scenic drives as well. So, although our hearts broke at the way the woods were stripped of life in a matter of days last summer, we loved being able to see the lake between the remaining trunks!

Continuing on, around one bend we noticed a thicket of bright blue wildflowers that jumped out from the misty backgdrop of mountains. They were growing right along the rocky cliffs.

Wildflowers on a cliff Glacier National Park St Mary Lake Montana

The gods threw a splash of color onto our gray day with wildflowers growing on a rocky cliff.

We snuck closer and saw they were growing against orange lichen covered rocks. Mother Nature had chosen a very colorful palette for her handiwork once again.

Wildflowers on cliffs Glacier National Park Montana

Bright blue flowers and orange lichen on the rocks. Wonderful!

There were several different types of blue flowers, each a slightly different shade. We loved them all!

Wildflowers Glacier National Park Montana

The wildflowers at Glacier National Park were delightful.

The East side of Glacier National Park is the much less visited side. The villages on the east side are tiny, with just a few stores and family restaurants for the tourists. But in many ways it is the more beautiful side.

Although the Going to the Sun Road is not a good road for any but the smallest RVs, it is easy to reach Saint Mary and the other eastern villages from the western side of Glacier National Park with an RV simply by driving from west to east on Route 2 south of the park.

It is also an ideal jumping off point for a visit to eye-popping Waterton Lakes National Park just a few miles over the Canadian border.

RV Sunset Glacier National Park Saint Mary Montana

The east side of Glacier National Park is the less visited side, but it may be the more beautiful too!

There are more RV trip planning links below…

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A Little More info About Saint Mary and the East side of Glacier National Park:

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Glacier National Park in Montana – Mirrors at Lake McDonald

May 2016 – After enjoying a bit of the cowboy life and ranching life of the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, and then taking a zippy day trip over to charming Philipsburg, we took our RV north to Glacier National Park. This park is tucked right up against the Canadian border in northern Montana.

Lake McDonald Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Lake McDonald at Glacier National Park, Montana

It was early May, and the main road through the park, the Going to the Sun Road, wasn’t completely open yet due to avalanche activity in the appropriately named Avalanche Creek area.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Dawn lights the snowcapped peaks at Lake McDonald

But the road was open as far as Avalanche, so we took full advantage of doing a few drives up and down its length.

Dawn Glacier National Park Lake McDonald Montana

Early morning reflections.

We had been to Glacier National Park once before, back in the late summer of 2007, and we had dashed through the park so fast that we didn’t even notice the large and beautiful Lake McDonald that greets visitors coming in from the southwestern entrance. Oh my!!

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Lake McDonald.

The early morning air was very brisk when we drove alongside this stunning lake one morning, and the trees stood utterly motionless and silent. Hardly a breath of wind stirred their leaves.

Trees at Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Trees hung over the shore at Lake McDonald

The thick woods were lined with a lush carpet of moss, and the sun filtered between the trees.

Trees on Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

The woods were thick alongside the Going to the Sun Road

The water was like a mirror, reflecting everything in its depths.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park RV travel

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And it was so clear that we could see each and every stone on the bottom perfectly.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

The lake created perfect reflections with a few rocks peeking through from under the water

We stopped at McDonald Falls where the water coming down from the mountains rushed past us in a blur.

McDonald Falls Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road Montana

McDonald Falls was moving fast!

A few wildflowers were just starting to peek their heads out here and there.

Wildflower Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road Montana

Flowers were just beginning to bloom.

It was one of those ideal mornings that you wish could last forever.

When we got to Avalanche, we noticed that cyclists were unloading their bikes from their cars to ride a few miles further up the road. Because the road was closed to cars up ahead, they could do this wonderful bike ride without having to share the road with anyone but other bicyclists. What fun! We hadn’t brought our bikes this time, but made a mental note for the future.

This pre-season bike ride opportunity is similar to cycling the McKenzie Pass outside Bend, Oregon before it opens to motor vehicle traffic, something we had really enjoyed doing two years prior.

RV on Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Only the first third of the Going to the Sun Road was open to motor vehicles.

Nearby, the Hungry Horse Reservoir made for another lovely day trip. Again, we were blessed with crisp air and sunny skies.

Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

Snowcapped mountains framed Hungry Horse Reservoir.

The road winds along the south fork of the Flathead River and along the reservoir, offering pretty views of the river and reservoir the whole way. We got out at one point and hiked down to a pebble beach where a series of tree stumps made for an eerie scene.

A man sitting in a camp chair at the trail head and working on his laptop while soaking in the view of the river told us that he remembered the river before it was dammed, back when those tree stumps were towering trees at the water’s edge.

Tree stumps at Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

Before the river was dammed, there were tall trees on the shore.

Crossing the Hungry Horse Dam, we got a terrific view of the mountains backing the reservoir.

View from Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

There were some beautiful views at Hungry Horse Reservoir

This would be a great road for a bike ride too, and as we stood staring at the lake a cyclist suddenly zoomed by, his eyes fixed on the pretty view too!

Cyclist checks out the view at Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

A cyclist zoomed by

But it was Lake McDonald over in Glacier National Park that kept drawing us back. We drove the Going to the Sun road as far as we could a second time, late one afternoon, hoping for a knock-your-socks-off sunset to top it all off.

The pebble beach at the Lake McDonald Lodge was very beautiful, and we got a kick out of exploring the cabins at the Lodge, many of which were in the process of spring cleaning for the summer season.

Lake McDonald Lodge Glacier National Park Montana

Late afternoon light lit up the shores of Lake McDonald.

But we thought we might get a better view of the lake at sunset back at Apgar Village where there is a boat ramp that marches right out into the lake and offers a splendid panorama of the mountains.

Dawn at Glacier National Park Montana Lake McDonald Apgar Village

At Apgar Village there is a dock that goes right out into the lake.

We poked around on the shore waiting for this oh-so-sensational sunset to happen.

Apgar Village Glacier National Park Montana

That colorful sunset should be along any minute…

The lake undulated reflections of the mountains in shades of silver and blue.

View of Lake McDonald from Apgar Glacier National Park Montana

Silver and blue hues shimmer on Lake McDonald at dusk.

A couple came down to the dock with a photographer and did a bunch of romantic shots with the mountain backdrop behind them. They had had the same idea of catching this majestic view at the golden hour, sealing their undying love with a beautiful photo at Nature’s golden hour. But the skies just didn’t deliver that night, and the best we all got was a hint of pink.

No matter. This place is gorgeous anyway!!

Romance on Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Romance on Lake McDonald

We were on a mission to continue our RV travels north, so we didn’t stick around for the Going to the Sun Road to open up all the way to the top a few weeks later. But we loved what we saw and will hopefully be back for some wildflowers later in the season.

RV camping in Montana

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This year we traveled north from Arizona ahead of the crowds by just a bit, and it made a big difference in many ways. Not only were there few crowds (and fewer people in general), but there was still snow on the mountains. However, the flip side was that the nights were often cold and many days barely got warm. Also, we arrived before the rangers had opened certain gates and attractions for the season.

But I have to say, there’s a special intimacy to a place like Glacier National Park when you have the scenery to yourself, even if you’re shivering!

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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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Info and links for Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky:

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