As we drove through the dark serpentine roads of Utah in western USA, we had nothing else to gaze at than miles of inky blue sky, dotted with millions of twinkling stars and a beautiful moon. We were driving from Arizona to Utah after visiting the spectacular Grand Canyon.
Not being an avid Nature-lover, I was sceptical about my visit to the US with its array of national parks, known for their range of landscapes, but I changed my mind after seeing the Grand Canyon. Now, as we drove towards Bryce, I was wondering, what more can a huge chasm offer? A lot, as we would see.
As we travelled through the night to the place of our stay, we noticed three deer jumping across the road… we stopped and switched off the headlights. There, in the starlight, we spotted a herd of deer grazing. By the time we arrived at our cottages, the icy-cold weather of Utah had enveloped us.
The next morning, we set off in search of the famous canyon. Known for its Nature-made ridges, Bryce Canyon is a collection of natural amphitheatres.
The view points that are spread over the canyon focus on various ridges and offer a variety of echoes and sounds.
Bryce Canyon boasts of the largest concentration of hoodoos or irregular columns of rock. Hoodoos are formed due to stream erosion of the river, among other factors.
According to the official website, “The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colourful calcium-rich mudstone into bizarre shapes, including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called ‘hoodoos’.”
The Bryce Amphitheatre is the most famous point of the Canyon. The point offers a panoramic view of the hoodoos and the brilliant shades of red and orange that are splashed across the rocks.
Ponderosa pines and fir-spruce forests border the rim of the plateau, which is home to a variety of wildlife.
Native American lore
Bryce Canyon boasts of a rich history and the heritage of American Indians, the Paiute. You can find settlements around the Park till date, and sometimes, if you are lucky, you can even pick up a few artefacts that the community is famous for. According to the National Park Service (NPS), nearly two million people visit Bryce Canyon every year.
The ideal time to plan a visit is between March and October. Apart from the main amphitheatre, the other must-see areas include, Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point.
How to get there
- The nearest airport is McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas. However, a visit to Bryce Canyon is almost always combined with a visit to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. The best way to travel is to drive along the incredible, ever-changing landscape from Arizona to Utah.
- Where to stay
- Bryce Canyon Lodge is a favourable option. It is located close to the shuttle stops and offers all basic amenities.
- Best time to visit
- Between March and early October. Winter lovers can brave the snow and catch the stars amidst the ice too.
- Relying on Google maps is not a good idea, in these areas. Due to the remoteness of the park, mobile phone signals are very poor. Always carry a map around with details of nearby rest-stops.
- Be prepared for some biting cold as the sun goes down. Accordingly, the park rangers insist hikers be equipped with enough thermal wear and good shoes apart from water.
- Visit the main amphitheatre before visiting the other viewpoints. This helps you narrow down specific points that seem interesting to you. Be armed with a map of the canyon too, before venturing out.
There are loads of activities that visitors can choose from, apart from overnight hikes, day-time treks and full-moon hikes. The place is a dream-come-true for astronomy geeks and star-gazers. Astronomy programmes offered by NPS offer tips on the constellations to watch out for. When summer comes in, horseback riding in the area is open. Campground sites are clearly marked. Winters at the canyon can be brutal, if not prepared.
Rock of all ages Snapshots from Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Snowshoe hikes, sledding and winter astronomy are some of the activities for those inclined towards the cold weather. While the Grand Canyon can startle you with its sheer magnificence, Bryce Canyon has a breathtaking impact at night. With nothing but the stars to gaze at, and the echoes of wildlife resounding, a day in this National Park will convert anyone to a Nature-lover.