Bryce Canyon National Park: A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow

 Bryce Canyon National Park: A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow

That was how Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce responded when a neighbor asked him back in 1875 how he liked that big red canyon at the back of his Utah homestead.

The canyon became known as Bryce's Canyon by other pioneers and the name has stuck, first as the Bryce Canyon National Monument (1923) and later as the Bryce Canyon National park 1928.

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Hoodoos once were canyon walls. Erosion defined and then separated them. Eventually it collapses them as new hoodoos are carved.

Since then, millions have tried to explain the grandeur of the park's 37,000 acres consisting of a spectacular red rock canyon shaped like a natural amphitheater, about 20 miles long, three miles wide and up to 800 feet deep. It is a place where erosion has carved delicate and colorful pinnacles and spires called hoodoos.

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A row of hoodoos

It was a must-visit for us and we drove over to see it from nearby Zion National Park, about 70 miles to the west. It's part of what is called the Grand Staircase, an immense sequence of sedimentary rock layers that stretch south from Bryce Canyon National Park through Zion National Park and into the Grand Canyon.

After visits to the Grand Canyon and Zion over the past week, Bryce was our final stop for what became our Grand Staircase tour of 2015. Like the other parks, we found Bryce unique and mesmerizingly beautiful.

There are two campgrounds at Bryce, North and Sunset, both located close to the park's visitor center. There were openings at both on the mornings we visited. By mid afternoon, both campgrounds were filled. Both campgrounds have restrooms with flush toilets, and drinking water and showers are available at a nearby general store. The Bryce campgrounds do not have individual electric or water hookups. If you require them, there is a full service campground just outside the gates at Ruby's Inn in Bryce Canyon, Utah.

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Watching the setting sun change the colors was almost hypnotizing for Jennifer and me

We first took a free shuttle trip to the canyon's main viewpoints. Shuttles run about every 15 minutes.

But unlike Zion, we noticed at each stop that there seemed to be plenty of open parking spots at the viewpoints so we returned in the evening, driving our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL. We had no trouble fitting into a single parking spot. Class C RVs would find it considerably more difficult. Class A owners would find no place to park their big rigs.

There are lots of hikes you can take in and around the canyon. Paved trails along much of the rim are permissable for leashed dogs. Pets are not welcome on the dirt and gravel trails that drop below the rim.

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Hoodoos and arches

Start out by driving to the far end of the canyon to Rainbow Point. Other viewspots we liked were Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. There are paths that connect all these viewpoints, or you can take the shuttle to each one.

Serious hikers who really want to explore the canyon have lots of long distance trek they can make. The Under-the-Rim Trail extends 23 miles from Bryce Point to Rainbow Point and has eight backcountry campsites. The Riggs Spring Loop Trail (8.8 miles round trip) from Yovimpa Point has four backcountry sites. Both trails drop below the rim of the plateau and lead through forested areas.

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Bryce is an explosion of vibrant, intense color

I hung out till after dark, ranging between Sunrise and Sunset Points (about a half mile), watching and photographing the changing colors as the sun set.

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Look at the roots of this tree somehow clinging to the canyon rim

We can also recommend the Bryce Lodge for lunch or dinner. It was built in 1925 using local materials. Designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the lodge is an excellent example of National Park Service Rustic design. Check out the roof, where Underwood created an optical illusion that looks like rolling waves from the wooden shingles.

We ate dinner there and, though pricey, we found it quite good.

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You can get right up close to the edge for great photos

We spent two days at Bryce Canyon, walking most of the rim trails. When we return, I'll set aside a full day for the full under the rim hike.

Bryce Canyon National park might be a hell of a place to lose a cow. But it's a placed well worth a visit by every RVer.


Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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