Bonus Trips: Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks, July 2016

Cameron and I had some extra time while my husband had business in the west, so we took the opportunity to do some relaxing and take a few trips out to some national parks.  While it wasn’t the same as finishing the John Muir Trail, it was an excellent opportunity to take Cameron to the parks and show him a different part of the country and the beauty of God’s creation.

Grand Canyon National Park

The first trip we took was to the Grand Canyon.  I had not been to the Grand Canyon in over twenty years, and it was a brief visit, so I was glad to have the opportunity to go back.  After a long drive, we arrived at the park, found a parking space and decided to hop on the park bus to Hermit’s Rest.  We ended up doing a little hiking and a little bus riding to enjoy the views into the Canyon.  The canyon was as I remembered it, hard to describe unless you’ve actually stood on the rim and looked out across it.

We elected not to hike down into the Canyon as it was really hot that day, and we thought the we’d enjoy it more if we made another visit in a cooler month, like April rather than July.  We might have to take another trip out there some day!

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Cameron looking out over the Grand Canyon

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A peek down into the Canyon and the Bright Angel Trail.  It was too hot for a hike down there on the day we were there.

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View down to the Colorado River in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

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One more look into the Grand Canyon.

Zion and Bryce National Parks

We took a three day trip up to Zion and Bryce.  I had been to these parks before, too, a few years ago as a solo trip when my husband had a week long business trip to Las Vegas in early April.  Our first day, we drove to the park and drove through the Zion Carmel Tunnel and out to the Checkerboard Mesa and the east entrance to the park.

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The Checkerboard Mesa near the east entrance to Zion National Park.

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Views toward Zion Canyon after driving back through the Zion Carmel Tunnel.

On our second day, we first stopped to rent canyoneering gear for the afternoon adventure, and then went over to Bryce National Park to check out the hoodoos and hike down into them.  We choose a few short loops to keep the visit enjoyable as it was another hot day.  I did get to hike the entire Navajo Loop Trail this time and walk through the Wall Street area.  On my previous visit to the park in early April, the park service had closed one part of the trail due to potential ice fall.  We also hiked the Queen’s Garden Trail and out to see the hoodoo known as Queen Victoria.

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The hoodoo known as Thor’s Hammer.

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The switchbacks down into the Wall Street portion of the Navajo Trail.

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Cameron in front of the Bryce Amphitheater.

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Brilliant colors down in the hoodoos.

In the afternoon, we returned to Zion National Park and hiked in the Narrows.   The Narrows isn’t exactly a trail, it is the Virgin River itself.  You actually walk up the river in the water.  I was really excited to do this hike.  On my last trip, when I did the River Walk Trail, it was lightly snowing, so it seemed like a good idea to stay out of the water.   We only hiked the lower portion of the Narrows, so we did not need a permit.  We hiked as far as Orderville Canyon and then returned to the trailhead.  It was really fun and a different sort of hike.  We realized quickly that we couldn’t hike as fast as if we were on land, but we settled into a rhythm and had fun.  It was also pretty nice to get in the cool water on a hot afternoon.

As a side note, we saw many people without the canyoneering boots/neoprene socks hiking along in regular shoes or sandals.  While it obviously can be done, we thought renting the gear for the day was worth it, especially with all the rocks in the river.  We didn’t have to be as careful about foot placement or worry about bashing toes.  Another bonus was that our regular hiking footwear was nice and dry, so we didn’t have to worry about wet shoes for the next day’s hike.

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Taking a break on a rock in the Virgin River.

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Some of the canyon walls that make up The Narrows.

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Cameron hanging out in the Virgin River, waiting for his picture to be taken.

Our last morning was spent hiking Angel’s Landing.  We got to the park early with goal of getting parking spot, hopping on the park shuttle and hiking up without too many other people on the trail.  Since the trail is steep and has some potentially unnerving spots for some people, the fewer people on the trail the better so that no one feels pressured or crowded or has to squeeze by on a really narrow trail.  We also wanted the advantage of hiking when it was a bit cooler.  Our plan worked and we were able to hike up with little traffic.  On the upper portion of the trail, there were very few people and we actually enjoyed the ascent.  Cameron didn’t think it was that hard, and had no problem with the narrowness of the trail or the drop offs.  The top had some groups on it, but everyone had their own space to enjoy the views.

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The last, and steepest portion of the trail is behind me, headed up the nose of the ridge.

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Straight down into the box canyon below, just beyond the safety chains.

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Cameron on top of Angel’s Landing with Zion Canyon behind him.

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Looking back to the canyon behind Angel’s Landing from the top.

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A look down Walter’s Wiggles, a set of 21 switchbacks that is part of the climb to Angel’s Landing.  This is in the middle of the hike, between the first set of switchbacks and the portion of the trail with the safety chains.

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Cool, shady box canyon which is a nice break from the steep switchbacks and the heat both on the way up and down from Angel’s Landing.

It was fun to get to visit the parks again with my son.  Cameron appreciated the opportunity to see some of the things he’d only seen in pictures or read about, and enjoyed getting to hang out with mom on her adventures.

 

 

 

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