Grand Canyon – Bryce

Every year, I get an email invitation from Xanterra to book off-season lodging at one of their national park lodges at a discounted rate. In years past, we’ve headed off to Zion for our national park winter getaways. This year, we chose the Grand Canyon, where we would celebrate the anniversary of my 40th birthday.

The route down took us south along what was formerly the Grand River to Moab. The cliffs were dusted with snow and ice floated in the stream. It’s so much nicer driving the Subaru instead of the truck pulling the trailer.

Having booked months in advance and not knowing what the weather might bring, we chose to break up our trip south with an overnight’s stay in Bluff, Utah. Arriving early, we drove to the nearby Sand Island BLM campground to photograph an extensive array of Indian petroglyphs.

From Bluff, we had a choice of routes to the Canyon. We chose the scenic, Monument Valley alternative. The nice thing about winter travel here is that there was very little traffic.

After a bathroom break and a lunch of Navajo tacos at the Cameron Trading Post, we headed into the Canyon, with a long stop at the Desert View Watchtower.

A few stops later, we arrived at Grand Canyon Village and followed the signs to the Bright Angel Lodge where our cabin for three nights was located. The place was small but cozy with the rim a short stroll away.

It snowed that night, leaving the canyon walls coated with winter white. We wandered around shooting photos. That night, we dined in the El Tovar.

The Bright Angel Trail to the bottom was closed a ½ mile below the rim, so Dianne and I couldn’t do our usual 50-mile, Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim day hike. Instead, we settled for a stroll down the snow-packed Rim Trail along the canyon rim.

While the trail was covered, most of the snow had melted from the canyon cliffs.

Arizona’s Big Ditch has always been a special place to us. Between us, Dianne and I have hiked all of the park’s maintained trails, most of its unmaintained ones, and we’ve floated its length on two occasions, once in dories. It’s always good to be back.

Since we were going to be in the neighborhood anyway, we had also booked a three-night stay Ruby’s Inn, a Best Western resort just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. We had a pair of options for routes there from the Grand Canyon. We chose the Vermilion Cliff route, which crosses Marble Canyon on the Navajo Bridge.

There’s a visitor center/gift shop there along with some restrooms. Fortunately, the flush toilets come with complete instructions.

We followed the towering Vermilion Cliffs for 40+ miles to Jacob Lake, then turned north toward Utah. I remember how inspired I was the first time I saw this magnificent escarpment when I was just a kid. I’m still inspired.

Arriving at Bryce, we checked into our room. The next day, we headed into the park for some rim-top views of snow on the hoodoos.

One of the rangers suggested a hike we might like. The next morning, we parked at the trailhead, strapped traction spikes to our shoes and headed down the snow-packed, Queen’s Garden Trail.

The going was slow, not because of trail conditions but because of the beauty that surrounded us. I shot well over 300 photos and Dianne came close to that number.

In April/May, we are scheduled to go on a short, Colorado Mountain Club trailer-camping outing to Capitol Reef National Park. After Cap Reef, we had reservations to camp in a Utah State Park near the San Rafael Swell.

That state park reservation got cancelled when we got home. Instead, we booked an RV site near Bryce and plan to spend two weeks exploring Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument after Cap Reef.