Friday, September 18, 2015

Road Trip − Zion & Bryce Canyon

We planned a road trip through Colorado on our way back to La Paz. We were especially looking forward to the drive through Utah. To whet our appetite, we listened to an audiobook of Edward Abby's Desert Solitaire. As we approached Zion National Park, the views from the car got better and better around every turn. 

Road views in Utah

The last time I drove through Utah was when I was in high school. My dad thought it would be a good idea to drive across country after my brother's college graduation − I remember it being a long, but great trip. Neither Zion nor Bryce Canyon have been spoiled by development and both are stunningly beautiful.

Zion National Park

We had no expectations for wildlife sightings, but as we rounded a bend, this bighorn sheep was standing in the middle of the road. It was well trained − it moved just off the pavement and posed for this photo.

Bighorn sheep

We only scheduled one day for exploring, so we hired a local guide to take us to some remote spots. We wanted to learn the about the geology, see petroglyphs and hike in slot canyons.

Kathryn and our guide, Bret

Although the slot canyons and rock spires are formed by water erosion, it was surprising to learn that many of the interesting rock patterns in Zion and Bryce Canyon were formed by wind erosion.

Teepee formations formed by wind erosion

We hiked along stream beds in remote areas, so the sand was firm, with no footprints or ATV tracks to soften the sand or mar the view. We saw lots of wildlife tracks.

Rattlesnake tracks

We hiked to one location to see "hoodoo's", which are formed when softer rock is topped by harder, less easily eroded stone. 

Twin hoodoos

Our guide took us to the Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite to see dinosaur footprints. Thousands of tracks were found near a water source. The tracks were made as the dinosaurs walked through mud, then blowing sand covered and preserved the tracks.

Four equally spaced footprints in a row

From the Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur website: Paleontologists recently documented thousands of 185 million-year-old tracks from at least six different types of animals. They are well preserved in slick rock outcrops in an area about the size of a football field. Twenty five foot-long prosauropod dinosaurs, fifteen foot-long carnivorous dinosaurs, six foot-long carnivorous dinosaurs, a six foot land-dwelling crocodile, and other tracks can be seen here.

One of the larger dino prints

Petroglyphs were also high on our list. Not much is known about the meaning of the petroglyphs, so it was interesting to wonder what motivated the artists. 


Bighorn sheep

The slot canyons were amazing with their colors, curves and layers of geology. Being in such a narrow space carved by flash floods was impressive. 

Slot canyon

We saw recent high water marks that were 20' above the canyon floor so we asked about flash floods. Our guide said both the park service and local guide companies provide warnings whenever flooding is possible. In fact, rains caused serious flash floods in the local area a few days after these pictures were taken.

Slot canyon

Kathryn was really impressed with our day exploring Zion and thought it couldn't get any better. She had no idea what was in store at Bryce though, and she was blown away by the intense colors and beautiful spires and hoodoos.

Bryce Canyon

Natural bridge

Our visit to Utah was impressive, but too short. We will definitely come back to spend more time camping and exploring the canyonlands.

Thousands of spires at Bryce Canyon Amphitheater


  1. Beautiful pictures!! Such lovely memories.

  2. Beautiful pictures!! Such lovely memories.