Probably one of my absolute favorite parks, when I got back to Utah for the season, I was sure to make sure it was one of the first places I visited. As one of the “Big 5,” the 5 National Parks in Utah, it is bound to get busy by summer. Since it is at a higher elevation, it tends to stay colder longer into the year, which meant April was the perfect time to visit and thus beat the heat and the crowds, while not totally freezing to death at night in my tent (although it did still drop to about 30 degrees at night).
Despite the fact that I had been to Bryce at about the same time the year before, and knowing the campground probably wouldn’t fill up, I made sure to get there early in order to snag a good campsite. After that it was time to get hiking!
I was excited to hike! Even though I had been here twice before, I didn’t hike below the rim of the canyon until this trip. Having all day, I opted to hike the Queens Garden/Navajo/Peekaboo Loop combination hike which was about 7ish miles round trip.
I had grown used to hiking on slickrock, so finding my footing on the dirt and loose gravel was a little unsettling in places, especially when going downhill, but I had managed just fine overall. The trail itself was great, surrounded by orange towering hoodoos. The trail even tunneled through the rock in places, creating great frames for the scenery ahead.
In certain areas, I could see windows and arches in the rock. These windows provide the “peekaboo” for the Peekaboo Loop section of the trail.
The afternoon light cast shadows in all the right places to make Bryce Canyon seem almost magical. In the evening I was able to join a ranger led rim talk, which was actually led by the park geologist, which was extra exciting for a geology nerd like me.
The next morning I got up early to watch the sunrise before hiking the fairly short Mossy Cave Trail, which led to an alcove with a hanging garden as well as a man made waterfall.
After the hike (on which I had the entire trail to myself), it was time to head home. I decided to take Hwy 12 home instead of the interstate. Despite the fact that it added about two extra hours to my drive, it is considered one of the most scenic roads in the country and one of my personal favorite roads to drive.
Honestly, the main reason for taking Hwy 12 was to visit Lower Calf Creek Falls. It’s about a 6 mile round trip hike, fairly easy, and one of just a few natural waterfalls in southern Utah. It is one of my favorite hikes in Utah, so I was sure to make it a pit stop on my drive home.
After driving through Grand Staircase Escalate, the road goes up and over Boulder Mountain in Dixie National Forest.
Then Hwy 12 ends and I continued on east on Hwy 24 through Capitol Reef, where I stopped to get a pie and drive the scenic drive, before taking Hwy 95 on towards home.
And of course, stopping to say hi to the Moki Queen along the way!