Bryce Canyon National Park

by CameronM Sun, December 12 2010 15:00

Rich in geological formations having been carved out of the sedimentary rocks that make up the plateau by wind, water and ice, Bryce Canyon National Park lies in southern Utah and is one a number of attractions in the region including Zion National Park, Lake Powell and Monument Valley.

Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter

Located at an elevation of 8000 feet, Bryce Canyon National Park has high-altitude dry and sunny winter days, but sub-freezing nights. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are among the activities listing for your winter trip to Bryce Canyon. The average snowfall is 89 inces and occurs anytime between October and April, with February receiving the heaviest snowfall (17.9 inches on average).

 

Accommodation can be found at Ruby's Inn in Bryce Canyon City, with room prices starting at US$59 (online special) for a warm and cosy room with two queen beds.

Bryce Canyon City hosts a Winter Festival in February with loads for the whole family including guided snowshowing, archery, XC skiing, kid's snowboot races and arts and crafts sessions. Most sessions are free which certainly helps the hip-pocket. A link with more information is available from the Ruby's Inn website. 

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks (Park Guides) Best Easy Day Hikes Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

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Zion National Park

by CameronM Sun, December 12 2010 10:33

Located in southern Utah, Zion National Park contains amazing sandstone cliffs and rock formations and is a popular destination with hikers and climbers. The park covers a staggering 229 square miles reaching from the Koleb Canyons in the north to Zion Canyon in the south. Most tourists head towards Zion Canyon, which can be accessed from the main South Entrance or via the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel from the east. 

Things to Do

Hiking is one of the big drawcards of Zion and there are hikes from a few minutes to a few days. The Emerald Pools Trails offer an easy alternative for families and vary in distance from under a mile to several miles, depending on which route you choose. A round-trip to the Emerald Pools can be done by combining the Lower and Middle Emerald Pools Trails (total 1.6mi). The trails may be closed in winter because of ice, so check with the Visitor Center before starting. We did a simple out-and-back walk along the Lower Pools route and let's just say I think there is a fair amount of poetic licence in naming the pool Emerald.

Cross-country skiiing and snowshoeing is possible at higher elevations, such as the east rim and Kolob Canyon.

Zion National Park in Winter

We had spectacular weather (clear, sunny and cold) in December however winter in Zion brings light snow and rain to much of the park. Heavy snow can occur at higher altitudes, such as the east rim. Winter hiking in Zion Canyon is possible on most trails, although care should be exercised as trails can become icy. Information about trail conditions is available at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. In the eastern section of the park snowfall is heavier and snowshoeing may be the only option when taking the East Rim trail.

Getting There

From Bryce Canyon National Park take Route 12 to US89 and onto Mount Carmel Junction and then follow Route 9 (Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway) into the park's east rim. Travelling into the park from here will take you through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, which is not suitable for large RV's. Total distance approximately 70mi. Entering via this route you pass though some spectacular scenery, including massive sandstone peaks rounded by years of erosion that leave the landscape looking somewhat alien.

Getting Around

The National Park Service runs a fee shuttle bus through Zion Canyon during summer to ease traffic congestion, however this does no operate during winter. You can however drive you own vehicle on many of the main roads, as these are well-maintained even in winter.

Where to Stay

The small town of Springdale is located just outside the park’s Southern Entrance and is an ideal place to stay, especially in winter when camping doesn’t really seem like a fun idea. The town also has grocery stores and restaurants. Mount Carmel Junction to the east is further away from Zion Canyon and accessed via the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway.

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks (Park Guides) Zion National ParkRon Kay's Guide to Zion National Park: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Zion National Park But Didn't Know Who to Ask

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Monument Valley (Navajo Tribal Park)

by CameronM Fri, December 10 2010 07:15

Monument Valley is located in Southern Utah and lies within the boundary of the Navajo Nation. Similar to a national park, visitors can pay a small fee to travel along the park's 17mi dirt road "Valley Drive". Many places however are only accessible on a guided tour, which can be organised at the small visitors center.

Things to do

Tour operators such as Trailhandler Tours offer jeep tours ranging from 1.5 hours to all-day, from $57.00 per person. As an alternative, if you want to really emerse yourself in the wild-west atmosphere, try a Horseback trail ride to the Mitten's, starting at US$67.00 per person (minimum 2-people).

Sunset or Sunrise is a wonderful time to view the monuments - According to Frommers, that makes the Monument Valley one of the most "spectacular sites in America".

Monument Valley is one of those locations where you just know pictures will never be able to truly capture the scenery. It is also one place you will no doubt recognise as the quintessential ‘Wild West’ backdrop from many Hollywood blockbusters, dating back to the early career of John Wayne.

Gouldings

We stayed at Goulding’s Lodge, which is as much a part of the history of Monument Valley as the sandstone rock formations. Harry and Leone Goulding started a trading post on the Navajo Reservation in the 1920’s and when the depression hit, they journeyed to Los Angeles to tempt Hollywood director John Ford to shot the western “Stagecoach” in Monument Valley. After looking at the photos Harry had brought with him, Ford agreed and thus began the long relationship between Hollywood and Monument Valley.

In addition to the lodge (motel), the Goulding’s complex also has a restaurant, service station, grocery store, gift shop and the original two storey trading post and living quarters that has been turned into a museum. We were happy to find the prices in the grocery store very reasonable, considering you often pay a premium at other tourist destination, such as Grand Canyon Village (Tusayan).

Navajo Tribal Park

The entry fee to the park is only $5 per adult and you get a small map and access to the visitor centre, which focuses mainly on the modern history of the park and does not answer the most obvious questions, such as how were these formations created? It does however provide a great outlook over the rock formations and lets you see quite a few that are not visible from the highway.

After checking out the various options for guided tours, we decided that we would only do the 17mi loop. The dirt track has a speed limit of 15mph, so even that loop gives you plenty of time to appreciate the rock formations. The great part about travelling during the off-season is that you’re not swamped by other tourists, so we had plenty of places to stop and take photos without other people getting in the shot.

The scenery is certainly amazing and it is well worth the effort to include Monument Valley as part of any trip to the Southwest.

Frommer's National Parks of the American West (Park Guides)

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