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VOL. 131 | NO. 200 | Thursday, October 6, 2016


Lance Wiedower

Be Sure to Plan Ahead for Utah’s National Parks


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After spending much of a hot afternoon hiking into The Narrows at Zion National Park in southwest Utah, we were exhausted. We desperately needed a hot shower and comfortable bed, especially since the next day’s schedule had us visiting nearby Bryce Canyon National Park.

Unfortunately, our hotel was in Kanab, about an hour southeast of Zion. I picked Kanab in part because it was about an hour’s drive each from Zion and Bryce. Of course, a summer visit to any of the parks during the centennial of the U.S. National Park Service was going to be problematic on the hotel front.

Much like a Disney park, summertime crowds are massive. Throw in the centennial celebration and it was quite problematic.

Lodging in or near the parks should be booked months in advance. So when we decided about five weeks before our western road trip to visit several of the parks, finding sleeping accommodations was really tough.

Grand Canyon National Park was the toughest. The park has several lodges in Grand Canyon Village, but the only one with a vacancy didn’t have air conditioning. And while the nights dipped into the upper 50s, the daytime highs were in the mid-90s.

There are hotels in nearby Tusayan, but be prepared to spend close to $300 a night for a midrange chain hotel.

A bit north of the Grand Canyon in Utah we were unable to find a vacancy in Springdale, which sits at the entrance to Zion. So, again, we found ourselves driving to the quiet town of Kanab for our hot shower and bed before starting again the next morning at Bryce Canyon.

I doubt the location of our hotel would’ve played much of a role in how we felt the next morning when we just didn’t have the energy to get out early enough for much hiking at Bryce.

And that’s too bad, since some of the trails down into the beautiful Bryce Amphitheater are moderate and manageable, even for those in the group who are scared of heights. We just stacked too many days in a row with miles of hiking in near 100-degree heat.

We did spend a couple of hours driving along the park’s main road that took us past several beautiful vantage points. The best came at the Sunset Point lookout where we stood as a cooling rain moved in, and gazed down at the various shades of crimson in the spire-shaped rock formations below.

If you want an education in erosion, visit Bryce, where wind and rain constantly change the hoodoos. To get to Bryce from the west we drove in on Utah 12 through Dixie National Forest and Red Canyon, which was an accidental attraction we stumbled upon while visiting Bryce. The drive passes through a land of red sandstone spires and pine trees. It’s been called the most photographed place in Utah.

I’m not sure if that’s true; I found Arches National Park mesmerizing. But this drive into Bryce Canyon proved a worthy finish to our time in Utah.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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