Bryce Canyon National Park

Made an early March trip to Bryce Canyon. Still quite a bit of snow and ice on trails, but captured winter light and the beautiful contrast the snow brings to the hoodoos. I've tried to capture some of the geology that created Bryce as a part of the larger interface between the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin. Incredible the work of erosion when water, silt and sand wash away vast amounts of the land. Enjoy.

See my earlier post on Zion National Park here. It was the first of our four stops in southern Utah. These four posts will complement each other as they show the effects of snowmelt and rainwater cutting canyons as it drops from the Colorado Plateau to the Great Basin, several thousand feet below.

See photos from our other stops here:

See the pictures from our next stops here:

Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument

Capitol Reef National Park 

Coming into Bryce

When you start to see the ridges of Hoodoos, you know you are getting to Bryce.

From Bryce to Grand Staircase

Both Bryce and Zion are right at the edge of the Colorado Plateau, a huge plateau at 10,000 feet that straddles four states. We drove out to the end of the road, and worked our way back looking at every overlook. Out near the end of the road, you see broad vistas. As you drive back towards the entrance, you see more and more hoodoos and less of the wide ranging views.

Colorado Plateau

From the Bryce Canyon National Park brochure.

Erosion gone wild

The water spills off the Colorado Plateau, running towards the Great Basin, which sits thousands of feet below the plateau. Ridges, canyons and hoodoos are all formed by the water rushing through soft rock formations.

Erosion creates Hoodoos and Canyons

From the Bryce Canyon National Park brochure.

Last Man Standing

Steep slopes at the edge of the plateau increase the water's speed and energy. Joints in the rock allow water in the cracks. Water freezes and expands, widening the cracks. Runoff scours the rock and creates gullies. Harder rock remains as fins like these.

From Gully to Hoodoo

From the Bryce Canyon National Park brochure.

Gullies widen into Canyons

Fins are exposed to more erosion at vertical cracks. Water freezes and expands in those cracks, peeling off layers and carving out vertical hoodoos.

Eroded into a Moonscape

The silt and gravel in the fast moving water scour away the surface of the softer rock it encounters.

The End of the Road

The Bryce Canyon road ends at Rainbow Point, nearly 10,000 feet in elevation. Still a foot of snow up here.

Window Rock

Where a stream erodes the rock, it is called a Natural Bridge. Where the rock erodes due to wind and rain, it is called an Arch.

Hoodoos and Eroding Fins

Bryce Canyon faces east, and looks out over the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument.

Looking towards the Grand Staircase

This trip helped me understand the mega story. The Grand Staircase are the steppes that go from the Great Basin to the south up to the high Colorado Plateau. The high elevations wring moisture out of the cold fronts passing through, bringing snow and the water to erode the mountains into canyons and Hoodoos.

It all drains towards the Grand Canyon

From the Bryce Canyon National Park brochure.

Fins and Hoodoos at the edge of space

You can see how steeply the ground drops off at Bryce Canyon. Many places have a sheer drop of a thousand feet or more. That speeds up the water's work eroding and cutting these amazing features.

Snow runoff cuts away the rock

The snow on the colored cliffs creates dramatic photos, and the melting snow creates these dramatic conditions.

Hoodoos and Spires

Hoodoos are pillars of rock left by erosion. They certainly cast a spell. Erosion forms an array of fantastic shapes.

Powell mapped the area

John Wesley Powell, the famous explorer of the Grand Canyon explored and mapped much of this area. It was one of the last unmapped areas of the U.S.

Raven comes calling

The ravens are huge out here. This friendly guy was looking for a handout.

Last Man Standing

The hardest rock is the last to fall.

Pueblos and Freemont people came first

Thousands of years of cultural history are represented here.

Legend People

Paiutes thought the Hoodoos were Legend People who had been turned to stone by Coyote.

Natural Arch

Incredible to see these arches where erosion has taken out the center of the rock, leaving a bridge.

Ebenezer Bryce arrived in 1875

Bryce came to harvest lumber from the plateau. Neighbors called the canyon beyond his home Bryce Canyon. "Hell of a place to find a lost cow," he was reported to have said.

Protected in 1923

Warren Harding declared part of the area a National Monument in 1923.

Fantastic Light and Colors

The mix of snow and the multi-colored cliffs makes a photographer's dreamscape.

Draining towards the Grand Canyon

Water drains off the Colorado Plateau, connecting with the Colorado River to create the Grand Canyon, the drain for the Great Basin

Multi-Colored Cliffs

Bryce is know for its Pink Cliffs

Wide expanse of Hoodoos

Leading down to the Grand Staircase, where the Pink Cliffs are complemented by Gray Cliffs (including Zion Canyon), White Cliffs, Vermilion Cliffs, and Chocolate Cliffs. Makes for a wonderful horizon.

Hoodoos cast their Spell

The term Hoodoo means, "To cast a spell."

Bryce Point

People had told us that Bryce Point was the best place to see a sunrise. So, we went to check it out.

Genie at Bryce Point

The only problem was the trail to the point was closed with a log across the trail. The snow and ice had not been cleared. We climbed across the log and gingerly walked across the snow and ice. At one point, the trail was slanted off towards the drop off, and the bottom rail of the fence was nearly three feet off the ground. Genie said, "I'm going to slip and slide right under the fence and off the cliff, and you'll be sorry." Getting close to the edge brings on the experience of vertigo.

Soft Rock layered on Harder Rock

makes for these kinds of features.

Hoodoos in the Afternoon Sun

Light and color changes with the movement of the sun and clouds during the day. Bryce is not a good sunset place because it faces East.

Hoodoos erode at different speeds

With harder and softer rock in each hoodoo

What a maze to hike through

There are trails down from the top. Hate to get lost in this maze.

Trail pierces the wall

There are trails along the Rim, and this is the Under Rim Trail, which takes you down the walls into the Hoodoos. With the ice and snow on the trails, it looked too sketchy for us.

You can see for miles and miles

The park road is 18 miles long and affords outstanding views of the Park and southern Utah scenery. You can see 100 miles on a clear day.

Sunset Point

Bit of a misnomer, since the park faces east. But, the evening colors are what give this spot its name. On a clear day you can see Arizona and New Mexico.

Under the Rim Trail

A couple braves the trail below the rim, despite snow and ice in the shadows.

Bryce Amphitheater

The largest of several amphitheaters of Hoodoos, Ridges and fallen rock.

Up Close and Personal

Incredibly inspiring views of God's Creation in this place.

The Sinking Ship

One of the more prominent features at Bryce.

Skiing anyone

There are extensive cross-country ski and snowshoe trails at Bryce. You are not allowed to ski off the rim. I wonder why.

Sunrise at Inspiration Point

We came back out before dawn to capture sunrise at Bryce

Pre-dawn colors

As we waited for the sun to appear over the horizon, the hoodoos went thru various colors as the sky lightened.

Sky gets lighter

and the hoodoos glow

Foreground Awash in Color-Week 10

Vast Panoramas in the Distance seen from Inspiration Point in Bryce at Dawn.

Goodbye, Beautiful Bryce

We'll be back to explore again.