April 2016: It’s been nearly six months since we were actually in Utah, and sorting through these pictures today has reminded me just how visually stunning it is. If you can only visit one state in the southwest, Utah should be it! Our previous post was all about our adventures near Zion National Park, an experience that left us underwhelmed. But all that was about to change as we headed through the Zion Tunnel toward Mt. Carmel Junction. We knew we wanted to make a visit to Bryce, so didn’t want to go all the way in to Kanab to camp. We checked out several spots including Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park but couldn’t find workable cell coverage. We were about to give up and head to Kanab when I spotted a dirt road & suggested we check it out. What we found turned out to be one of our favorite camping spots ever! Twin Hollows Canyon is located on the East Fork of the Virgin River and was an ideal spot from which to explore Bryce and the Kanab area. The canyon is narrow and is 6+ miles long, although the road deteriorates after the first 2 miles. Deteriorates to great Jeepin’, that is! We drove the canyon a couple of times during our stay, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and the 19 water crossings each way – woohoo!
To illustrate just how beautiful all of southern Utah is, the photo on the left below is from Checkerboard Mesa, a major vantage point in Zion National Park. The remaining 3 pictures below are images from Twin Hollows Canyon, which is just a random dirt road. Such a beautiful state!
Our daytrip to Bryce National Park was even more impressive. Zion and Bryce are like the yin and yang of Utah National Parks: the main road in Zion runs along the valley floor, leaving visitors craning their necks at the impressive cliffs above but leaving me feeling slightly hemmed in. In contrast, the main road in Bryce runs along the top of a mesa, allowing visitors expansive views of fantastic hoodoos and arches, along with distant views of the cliffs that form the giant geological steps of the “Grand Staircase” which leads down to the Grand Canyon. [If you remember from my previous post, the oldest exposed rock formations of Zion and Bryce are the same formations found at the top of the Grand Canyon, so a walk from Bryce down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon would be a walk backward in geological time. Yes, I know I’m a science nerd!] And while Bryce was still crowded with families on spring break, it seemed much less crowded than Zion and we enjoyed the day very much. If you want a little exercise, there are numerous hikes down into the hoodoos and there is also a great trail along the rim of the mesa.
After our trip to Bryce, we took the Jeep out on several occasions to explore Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument and the area around the great little town of Kanab. The scenery around Kanab makes your feel like you’ve stumbled onto the set of a western and, in fact, nearly 150 movies and TV series have filmed around Kanab including Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, Lassie, and The Outlaw Josey Wales. There is even a museum in Kanab dedicated just to the film industry: Little Hollywood. We visited Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and took a lot of Jeep trips here along both the Red Cliffs and the White Cliffs.
We also took our first slot canyon hike at Peek-a-boo Canyon. We immediately discovered why slot canyon hiking is so addictive! Erosion has carved the canyon walls into fantastic shapes and swirls that rival works of art at a museum, and the canyon offers cool respite from the sun and heat. Peek-a-boo Canyon also had the advantage for us of being at the end of a fun 4WD trail (there is an alternate access. Click on the link above and scroll to the bottom), so do your homework before you head out: this one will require airing down for some deep sand.
And now that I’ve read back over this post I realize I’ve made a colossal mistake: you’re all going to head to Twin Hollows and will be in our favorite camping spot the next time we go back! Shoot. Oh well, enjoy it because we certainly did. And if you’ve visited the area and know of another great camping spot or day trip, tell us in the comments below so we can check it out when we go back.
TIPS FOR YOUR BRYCE CANYON/KANAB TRIP
- Pace yourself at Bryce: most of the trails head downhill first and it’s easy to forget that it’ll be uphill all the way back!
- If you head off-road or plan to do some slot canyon hikes, make sure you check the weather first! Flash floods are extremely dangerous.
THE MUST-SEE LIST
- Hiking in the hoodoos at Bryce is magical. The Rim Trail has incredible vistas.
- The off-roading is great if you have the vehicle for it.
- Peek-a-boo Canyon is gorgeous and an easy 0.35 mile slot canyon hike.