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Hiking with Hoodoos!

It was the second to last day of our six-day/five-night mid-June whirlwind road trip to see some of the most beautiful national parks in the USA. We'd already spent two nights at the Grand Canyon, made a quick detour to visit to Monument Valley, stopped for a tour of Antelope Canyon and a visit to Horseshoe Bend, and spent a night at Zion National Park. Now, we were on our way to the final stop on our tour: Bryce Canyon National Park.

Red Canyon: an interesting sight on the way to Bryce

          As we drove the final miles to Bryce, through a place called Red Canyon, strange rock formations caught my attention. "This place looks like Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland!" I exclaimed to my friend.
          "It does," he agreed.
          I was certain that Red Canyon must be the inspiration for Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride. I snapped a picture and made a note to look into this later.
Red Canyon as seen from our car
         Soon, we arrived at the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. Our admission was free because we'd already purchased an America the Beautiful - National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, which allows the card holder and a few guests (generally up to 3 adults who are all riding in the same car) unlimited visits to the National Parks for one year.

Queen's Garden/Navajo Combination Loop hike: a hike among the hoodoos

          After a quick stop at the Visitor Center to use the flush toilets, we drove to Sunrise Point to find the trailhead for Queen's Garden trail. We were planning to do the popular Queen's Garden/Navajo Combination Loop hike (a 2.9 mile hike with 600 feet of elevation change). We parked at Sunrise Point, loaded up our daypacks with water and snacks, and set out. Soon after we started down the trail, my jaw dropped open. There were no photos that had prepared me for seeing the hoodoos this close.
          "Oh wow," I said over and over as new rock formations came into view, and my brain tried to make sense of what it was seeing. "That one looks like a castle." "That's a temple." "That in the distance looks like a whole city."
A view from the early part of Queen's Garden Trail
Photos couldn't capture the thrill of seeing the hoodoos towering over us
Me inside a tunnel on Queen's Garden Trail
         At the bottom of the canyon, we took a short spur trail to see a hoodoo that was, supposedly, reminiscent of a statue of Queen Victoria.
The end of the Queen's Garden spur trail (left) and a close-up look at the Queen Victoria hoodoo (right) 
          After retracing our steps on the spur trail, we rejoined the main trail and continued on toward Navajo Loop Trail. The surroundings here were decidedly different from the first part of our hike. Rather than walking among hoodoos, we were surrounded by green trees. 
We were surrounded by trees as we walked toward Navajo Loop Trail 
          Since Navajo Loop Trail is in fact a loop, we had to choose which half of the loop we wanted to use to complete our hike. One way would take us past majestic Wall Street; the other way would offer views of Two Bridges and Thor's Hammer. We chose to visit Wall Street.
          Our choice proved to be a good one. Soon, we ascended into a majestic slot canyon with tall trees sprouting up from its base.  
Entering Wall Street
         Just above Wall Street were steep switchbacks that took us back to the rim.  
Looking at the switchbacks from below (left) and from above (right) 
         When we reached the rim, we were pleased to be able to view some of the other half of Navajo Loop Trail, including Thor's Hammer. 
Looking down from the rim at the other side of Navajo Loop Trail (left) and a zoomed-in photo of Thor's Hammer (right)
          Even though we'd reached the rim, we weren't done with our trek just yet. Rather than returning to Sunrise Point, the loop ends at Sunset Point, and so our car was still a 1-mile walk away. After stopping for a picnic dinner at a bench on Rim Trail, we took that 1-mile walk (34 feet elevation change) to meet up with our car.

A quick look at some viewpoints

          With sunset only about an hour away, we made quick stops to check out the viewpoints at Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, and Upper Inspiration Point. The setting sun still lit some of the hoodoos, but most of the canyon was already falling into shadow. 
A view from Bryce Point (elevation 8300) 
A view from Inspiration Point (elevation 8100)  
A view from Upper Inspiration Point
Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel: an excellent home away from home

          Feeling satisfied with our visit, we left the park and headed to our hotel: Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. We'd considered staying at Bryce Canyon Lodge (the only hotel located inside Bryce Canyon National Park), but we'd decided against it because Bryce Canyon Lodge does not have air conditioning. In retrospect, we probably would have done fine without air conditioning as it was quite cool inside the park when we visited in mid June. Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel turned out to be absolutely perfect though. Our room was nicely furnished and immaculately clean, and we enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast with nearly every option one could hope for from fruit to waffles to potatoes to eggs to sausage to yogurt to pastries. I also noticed that Trafalgar (an upscale tour company) had guests staying there as well; a good sign.

Back to Las Vegas

          The next morning, it was time to drive back to Las Vegas for our flight home. On the way, we stopped for a closer look at Red Canyon.
Red Canyon as seen from a trail near the Visitor Center 
           I later learned that, rather than Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon is listed as the inspiration for Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland. Still, having visited both Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon, my friend and I agreed that the rock formations in Red Canyon seemed more similar to Big Thunder Mountain. There's even a trail in Red Canyon called Thunder Mountain Trail. Coincidence? I think not.
          Approximately 267 miles after we left Bryce, we arrived on the Las Vegas Strip with a few hours to spare before our flight home. We spent them at my favorite Las Vegas hotel, The Venetian, with its Venice-themed shopping district complete with a blue "sky" with puffy clouds and canals teeming with gondolas driven by serenading gondoliers. (As a bonus, it is also one of the few hotels on the Las Vegas Strip that offers free parking.)
          At the Venetian, we devoured delicious Italian meals in "St. Mark's Square" at Mercato Della Pescheri (eggplant parmesan for me and lasagna for my friend). It was the perfect finale to an absolutely perfect trip!

I did this in mid June 2018 in Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Utah.

Jen is also known as J.W. Lynne, a bestselling author of twelve novels. Click on any of the titles below to see the book on Amazon!

THE UNKNOWN: Eight kids learn the shocking reason why they were kidnapped.

ABOVE THE SKY: A girl and boy fall in love in a dangerous world filled with secrets.

: Ten families are locked in a bunker to take a simulated trip to the moon.

KID DOCS: An experimental program transforms kids into doctors.

WILD ANIMAL SCHOOL: A girl falls in love at an exotic animal ranch.

WHAT HE DIDN'T TELL ME: A traumatized girl meets a boy with a horrible secret.

IF I TELL: A teen wonders if her father is a serial killer.

Besides reading books and dreaming up stories to write, Jen's favorite activities are singing along to musical theater soundtracks and hiking in California's beautiful parks.

**Jen's books are available on Kindle Unlimited.**
You might also enjoy these reviews of the other stops on our whirlwind road trip:

Grand Canyon
Monument Valley
Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Zion National Park