Fall season is always tricky when it comes to planning a vacation. We need to keep track of leaves changing colors on a regular basis and jump on a trip with short notice. But that is not the case with Utah because fall colors are never the primary reason to visit. Utah has some of the most unique geological spectacles which can never be seen anywhere else on earth.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 1: We started from home very early in the morning and arrived by 3pm in Cedar City, Utah. It was still few hours to sunset, we did not want to waste away in the hotel. So after checking-in at SpringHill Suites, we drove some more, to Cedar Breaks National Monument which was only about an hour away. There were many beautiful distractions along highway 14 where we stopped to snap pictures. We were quiet physically exhausted for any hiking so we ignored all the trails we came across. We stopped at Cedar breaks viewpoint at over 10,000 ft elevation that looked down into a half mile deep geological amphitheater.
Cedar City Area
View Point / Cedar Breaks National Monument
Day 2: We wanted to be able to visit Bryce and Zion national parks without having to switch hotels. Cedar city turned out to be a convenient center but not exactly close by. An hour drive to either parks. Cedar breaks national monument was a bonus. Bryce Canyon is an incredibly beautiful park that everyone must go see for themselves. No words can aptly describe it. Many viewpoints opened to a series of amphitheaters filled with thousands of delicately carved rock spires knows as hoodoos. They were in brilliant red, orange and yellow colors. Some of them interestingly shaped to resemble Thor's hammer, Queen Victoria etc. We could not cover all the trails but we hiked a lot. The trails were dusty and zigzag running right through the hoodoos allowing a closer look of the natural formations.
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Canyon View / Zig Zag Trail
Day 3: We planned only for one day at each park, which was a serious mistake when it came to Zion National park. We had no time or energy to do anything else after "The Narrows" hike. We read that starting early was better as the currents aren't too strong in the morning and the water is warmer. We rented special shoes, socks and hiking pole at the entrance of the park, and picked up lunch at a joint nearby. It was around 11:00 am when we boarded the shuttle bus to get to the starting point. Yeah not exactly early.
The Narrows, Zion National Park
River trail was uneven and slippery, and water levels varied at different sections of the hike. The scenery was beautiful and it was one of the coolest hikes we have ever done. We may have hiked upstream for couple of hours till we reached the narrowest section of the canyon called the "Wall Street", after which we turned around. The entire hike took us around 5 hours. We wanted to do the Angels Landing hike at least half way, but because of our poor planning we did not allow enough time in Zion. It was an incomplete trip.
Read more on: Hiking "The Narrows"
Wall Street / Tall Sandstone Walls
Day 4: We checked-out early and headed to Page, Arizona directly to tour Upper Antelope Canyon. We killed some time by exploring the mall in which the tour company was located and then grabbed lunch. When it was time we boarded an open truck that took us on a dusty bumpy ride to the canyon entrance. Once there, our guide lead the way into the canyon. It was an easy walk in and out on a flat sandy floor. The smooth curves and bends on the canyon walls carved out perfectly by mother nature and the effects created by light was simply mesmerizing. Despite the large crowds we managed to get few pictures.
We then headed to Lower Antelope Canyon. We did not book any tour in advance nor was a truck ride required. We purchased a tour at the entrance of the canyon and a guide was readily available. It was a very leisure tour with only 4 tourists and the guide. This canyon was very narrow compared to the upper canyon but the rock formations were equally stunning.
Read more on: Antelope Canyon
Upper Canyon / Lower Canyon
We made it to Horseshoe Bend before sunset. It was a short walk from parking lot to the overlook. The place was busy with visitors trying to get their own perfect sunset shot or just to witness it. We found our very own perfect spot at the edge of the cliff and waited for the sun to go down. As we sat there admiring the beauty we realized how massive the landscape really was. Boats sailing on the Colorado river below and the tents of people camping for the night looked like nothing bigger than ants. We then checked-in at Holiday Inn Express & Suites and called it a day.
Horseshoe Bend - Page, Arizona
Day 5: That's it. It was a very short trip. We checked-out of Page and headed home on yet another long 8 hour drive.