Mars on Earth, Bryce Canyon
I’ve seen pictures of Bryce Canyon in Utah but nothing prepared me for what I was about to see.
After parking the car along the road, we prepared our backpacks with water and other essentials, and of course a camera, and hiked to the rim of the canyon with a quicker pace than usual. We reached the canyon and the hoodoos are finally visible. It takes my breath away with an explosion of colors (reds, orange, pinks, whites and yellows) combining to make up the famed Hoodoos of the canyon. These brilliant colors are a result of oxidation. Bryce is actually made up of a dozen smaller canyons and referred to as an amphitheater.
We had arrived late in the afternoon and the sun was still out but if we had hiked down to the valley’s bottom it would have gotten dark by the time we returned to the car so our hike was postponed till the next day. We settled for hiking the rim today.
The morning came and it was time to make the decent into this amazing landscape more reminiscent of Mars. I often watched old black and white movies from the 50’s about Mars and with monochrome movies you are left to your imagination in regards to the color combination. What I saw here in Bryce is my Mars. The canyon is dominated by the oddly shaped hoodoos which are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins. These spires were formed by rain pounding the soft limestone and frost splitting caused by snow and cold weather. After 10 million years, the result is this extraterrestrial landscape. The trail we had embarked on was Navajo Loop combined with the Queen’s Garden Trail.
The canyon is home to 500 to 700 year old Douglas Firs and birds such as swallows, Clark’s Nutcrackers, Steller’s Jays, ravens and hawks can be seen perched on these trees. The trail is consider one of the best trails in the world and I would have to agree with that.
You can walk between hoodoo clusters and even through them via obvious man-made openings through the limestone rocks. We were also fortunate to have gone in early April and the presence of snow was still on the trail. The route is fairly easy with a steep incline in a short period of time, giving you reason to pause and take a breath and take some amazing photos.
April 2014, my brother and I spent two days here as a part of our Southwest National Parks Road Trip and this was the best hike of the trip. The visit also included a horseback ride in the Dixie National Forest. For this story please see “In Pursuit of Butch Cassidy, Dixie National Forest”. Two days are just enough time for this relatively small national park and I would only stay here longer if I were planning on multiple hikes.
If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend Bryce Canyon.