One must drive through Red Canyon on Route 12 to reach Bryce from the west. A couple short tunnels through the red rock make many people stop for a photo shoot. We took a day to make a really nice hike that was somewhat harder than expected and very hot when exposed to the sun.
Kodachrome State Park.
I tried unsuccessfully to book a camping spot at this highly rated state park just a ½ hour drive to the southeast of Bryce off Route 12. We easily made a day trip that included a hike in Kodachrome and a drive and hike to Grosvenor Arch.
We hiked Angels Palace Trail, an easy 1.6 mile loop with 226' elevation gain. The gain is mostly all at once as you switchback up a canyon wall. From there you walk along an elevated plain with great views.
A little tight walking out to this overlook.
Looks like it was made of clay
Looking down at the state park camping area (just out of view).
This was one of the true highlights, special sites on our whole trip. A spectacular arch that you can visit in near isolation. But perhaps the road to get there was even more exciting and beautiful.
Located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, from Kodachrome SPwe took the graded dirt Cottonwood Canyon Road for 10 miles to the arch's parking lot. From there it is a short, flat walk on a paved trail to the arch.
Cottonwood Canyon Road was a mix of washboard, sand, and rough flat rock when climbing some narrow and steep hills – one of which left Sandy a little nervous. However the views were unbelievable. There was one spot that I photographed that I still consider my favorite singular view I've seen in the country.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
The colors, the variety of landscape, the canyons and valleys to explore. I was mesmerized.
What made it special was that it was unexpected. It was extremely colorful. It was vast. It seemed like it was all mine. A broad valley exposed before me inviting me, calling me to throw on the backpack and wander aimlessly in this area without trails, but open to hiking.
This was a spot I wished I could teleport all my friends to see. I want my hiking friends to explore. I stood with wanderlust – wishing I could go back in time with a younger body and an available son to go on a multi-day hike with.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Due west of Bryce and north of Zion on UT 148, this spectacular 3 mile wide amphitheater peaks at 10,350' above sea level. Think of it as a more private Bryce Canyon. With the steepness of the canyon making it impenetrable, the monument has only two rim trails, and even these have some steep sections.
A nice result of the elevation is the increasing number of aspen trees we saw as we drove up to the park from Rt 143 in Panguitch. We made a loop out if it and the return down Rt 14 back to US 89 was worth the trip. We were advised to take a short detour west on 14 after it merges with 143 for just a mile or less to an overlook that provides a long distance look at the rooftop of Zion National Park.
The canyons of Zion in the distance.