Utah is the most exciting and revealing destination I’ve been to after coming back from Europe. Visiting the magnificent Zion and Bryce national parks was so awe inspiring that I am determined to explore as many national parks as I can. This country has so many different landscapes with unique geological formations not found anywhere else in the world, so why not taking advantage of what the homeland has to offer?
We took scenic highway 89 from Arizona via Sedona, where we spent some time with our relatives. Approaching the border with Utah, the red mountains open up to make space to a vast valley reminiscent of a classic Western movie. Everything is so grand and majestic that one feels lost and so small. Upon trespassing Utah, I was somewhat excited to be in a land so wild but tamed by so many rules shaped by their religious beliefs (aka the Latter Day of the Saints). We were warned by a friendly saloon bartender (yes, saloon! I wish I had a horse accompanying me on this trip), for example, that liquor would have been hard to buy, unless ordered at a restaurant and that the alcohol limit is way lower in this state.
Perhaps the most obvious thing I noticed is the amount of gun shops at the side of the streets with giant signs combined with improbable other goods such as billiards, gas etc…The closer you get to Zion, the bigger is the amount of rock and gem stores in the most interesting shaped buildings. Right by Zion, the landscape is mostly mountain and prairie-like with many horses and cattle ranches. We stayed in one of these ranches turned into lodging, where we actually checked into a so called ‘cowboy cabin’ right after dark. We met our fellow ‘cowboy’ neighbors by the nearby communal bonfire while roasting marshmallows and bonded with these Utans immediately. They gave us some tips on Zion and happily put them into practice the next day, when we entered the park. We were immediately taken aback by the exotic, out of this world red, coral and pink rocks layered one on top of the other like metal sheets and checkerboard mesas with horizontal and vertical lines sculpted symmetrically on the sides of the rocks. We drove through the tunnel and descended into the valley down to the visitor center where we hopped on the park shuttle. The shuttle is the best way to reach different viewpoints as cars are not permitted. We decided to see the Narrows first, as the name suggests, two tall rock walls open in the middle and are crossed by the Virgin river. At least 60 percent of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the river. We walked as further as we could without getting into the water, but next time for sure I’ll bring a wetsuit! We visited the Weeping Rocks and we hiked the Emerald Pools trail. Waterfalls, pools and a dazzling display of nature makes this trail a must see.
I enjoyed visiting bohemian Springdale where we grabbed some dinner and of course, a beer called ‘Poligamy Porter’ which was actually graded 7. The reason being, is that beers brewed locally can be sold at a higher alcohol grade. Go figure!
The next day we drove through beautiful horse country to Bryce Canyon, only about an hour away from Zion. Bryce Canyon is the ultimate wonderland…I’ve never seen anything more spectacular in nature to date. Thousands of delicately carved spires rise in brilliant color from the amphitheaters of Bryce Canyon National Park. Millions of years of wind, water and geologic mayhem have shaped and etched the pink cliffs at Bryce, which isn’t actually a canyon but the eastern slope of the Paunsaguant Plateau. The spires, also called ‘hoodoos’, give life to magical worlds that can be seen from different viewpoints along the two hour drive up the plateau. The most sensational ones are the one seen at the Sunset viewpoint where a colossal amphitheater opens in front of you. The Natural Bridge is so incredible, it’s hard to believe it’s not man made but it’s in fact the works of ice and frost. The grand finale for me was , obviously, the ‘Fairyland Canyon’ the last viewpoint before the exit of the park. Hundreds of hoodoos form what looks like Disney’s castle (well, I guess it’s more appropriate to say that Disney might have copied these guys, as they have been here for quite a while) and there’s even a rock that looks like a sinking ship!! I mean, where can you find castles and pirates in the same picture?!?! A legend of the Paiute Indians, who inhabited the area for hundreds of years before the arrival of European Americans, claims the colorful hoodoos are ancient “Legend People” who were turned to stone as punishment for bad deeds. Surrounded by the beauty of southern Utah and panoramic views of three states, these hoodoos cast their spell on all who visit. Can I be turned into a princess now? I found my kingdom!!