Southwestern Utah is home to part of the Colorado Plateau, a massive chunk of land that has been pushed nearly 2 miles above its original altitude and slowly carved back down over millions of years. My friend Michael and I decided to take a hiking trip down here, to explore the purported beauty of these geological structures and work out our legs climbing up and down the Grand Staircase.
We got to Las Vegas and drove through the Nevada Desert. We followed highways that curved around mountains and through canyons, with the brown desert extending as far as we could see in the sunset. Even this rugged landscape had the beauty of the desert, as the mountain peaks stood picturesque next to long, flat, highways.
Eventually, we got to Mt. Carmel Junction, a small town where our hotel is located. Turns out, it’s a hotel, gas station, restaurant, and golf course, one of three or four enterprises in this town. What we thought would be a Best Western turned out to be Thunderbird, a cool old diner straight out of a movie.
After getting settled, we went to Zion National Park, a hiker’s paradise on earth. My friend had been talking up this hike called Angel’s Landing, which was about 5 miles with a 1500 ft elevation gain. We went straight there, walking uphill for hours on winding switchbacks, until we got to the actual Angel’s Landing trailhead. This 1/2 a mile scramble is along the spine of a ridge, with sheer walls on both sides as you crawl along the etched out trail. A chain is there (but my friend and I agreed, largely unnecessary on the way up) and as long as you were smart, it’s a manageable but intense hike. So we did it, hugging the cliff face as we scooted along, climbing over ledges as we peered down to thousand foot drop offs on our left and right, and crab walking back down to keep our sanity. The view was spectacular since the Zion Valley was right there in all its glory for us to behold. A crazy cool hike to start off this trip!
The next day, we drove about an hour north to get to Bryce Canyon. Another friend (also Michael, who I went to Mammoth Cave with) told me that this was one of the coolest parks he had visited. And he was right! Before we started, we met up with Laura’s brother Ken (Laura who took me to Cleveland) who is on a cross-country road trip and happened to be in the area. Together, the three of us descended into the Bryce amphitheater, gazing at the towering hoodoos that covered the canyon walls. These hoodoos were formed from rainwater seeping into cracks in these rocks and freezing and melting over and over for millennia. The towers of red and white rocks constantly shifted as we moved, creating an illusion of a dynamic, fluid landscape that is both still and beautiful. Here are a bunch of panoramas I took, since each turn was a new perspective on the incredible scenery.
So far, we have visited two of the three National Parks in the Grand Staircase. More Zion to come, hopefully, and then down to the last park, the Grand Canyon, to complete our tour of this incredible geological wonderland.