The entire state of Utah is beautiful, especially at the national parks. The air is clean, the landscape is constantly capturing attention, and the sky is so clear that at night you can see millions upon millions of stars. The different parks in Utah are a favorite for my family, they offer something for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re an experienced camper, or a weekend hiker, you will find the perfect accommodation at one of the many national parks Utah has to offer. The two I visited this time are Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.
We stayed at Zion Mountain Ranch, a working farm and buffalo sanctuary about 10 minutes past Zion park. Instead of a traditional hotel or lodge where all the rooms are together, here there are individual cabins, where you can relax on your own, yet not be too far from civilization.
There is a heard of buffalo roaming the field, and quite a few horses that work the farm, but that doesn’t stop other animals from wandering onto the property. On our first day we were visited by a heard of deer and while exploring the property I found a few snow bunnies too.
Because there are no major cities in this part of the state, the light pollution is almost non-existent which is perfect for star gazing (if you’re brave enough to face the cold). ZMR also puts on a great New Year’s celebration, complete with a bonfire, floating lanterns, and fireworks that can be seen even from the comfort (and warmth) of your own cabin.
One word to describe Bryce Canyon National Park: breathtaking. Actually breathtaking is an understatement.
We started our hiking adventure at Sunrise Point, there is a lookout over the canyon where you can see a lot of the different rock formations. In January the red cliffs are covered in snow, creating a beautiful color contrast.
We took the loop trail from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point, about 4 miles long, and it takes you all the way down the canyon at one point, and up again in another. The views were gorgeous, we got to see some tiny arches, rock towers, even rock bridges.
After we warmed up a bit we decided to drive up the main road in the park to see some of the viewpoints. First was Inspiration Point, gorgeous view of the other side of the cliffs at Sunset Point. Unfortunately, the viewpoint itself was closed, so we had to look out from the rim trail that runs all along the ridge of the canyon, but the view was just as amazing.
Next we went to Bryce Point, and honestly, I don’t know an adjective that would do the beauty of that view justice.
This is the point where you can see the entire Bryce Canyon in one swoop, and it’s one of those views that make you forget everything else in the world.
After a quick stop at the Natural Bridge, the only true arch in Bryce, we made our way out of the park.
The park was extremely busy for a cold, winter day. We went on New Year’s Day, so a lot of people were free to check out one of Utah’s most popular national park. We started the day at Zions most famous point, Angels Landing.
It’s a 2 mile hike going up the meandering slope until you get to Scenic landing, and then another half mile of very steep and difficult climbing along a narrow ridge ridge to get to the top. The last half mile is almost like rock climbing, where you have to hold on to the supports drilled into the mountain, or risk falling off. In the winter this hike can be extremely dangerous, with icy conditions making it very hard to climb even with traction devices. We elected to end our hike at Scenic Landing, because we were hiking with a 5 year old and it became a bit perilous at one point. The view from Scenic Landing is just as breathtaking, and you can say you climbed a freaking giant mountain if you made it to that point.
We had to slide on our butts half the way down because there was so much ice, and the one place I felt brave enough to stand up was also the place I had an amazing banana peel wipe out (so bummed no one caught it on camera).We also got to see a family of deer grazing as we were heading down.
Next we moved on to Weeping Rock, which gets its name from the water seeping in through the rock. In the winter this water can freeze and create the most beautiful icicles. The path up to the rock had almost frozen over, there was a thick layer of ice completely covering the path and hanging off. It was so gorgeous, but also kind of dangerous.
After weeping rock we went down to the Riverside walk at the Temple of Sinawava. Here we got to walk along the Virgin River, in the summer you can wade through the river and explore a harder to reach part of the park.
After this we went back into town to get some much deserved food.
On Saturdays it was time to start the long drive home. Before we hit the road me decided to stop at the Corral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
While this park is interesting, its more of a summer attraction. Its the perfect place for driving ATVs and sand buggies (or a 4×4 car or truck would be fun too). After this quick detour it was time to head home.
Coming from LA, this part of Utah is always a breath of fresh air and the perfect way to pause everyday life. The snow and red rocks are a beautiful change of scenery to my usual skyscrapers and traffic jams.