Exploring Southern Utah – 2021

One of the great things about living in SoCal is the proximity to so many National Parks. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve been to Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Sequoia/Kings Canyon a couple of times…not to mention Yosemite. These are all in-state. Just a little over the border, Utah is home to many more. I had talked about going to visit a few of them for years but never did. Heck, I even drove past them on my way to visit Yellowstone.

When my broken elbow forced me to transfer my BWR registration to Utah, I jumped at the chance to take the full week off and stay to visit some of the parks. Zion and Bryce NP were just an hour or so drive from Cedar City. BWR was on a Sat. and I didn’t want to kill my legs too much, so I planned my visits for after the event.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

I got in a day or so early before BWR to acclimate to the altitude. I found an awesome AirBnB run by a French couple in Cedar City. Cedar Breaks National Moment is just outside of Cedar City at 10,000 ft. Thus, I drove up a little before sunset to check it out. I hiked some of the rim and the alpine forest. Kind of like a miniature Grand Canyon. My plan was to see some of Zion NP the next day.

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Zion NP – Day 1

Zion NP turned out to be quite a challenge when it came to parking for the main entrance. Thankfully, I had done my due diligence in researching the situation and had a plan. I knew I wanted to bike through the park each day, so I took my road bike. On the first day, signs kept saying all of the park lots were full and to take a shuttle bus. I found a city lot, paid for parking, and rode into the park.  I had the annual park pass, so I just had to ride right up to the gate.

Riding to the park was breathtaking, but riding in the park was even more so. Once you reach Zion Park Road, it’s closed to all traffic except for buses, people staying at one of the lodges, or bikes. Oh, bikes… e-bikes have taken over Zion. Thankfully, pretty much all of them were Class I or II and had been rented in town. I didn’t have many flying by me at 40 MPH. I was pretty spent after BWR, so I just biked until where the road ended at the Temple of Sinawava.

On my way back to Cedar City, I stopped at Kolob Canyon which is at the north end of the park. There were some nice vistas and I did a short hike along Taylor Creek. It was amazing how quiet it was here vs the main section of the park.

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Bryce Canyon NP

After my first day at Zion, the weather looked right for a trip to Bryce. At about 8,000 feet, I knew it would be cooler and there was also rain forecast for the afternoon. Plus, it was mid-week and out-of-season, so the crowds shouldn’t be too bad.

I had no trouble finding a place to park. My plan was to ride from the entrance to the overlook where the road ends. It would be about a 34 mile ride and I was going to film it on my GoPro. Staying in Cedar City for a few days had helped me acclimate to a certain point, but I could still feel the altitude. Interestingly, it’s a pretty ride, but you don’t get many vista. You largely have views of trees and fields. It’s not until you get off the main road, that you get to the vantage points to see the hoodoos and other sights.

After my ride, I drove out to the Queen’s Garden to hike down into the hoodoos. My plan was to do a short hike and take photos. I had seen hoodoos before in photos, but I was completely awestruck by their color in real life. One of the things that helped was the storms that were starting to roll in. This led to some dramatic contrasts between the sun and clouds. I was happy to see the trails weren’t too crowded, so I had uninterrupted shots. I can only imagine what this place is like in the summer on the weekends.

As I was finishing up my hike, a light rain began to fall. This continued as I drove back to Cedar City. When I got to 10,000 feet, it actually turned to snow. Sigh. At least it would be in the 60s the following day in Zion.

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Zion NP – Day 2

For my second day in Zion, the plan was to do some more riding, then take one of the park buses to hike toward Angel’s Landing. Angel’s Landing is one of the most famous vistas in the park. Hiking to its trailhead isn’t that easy, but climbing out to it isn’t for those afraid of heights. It requires scrambling and the use of guide chains. Nope, sorry. Not for me. I was happy just hiking up to the trailhead at Scout Lookout along the West Rim Trail. I had fun chatting with some other hikers on the way down and further enjoying the views. I also recorded my ride with my GoPro for some awesome footage.

Zion NP – Day 3

My third day in Zion involved some more riding, as well as a hike up the Narrows on the North Fork Virgin River. The trailhead starts at the Temple of Sinawava. This brought some interesting choices into what to pack on the park bus. The first mile or so follows a paved path, but then you have to start wading through the river at points. They rent river boots at the trailhead, but I just used my Salomon hiking boots. I was also carrying my photo gear. Having crossed many creeks in my life, it wasn’t that big of a deal. It is a popular tourist spot, so I ran into lots of people but not as bad had it been the weekend. There hadn’t been much rain, so the deepest I had to forge was thigh high water. My feet were wet when I finished, but it was well worth it. You could tell that many of the tourists had never traipsed through flowing water before.

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