FIRST TIME AT BRYCE CANYON

I finally did it. I made it to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

(Get ready for LOADS of pictures and videos in this post as a result.)

Thor’s Hammer at Bryce Canyon

I have now completed the BIG FIVE national parks in the Utah: Arches, Zion, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and now, Bryce Canyon.

Without knowing it, I think I saved the best for last.

Let me be clear, they are ALL AMAZING! They all have wonderful things to offer and are unique in their own ways. I think the thing that puts Bryce Canyon at the top is the combination of the Ponderosa and desert like conditions. They converge to create a beauty of extraordinary magnitude.

I made a last-minuute decision to go to Bryce on a Sunday through Tuesday trip. I like being at the parks during the week versus the weekends, when they are more crowded. No one else was able to go with me due to work and school obligations.

I left early Sunday morning from my house and drove to Cedar City. Ann was there helping her niece move into her new house. I met her there and we went on a hike on the Cedar Canyon Trail. It was a nice easy hike and was a good way to get one in with Ann before I left for Bryce Canyon. Due to her work and class schedule, she could not join me.

Ann perched at the top of the waterfalls on the Cedar Canyon Trail.

After dropping Ann off back at her niece’s new house, I made my way to Bryce with giddy anticipation. The park is about a 90 minute drive from Cedar City. I was so happy when I arrived at the park in the late afternoon.

Of course, I had to stop at the sign (below) to grab a selfie. I was impatient and anxious to get to all of the good stuff in the park, but the selfie was a must.

I finally made it!

Selfie in camera, I paid the fee and drove into the park. I made a beeline to my first destination. I was so excited that I was annoyed with the 25mph speed limit in the park. Nonetheless, I honored the limit.

My plan for my visit is outlined below.

*Go directly to SUNSET POINT and check out the situation for the first night’s sunset.
*Shoot sunset
*Shoot stars in the middle of the night
*Shoot the sunrise at SUNRISE POINT in the morning.
*Hike the NAVAJO TRAIL and go to QUEENS GARDEN.
*Explore all of the other views and trails
*Hike as much as possible
*Shoot stars the 2nd night while on a trail and try to get some structures involved.

I am happy to say I completed my list and much more.

Since I have so many pix and videos to share from my visit, I have been trying to figure out the best way to share and tell the story of the visit. I have decided to shared by areas within the park as opposed to giving a chronological tick tock of the visit.

Buckle up, here we go…

SUNSET POINT

One of my first views of the Park at Sunset Point

This was the first place I went to and also the location where I spent most of my time. It also has a trail head to the Navajo Trail.

A tighter shot compared to the above photo at Sunset Point

When I arrived I explore the area to figure out where I wanted to shoot the sunset and time lapse for the evening. I was blown away by the view around the rim.

It was photogasm overload. Everywhere you looked there was a picture!

After taking a quick survey of the scene, I settled on the southern side of Sunset Point where the sun would set to the right and I would look out over the field of hoodoos and structures.

I set up my tripod and affixed 2 cameras to it: a Nikon DSLR and a spare cell phone (Samsung S9+). I used the Nikon to take a time lapse, snapping a new shot every 10 seconds, and the cell phone was shooting in Hyperlapse mode. I let both of them run for over 2 hours.

I am sharing the hyperlapse from the cell phone below. Note that you will see its automatic exposure functions trying to keep the scene light up. However, at the very end, it just gives up and the image goes black.

While they cameras were working over time, I was able to wander around a bit as the area was not very crowded. I talked with lots of people, took some time to cook some dinner with my JetBoil, and did a meditation while sitting on the rim of the canyon (see photo below).

This is where I sat and had a wonderful meditation while my cameras were clicking away.

I also saw people walking out to the edge of an overhang and taking pictures. With my irrational fear of heights, this was totally freaking me out. So I decided to take pictures just in case they fell. That way I would have it captured for posterity. Just kidding…sort of.

This night, and throughout the trip, so many people came up to me to talk about photography and a few other things. I was shocked and how talkative people were. One example is a couple who I thought may have been from Japan, but were actually from TN. They were taking some fun pix at the rim and asked me to take a few of them. I took a few for myself. One example of the lady is shown below. She liked posing for her husband and her husband liked taking her picture…a good combination.

My new TN friend looking wistfully into the canyon. You can see the shadow of my tripod in the foreground.

When the sun tucked away behind the trees, it started to get cold. I bundled up in layers while I shot the video below and waited for darkness.

After the time lapse and the hyperlapse were done. I packed up my gear, I drove into town to get a hot chocolate and then I came back to Sunset Point to hunker down for the evening…or at least until the night sky light up with stars. I am easily able to take out the seats of my van and when I travel like this, I am able to use my car as a camper if it is too cold outside.

This night it was 22 degrees so I bundled up in the van until about 3am. I woke up and looked out the window. I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a glare or whether I was seeing the clearest Milky Way that I have ever seen. I opened the door and felt the cold rush in but was able to see the sky better. I have never seen so many stars and the Milky Way so obvious as it was for the two nights I was at the park.

Naturally, I got the photographer’s adrenalin rush and quickly put on my shoes and three layers of jackets, grabbed my gear and raced to the rim of the canyon.

I had a funny thing happen. I started taking pix and was getting frustrated that they were all black. No stars. No Milky Way. I kept taking longer exposures and NOTHING!

In my enthusiam to get to the rim and start taking pictures, I forgot to take off the lens cap. Yep. That happened.

Once I got my act together I was able to start making some images. Below is one of my favorites from the first night.

The Milky Way was showing off in the night sky

The second night, I did something different. I hiked the short distance down from Sunset Point to the intersection of the Navajo Trail and the Wall Street Trail. I set up my gear and made lots of images. Some of them were good, some not so much.

This was shot with my fisheye lens and features one of the big walls of Wall Street on the left.
This one is almost a good picture. It is a bit blurry.

Below are some of my misfires from the second night.

After I finished the first night of shooting stars, I went back to the van and caught another hour of sleep. I woke up around 6am and drove the short distance to Sunrise Point to catch the morning awakening.

SUNRISE POINT

After wiping the sleep, or lack thereof, from my eyes, I walked up to the rim at Sunrise Point. There was about 12 other people in the area waiting with cameras in hand to catch the morning light. I found my general shooting area and got to work. Sunrises happen quickly and some lighting situations only last for seconds. I had to be observant and fast.

Even though it is a bit soft, I love this image from the first morning.
The sun peeking out from behind the distant lands.
Hoodoos in the foreground and the dawning of a new day behind
The light hits just right for a short time
Yours truly at Sunrise Point

I had read in my pre-travel research that some people were not overwhelmed with Sunrise Point. They actually thought SunSET Point was better for both sunrise and sunset. After trying each spot on the two mornings, I have to agree. Below are some of my sunrise pix that I took from SunSET Point on the second morning.

Once the sunrise shooting was over on the first morning, I grabbed some hot breakfast and then came back to Sunset Point to hit the Navajo Trail.

NAVAJO TRAIL

The entrance to the Navajo Trail from Sunset Point

Getting on the Navajo Trail was one of my most anticipated moments of the trip. It has a cool view of Thor’s Hammer, a windey serpentine trail section, and it connects with other cool trails. It was all I could do to not jump on the trail as soon as I arrived at the park.

Very shortly after descending on the trail, you come to the Wall Street loop turnoff. However, it was closed. I was able to take a few pix and video.

The video below shows what you can see of Wall Street from the top of the trail. There is also a cool little window surprise.

This video shows the scene from near the top of the trail.

Two hikers stop at the entrance to the serpentine path on the Navajo Trail

The serpentine section of the trail shown below is very close to the beginning of the trail. On the way down, it is remarkable. However, on the way up, you will see many huffing and puffing and taking frequent breaks to make it back up.

The serpentine section of the trail is beautiful with the pine trees, red color and well-worn path

I chose to shoot a hyperlapse video here. I set up my tripod and cell phone and got it started. Not that this is advisable, but I left it in that spot while I continued on my journey for the next two hours. When I returned it was untouched and made the video found below.

Stopping for a pic on the trail
A full view of Thor’s Hammer from the trail.

When you get at the very bottom of the serpentine section, you have some options. You can go to the Wall Street Loop if it is not closed, which it was when I was there due to falling rocks. You can also link up with the Queens Garden Trail and the Sunrise Point trail. Even though not shown on the sign below, there were a few other trails offshooting from the trail to Queens Garden.

The hike to Queens Garden was nice with lots to look at.

QUEENS GARDEN

One of the coolest sites in the garden

When I arrived at Queens Garden, the first thing I noticed was the richness of colors and the fact that you felt surrounded by the geography.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t show as well in this picture, but the gradation of color in this area was remarkable.
This is another view of the same area as shown in the photo above
I climbed up a little hill in the garden
I think this high point here kind of looks like a Queen’s crown
A site off in the distance from the garden
The Sunrise Point trial as seen from the Navajo Trail

At the end of the hike, this bird started to fly around me. I was by a tree. I thought it would scurry away as I approached it, but it let me get within 6 feet or so and I nabbed a few pix as a result.

Gorgeous bird

The remainder of the blog will shows some pix from almost all of the vista points in the park. Each of them was breathtaking, but one stood out from the others.

BRYCE POINT

One of my favorite parts of the park was Bryce Point. I think the view from there is one of the best I have ever seen. There is also a trail that starts down into the canyon from there, but it too was closed. It had some remaining snow dangers.

One of the amazing views at Bryce Point
This was the general area of where the trail that leads down into the canyon
The Bryce Point Overlook area. Walking to the end, really trigger my acrophobia.
Looking northeast from Bryce Point

SWAMP CANYON

Swamp Canyon and Sheep Creek was a most beautiful area that had miles of terrific trails. I want to come back with a backpacking buddy and stay several nights out in the canyon.

The trailhead
Simply stunning to me

FAIRVIEW POINT

I also stopped at Aqua Canyon and Ponderosa Point as I made my way to the end and the highest point in the park – Rainbow Point.

RAINBOW POINT

Those who follow my blog know that I do not like heights. Even so, I still challenge myself. The drive to Rainbow Point totally freaked me out. When I made it to the top, I could barely take pix or get to the rim. I was able to take a couple pix and shoot the video below.

I was safe taking a picture from inside the information area.

MOSSY CAVE

On the way out of Bryce Canyon I made a quick stop at the Mossy Cave trail. It is a short .4 mile hike to a cave that has moss in it. Hence the name. There is also a waterfall along the trail.

My two night trip was a terrific get-away and one that I cannot wait to repeat. I look forward to returning for a more rugged backpacking adventure, which I hope to do this season. If you have never been, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a vist to Bryce Canyon. You will not be disappointed. It also close to most of the other national parks. So you can hit them all in a few days.

And finally, here’s one image for the road…

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

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