Even well-planned and well-researched day trips sometimes end in failure, so it should come as no surprise to us that when we do zero pre-planning we’re more likely to miss out on sights and to waste time.
And yet sometimes after working all week we find ourselves impatient to bust out and explore. So impatient, in fact, that we don’t do any homework ahead of time. And so it was that after driving up very steep and scenic route 14 (not a good RV road btw – tight and windy with lots of switchbacks) from Cedar City and turning onto route 148 we found ourselves confronted by a ‘Road Closed’ sign.
Had we known the road was closed, we might have brought our bikes so we could bike most of the way to the monument – then walk through snow to see the impressive overlook. Or maybe that would have been impossible without snowshoes – who knows?
What I do know is that if you want to see Cedar Breaks NM and it’s not June – September, then you should call the park administrative office in Cedar City at 1-435-586-9451 x4420 to make sure the road is open. That’s what we’ll do next time for sure.
[box]Note that we tried to visit on the 20th of May on a day that was pushing 90 degrees in Hurricane, Utah. Even though we’d glimpsed some snow up in the mountains, it never occurred to me that a road could be snowed in this far south in latitude and this late in the season.
But altitude will do that, as we learned while RV Camping in Idyllwild California earlier this year. Cedar Breaks is at 10,000 feet, so it ‘breaks’ normal weather rules. Every 1,000 feet of elevation gained lowers the air temperature by about 5°F (every +1000M elevation = -8°C). Hurricane Utah is at 3200 feet – Cedar Breaks is at 10,000 feet, so on a 85°F day in Hurricane, it can be 50°F at Cedar Breaks. That means that even if you go in the summer bring warm clothes with you – especially if you’ll be there at night.[/box]
Fortunately we were in southern Utah, so we headed to another spectacular examples of sandstone cliffs eroded by wind and water – Bryce Canyon National Park.
Scenic Byway 12 to Bryce
But first we had the good fortune to drive part of Scenic Byway 12 though Red Canyon and the Dixie National Forest.
Scenic Byway 12 Runs 124 miles from route 89 in the west to route 24 in the east. It passes through or connects some of the most scenic parts of Utah, including Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, scenic parts of Grand Staircase Escalante NM, Kodachrome Basin State Park and many other incredible sights. For an outstanding brochure to Byway 12, Click Here (pdf – right click link & ‘save as’ to download).
If you have the opportunity to drive the entire length of the road, I highly recommend it. I drove it many years ago with my brother, but on this particular trip we only covered the distance to Bryce Canyon. We’re planning a trip in the next couple years where we’ll likely spend time along Byway 12 – follow us on Facebook to keep up with our travels.
[box]Route 12 may not look it, but it is a safe road for RVs (even large RVs) from end to end. There are plenty of tour buses that make this drive, so as you can imagine, even 45′ Class A RVs will be fine.
Also, most of the parks along the way have excellent RV Campgrounds – often with Full Hookups. That said, many parts of Scenic Byway 12 are remote and have no mobile phone access, so you may have to take a break from mobile data depending where you stop.[/box]
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is the crown jewel of the United States National Park System in my opinion. It offers an incredible array of crimson and rust-painted minarets (called Hoodoos, tent rocks, or fairy chimneys) spread in massive depth and scope in front of an 8,000-foot elevation canyon ledge.
[box]Bryce Canyon entry is $30 for a 7 day pass. If you’re also visiting Zion and other parks on this visit, get the $80 National Park pass instead. That will allow you to visit all the parks with no additional cost – which can add up quickly in a National Park- and National Monument-filled State like Utah. Note that the National Park pass does not give you access to Utah State Parks. You’ll have to pay for those individually, or with a $75/year Utah State Park pass[/box]
Words are insufficient to describe places such as Bryce Canyon, so I’ll leave it to my pictures to at least give you a glimpse. Trust me when I say that in person it is at least ten times more spectacular than anything you see here:
Hiking Below the Rim at Bryce Canyon
If you want to get a unique perspective at Bryce then we recommend hiking below the canyon rim on the Navajo Trail.
The Navajo Trail itself isn’t long at 1.3 miles, but it’s very steep as you’ll lose – and then gain – 550 feet in elevation. Make sure to bring plenty of water!
Also keep in mind that the trail starts at 8,000 feet elevation. If you’re not used to hiking at altitude then go easy and remember that hiking at altitude puts additional stress on your heart and lungs. It’s also possible to get altitude sickness at 8,000 feet – especially if you recently came from sea level – so listen to your body and go easy.
Still feel like a hike into the hoodoos? Good! We hiked to the bottom of the Bryce ‘amphitheater’ and have pics to show for it. I definitely recommend the hike if you have the time – it’s worth it!
Food & Brews near Bryce Canyon
After a long day of sightseeing and visiting Bryce Canyon, there’s a good chance you’re up for a tasty meal. Unfortunately none of the restaurant options just outside of Bryce Canyon are very good according to Google reviews and the people we talked to.
The best option – and the place we stopped on our way back to Hurricane – is the Foster’s Family Steakhouse, just over a mile west on Byway 12 from the park road. The prices are reasonable and the food we had was solid – if unspectacular.
Bryce Canyon is a place that everyone should go and see in our opinion. It will make you feel small – while making the world feel massive, beautiful, and full of possibilities. Even if red rock isn’t your thing, the sight of thousands of multi-colored hoodoos is something to behold.
It’s a testament to the incredible wonders of our planet, and the ability to regularly visit places like Bryce Canyon is one of the big reasons that we live this RV travel lifestyle.
Note that Bryce is a solid 2 hour drive from St. George, but if you’re already in Zion, or already at Cedar Breaks then it’s only another hour or so – and so incredibly worth the visit.
After Bryce, we moved from Hurricane to a Boondocking spot outside of Capitol Reef National Park. I’ll write about our time there within the next week.
Until then, Happy Trekking!