Canyon Tour By Tom Stanley
Of all the dozens of stops we're hitting, and thousands of miles we plan to travel during this summer-long adventure, this is right at the top of my "oh-man-I-can't-freakin-wait" list. This three-day voyage from Utah south to Arizona will include a night and a day in three major canyons in the region - Bryce Canyon (shown here), Zion Canyon and the Grand Canyon.
This leg of the trip was thoroughly inspired by the photographic musings of our friend Joe Jansen, whose visits to these areas yielded images of such beauty and bewilderment (as you can clearly see on this page) that I had no choice but to set them into our itinerary, at a very early point in time.
To better understand what we'll be seeing in this neck of the woods (rocks), let's look at each canyon as we'll encounter them on our route.
Immediately following our brief visit to Salt Lake City, our drive south in Utah will bring us across this awe-striking chasm. Bryce Canyon, inside Bryce Canyon National Park, is the first of our three-part canyon tour, rich with auburn colors and rocky scenery that scoffs at humanity's ever-growing footprint.
Arriving in the mid-afternoon from Salt Lake City, we've got a handful of astounding sites to see - like the Wall of Windows, the Chessmen and the Silent City. And an 18-mile drive to nearby Rainbow Point yields us 13 different viewpoints on the trip back. But in the meanwhile, we'd be foolish to miss Sunset Point in the evening and Sunrise Point the next day. And if we can find time, there and free Ranger Programs on a daily basis, including talks, walks and hikes around this beautiful attraction.
The next day, we're leaving Bryce to plunge two hours deeper into southwestern Utah, to majestic Zion Canyon, inside Zion National Park. This place is particularly noteworthy for the fact that the canyon itself can be driven into by car - not the case in Bryce or Grand Canyons.
We'll have our hiking shoes at the ready for the clamor of hiking trails in the park, of all different lengths and levels of strenuousness. Aside from stretching our legs, we'll want to embark on the glorious Zion Canyon Scenic Drive on our way through. And this we're leaning toward this being the place where we indulge in a Canyon Ride, where we can spend part of the day sauntering into the canyon on the back of a mule, instead of walking like suckers.
The big finale comes with the largest and most popular destination in our little tour - the great Grand Canyon. Four and a half hours south of Zion, we'll find our way to Grand Canyon National Park in northwestern Arizona, essentially the only time we're spending in the state during our trip. This colossal gorge is in place thanks to the Colorado River, which cut a mile-deep canyon out of this area that averages ten (yes, ten) miles in width.
Our visit to the canyon's South Rim will include a stop into Grand Canyon Village, as well as stops nearby at Kaibab Trail, Hermits Rest and if we cansquezze it in, the four-hour Desert View Drive. Some photos from the Yavapai Observation Station wouldn't hurt, either. And on the west side, the Grand Canyon Skywalk should give us some views to remember as well.
We'll camp out, very possibly in one of the six lodges run by Xanterra. Or maybe we'll try some back-country camping. Either way, we'll need a good night's rest, because our next stop in Vegas will require a bit of energy... to say the least.
All photos by Joe Jansen