First, let me be quite direct. I love Bryce Canyon. The fact that I was shockingly, stunningly stupid here is not Bryce’s fault. Not at all. I’ll explain how dumb I was in a moment, but first a few words about Bryce and southern Utah.
Bryce is a fairly short (two hours or so), beautiful drive from Zion, but you might as well be going from one planet to another. You look up at the beautiful sandstone geology of Zion, and you look down on the spectacular limestone geology of Bryce. Bryce isn’t as great a hiking park as Zion, but its tall drip-sandcastle-like structures are quite remarkable. And the hike from the canyon rim down into the base of the canyon is must-do while visiting Bryce National Park.
I’ve been to Bryce before, and wanted to bring the rest of my family here. And while I saw most everything I hoped to see at Bryce on my prior visit, I missed a highly-recommended activity — getting up just before sunrise and watching the sun come up over Bryce Canyon. We were staying at the Lodge in the middle of the park, which was a short walk to Sunrise and Sunset Points, got good advice that it’s actually better this time of year to watch the sun rise from Sunset Point, and I was determined to take in this experience.
I wanted to make sure I didn’t sleep too late, so I set my alarm for 5:15 am, figuring that might be a bit early for my sunrise watch. But when my alarm went off, it was pitch black out. So I fumbled around, re-set it for 5:30 a.m., and went back to sleep. At 5:30 a.m. it was still pitch black, so I repeated my 15 minute re-set. 5:45 a.m., still totally dark. 6:00 a.m., ditto. 6:15 a.m., pitch black, as it was at 6:30 a.m. At this point I’m beginning to feel like I’m in an old Twilight Zone episode. And my very patient wife is beginning to feel I’m not being totally considerate this morning.
6:45 a.m., still dark, 7:00 a.m. as well. I’m slowly beginning to think something is wrong, but keeping adjusting my alarm by fifteen minutes, and finally, at 7:45 a.m., two things happen. First, it’s finally starting to look like early dawn outside, and I swing into action. Second, it slowly dawns on me what the heck has been going on. Cleverly, I never changed my blackberry (which serves as my alarm) from Eastern Daylight Time. So my first alarm was going off at 3:15 a.m. Utah time, and — surprise, surprise — it’s pretty dark at Bryce that time of morning.
I wish I could say that, after the rocky start to the morning, that sunrise over Bryce was a glorious and inspiring experience. But a gigantic tourist bus dumped a big noisy group, and kept the engine on for the entire hour I was there. Even without these distractions, the sunrise magic I had hoped for just wasn’t there, and my advice to others visiting Bryce would be to sleep in.
While our family really likes hiking and geology, our passion is around wildlife. Our kids particularly love chasing down herps (reptiles and amphibians). When we come to a new place, we never know quite what to expect. Utah has been fabulous with respect to geology, but not all that exciting for wildlife. We’ve had a few good bird sightings (a Dipper and Mountain Bluebird), some non-descript mammals, and a few good herps, but nothing all that dramatic.
We stayed at the lodge inside the park, and had a great experience there. The rooms are quite basic, but the location is great, and the food in the lodge was pretty good. Given the alternatives in the neighboring area, which are all mediocre at best, my advice is to book something at the lodge, but book early, because the rooms get booked pretty far ahead of time.