Bryce Canyon



Although the “Grand Circle” is defined as certain areas in the southwestern United States located in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah, most of the “must see” places are located in northern Arizona and southern Utah.  At least that’s the ones we traveled to on this trip.  Unable to make their way out west with us on previous trips, we took Mike’s sister, Shawn, and her husband, Donald, on a whirlwind tour of the southwest hitting some of the highlights of the Grand Circle. 

Day One – Saturday, August 28 – Getting There

The adventure began with a flight to Las Vegas, which is always a good jumping-off point. We took an exciting drive down Las Vegas Boulevard a/k/a “The Strip” to see all the icons and casinos seen on television like the pyramid at Luxor, the giant lion at MGM Grand, the Eiffel Tower of Paris, Paris, and the Stratosphere.  We then headed northeast out of Las Vegas on I-15.  Wow!  We were cruising down the highway in the middle of a desert landscape that soon gave way to towering rock formations and canyons. 

Eiffel Tower    MGM Grand    Stratosphere

While traveling, we’ve come to use the interstate highway system as little as possible, usually sticking to state highways and sometimes dirt back roads that are not often maintained.  This is the only way to see America!  You won’t see the “real world” as you fly by on a super highway.  You have to go find the small towns that have existed off of state roads long before the interstate was ever built.  You won’t regret it!

We also had a bit of fun and confusion with the time zones.  Nevada is in the Pacific zone, Utah and Arizona are in the Mountain zone, but Arizona does not observe daylight savings time.  The Navajo Reservation, which is in Arizona, does observe daylight savings time.  So, as we moved from state to state in the Grand Circle, the time zones continuously changed, and we had to keep checking our clocks and our cell phones to make sure we had the right time so we wouldn’t be late for something scheduled for a particular time.

After crossing the Nevada/Arizona state line and then the Arizona/Utah state line, it wasn’t long before we saw rock formations with vibrant colors showing the geological layers of time.  After passing the town of St. George, UT, we left the interstate at exit 16 and continued driving east on UT-9 to the town of Hurricane.  We then turned onto east UT-59, traveling more southeast, before the highway changes to AZ-389 at the Utah/Arizona state line.  Wow!  We’ve crossed three state lines already!  At the town of Fredonia, we turned southeast on US-89 to Jacob Lake and then continued south on AZ-67 a/k/a Grand Canyon Highway / Kaibab Plateau-North Rim Parkway. 

Next stop. . . Grand Canyon’s North Rim

Once you get on AZ-67 coming down from Jacob Lake traveling into the Kaibab National Forest, you get a sense of being somewhere very special.  The road is long and winds its way through the forest where Aspens and Ponderosa Pines seem to reach out to guide you along.  In the long, late afternoon shadows, deer and other animals are out looking for food.  Often seen on the roadside and sometimes high above when the road is cut out of the side of a hill, they barely glanced as the cars passed by.  We finally came upon the national park entrance station which makes little impact on this pristine wilderness. 

We pulled into the parking lot near the main lodge where there is a stone retaining wall in front of a sheltered bench facing the canyon. Looking past it through the trees you could see there was an open expanse just on the other side drawing you to peer over the edge until you gazed with awe at the canyon below.  The colors are amazing!  We stepped back to find another place to look out and see a sign describing the beauty in front of us.  “Roaring Springs Canyon – Grand Canyon --->  What?  This isn’t IT?  Shawn and Donald looked at us and we giggled.  The same thing happened to us the very first time we visited the Grand Canyon.  We assured them it was more magnificent than this and continued down the narrow path to the main walkway out to Bright Angel Point.

Although the walkway is paved, it isn’t flat, and although the elevation changes are difficult for some people to negotiate, it is well worth the patience to take each uphill section slowly while resting and enjoying the views in between.  Usually it is the altitude that takes a little getting used to.  I once came upon an older woman who was afraid of the narrow walkway with its steep views down off of either side.  She was going to sit on a rock and wait for her friends to enjoy Bright Angel Point and re-group with them on their way back to the lodge.  It was breaking my heart that she would miss such a spectacular view.  I convinced her to hold onto my arm and I slowly walked with her the rest of the way until she was re-united with her party.  She later found me and thanked me for making her go because she had no idea what a truly wonderful sight she would have missed.

North Rim - Transcept Canyon & Bright Angel FaultAs we walked, Shawn and Donald kept getting peeks of the side canyons down on either side of the path (Roaring Springs Canyon on the left and Transcept Canyon on the right).  The sun was getting low in the sky throwing shadows all around.  We got close enough to the Point that you could see out towards Bright Angel Fault.  I know my heart skipped a few beats, as it always does when I peer into the canyon.  Shawn & Donald gasped and stood with jaws dropped in awe of their first sight of the Grand Canyon.  Mike and I looked at each other and smiled.  Yeah, they’ll be hooked!

Angel's Gate

As you approach the fence at the tip of the Point, there are educational signs posted to show you the various peaks and points in the distance.  There were many other visitors for sunset, all speaking in hushed tones.  Mike and I stepped back and climbed up onto a ledge to the right that overlooks the edge of Transcept Canyon.  This is where we sat when we came here for the first time in 1998.  Back then, we crawled out onto this same ledge to watch the sunset and, unknown to us at that time, looked across the canyon through a place called “Angels Gate” to a formation on the opposite side of the canyon to the southeast called “Moran Point.”  This is the same place where we were married 2 years later on August 28, 2000. 

We sit here each time we come to the North Rim, looking out into the distance and wondering about the forces of nature and events that made such a huge, wonderful place.  We look into each other’s tear-filled eyes and whisper as if in a church.  The Grand Canyon is a place of reverence.  It is a place to find yourself if you are lost, to renew your spirit, and to regain your faith in the future as you contemplate the past.

    North Rim Cabin    North Rim Lodge - Canyon Side

After a few photo attempts at the moonrise, we headed back to the lodge in the last bit of daylight for a wonderful meal in the dining room to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary.  We tried to peer out into the darkness through the floor to ceiling windows that make up 2 walls of the dining room.  A short distance from the dining room is an indoor observation room that opens onto an outdoor patio with a huge fireplace.  Rocking chairs and benches are placed near the stone walls for relaxing and enjoying the views. 

Day Two – Sunday, August 29 – Riding Mules on the North Rim

Our cabin was not far from the lodge so we didn’t have a long walk to meet the shuttle bus to the trailhead for our mule rides.  Due to closure of the lower part of the North Kaibab Trail for repair work, our full day ride to Roaring Springs was cancelled and we took two half-day rides.  First we took a 7:30 a.m. ride with a few other people about halfway down into the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail to Supai Tunnel.  This trip down the North Kaibab Trail was a first for all of us and we were impressed at the views in Roaring Springs Canyon as our surefooted mules managed the steep switchbacks.  We dismounted at Supai Tunnel for a 15-20 minute break and hiked through the tunnel a short distance to see what was on the other side. 

 Roaring Springs Canyon    Roaring Springs Canyon

We returned to the rim for lunch during a 45 minute break before the next ride.  The 12:30 p.m. ride, led by an awesome female wrangler, took our little group of four along the canyon rim through the forest on the Ken Patrick Trail to Uncle Jim’s Point.  Upon reaching the end of the trail, we dismounted and walked around a bit enjoying the expansive views.  We could also see the North Kaibab Trail where it continued below Supai Tunnel through Roaring Springs Canyon.  There were prescribed fires burning at various locations on the North Rim evidenced by the plumes of smoke we saw dotting the landscape in the distance.  We passed the firefighters going both ways.  They were clearing underbrush and making fire breaks for an upcoming prescribed burn.  When horses or mules pass on a trail, protocol is for hikers or trail workers to stand still with arms down until the riders have passed so as not to “spook” the animals.

Canyon Riders    Roaring Springs Canyon    USFS Firefighters

We were staying a second night on the North Rim and enjoyed another gorgeous sunset followed by dinner in the lodge and relaxing with a cup of coffee on our cabin porch.  We were pretty pooped after a day of mule rides, but anxious to see what the next day would bring.

Day Three – Monday, August 30 – Cape Royal and Vermillion Cliffs

After packing up our gear and having a hearty breakfast in the lodge, we drove over 20 miles on the Cape Royal Road on the Walhalla Plateau stopping at Cape Finial, Walhalla Overlook, the Walhalla Ruins and, finally, Cape Royal.  The morning views of Angel’s Window were awesome!  The smoke from the fires mixed with the morning fog and hung thick in the canyon just below the rim making for some interesting photos. 

Cape Royal Sign     Angel's Window

From Cape Royal, the 60 mile drive back to Jacob Lake finds our group pensive.  We were leaving a very special place, one that evokes thoughts and emotions about the enormity of the Grand Canyon and how we are so small in comparison to it and but a microscopic spec in the whole of the universe that we exist in. 

Traveling east on US-89 out of Jacob Lake through the Kaibab Plateau, the highway suddenly emerges at the edge of the plateau over the valley floor overlooking Vermillion Cliffs.  What a breathtaking site!  It’s not always about the destination; it’s the journey that counts.

Marble Canyon
Next stop. . . Marble Canyon and Lee’s Ferry

As we continued east on US-89A, we stopped at a roadside stand selling Indian gifts and jewelry in Marble Canyon.  We browsed and bought a few trinkets and took photos of the strange boulders and rock formations.  We cross the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge near Lee’s Ferry at the top edge of the northernmost boundary of Grand Canyon National Park.  Lee’s Ferry is at river mile 0 of the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River.  When the highway merged back with US-89, it turned north towards Page, AZ.

Next stop. . . Horseshoe Bend

There is a place that a Navajo guide told us about on a previous trip called Horseshoe Bend.  This was a place we were anxious to share with our family.  We found it leaving Page, AZ and now had to find it coming from the opposite direction.  We were looking for a dirt parking lot off the side of US-89 with large power lines crossing overhead.  We parked the car, grabbed cameras and water, and hiked up and over the sandy hill heading straight out into the desert.  After about 3/4 of a mile following a faint trail, we suddenly found ourselves on the edge of a high cliff overlooking Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River.  We were high above the river as it wound around a huge monolithic plateau.  The emerald green water was so clear in places that we could see the sandy bottom of the river.  The area beneath us was so large that we couldn’t fit it in the camera’s viewfinder even with a wide angle lens!   

Horseshoe Overlook    Horseshoe Panorama    Horseshoe Desert

Next stop. . . Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell

Just outside of the town limits of Page, AZ is Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam.  This begins the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  We stopped at the dam buildings for a short tour and to view the exhibits.  The views of Lake Powell as we drove Lakeshore Drive on the way to Wahweap were beautiful.  We would be spending a couple days at Wahweap, the Lake Powell Resort.  Our room overlooked the lake and we saw beautiful sunsets and sunrises from our balcony.  We did a little bit of shopping at a nearby grocery to get some snacks and lunch food for the big day on the water we planned for the following day. 

Lake Powell Sunset    Lake Powell Sunrise

Day 4 - Tuesday, August 31 - Spending the Day on Lake Powell 

We got up early, put on our swim suits, packed our lunches and plenty of sunscreen ‘cause we were spending the day boating on Lake Powell.  We rented an 18’ power boat for cruising around in the lake and exploring slot canyons.  We learned that some of them have ancient Indian petroglyphs on the walls over your head as you motor along in the boat, but because the water level was so low, most of the petroglyphs would be over 100 feet above our heads.  The biggest instruction we got before leaving the dock was, “Don’t hurt the prop!”  There was an extra charge of $500 if anything happened to the propeller, so we were cautioned to be very careful in the shallow areas.  There was no water in the cut across Castle Rock, so we had to go the long way around through the channel.  Some of the canyons we ducked in and out of included Cathedral Canyon, West Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Navajo Canyon.  It was suggested that we go to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, but we didn’t have enough time with all the other exploring.  Guess that’ll be a future trip!
Exploring Slots from Lake Powell    Lake Powell    Exploring Slots on Lake Powell

I can’t talk about this wonderful day we spent on Lake Powell without telling about one of the slot canyons we stopped to explore.  We were coming in slow and tight and reaching out with our hands and the oars to keep the boat off of the walls of the canyon which was as wide as the boat at this point as edged the front of the boat in he sand at the end of the slot.  The wet sand looked and felt pretty solid as we came to a stop.  Shawn was at the front of the boat and volunteered to jump off with the rope and find something to tie us off to.  When her feet hit the sand, she sunk to her knees!  Her eyes and her mouth were WIDE open and she was gasping with surprise!  Luckily, she was able to pull her legs out and still had her tennis shoes on.  We hiked a short way up the slot and scrambled up a tree limb that was propped against the boulders.  There was a little water flowing down it to make it interesting and a little slippery.  We hiked a little further and made another small scramble up to a very sandy area but couldn’t go any further.    

Slot Canyon Beach    Lake Powell Slot Canyon Scramble

Day 5 – Wednesday, September 1 – Antelope Canyon 

While in Page, we highly recommended that Shawn and Donald take the photographer’s tour in Upper Antelope Canyon.  This is a special guided tour on the Navajo Indian Reservation off of US-98 by a Navajo Guide and well worth the price of admission.  Your guide takes you to into a slot canyon knowing the precise time that the sun beams will shine down some 150-200 ft. into the various chambers.  We did this tour the year before and thoroughly enjoyed the extra time we were allowed in the slot by being on this special tour.
Upper Antelope Canyon Entrance    Upper Antelope Canyon

Meanwhile, Mike and I thought about exploring Lower Antelope Canyon.  We talked to the tribe members at the entrance and looked at some photos, but decided not to actually take the self-guided hiking tour.  Instead, we drove around a bit and checked out the new launch being built on Lake Powell.  The older takeouts are too far above the current water level, creating the need for new ones.
Lower Antelope Canyon - Top View    Boat Launch Extension

Next stop. . . Grand Staircase Escalante

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument

From Page, AZ, we headed west-northwest on US-89, crossed the Colorado River again at Glen Canyon Dam, and then crossed the border into Utah through the bottom part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.   

In the remote and beautiful Kaiparowits Plateau of southern Utah, we stopped at the new Bureau of Land Management Visitor Center in Big Water.  The center has a Late Cretaceous paleontology theme.  The real highlight of the visit was meeting Dr. Alan Titus, BLM paleontologist, who was proud to show off the fossils of the Monument’s duckbilled dinosaur, a crested hadrosaur (Parasaurolophus) that were on display.  He also told us of a recent dinosaur find that he was a part of, that of a non-crested hadrosaur genus, Gryposaurus. The skeleton had recently been finished and transported to the Big Water Visitor Center for exhibition.  Dr. Titus mentioned a new discovery of the complete skulls of two Gryposaurus-like hadrosaurs that were found within the Monument the previous year in 2003. Those fossils were being collected by scientists during that summer of 2004. 

Past the town of Big Water, we detoured onto Cottonwood Canyon Road, a dirt road also known as the Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Backway, and headed north towards Cannonville.  The landscape was bright and colorful and the road followed alongside of the bottom edge of the uplift known as The Cockscomb.  It was interesting to see the uplift with the topsoil leaning on its side.  Even though we had a 4-wheel drive vehicle, we did have to make a few careful detours so as not to get stuck in a hole or a giant mud puddle. 

Cottonwood Canyon Road    Uplift     Mud Puddle

Cockscomb    Cockscomb    Cockscomb

A caution to the reader: Bypassing main roadways for dirt roads is not recommended unless you are in a 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle as some roads are not routinely maintained.  In case of rain, roads can become impassable and the possibility is high for a flash flood.  The dirt road you are on or dry creek bed you are in could quickly become a fast flowing river.  You could be stuck for quite a while, perhaps several days, before anyone comes along to help.  Always have sufficient food and water to sustain you in case of such an emergency.

We found a trailhead and stopped to hike for a short time through the Navajo sandstone in the Cottonwood Canyon Narrows.  We were aware of clouds gathering overhead, a sure sign that it could be raining anywhere in the area creating the possibility for a flash flood, so we decided to cut the hike short and continue on to Grosvenor Arch.  We came upon a tall formation of isolated yellowish-gold sandstone reaching hundreds of feet into the air with not one, but two arches.  Donald and I jumped out with our cameras and photographed it from many different angles.  There was a picnic area here as well, but it was swarming with bees that chased us back into the SUV.  

Cottonwood Canyon Narrows    Cottonwood Canyon Narrows

Grosvenor Arch    Grosvenor Arch    Grosvenor Arch
Next stop. . . Kodachrome Basin State Park 

We got back onto Cottonwood Canyon Road which bends and twists crossing steep ridges on the way to Kodachrome Basin State Park.  A modest day-use fee is required to be paid at the self-service fee station.  We drove through the campground area which is located about a half mile from the trailhead along the loop at the end of the road.  There are also a half-dozen cabins for rent as well as a general store.  There are six hiking trails in the park, most of them less than a mile, except for the Panorama Trial, which is a loop trail almost 3 miles long and the Big Bear Geyser Trail that is about 2.5 miles long. 

Nelson's GarageThere are lots of different landforms in the park, but the most unusual are the sand pipes, believed to have once been part of a geothermal area with hot springs and geysers.  The white, chimney-like spires are composed of coarse sand and average 30-50 feet in height.  Scientists believe that after the springs and geysers ceased to flow, they filled with sand, and created the white spires seen today. 

Turning out of Kodachrome, we were back on a paved road and soon at the junction of Cottonwood Canyon Road and UT-12, which runs southwest from Escalante to Henrieville, Cannonville, Tropic and on through Bryce Canyon before meeting up with US-89.  We saw a neat old gas station/garage called “Nelsons” in Cannonville that was interesting enough for a photo opp.  The old gas pump out front has a sign that reads, "Too pooped to pump."

Next stop. . . Bryce Canyon National Park

We entered Bryce Canyon National Park at the northeast corner and continued on a very scenic drive until we reached the lodge where there is access to the rim trail and overlooks of the amphitheater.  It was getting dark as we arrived and not much of the canyon could be seen.  We arrived a day earlier than originally anticipated.  Luckily, we were able to get a room at one of rustic-looking hotels a short distance away from the cabins and main lodge. 

Day 6 – Thursday, September 2 - Riding Horses in Bryce Canyon 

Bryce is famous for its worldly unique geology, consisting of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. Erosion and rain have shaped the colorful limestone rock of the Claron Formation into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called "hoodoos." These whimsically arranged rocks create a wondrous landscape of mazes and trails.

We started our day at Bryce Canyon with a nice breakfast in the lodge dining room followed by a half-day mule ride on the trails down through the canyon.  The wranglers are from Canyon Trail Rides out of Tropic Utah and are among the best we’ve ridden with so far. The best way to see Bryce is to get down into the canyon and be among the trees and tall spires, looking up into the windows eroded from the rock. 

Bryce by Horseback    On the Trail in Bryce    Bryce from the Overlook

The sky is what continues to amaze me in this part of the country. It is such a deep shade of azure blue and makes a fantastic backdrop to the spires and rock formations.  We had a great morning ride and spent the rest of the day moving around on the rim from lookout to lookout taking photos.  We saw lots of deer moving around the park and tried to get photos of a doe that was being very protective with a couple of fawns.  Even in the fading light of day, the views of the hoodoos were worth every minute we could spend looking out into the canyon.  We watched an awesome sunset over the Aquarius Plateau in the distance. 

View from Inside Bryce    Bryce Canyon    Sunset on the Aquarius Plateau

We moved from the hotel and settled into the western-style cabin we originally reserved.  It was a short walk over to the main lodge for a very satisfying dinner.  Later, as the darkness of the night fell upon the landscape, we walked from our cabin to the rim of the canyon using flashlights to light our way.  Blackness was all around us as we turned our faces towards the sky to see the most magnificent display of stars that the heavens could offer.  We wanted to lie in the grass and stare at them all night!

Day 7 - Friday, September 3Bull Valley Gorge

We left Bryce after breakfast heading southeast on UT-12 back towards Cannonville.  Turning off of UT-12 and following signage for Johnson Canyon, we found ourselves traveling due south on Skutumpah Road, another dirt road which crosses a large area of wooded hills and valleys.  We crossed a small bridge and, looking over, saw a big crack in the ground.  Was that a slot canyon?  We found a place to park nearby so we could walk around to explore this intriguing slot canyon which we later learned was Bull Valley Gorge.  We learned the story about the wreck of the 1950s pick-up truck, wedged high above a section of narrows which now forms the base of the one road bridge across the canyon, the one we just crossed.

Bull Valley Gorge    Truck at Bull Valley Gorge

The slot looked pretty deep from the top.  We walked through a gate by the bridge and followed a path for about a half mile along the top before we got to the end where it was shallow and were able to find a place to climb in, turn back and start hiking back in the direction from which we came.  We were stoked!  This slot was so cool!  It got deep quickly and we were climbing up and over boulders and debris from a recent flash flood until we got to a big drop.  We stood on the edge looking down the rungs of a homemade wooden ladder, the bottom of which was in a pool of water.  Hmmm… How far down do you think that is?  How deep is that pool?  We dropped a big rock into it and it sunk with a deep sound and very little splash.  Between that and not trusting the ladder, we opted to turn around and go back.  We were unprepared for a real hike into a slot canyon. We didn’t have any ropes or proper equipment in case we were to get in there and not have a way back out.  We didn’t even bring a bottle of water with us, just the cameras – you know, the important stuff!

Mike in the Gorge    Looking Down the Ladder    A Different View

After we scrambled our way back out of the gorge, we walked back along the top heading back to the car.  We did get a view of the truck wedged in the rocks under the bridge and got a few good photos.  We also found the area of the gorge where we stopped hiking and walked a bit further to get a different look at it.  Our stomachs did a flop when we saw that where we had been standing contemplating the ladder and the pool of water was nothing more than a large boulder wedged in a crack, a small chock stone holding a larger one in place, with about a 10 ft. dry fall drop.  Holy smoke!  Good thing the stone didn’t give way!

Next stop. . . Zion National Park

From Skutumpah Road, we came to another dirt road where we turned right and got on Glendale Bench Road / Johnson Canyon Road heading west to US-89 where we went through Orderville, turned left and traveled south to UT-9, the Mt. Carmel Junction.  From there we headed west on UT­-9 to Zion National Park.  Zion is a gorgeous place like none we have ever seen!  Not too far inside the East Entrance is Checkerboard Mesa, so named because of the squares cut into the face of the cliff face by wind and rain.  The drive on Zion-Mt. Carmel Scenic Byway (through a tunnel) is breathtaking!  A park shuttle is available to take passengers to the various stops on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which is closed to private vehicles.  There are many trails for short hikes and nature walks as well as steep climbs and long loop hikes.  Wildlife is abundant here!  The deer, squirrels and even wild turkeys practically come right up to you! 

Checkerboard Mesa    Turkeys

Since it was getting late in the afternoon, we drove through the park to see a few of the popular sites before exiting at the South Entrance to check into our rooms at Flannigan’s Inn, located in Springdale, UT just outside the southern entrance of the park.  Mike and I have stayed here before and enjoy the amenities offered by the Inn, including the Spotted Dog Café, a fine dining restaurant.  Since the first time Mike & I stayed there, a day spa has been added.  One day we’ll have to schedule some time to enjoy it.   

Day 8 - Saturday, September 4Hiking the Narrows 

After a good breakfast at the Bumbleberry Inn in Springdale, we went over to the Zion Adventure Company to get fitted for water shoes and walking sticks that we rented for hiking in the Narrows.  This was the only hike we had actually planned and prepared for and was the most strenuous hike during the entire trip.  We boarded a shuttle bus across the street from the Inn that took us to the South Entrance of the park.  We walked in through the entrance station and boarded the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive shuttle that took us to the Temple of Sinawava, the last and northernmost shuttle stop.  The 1 mile paved Riverside Trail leading to the Gateway to the Narrows meandered along with the river on the left and cliff walls on the right.  In many places, the walls were seeping water creating a lush environment for growing ferns and flowering vines.  It’s a beautiful walk even if you didn’t plan to hike any further than the edge of the river.  At the end of the paved path, we took turns posing for a few photos before stepping into the cool waters of the Virgin River. 

The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon that is 16 miles long, at times only 20 feet wide, with the canyon walls towering up to 2000 feet high.  Walking in the shadow of the soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens of the Zion Narrows is another of our previous unforgettable wilderness experiences that we were anxious to share with our family.

The Narrows is a hike with about 60% of the hike in the river and 40% on the shore following rocks and sandbars and small beaches.  You follow the winding path the river has carved over millions of years picking your way among the rocks and sometimes wading when the water is wall-to-wall in the canyon.  The walking sticks and water shoes are “must-haves” for hiking in the water.  Because the rocks under the water gather algae, it’s like walking on slippery bowling balls.  This is a very scenic hike in spite of having to pay attention to where you are stepping.  It is worth it to take the time to stop and admire the waterfalls, explore secret alcoves, and enjoy the deep pools of water.  

Our hike began where the water was pretty shallow at first and the walls towered above us on either side.  The depth of the water grew deeper as we hiked further in.  At one point, it was between my knees and mid-thigh.  Mike saw a tree trunk leaning against a cave-like opening in the canyon wall.  He climbed the 15 ft. length and disappeared into the cave.  Other hikers stopped with us and cheered for him.  A few minutes later, he came out shrugging his shoulders saying that it didn’t go anywhere. 

Virgin River Narrows    Cave in Virgin River Narrows    Virgin River Narrows

We got to Orderville Canyon and hiked a little way up before turning around and returning to the main river to continue our hike.  It was about a 3.5 mile hike to Big Springs, which was the end of the line for us.  It was lush and green with several waterfalls.  We took time to enjoy the water and eat our lunch there before heading back.  The shadows were getting long by the time we went back through Wall Street, where the canyon walls tower at almost 2000 feet overhead.  This was an all-day slightly strenuous hike and we were pretty exhausted. We spent a second night at Flannigan’s Inn and crashed pretty hard after dinner. 

Big Spring Panorama

Day 9 - Sunday, September 5 - Home Sweet Home!

Some of us were nursing sore muscles from yesterday’s hike, but we were no less enthusiastic about how we spent the last 8 days.  The last leg of our adventure was simply to drive back to the airport in Las Vegas.  From Springdale, we drove west on UT-9 until we joined I-15 heading south to Las Vegas. 

The ability to share our experiences in such beautiful places with our family and friends is important to us.  Shawn and Donald have been successfully hooked on the southwest and are already talking about a return trip.  For now, our annual whirlwind through the southwest was over and it was time for us to go back home to flat land, muddy bayous, and almost-blue skies.  South Louisiana is a beautiful place, but so very different from the Southwestern United States.  God Bless America!


Mike and Patty Poupart
(Date of Trip: August 28, 2004 - September 5, 2004)


Helpful Links:

Antelope Canyon -

Bryce Canyon National Park

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area -

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Circle –

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument -  

Kodachrome Basin State Park -

Vermillion Cliffs -

Zion National Park


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