Alan and Jonna's trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah

Jonna needed to drive out to California to pick up some furniture. Since she was going out over the July 4th weekend there was an opportunity for me to follow along so we could stop along the way and do some hiking. I rode my motorcycle out after work on Friday and met up with her in Grand Junction, CO. We then drove to Escalante, UT on Saturday morning and did some hiking in Bryce National Park. On Sunday, we went hiking in Zion National Park and then met some friends in Boulder, UT for dinner. Monday, Jonna headed for California and I returned home to Colorado.

Here are some of our photos from the trip.

1) Riding through central Utah can be monotonous at times but the desert north of Hanksville on US-24 is quite beautiful with the formations of the San Rafael Swell just to the west.

2) Our first stop when we got to Bryce Canyon National Park was at Sunrise Point. This gave us our first view of the colorful formations in the park and also gave us a starting point for a hike to explore down inside the canyon.

3) We chose to drop down into the canyon on Queen's Garden trail which meant we first had to hike a short section of the Rim Trai. It was a warm summer day so the shade of the few trees along this section of trail were very much appreciated.

4) Once we were on the Queen's Garden trail we could get an up close look at the spectacular hoodoos which make Bryce Canyon such an iconic place to hike. Thankfully, these large rock structures provided much needed shade so it was cooler hiking down in the canyon that it had been up on the rim.

5) From the Queen's Garden we hiked a connector trail over to the Navajo Loop trail. This turned out to be the highlight of our hike because going up into Wall Street canyon was amazing. This tall pine growning up out of the narrow canyon was a favorite sight!

6) The Navajo Loop trail climbs back up to near the Rim trail and then back down into the valley. We looped back around to the Queen's Garden trail. This section of the trail is an easy stroll and provides a view *up* towards the rim as opposed to the classic rim panorama down into the canyon.

7) We took a lot of photos near the top of the Queen's Garden trail on the way back out. The views across the canyon towards Inspiration Point are just outstanding as a smiling Jonna demonstrates.

8) Another hoodoo shot near the top of the Queen's Garden trail.

9) The view to the north towards the horse trail.

10) Back up at the top of the Queen's Garden near Sunrise Point and again seeking the shade of every available tree.

11) My ride through Colorado in the evening and then through central Utah left the GS covered with bugs. This photo doesn't quite have the resolution to show it clearly but the whole front of the bike is plastered with bugs.

12) Our next landmark was a visit to Zion National Park. This involved a drive through a very different landscape than the dry desert of central Utah. Suddenly we were going over mountains covered in trees rather than cacti and hoodoos. This photos was taken somewhere along US-89 about halfway between Bryce and Zion.

13) Bryce Canyon is a park you have to hike to really experience. Just Seeing it from the overlooks doesn't adequately show the beauty. Zion, on the other hand, is spectacular just from a car. Nonetheless, we got out to hike in Zion as well. We parked the car at The Grotto parking log and then hiked the Kayenta Trail along the Virgin River. It was hot here as well but shade trees and being alongside the river made for relatively comfortable hiking weather.

14) Hiking into the Emerald Pools valley from The Grotto leads up into one of the gorgeous side canyons within Zion National Park. This trail leads right up to the lower Emerald Pool.

15) The climb to the upper Emerald Pool goes up onto the rim of the canyon. A strenous climb but with great views back down onto the lower Emerald Pool.

16) The higher you get on the Emerald Pools trail the better the views of the surrounding landscape. It is worth the effort to climb up to the upper Emerald Pool.

17) The canyon rim above the lower Emerald Pool makes for a nervous viewpoint since it hands out over the edge of the canyon. The look from the edge is *straight* down! In the spring there are waterfalls cascading off the rim but it was too dry during our visit for that.

18) Back down on the lower Emerald Pools trail and looking back up at the canyon walls.

19) Because of the drought conditions the stream coming out of the Emerald Pools wasn't much to see either but it was still nice to have water around to cool things down a little.

20) From the Emerald Pools we hiked over to the Zion Lodge which is back out in Zion Canyon with its towering peaks and canyon walls.

21) The view of Zion Canyon looking north up the Virgin River from the bridge near the Zion Lodge is as good as any and it just a few feet from the Lodge. I loved our hikes in Zion but this is an example of just how accessible the beauty of the park is.

22) From the Lodge we hiked south a little ways on the Sand Beach trail so we could enjoy the shade of the trees and dip out feet in the cool water of the Virgin River.

23) The climb out of the Zion Valley going east on UT-9 is quite spectacular. A series of switchbacks climb a thousand feet in elevation. Near the top at the eastern edge of the canyon you can see the Great Arch. A fitting last view of Zion National Park.

24) After Zion we returned to Boulder, UT for the night. The next day Jonna continued west to California and I rode back east to return home. This allowed me to ride one of my favorite roads in the West - Utah-12. This road is incredibily scenic and one of the first highlights is riding on the eastern edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This photo doesn't show how interesting the landscape is in this area but does show part of why UT-12 is such a great motorcycling road. The curves!

25) The scenery along UT-12 is amazing everwhere but another interesting area is the section going through Escalante Canyon just east of the town of Escalante.

26) One of the most memorable highlights is "The Hogback". A short section of UT-12 built on the very top of a ridge with steep drop offs on bothsides of the road. UT-12 does a gentle "S" curve as it goes across the Hogback so you can see the topography quite clearly. Lovely!

27) The western half of UT-12 has red rock canyons, mesas and hoodoos. The eastern half, in contrast, is lush and green. The road climbs up into the mountains and goes through forests of aspen trees as it ascends Boulder Mountain Pass. Don't pass up a chance to ride UT-12 if you are in the area!

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Alan Fleming