Bryce Canyon National Park was our next stop on our national park trip, and this park was definitely my favorite. From breath-taking views to beautiful high elevation conifer forests, I was completely enchanted. Bryce Canyon is a smaller park compared to the Grand Canyon and Zion, but it is also very unique. First, Bryce Canyon is quite high; the rim of the canyon is between 8,000 and 9,000 ft, and the lowest point at the bottom of a wash is still 6,500 ft. The road for this park, a wonderful scenic drive, travels along the rim, and there are various places to camp and hike along it. Along the rim, there are two different forest communities, depending on what your elevation is. At the lower elevations you will find ponderosa pine forests, while at the higher elevations there are spruce-fir forests. Below the rim, there is a mix of pinyon-juniper forests and ponderosa pine forests. Many parts of Bryce Canyon are heavily forested, while some parts in the canyon are mostly bare rock, like in this photo:
The amazing colors of the rocks at Bryce Canyon are due mainly to iron-based minerals (pinks and reds), but there are also some manganese minerals as well (purples). I found the colors of Bryce Canyon to really contrast well against the dark-green forests, which created a very beautiful landscape. I’ve also heard that Bryce Canyon looks gorgeous after snow, so I will have to make a winter trip one day, though it will be very cold!
The rock formations are Bryce are very interesting and unique. The primary form of erosion that shaped the towering rock pillars and sheets was ice. Rain was filtered down into the cracks of the rock and froze, which broke apart the rocks. There were other, less powerful forms of erosion that happened as well, such as chemical erosion from water mixing with various elements in the ground. These erosive forces created some amazing formations such as the natural bridge and Thor’s hammer.
Many of the hikes at Bryce Canyon involve going down into the amphitheaters and floors of the canyon, which allows for alternative views of the rock pillars and all the colors. The hikes were a lot of fun, and you can get backpacking permits to camp down in the canyon.
We camped at one of the established campsites along the rim, which was also very nice but quite cold, even in early October. It dropped below freezing while we were there. All-in-all, Bryce Canyon National Park is a spectacular place full of beautiful landscapes and forests. I would highly recommend this park to everyone!