Canyon Craziness - Page 3

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Bryce Canyon National Park
The Hoodoo You Do So Well: Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park  (PhotoDisc)

Day 5: Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon National Park (125 Miles)
Bryce Canyon National Park (435.834.5322; www.nps.gov/brca) is famous for its whimsical, sometimes bizarre limestone shapes and formations, including hoodoos, a fun word for the park's eroded spires, which often resemble fanciful creatures of nature's unbridled imagination. If you think desert rocks are monochromatic you haven't been to Bryce. There are easy to strenuous day hikes, from less than a half mile to nearly ten miles round trip. Rim Trail, between Fairyland and Bryce Points is 5.5 miles round trip over fairly easy terrain. The Queen's Garden/Navajo Loop combination is just 2.9 miles round trip, but more challenging. In addition to a Junior Ranger Program, Bryce also has 45- to 60-minute Just for Kids programs from June to August (sign up in advance at the Visitor Center, 435.834.5322). Bryce has two campgrounds, one open year-round; in summer there are coin-operated showers and laundry facilities.

Day 6: Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park (85 Miles)
Zion National Park (435.772.3256; www.nps.gov/zion), meaning "place of refuge" in ancient Hebrew, lies at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert, providing a landscape of unique geology and diverse animal and plant life. Just a two-hour drive southwest of Bryce, Zion offers excellent biking and birdwatching, in addition to varied hiking, though as of March 2006 a number of cliffs in Zion are closed to climbers due to the arrival of peregrine falcons. While even some of the shorter trails, such as Hidden Canyon at just two miles, are not recommended for anyone fearful of heights, there are some less vertiginous options. Riverside Walk is a two-mile trail along the Virgin River; it's even paved and handicapped accessible, and Canyon Overlook, a mile roundtrip, offers sweeping views over Zion and Pine Creek canyons. Swimming and wading are allowed in the Virgin River (but not in the Emerald Pools), making it a good destination for families. Pick up Junior Ranger booklets at the Visitor Center. You can make reservations for Watchman Campground but not for South Campground.

Day Seven: Zion to Moab (345 Miles)
Take time for one quick hike this morning before making the drive back to Moab. The drive is primarily on Interstates 15 and 70, but many parts are still remarkably picturesque. And once you get there, bed down at an area campsite or hotel—but not before scoring a mountain bike rental and a map, and hatching a plan for at least a few hours on the region's famed slickrock (www.moab-utah.com) .

Further Afield:
Take a scenic drive (about 190 miles) from Moab to Colorado's Black Canyon of the Gunnison (970.641.2337; www.nps.gov/blca), one of the nation's newest national parks, to check out a completely different kind of canyon and hiking.

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