After our exciting adventures through Zion National Park, it was time to hit the road to Escalante where we would be staying for the night before heading to Arches Nat’l Park.
*Remember, this is the same day that started with a helicopter ride, hiking Angel’s Landing, through the Narrows before hitting the road again – we took a little over 1200 photos that day, so buckle up this post is photo-tastic*
Who knew that the road from Zion would parallel the beauty we had seen inside the park? Well, apparently lots of people; the road from Zion – HWY 12 or SR 12 – is on many of these “lists of things to see before you die” compilations. But we had no idea what we were in store for.
As you leave Zion, you enter a super long tunnel.
The tunnel itself is a feat of engineering – carving through solid stone for 1.1 miles, it was completed in 1930 and allows park visitors to exit to the east of the park rather than returning to the south west entrance.
Just shortly after the tunnel, you exit onto Highway 12 and thus begins the longest drive of your life. Not long in a miserable sense. It was long for us because every half mile there was something worth pulling off the road to see.
“Highway 12 is one of the most scenic highways in America, receiving the designation of “All American Road” in 2002. The highway has two National Parks, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, at each end and many other scenic points in between.” Source.
Looking at the above map, Zion would be in the bottom left just a bit south east of the interchange between 89 and 12.
Because it is one of the “things to see before you die” I’ll only share a few photos which I share with the warning: must see in person.
Later on our trip we picked up a brochure of all the things to do and see along HWY 12 at one of our stops and there are so many things to choose from that we actually wished that we had taken a few days to drive the scenic route. Things we didn’t have time to see but sound amazing: Grand Staircase, Capitol Reef National Park, Petrified Forest State Park, Hell’s Backbone and Anasazi State Park – if you like cycling Anasazi has some amazing trails.
One of the major things we stopped to see was Bryce National Park. Nick and I are apparently really ignorant folks because not only did we underestimate HWY 12, we totally underestimated Bryce. Both of us thought “oh sure, we’ll stop in at Bryce and take a few photos overlooking the edge of the canyon…no big deal…then be on our merry way.”
And so we stopped in to take our over-the-edge photos
But then we said “wait, are there people down there?!!”
A quick glance around and we found out that we could take a short trail straight down into the canyon and hike between the crazy rock formations.
Crazy rock formations. AKA hoodoos.
Bryce Canyon is not actually a “canyon” and is considered rather an amphitheater. It gets the canyon name from Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon pioneer who settled here. Neighboring settler’s used to refer to the giant gap behind his home as “Bryce’s canyon” and the name has stuck. The “not-a-canyon” is 1,000 feet deep in most places and is deeper in some areas.
“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. The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock of the Claron Formation into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called “hoodoos.” Tinted with colors too numerous and subtle to name, these whimsically arranged rocks create a wondrous landscape of mazes, offering some of the most exciting and memorable walks and hikes imaginable. Ponderosa pines, high elevation meadows, and fir-spruce forests border the rim of the plateau and abound with wildlife. This area boasts some of the world’s best air quality, offering panoramic views of three states and approaching 200 miles of visibility. This, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates unparalleled opportunities for stargazing.” Source.
Just to give a little perspective on our location and on the size of Zion and Bryce, here is an image from the paperwork we were given while visiting Bryce.
By the time we were done with the Navajo Loop and back on our HWY 12 route to Escalante we knew it was going to be a late night. We had to keep calling our hotel and change our arrival time as we kept seeing more and more interesting things. Time flies when you’re havin fun!
When we finally arrived in Escalante, we checked in to our adorable little hotel where our room was dubbed the “Hook, Line & Sinker” because it was all fishing themed décor. Not typically our style, but the place was very cute and we loved it.
Of course, we were also starving after hiking a little over 16 miles and driving several hours. And of course, if you’re having dinner in Escalante and you’ve just hiked the hoodoos, well then you’ve got to order a pitcher of Hoodoo with your meal. You have to.
Dinner was good, the beer was great.
We decided to cap off our night with a quick walk “around town” which consisted of a water-works-art gallery across the street and a shop boasting the “best margaritas in town.” Likely, the only margaritas in town.
The gallery was very cool. You can read more about this guy’s stuff by visiting his site.
And I do have to say the margarita was wonderful. It might be the only one in town but it certainly was the best I’ve had in Utah – maybe they need a more boastful sign?
Also, as a side note, I kept saying that Escalante was going to be excellante. Woo for cocktails and ryhming words. The fun was over when someone pointed out that it was actually pronounced es-skull-ant. Parties over folks.
Post margaritas it was time to retire to Hook, Line and Sinker for the evening. We had a long day ahead of us – but it turned out far longer than either of us ever expected…