North America, United States
There is nowhere in the world where you can find such fantastically formed rock spires, brilliant in colour, rising like they do out of Bryce Canyon National Park. The national park is located in southwest Utah, in the USA, and despite its name it is not actually a canyon but a collection of natural amphitheatres. Bryce Canyon’s unique types of rock, climate and erosion combined help form these remarkable rock pillars known as hoodoos.
Hoodoos are formed by the combination of a few important weather factors. Bryce Canyon has 200 frosts and thaws every year and this is crucial in their formation. The snow or ice melts and the water seeps into the cracks in the rocks and when it refreezes the water expands by 10%, slowly opening them and making them wider. Rain also plays its part by helping erode the rocks and giving them the shape we see today. Hoodoos can be found in other areas, but in no other place can there be found such a great concentration as in the northern section of Bryce Canyon.
Although the smallest of Utah’s national parks, it is probably the most immediately impressive, especially come sunset and at this time you really need to be at Sunset Point, where the colours are best displayed. When the sky is clear in the park the views are spectacular, reaching for 100 miles. The sights are wonderful at night too, as Bryce boasts a 7.4 magnitude night sky. Basically this means that there is little light pollution and on a clear moonless night you could possibly see over 7,000 stars.
There is also plenty to do here, which is probably why it attracts so many tourists; every year over 1.5 million people visit Bryce Canyon. Visitors can go hiking, horse riding, camping and even cross-country skiing. The park is also only 39 miles west of Escalante and 78 miles from Zion National Park, so it could be easily incorporated in a tour of the national parks in the area.
Bryce Canyon National Park is open every day of the year, so you can visit any time. However, weatherwise, June and September are the best months, though visiting in the winter months with layers of snow blanketing the peaks really is quite stunning. Also look on the Bryce Canyon Country’s webpage, as they show when the park’s ‘free days’ are, when visitors don’t have to pay the entrance fee. It’s also a good idea to check out the National Park Service link above before you go for any warnings. This could inform you about weather conditions or, as when we looked, areas closed due to bear activity!
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