Zion Bryce Ouray Spring Break

Dates: Wednesday March 28th thru Sunday April 1st, 2012

Details of Travel: 1,500 driving miles!

  • March 28th-March 30th: Zion National Park (highlights = Angel’s Landing at sunrise, Narrows hike in 44degree water, Hidden Canyon hike, our campsite outside of Zion)
  • Night of March 30th: Camping outside Bryce Canyon at the mouth of Casto Canyon in Red Canyon BLM
  • March 31st: Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park, drive thru highcountry of Southwest Utah
  • April 1st: Rock climbing in Ouray with Rambo

Interactive Map of our Quick Journey:

View Zion Trip in a larger map

Mid-afternoon we finally pulled off of I-15 which was bustling and crazy compared to the almost relaxing I-70 section of the trip. Our first stop was to stretch our legs at the North Entrance of Zion National Park known as the Kolob Terrace. It was chilly, dark and dreary due to the storm that was still holding on overhead. The quick hike did not reveal much in the way of photos, however it was great to finally be at our destination.

Insider information always helps and we were pointed to a BLM camping area by my buddy before we left. Timing was on our side and we pulled into one of the best spots in the canyon.  Darkness was settling in quickly and right before the sun disappeared it fell below the thick clouds and lit the area up in beautiful light. Here Caitlin takes in the views from our campsite at Smithsonian Butte BLM outside of Zion NP: 

Luckily we ran into another couple around our age that had been in the park for the last few days and told us to get up early to get on Angel’s Landing before the normal tourist shit-show happens. An early next-day was planned.

Angel’s Landing: 1,500 vertical ft, ~5 miles RT, ~1:40 to the top

Our first foray into the main canyon was well before the first sunlight and before the park rangers had taken their posts. Quick glimpses of turkey’s and deer were had as we pulled into the trailhead. We were the first to the trailhead that day as we pulled in just before 7:00am, however two other small groups pulled up right behind us and started off before we could get our packs ready. Luckily we did not see them or anyone else for quite some time.

We quickly gained Scout’s Landing where we were greeted with our first sunlight of the day. At this point we passed one of the groups and started-up one of the best hikes I have ever done. The exposure was great and made the relativity simple hiking that much more exciting. Caitlin with the sun just starting to illuminate Angel’s Landing in front of us, 8:30am almost to the top:

Hiking Angel's Landing at Sunrise in Winter

We reached the top where we ran into the only person that was in front of us. She was already on her way down and we were left in complete solitary to enjoy a true wonder. Looking back on the hike from the top of Angel’s Landing (the trail runs along the illuminated ridge on the left w/ huge exposure on both sides):

Angel's Landing sunrise in March

45 mins of complete solitude on top of the world! One can understand where the name Angel’s Landing comes from as we sat watching the sun creep further down the enormous sandstone walls while listening to the sounds of the river and the occasional sound from the wild-turkeys below nearly 1,500 feet below. Once other people showed-up the vibe changed quickly and we headed down. Hiking down was just as exciting as going up:

Scrambling on Angel's Landing Hike in Zion National ParkHiking down Angel's Landing using the Chains

Back at Scout’s landing we took our time and explored around. We spotted one of the massive California Condor’s that was hanging out watching the crowds on the route (when hiking Angel’s landing in the morning he scared us when he buzzed us once coming around a cliff feature):

California Condor Scout's Landing Zion NP

Back down to the trailhead we cooked some lunch in the park and planned our next excursion.

Hidden Canyon and Weeping Canyon

We were in the hiking mood and an additional 700 vertical foot climb to the mouth of Hidden Canyon took us into another magical place. Hiking the nice sandy trail we scrambled around this incredible canyon for a couple hours until we finally reached a logical turning point. The hike back down was much quicker since we had already figured out the route around the tough sections.

Hidden Canyon hike Zion National Park

At the entrance to the canyon were some awesome overhangs. Here Caitlin is getting a feel for ~650 ft of sheer cliff (trail below is the switchbacks for the East Rim/Hidden Canyon and Weeping Rock is in the upper LH side):

Hidden Canyon overlook 700ft exposure

Weeping Rock was the last on our list of the day and we spent some time watching the crazy wonders of the desert before heading back to our campsite to watch the sunset (photo link!).

Narrow’s Canyon Hike: 110 CFS, 44 degree water, 75 degree air temp highs, random old-friend encounters

The water was cold and we rented drysuits from the http://www.zionadventures.com/ which had a nice set-up and totally worth every penny that we spent with them. Started the hike late (somewhat intentional due to the cool morning temps). Caitlin hiking through the golden glow of the afternoon light:

Golden Reflections in Zion Narrows March 2012

We fought our way up the river as the flow was high and strong. This turned out to be the hardest hike of the trip and the rewards were well worth it. Myself and Caitlin enjoying the river:

Zion Narrows in 44 degree water

The world is truly a small place! After hiking for a short-bit another couple was gaining on us and eventually they caught-up and it turned out being my friend Drew and his wife Carrie, whom I originally met in the DU Alpine Club and had not seen in a number of years. Awesome to hike with them for a while and catch-up. Drew, Carrie, Caitlin and Andy photo deep in the canyon:

Zion Narrows Drew Andy Caitlin Carrie

The river was flowing very heavy at 110 CFS that day and they closed down the canyon the next day as the flows got above 120 CFS. Timing was on our side and we got to experience quite the hike.

Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon BLM and Southwest Utah:

We ate Dinner with Drew and Carrie and did not hit the road to Bryce canyon until dusk. With some very loose ideas of places to camp just outside of Red Canyon we drove up some BLM road and found a place to lay our heads for the night. Night-time photos over Castro Canyon (and a ghost self-portrait):

Castro Canyon Utah BLM at Night

Another early morning and we arrived to Bryce Canyon where our jaws promptly dropped:

Bryce Canyon Captain Morgan Pose

Again there was very few people around which was surprising considering it was a Saturday morning in a park famous for sunrises. Caitlin dancing with the trees of Bryce Canyon:

Bryce Canyon Empty on a Saturday

We did a short hike in chacos and wool socks which was nice to stretch out after the previous two grueling days.

Hoodoo's light up by the morning sun

You don’t need to spend much time here as it is relatively small so it was perfect for a nice morning excursion before grabbing lunch at the lodge and then taking the long journey all the way to Ouray, Colorado.

The route through the desert between Bryce Canyon and Hanksville, UT was really quite cool. Some amazing vistas in a place that I had no prior knowledge on (not to mention you drive thru MTN passes at ~10,000 ft, Escalante, Capitol Reef NP, Lake Powell, Cone Mtn, Henry Mountains, etc).

A late arrival in Ouray and we crashed at RAMBO‘s house. The next day we hit up some climbing just outside of town at a place called Colby’s Corner which had some nice routes and expansive views of Sneffel’s and Cimarron peaks. A nice dip in the hot springs plus a Mouse’s Chocolate shake and we were recovered from the hikes and ready to head home!

Looking back in the rear-view mirror of the awesomeness of this part of the world:

Rearview mirror on awesomeness

Amazing trip!

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