On Tuesday, September 13, we left Zion National Park for a day trip back up the Grand Staircase to the Pink Cliffs at Cedar Breaks National Monument on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau. The Pink Cliffs here are the same geological layers as at Bryce Canyon National Park, but at Cedar Breaks, uplift has caused the rim of the amphitheater above the cliffs to soar 2,400 feet higher to an average elevation of 10,400 feet. That was also some 6,400 feet higher than the elevation of the floor of Zion Canyon where we’d slept the previous night.
Cedar Breaks National Monument was established on August 22, 1933 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It protects just over 6,100 acres of the subalpine edge of the Markagunt Plateau and the spectacular Cedar Breaks amphitheater plunging 2,000 feet below the plateau rim and spanning three miles across. Despite its close proximity to some of the most famous National Parks in the country, Cedar Breaks National Monument is lightly visited, averaging fewer than 500,000 visitors per year.
It was already after one in the afternoon on Monday, September 12 by the time we returned from Bryce Canyon National Park’s southern viewpoints to the Bryce Amphitheater area. Our plan had been to wrap up our time at Bryce Canyon in the morning before continuing down the Grand Staircase to Zion National Park with a stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument.
But we just weren’t yet ready to tear ourselves away from Bryce Canyon. At least not without one last hike beneath the rim and into the Queen’s Garden Complex of hoodoos. It was a short trail, only 0.8 miles with a vertical drop of about 320 feet.
Wyoming Bristlecone Pine and the Promontory
On Monday, September 12 we woke to a beautiful, sun-drenched morning in Sunset Campground at Bryce Canyon National Park. After logging more than fourteen miles of hiking the day before, the sun was well up by the time we emerged from our little tent. Today we planned to say goodbye to Bryce Canyon National Park and hello to Zion National Park, with a stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument in between. But before we bid a fond farewell to Bryce Canyon, we still had some beautiful things to see.
After resting in camp following our long day of hiking on Sunday, September 11, Sean and I decided to have one more look at huge beauty before darkness settled across the Paunsaugunt Plateau. So we pulled our boots back on and once again crossed from Sunset Campground to the mixed-use trail on the other side of the park road. This time we turned right and headed south and uphill toward Inspiration Point.
At just about 11am on Sunday, September 11, tantalized by our sunrise hike down and up Navajo Trail and sated with our breakfast, we set out on our day’s hike. One of the joys of camping in a National Park is the accessibility of the trails and vistas. “Let’s go see something beautiful” is what I traditionally say to Sean, particularly when we set out on foot from our campsite.
Ahead of us was a hike along the Rim Trail, then the Fairyland Loop, one of the famous hikes of the National Parks. Although the loop proper was only eight miles, the total mileage we’d end up logging was ten and a half.
As we shouldered our packs and headed out, a Mule Deer doe and two fawns ambled through the campground having their late morning meal.
Bryce Canyon, named for Mormon Scotsman Ebenezer Bryce, an early homesteader near the Paria River beneath the pink cliffs of Bryce Amphitheater, was declared a National Monument in 1923 by President Warren Harding. Five years later, after the requisite private properties were purchased and state properties were transferred, Bryce Canyon was upgraded to National Park status. The Park protects the southeastern rim of the Paunsaugunt Plateau and the spectacular towers of pink rock, called hoodoos, that descend from the plateau’s rim into the basin below. For all its fame, the Park is diminutive, only thirty-five thousand acres, and it is surrounded by portions of Dixie National Forest, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and private land.
We woke before dawn on Sunday, September 11, in the hopes that we would be able to see the sunrise from the rim of Bryce Canyon. Looking up, we saw some clouds, but we decided to walk the short distance to the rim anyway to see what we could see.
It was the early afternoon of Friday, August 12 as Sean and I made our way up the California coast north from Muir Woods National Monument and Golden Gate National Recreation Area to Point Reyes National Seashore. Established in 1962 to prevent impending development, the National Seashore protects over 71,000 acres of the California coast as a patchwork of federally-designated wilderness and “pastoral” lands used by ranchers. The Seashore comprises most of a huge, roughly triangular peninsula, Point Reyes, which sits on the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate, while the adjacent mainland is at the edge of the North American Plate. The two plates are separated where the peninsula connects to the mainland by the San Andreas Fault.