Utah's Mighty 5 National Parks Part: 3
We left Moab early and made our way to Capitol Reef. We were on the fence about stopping at Goblin Valley State Park due to time, but I'm so glad we did! It was another $15 entrance fee and we were in the park. First, I wanted to stop by the yurts I had seen so many pictures of. It would be amazing to sleep amongst the rock formations. We went to the main overlook area and walked into it a bit and explored. Very unique, strange rock formations. If you get the chance, I would camp here or stay in the yurts.
It was 2.5 hours between Moab and Capitol Reef, plus the brief stop to Goblin Valley. We pulled into Capitol Reef and took in the unique rock formations. After the visitor center, we found our campground. I believe around February 1st the campsites for Capitol Reef opened up. I heard camping in the park was great, so I went on and booked it right away. It seemed that the sites gotten taken very quickly. The campsite was right next to old orchards that were planted by pioneers over 300 years ago! The history is rich in this area. I really liked camping right in the national park. We drove the scenic drive and did a short 4 mile hike. We visited the historic barn and shop that sells fresh pie daily and viewed the sunset from Sunset Point. Capitol Reef is definitely beautiful in its own ways, but when planning a trip I wouldn't designate too much time here compared to the other parks.
We woke up early again and drove the couple hours to Bryce Canyon. I had been so excited to go to Bryce after all of the photos I've seen and it did not disappoint. It was a Friday when we were there and definitely very busy. We went to the visitor center first and then went to do a 3 mile hike in the canyon. We connected a couple trails to make a loop of it. It was amazing to see the Hoodoos (rock structures) from above and below. The bright colors were stunning.
After the hike we went to get our campsite at Ruby's Inn RV Park and Campground. There isn't a ton of camping near Bryce and the ones in the park weren't open yet. This one I could reserve ahead of time so I booked it. Again it was one with a lot of nice amenities. It was interesting when we got there they told us that there were a few large camping areas and they are first come first serve, so no designated sites. We found a spot and set up camp. Later on we went back into Bryce and drove part of the long road in, stopping at some of the view points. We made it back to sunset point for sunset, but there wasn't much of a sunset this day and was cloudy.
Zion National Park
For our last full day I had originally planned to just make the 4 hour drive back to Salt Lake City and maybe explore the city a bit. We realized we could squeeze in a day at Zion if we left Bryce super early. We would have a really long day, but to see Zion again would be worth it. We left Bryce by 5:30 and made it to Zion for sunrise at 7:00. The colors lit up the canyon, it was so stunning. We watched the weather the days prior seeing if we could do the Narrows hike. The weather looked good so we went straight to the other side of the park to the rental place. We did research on what to rent and people that have hiked it have all said it was worth the money to rent. They offer full overall bibs or just pants. We opted for the pants and then got the canyoneering boots/ neoprene socks, wooden stick and one waterproof pack. In total, everything costed us around $110. It was all worth it! The line to get into the park again was getting long as it was a Saturday. We made it in and found a parking spot in the visitors parking lot. Spring-fall you have to take the shuttle to the area of the park with the bulk of the hiking. It took 40 minutes from the parking lot to our stop for the Narrows (it's the last stop). It's over 1.5 miles on the riverwalk until you enter the river. A lot of people stop here. We started early, before 9, so we missed a lot of the crowds. It was rather challenging against the current right away. Walking upstream is difficult. The flow rate was a little lower than normal too. If you do this hike you need to keep an eye out for storms or rain coming in which would cause flash flooding. Hiking up the river is a slow process. We hiked about 2 miles up to where the canyons got the most narrow. The water was often knee to hip deep. If you weren't careful, it was easy to lose balance crossing the water. The bottom is all slick huge rocks that are hard to walk across as well. We saw many people wearing nikes or sandals attempting this hike and struggling hard. Walking down the river was much faster as you can imagine. This was one of the most unique hikes I've ever done and would definitely recommend it if you are going to Zion! We did Angel's Landing last year, which is another favorite. We took the bus back, returned the rental gear and then made our way out of Zion by early afternoon. Zion to Salt Lake City was 4.5 hours. Flying out of Las Vegas would've been much closer, but that wasn't our original plan. The drive back wasn't too eventful but got into SLC later that night. I love escaping to the SW and experiencing something so different from what we are used to now.