I’ve wanted to visit the amazing national parks that cover the Southwest US for years. Now that I’m back on the West Coast, I finally had the chance. So last week, I made a quick dash through Utah and Arizona with my dad and sister.  All told, the trip was a thoroughly satisfying 8 day, 2,500 mile mad dash through 6 national parks and 1 state park.

Bryce Canyon National Park

We began our tour in Bryce Canyon National Park, after a quick night in Las Vegas. Bryce Canyon is in Southwest Utah, about four hours northeast of Vegas along Interstate 15. The park contains a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters cut from southern Utah’s Paunsaugunt Plateau. The park’s most stunning geologic features are hundreds of hoodoos (stone pillars created by erosion) that cover the natural amphitheaters.

Mossy Cave Trail, Bryce Canyon State Park

Mossy Cave Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

The primary scenic points in the park are located along a single road that runs the length of the park (Bryce Canyon Park map) above the amphitheaters. This is convenient for touring the park but leads to heavy traffic as everyone follows the same route from site to site. Luckily, late April is still early enough in the season that the roaming hordes of tourists hadn’t yet arrived in full strength. Another benefit of our early arrival was patches of snow throughout the park that added to the beauty of the canyon.

Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon State Park

Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

Beyond the paved roads, Bryce also offers miles of hiking trails that run down canyon among the hoodoos. Unfortunately, our schedule didn’t allow me much time for these other than a quick jaunt along the Rim Trail from Sunrise Point to Bryce Point. I’m going to have to keep Bryce on my to do list and make sure I come back to spend more time exploring those park interior.

Traffic Jam at Bryce Canyon State Park

Traffic Jam at Bryce Canyon National Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Following Bryce, we headed to Kodachrome Basin State Park. The small state park is packed with interesting geologic formations, including hoodoos, mesas and several arches, but without the crowds of the more famous national parks nearby. With weather rolling in and several hours drive in front of us, we kept our visit short and were off after I took a quick run along the Panorama Trail.

Route 12 Scenic Drive

Next we drove several hours along beautiful Route 12 toward the northeast and our destination in Moab, Utah. Route 12 lived up to its hype as one of the best scenic drives in the country. Along the way, we passed through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park, both of which deserve their own visit at some point in the future.

Bryce Amphitheater, Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Amphitheater, Bryce Canyon National Park

Some Beach Time After the Treks