Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Photos

Summer 2018 was the summer of National Parks. Yellowstone and Grand Teton marked our 7th and 8th National Parks of the year. We drove up to Wyoming the weekend after Labor Day and stayed at a cabin just outside of Yellowstone. The mornings were crisp and cool and the days were sunny and warm. It was a perfect weekend to get out of town and enjoy nature. Without further ado, a massive photo dump from our weekend:

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Grand Teton

 

Moab, UT

The second week in July, we hit the road for Moab – about 230 miles, or just shy of a 4 hour drive southeast from Salt Lake City. Maybe it was a bit crazy to hike in the desert when the temps were in the 100s, but we were hell-bent on visiting the two National […]

The second week in July, we hit the road for Moab – about 230 miles, or just shy of a 4 hour drive southeast from Salt Lake City. Maybe it was a bit crazy to hike in the desert when the temps were in the 100s, but we were hell-bent on visiting the two National Parks in the area: Arches and Canyonlands.

Arches National Park

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Balanced Rock – Arches National Park

Arches is located on the Colorado Plateau near the Colorado River. With over 2,000 arches, it has the largest concentration of natural arches in the world. The majority of the rock in the park is sandstone. The arches are formed as water seeped into cracks and through the freeze-thaw cycle ice created pressure breaking off parts of the rock. As wind cleaned out loose particle, fins remained, which further give way to water and wind and became arches. You can see the some of the progress below – the pictures on the right shows the fin stage while the one on the left shows an arch. Fun fact, Skyline Arch (pictured in the photo on the right below) was actually only half that size until 1940 when a boulder fell out and doubled the opening. While we didn’t get to the most famous arch in the park – Delicate Arch – there are so many other beauties to see.

We went in the evening to beat the heat, and while it was still in the 90s the shade made it much more bearable. We drove through the park stopping at Balanced Rock and Skyline Arch before hiking through Devil’s Garden. We passed the Landscape Arch, which is one of the longest arches in the world, before climbing up the rock face to head back toward Double O Arch. We ended up turning around before we got there because the sun was setting and we didn’t want to be scrambling in the dark, but we were able to stop at the Partition and Navajo Arches on the way back. In the dark, we pulled up to the Delicate Arch viewpoint to try and capture it with a long exposure.

Corona Arch

Corona Arch is located along a trail in a side canyon along the Colorado River. The arch is partially free-standing and has an impressive 140 ft x 105 ft opening. The trail is relatively easy with only a few short, steep sections,  and is 2.3 miles round trip. It’s easy to follow with cairns and green paint to mark the way. While summer is probably not the most ideal time to hike in Moab, we went early in the morning before the sun got too high in the sky. This allowed for some shade along the way from the canyon walls and we were able to finish before the trail got too crowded. We ended the hike with a quick splash (for the dog) in the Colorado River.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park covers over 330,000 acres of land in southeastern Utah. It is one of the more remote National Parks with very little for services throughout; the NPS encourages you to take anything you might need for your visit with you due to the remoteness. The park is divided into three “districts” that are bounded by the Colorado and Green Rivers. You cannot access the different areas from within the park as there are no roads that cross the rivers. To get from one district to the next is anywhere from a 2-6 hour car ride.

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The three districts that make up Canyonlands are: Island in the Sky,  The Needles, and The Maze. Island is the Sky, with its proximity to Moab, is the most highly visited area. Island in the Sky is a sandstone mesa that sits over 1,000 above the surrounding terrain. We visited the Grand Viewpoint, which is at the southernmost point of the scenic drive. It gives a great vista of the White Rim – a sandstone formation above the river convergence, as well as The Needles and The Maze.

The Needles is east of the Colorado River and is named after rock pinnacles that can be found in the landscape. The Needles was once the home of Pueblos, and there are still traces of their heritage including well-preserved petroglyphs. The Maze is located to the west of the Colorado and Green Rivers and is the most primitive area in Canyonlands. It is also one of the most remote and inaccessible areas in the entire United States, which has led to it being called on of the most dangerous places to hike. It has many geological features unique to the area including Orange Cliffs and Golden Stairs.

 

Weekend trip to Southern Utah

Beth and Casey came to visit us back in June, and we road tripped to southern Utah to take in the sights. Utah is home to 5 National Parks, third only to Alaska and California, which both boast 8. Not only does Utah have these gorgeous parks, but it also ranks 3rd for most federally owned land – this includes not only the National Parks, but National Monuments, National Forests, and wilderness areas, to name a few. This is especially important because these publicly-owned lands provide protections to the land and wildlife, ensuring their preservation for the future.

We could go on and on about the benefits of preserving nature and how we shouldn’t be stripping those protections away, but that’s a post for another day :).

Back to our trip. We loaded up the car early Saturday morning heading to our final destination – Zion National Park. Since Utah has such amazing scenery and a high concentration of these lands are in the south, we made sure to detour and see as much as possible. On the list: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Cedar Breaks National Monument. For more about our hikes through all of these parks, check out our post on June 2018 Hikes.

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

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Grand Staircase Escalante – whose name derives from the Escalante River and geological “steps” corresponding to various time periods over millions of years – stretches from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon. It is among some of the most remote in the country and was the last part of the contiguous United States to be mapped. There are five “steps” in the Grand Staircase: the pink cliffs formed of pink and red limestones that has many different rock formations including Bryce Canyon’s famous hoodoos; grey cliffs made of Cretaceous sandstone comprising the area between Bryce Canyon and Zion; white cliffs formed of Navajo sandstone and home of the majestic cliffs of Zion; the vermillion cliffs made of silt and found near Kanab; and the chocolate cliffs, which are the oldest formed of Kaibab limestone and makes the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Needless to say, the sights were spectacular. Driving through the changing landscapes and noting the different geologic periods that made this possible kept us in awe of just how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

Bryce Canyon National Park

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Bryce Canyon National Park has the highest concentration of hoodoos in the world. It’s at 8,000-9,000 ft elevation at the rim, which looks out over the canyon filled with hoodoos. Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon, but an amphitheater created by headward erosion wherein erosion occurs at the origin of a stream in the opposite direction of the flow. This erosion has led to the exposure of hoodoos where a layer of soft rock (typically mudstone) has been covered by a layer of hard rock (limestone, sandstone) leaving spires. We only made it to Sunrise-Sunset point, where the views were spectacular, but there are many other viewpoints and hikes throughout the park.

Zion National Park

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Zion National Park could have an entire post of its own. After visiting a handful of National Parks in the last couple of months, what struck us most about Zion is how majestic it is. While the park actually encompasses a large area from Zion Canyon to Kolob Canyon, most people only go through Zion Canyon in the southern end of the park. The north fork of the Virgin River cut through the Navajo sandstone creating looming, red cliffs. The park winds through a canyon, and due to the small size and high traffic is only accessible by shuttle in the summer months. There are plenty of trails and sights to see through the canyon including the Court of Patriarchs – a trio of peaks named after biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Angel’s Landing – a rock formation that got its name because it appears that only angels could summit, and the famous narrows – the narrowest section of the canyon and an incredibly popular hike. We didn’t get to hike Angel’s Landing this time, but it’s on our list for our next visit.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

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Cedar Breaks is off the beaten path and easy to skip even if you’re in the area, but we would highly recommend visiting. It’s a natural “amphitheater” that stretches 3 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep. It’s not an amphitheater in the casual sense – no concerts are held there – but it is a rock formation that naturally amplifies sound. It is at 10,000 feet elevation and has rock formations similar to Bryce Canyon. We only ventured along the rim, but were awestruck by the magnitude of the space and just how far you could see out into the valley.

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Dixie National Forest

Dixie National Forest is the largest forest in Utah, stretching across 2 million acres at the southern end of the state. In fact, most of the above national lands lie within the areas of Dixie. We were constantly passing through the forest as we wound our way to all of the National Parks and Monuments. The area is composed of many different ecosystems and is quite beautiful to behold.

To note: National Parks are not dog-friendly, but National Monuments and National Forests are.

Grand Canyon and Sedona

We’re rounding out our third week in Phoenix and have been loving the sun and warm weather. The nights are cool and the days are hot and sunny and we have the tans to prove it 🙂 – not to rub it in for everyone in the Midwest who is still dealing with snow.

We decided to take advantage of a free weekend and headed north to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Since we are both working remotely, we went up on a Sunday afternoon and worked from the hotel Monday – this is where working Eastern time while on Pacific time comes in handy since we log off at 2pm and can use our entire afternoon for fun. We left a little later in the day, which worked out to our advantage because we got to the Grand Canyon in the late afternoon when crowds were mostly non-existent.

We took a slight detour to Prescott on the drive to grab some lunch and stretch our legs. We stopped at Watson Lake for a quick walk – the scenery was gorgeous! At 5,000 ft. elevation, the scenery was a bit different from the desert we get in the Phoenix valley with lots of scrub bushes, juniper trees, and an absence of cacti. Snickers especially enjoyed chasing birds through the mud.

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Since we had the dog with us, we were limited in the hiking we could do at the Grand Canyon (National Parks are notoriously dog-unfriendly). We parked at the Bright Angel trailhead and walked about 3 miles out and back along the Rim Trail. The great thing about this location was that no cars are allowed beyond that point and most people ride the shuttle rather than walking. We had the trail mostly to ourselves, and even though it was paved we had a very enjoyable time. It’s amazing to see all of the striations along the canyon walls and think about how the Colorado River cut it out over millions of years. It’s impossible to capture the grandeur in pictures, but suffice to say we were constantly uttering “wow, this is amazing!” even though we’d both visited before. We definitely recommend a visit at least once in your lifetime.

 

 

 

Sunday night we drove down to Flagstaff to stay for the night. Our time was mostly spend in the hotel since it was a Monday and we had to work, but we did end up grabbing beer at Dark Sky Brewing (highly recommend!), some lunch at Macy’s Coffee House (delicious lattes and healthy food), and walking the trail that runs through town (such a great use of space!).

Once we were finished with work, we headed to Sedona for a hike. The drive down was on mountain roads that cut through the rocks and provided amazing views. The weather was cloudy and cool – 70s – which was actually perfect for the hike since the desert sun can be brutal. We did 6 miles on the Chuckwagon Trail to Devil’s Arch. Very few people were on the Chuckwagon Trail, but the last 0.8 miles up to the arch we ran into quite a few hikers. I can’t blame them because the view was spectacular! The hike itself wasn’t too strenuous and we ended up running about 3 miles of it. Snickers, our resident mountain goat, had a blast running up the rocks at the end and nearly gave Matt a heart attack when she ran to the edge to survey the land. The red rock landscape is something that you just can’t see anywhere and even though they weren’t lit up by the sun we were amazed by their beauty. Matt didn’t brave walking on the bridge, but Snickers and I ran out there to snag a quick photo before our descent.

 

 

 

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All-in-all, we had a fantastic weekend!