Southern Utah national parks and monuments (June 2005)

Six national parks, several more monuments and three thousands miles logged in ten days!

I rarely had a chance to see so much in such a compressed amount of time. I went to Utah full of expectations and left Utah with those expectations met and a lot more impressed with its beauties (natural that is) and would want to go back for more since there are much more to see than I was able to absorb. Here are the parks I visited:

  •  Zion National Park - where I first experience the Colorado Plateau geology, the red rock mountains and canyons. It was also a place where Mormon settlers went to seek refuge.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park- a place with zillions of colorful hoodoos and panoramic vistas.
  • Capitol Reef National Park - also a major red rock region, where vast earth folds are maintained. Also a place where Mormon settlers farmed, and signs of existence of Fremont Indians are still visible.
  • Arches National Park - a place with the largest concentration of natural arches on earth. Giant red rock fins and spires also dominated the landscape.
  • Canyonlands National Park - where one can see as far as the eyes can see of mesas, canyons, needles etc.
  • Natural Bridges National Monument - with three huge natural bridges carved by streams, and one can observe from easy-access viewpoints or see up close at their bases by negotiating moderately strenuous trails.
  • Valley of the Gods (BLM) - with huge and strange free standing rock formations in the middle of nowhere. This place is not easy to get to, but does not suffer from over tourism.
  • Navajo Monument Valley - a popular Navajo park with many huge rock formations. Also a movie set for some John Wayne movies.
  • Wupatki National Monument - where puebloan ruins are preserved.
  • Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument - with beautiful sunset and lava fields
  • Kings Canyon National Park - with awe inspiring canyons, beautiful landscapes and giant sequoias. And even a cave...

Even though being focused on capturing scenic beauties from morning to night, and not spending as much time making new friends, I was still able to make several new friends while on the trail. For instance, I met a classic car club owner and his wife from Washington state at the Bryce Canyon Rim trail, an MBA grad from UC Berkeley while snapping sunset pictures of the Delicate Arch at Arches NP, and a travel editor from San Francisco Chronicle while taking in morning scenes and clean air at the Grant Tree trail in Kings Canyon. I also chatted with or took pictures for many others, but did not exchange contact information. As part of the process, I learned a little about the geography of the Utah, Colorado, and Arizona region pertaining to the Colorado Plateau. I learned that the various national parks in this area are interrelated. For instance, the bottom layer of Bryce is the top layer of Zion and the bottom layer of Zion is the same level as the top of Grand Canyon, with all coming from the same Colorado Plateau region. In many of these places, I found myself mesmerized by the beauties, blended in with the natural surroundings or simply enjoy the morning strolls with fresh air and bird songs and few other souls around. I've never seen such diverse rock formations and colors associated with rocks. Looking through the camera lens to capture either majestic images of a giant sequoia, or a slow moving brook, I finally found myself refreshed mentally.

March 9, 2011March 9, 2011