Read on to see how we got the most out of our 2 days in Bryce and Zion with a Toddler.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Walking out to the first viewpoint on our visit, I felt elated. It was as if I just walked into another world.
Bryce Canyon is one of the most unique places we have ever visited. The park boasts the highest concentration of “hoodoos”, spire shaped rock formations anywhere. These endless rows of rock towers create a magnificent masterpiece of glowing reds and oranges that you can’t help but stop and take pictures of. They reminded me of a forest of rock.
Visiting the park in November was a great decision not only for the beauty of the lightly snow dusted trees, but the limited crowds inside the park.
We did find many of the trails to be muddy or icy and slippery and would not recommend undertaking some of the more adventurous hikes without grips on your shoes or hiking poles.
We started at the very north of the park and drove south stopping at the various lookout points along the way. Our favorite spots were the popular sunrise and sunset points. These are by far the most photogenic.
We made an entire day out of this Park and guides will tell you to to take note of the same landscape at four different times of day. The way the light picks up the oranges, yellows, and reds transforms the rocks. It quickly became very, very cold after sundown, but wow was it worth it. I hadn’t seen stars like this since we were on an island in the middle of the Pacific.
En Route to Bryce Canyon
There is an easy hike just outside the park called Mossy Cave. This was an easy trail that followed an irrigation river created by early settlers.
A bit south are the Pink Sand Dunes. I wouldn’t make a special trip, but if you’re in the area, stop for a picnic. The people on dune buggies looked to be having a blast!
Zion National Park
We were not heading to Zion for any extreme hiking with our toddler in tow, but still enjoyed its monumental beauty and dramatic landscape. If you are feeling adventurous, check out what it is like to hike the narrows trail!
We liked driving in from the East entrance. The landscape is completely different than the rest of the world, I’d never seen rock formations like this. In my mind, this is what the world looked like while the dinosaurs roamed.
Where to Stay between Zion & Bryce
We stayed in Orderville, which was conveniently situated between the two parks. We found a Yurt on Airbnb which was quite a cool ‘glamping’ experience.
It was close to 20 degrees overnight, but we were still warm enough!
General National Park Tips
- If you plan on visiting at least 2-3 parks, buy the annual pass. It is 80 USD and the card is able to be signed and used by two different people. It’s valid for one year from the date of purchase.
- Stop in the visitors center when you arrive. The rangers are always helpful and will provide updates on latest trail conditions and any areas that are closed.
- We like buying souvenir postcards, they are a great way to remember the trip and there are some really cool retro-graphic ones available.
- Be sure to stamp your postcard or some piece of paper with the park specific stamp. You will find a small kiosk inside each visitor center that has the stamps.
- If you have small children you can get a junior ranger activity book from the centers which will help direct some activities for your kids.
Photography – Getting the Right Shot
Camera phones offer the easiest and most convenient way to take pictures on your adventures. With most photos never being printed and rarely viewed other than on a phone or computer there is really no need to pack a ton of fancy camera equipment.
Leverage your cameras filter settings and especially panorama if you have it. This creates some unique shots that people will enjoy more than just another picture of a tree. If you are going to pack a DSLR, Troy recommends a few pieces of gear:
- A wide angle lens: This will give you some of the best shots and incorporate a lot more in your image, to truly capture what you’re seeing IRL from where you stand.
- A polarizing filter: There are a lot of contrasts between the sky and the scenery, having the filter will allow you to darken the sky and get the right balance of light in your shots.
- A tripod: The stars are amazing at night, but without a tripod you’ll end up with blur like our photo above trying to prop the camera on rocks.