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Overview

Zion and Bryce Canyon are two of the most spectacular national parks in the United States and, although they are separated by only a morning's drive, they are vastly different. At Zion, the Virgin River has carved a canyon through huge chunks of gleaming white sandstone, and little pockets of moisture support delicate "hanging gardens." Hikes range from short strolls to long-distance backcountry treks and can include technical canyoneering or actually hiking in the Virgin River.

Bryce is known for its reddish-orange sandstone spires, or hoodoos. From roadside viewpoints, these formations seem to form something akin to a city ...

Zion and Bryce Canyon are two of the most spectacular national parks in the United States and, although they are separated by only a morning's drive, they are vastly different. At Zion, the Virgin River has carved a canyon through huge chunks of gleaming white sandstone, and little pockets of moisture support delicate "hanging gardens." Hikes range from short strolls to long-distance backcountry treks and can include technical canyoneering or actually hiking in the Virgin River.

Bryce is known for its reddish-orange sandstone spires, or hoodoos. From roadside viewpoints, these formations seem to form something akin to a city skyline. But from a trail, each hoodoo emerges in its own distinct form and may, to the impressionable hiker, even take on a personality. Don't ignore the areas outside the parks' boundaries. Red Canyon, west of Bryce, is lovely, with great bike trails; Kodachrome Basin State Park is rarely crowded and has its own unique sandstone formations.

Judy Jewell
About the Expert

Judy Jewell and W.C. McRae are frequent collaborators: together they have written Moon Handbooks to Montana, Utah, and Zion-Bryce and updated the Moon Handbooks to Oregon and Coastal Oregon. Judy wrote the Compass American Guide to Oregon.

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Judy Jewell for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring and fall at Zion; at 7,000-plus feet, Bryce, can have snow at almost any time of year.