Bryce Canyon from Sunset Point
Boat Mesa, with "Sinking Ship" in background
Pekaboo Loop Trail
Douglas Fir along Pekaboo Loop Trail
Queen's Garden Trail
Observation Point (Zion)
Another View from Observation Point
Monolith along the Kolob Trail (Zion)
All Images Copyright Steve
Bryce and Zion Canyons
In October of 1998 I hiked Bryce and Zion Canyons in
Utah. I spent the first two days at Bryce Canyon and learned
about the forces of erosion which shaped the well-known "hoodoos" for
Bryce is famous. (Hoodoos are the tall columns of rock which are
in the photos below). The last three days were spent at Zion
Canyon, which was carved out by the Virgin River. At Zion we
hiked the Kolob trail, Observation Point, as well as the Virgin River
towards the Canyon
Narrows. The group was comprised of about 14 people, and we hiked
an average of 6-8 miles per day (range 4-14). I found it very
and highly recommend it to anyone interested in visiting the
More information about this area may be found at the Great
Outdoor Recreation Pages. Click below to see my photos from
and Zion trips.
Bryce is a wonderland of mysterious shapes and colors. The area which encompasses Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon is comprised of various layers of sedimentary rock deposited over a time period spanning a half billion years. Parts of this region were once comprised of lakes, subsequently filled in by iron oxide-containing sediments deposited by the rivers draining into them. These deposits are responsible for the red-colored layers which are easy to see in the photos below. (Manganese-containing sediments can also be occasionally found and produce a purple hue to the rock). At other periods the area was covered by the sea, resulting in the deposits of crustaceans whose shells are rich in calcium carbonate (producing limestone). These are responsible for the white-colored layers which are often seen in this region. Deposition of sandstone (comprised of minerals like quartz) and shale (which is basically rock made out of compacted mud from river bottoms) occurred throughout this period as well and is responsible for the yellows of Bryce (and the sandiness of Zion).
After all of this material was deposited, the entire region was lifted up about 10 million years ago to form high plateaus where lake bottoms once were. The Bryce canyon is located on the eastern rim of the plateau called "Paunsaugunt" and is a result of erosion of this area by rain, wind, and alternating freezing, thawing, and cracking of brittle rock. The rock layers exposed at Bryce represent the youngest of the region, dating back to the Cretaceous period (over 65 million years ago, around the time of the dinosaur extinction). In contrast, those of Zion date back to the Triassic (about 225 million years ago), and those of the Grand Canyon date back to over a half billion years ago.
Zion is a majestic contrast of high shear monolithic cliffs which surround a deep and imposing canyon. It was formed in a completely different way than Bryce, namely through erosion by the Virgin River. Although there is the occasional hoodoo, the area has a completely different feel from Bryce for two main reasons. First, water from the Virgin river supports a great deal of plant and animal life. Second, the canyon floor of Zion is about 4,000 feet in elevation (as opposed to Bryce, which is higher at about 8,000 feet above sea level). Due to its lower elevation, Zion is warmer, many wildflowers were in bloom, sage and other grasses were in abundance, and there were lots of animals to observe, including mule deer and a variety of birds.
Grand Canyon and Havasu Canyon
Glacier National Park