Bryce Canyon National Park {with kids}

This is my second installment in my Traveling Tuesday initiative for 2016, I'm starting off with documenting some of the amazing places we visited last summer during our vacation out west. In July of 2015 we set out on a grand vacation through the southwest. We traveled for 21 days and over 6,000 miles, visiting 5 states and 9 National Parks. We explored new places and met up with old friends. Overall, it was an incredible journey and everyone learned so much. You can view all posts about our wild west adventure here.

Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 2 Full Days & 3 Nights
We had arrived late in the evening to Bryce after leaving a full day of adventure at Zion National Park. We stayed at the Best Western Bryce Grand Hotel and I can say that it was surprisingly nice and the room was larger than I expected. It also has a free breakfast and pool, which are very nice when you're traveling with kids. There are surprisingly few amenities near Bryce Canyon so I was glad I had stocked up on some snacks and other food before leaving St. George, Utah. 

Since I knew we'd be here for a few days we took it easy on our first day in the park. We started at the visitor center where the kids picked up Junior Ranger books. Then we headed further into the park where we walked along the rim, from Sunset to Sunrise point. Unlike Zion, you can actually drive into Bryce and we had no problem finding parking spaces at the various spots throughout the park. We attended a ranger program about the geology of the area and learned that Bryce isn't actually a canyon, it's technically an amphitheater. My kids are STILL talking about the fact that it's named incorrectly. The kids sat for while and worked on their Junior Ranger books. I would like to note that the Junior Ranger books at Bryce were the hardest we've ever encountered. Even the word search my 5 year old had to complete was difficult. Plan accordingly and allow enough time if you're going to complete them with your kids.

Once the kids had their books filled out we headed back to the visitor center so they could get sworn in and receive their Junior Ranger badges.

Since we decided to take it easy with hiking on this day, we spent the afternoon swimming at the hotel and exploring some of the shops outside the park. Cole was in love with the rock shop we found and there was even a place for ice cream. Overall, it was a nice relaxing day.

Our second day in Bryce Canyon we started out strong with big plans for a day of hiking. I had packed a picnic lunch for us and tons of extra snacks. We decided to attempt the Navajo Loop Trail which goes down into the amphitheater (remember it's not really a canyon). This trail is listed as moderate to strenuous because of how steep it is, and also because much of the decent has loose sandy footing that makes it a little slippery if you have on regular sneakers (which we did).

This passthrough was at the beginning of the trail. Let's just say the kids were excited about what else they would discover along the way.

Let me just tell you that the trail was amazing. We went slow and let the kids explore and climb on rocks along the way. They loved the unbelievable views from the bottom.

When we got down to the very bottom we found a nice spot for a snack and a rest. There were a surprisingly large amount of birds and small critters for us to watch while we rested. This trail was crowded right at the top, but it seemed that many people weren't interested in venturing all the way down to the bottom. 

 We made it back up to the top right before lunch. This is a picture of us on the way up, you can see Thor's Hammer in the background. We enjoyed a picnic lunch while we recovered from the steep climb out of the amphitheater. After lunch we drove all the way to the highest point in Bryce Canyon. There is a short, 1 mile trail called the Pinecone Loop that we did with the kids. It was flat and very east. Then it was back to the hotel for our afternoon swim in the pool.

Highlights: The Navajo Loop Trail was everyone's favorite adventure at Bryce. Also, the star gazing at Bryce Canyon is some of the best in the world. We were there during a new moon and the sky was exceptionally dark. The only downfall was that during the summer it doesn't get really dark until about 9:30pm and the kids were very tired after long days.

What We Would Change: I hadn't realized that there were so few amenities around Bryce Canyon. There was no big grocery store and very few restaurants. I wish I had done more research ahead of time and planned to pack in more food options for us. We ate at the Canyon Diner one night, which was horrible. After that experience we booked a reservation at the lodge inside the park

Recommended Reading: I highly recommend the Foder's guide to National Parks of the West, we used it when planning our trip and it was a great resource. I liked that there were plenty of suggestions to exploring the parks with kids.

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