Visit Spectacular Bryce Canyon, Utah

As most western travelers know, the state of Utah is fortunate to have many unique National Parks. One of those unique National Parks is Bryce Canyon.

bryce canyon hoodoos

Some of the magnificent spires

Bryce Canyon sits on the spectacular edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, a place where intricately carved towers and archways of stone shimmer in a dazzling array of color. Because the park is on a plateau it really isn’t a canyon but it is marvelous.

The Geography of Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon’s rock is composed of layers of sediment deposits. Millions of years ago the area of Bryce Canyon was a lake. The sediment was deposited over these millions of years. Today,  the Paria River has exposed the layers.

Geography changes. The region shifted about 15 million years ago resulting in a series of plateaus. The Paunsaugunt Plateau is quite large and the Paria River gradually eroded away the plateau’s edge to form beautiful Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon took it’s name from an early pioneer to the region. Ebenezer Bryce. came over from Scotland, married a local girl then moved southwards in steps, building sawmills as he went. In the mid 1870s Bryce and his wife reached the Paria River, where they along with some of his relatives settled for a several years.

bryce canyon national park hoodoos

A colorful Bryce Canyon scene

Bryce Canyon National Park was founded in 1924. The area was remote. European tourists to America didn’t venture there thus the first guest houses were built about the time the park was established.

The good part of this is that Bryce Canyon became an area of largely unspoiled beauty. The park is known for it’s enormous scientific value since plenty of historic information is trapped in its pinnacles & spires. It’s been determined that the rim recedes by about a foot every 50 years

The Hoodoos Of Bryce Canyon

The rock scenery at Bryce Canyon is commonly referred to as “Hoodoos“. Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of basins and “broken” lands.

Because the rock was laid down in layers, the hardness tends to vary. When water runoff trickles across the rock, some parts erode quite fast whereas other parts hold firm.

This variation in erosion speed causes the formation of pinnacles, or “hoodoos” of stable rock. In some places the water seeps down through cracks & eats out holes beneath the surface. When the side rock erodes away, an archway is left behind.

It is only a matter of time before the arch of the rock collapses. This results in another colorful pillar.

Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is open all year round. Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is a treat regardless of the season of the year. During the warmer months hiking is quite popular. Look up at some spectacular formations. Sunset Point & Inspiration Point  are a must for any visitor. Summer months can cause temperatures in the bottom of the canyon to soar. It is very important to be prepared for the heat by packing plenty of water for your journey.

As mentioned above, the park is open all year. For those who love the winter outdoors it is possible to cross-country ski in several areas of the park. You can also go snowshoeing instead of hiking on some trails. In winter the roads are opened between snowfalls, allowing a different perspective of the park. Snow capped pinnacles stand out sharply against the background of white snow and dark green trees. In winter the roads are opened between snowfalls.

See these Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

The Great Sand Dunes / A Colorado Adventure

Getting There

A visit to Bryce Canyon National Park can also be combined with visits to Utah’s Zion National park and south of that the beautiful Grand Canyon. Traveling from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon will take you over the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, another fun attraction to stop and tour.

bryce canyon vacation

Greenery against the beautiful rock formations

From the South through Zion National Park: Take I-15 north to UT-9 (exit 16). Follow UT-9 east through Zion National Park to US-89. Travel north on US-89 to UT-12. Go east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits 1 mile inside the park boundary.

From the South through Zion National Park: Take I-15 north to UT-9 (exit 16). Follow UT-9 east through Zion National Park to US-89. Travel north on US-89 to UT-12. Go east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits 1 mile inside the park boundary.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)






The Reasons You’ll Totally Enjoy A Rocky Mountain Vacation

When it come to major tourist regions in the U.S., the Rocky Mountain region is at the top of the list. Visitors to the Rocky Mountains enjoy hiking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, camping, fishing, rock climbing and much more. Add to this some of the most historic towns in the western U.S.

colorado rocky mountainsA 3,000 Mile Long Mountain Range

The Rocky Mountains stretch from old Mexico north through the United States and into Canada. The total length of this tremendous mountain range is over 3000 miles. The states that are part of this mountain chain include parts of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, & Wyoming. Stories of early adventurers like Lewis & Clark, John Fremont and Kit Carson exploring the Rocky Mountains are legendary.

The Rockies are home to many scenic campgrounds, historic sites, ghost towns, gold prospecting sites, and of course national parks. Some of the historic towns you’ll want to put on your trip planner include:

Cripple Creek, Durango, Cortez and Silverton, Alamosa, Colorado.

Taos, Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico

Laramie, Cheyenne, South Pass City, Wyoming

Virginia City, Bannack Ghost Town, Gold Creek, Bozeman, Missoula, Custer Battlefield, Montana

great sand dunes

Great San Dunes National Park

The National Parks of the Rockies

National parks and monuments provide you with the opportunity to explore nature at its best. From the diversity of beautiful wildlife to the endless possibilities in their miles of trails. There are several world famous national parks in the Rockies, including Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, & Glacier.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Without a doubt, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best places to head for a vacation in Colorado. Rocky Mountain National Park has 355 miles of hiking trails. They range from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs.The road system of Rocky Mountain National Park offers visitors access to diverse ecosystems characterizing the higher regions of the central Rocky Mountains. The roads take visitors through lowland meadows and aspen groves, along swift-flowing rivers and up through sub-alpine forests to more than 12,000 feet in elevation.

Rocky Mountain National Park covers 415 square miles in north central Colorado. The east gate is at Estes Park and the western gateway is at Grand Lake.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located 35 miles northeast of Alamosa, Colorado. This is in the southern part of the state relatively close to the border with New Mexico.

This geologic wonderland contains about 39 square miles of massive sand dunes, some 750 feet high. The Great Sand Dunes National Park also includes alpine lakes and tundra, six mountain peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range over 13,000′ in elevation as seen in the photo above right. Among the trees you will see are spruce pine aspen and cottonwoods.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park  is located in the far northwest corner of Montana on the Canadian border. The Great Northern Railway, popularly referred to as “The Empire Builder”,  played a major role in the parks awareness to the general public having built it’s rail line from St. Paul, MN to Seattle, WA along it’s southern border.

In 1932 Canada and the United States declared Waterton Lakes National Park (founded in 1895) and neighboring Glacier National Park (founded in 1910) the world’s first International Peace Park. While administered separately, the park’s two sections cooperate in wildlife management, scientific research, and some visitor services.

See these additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

What It Was Like To Travel On The Old Butterfield Stage Line

Garryowen and George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry

Visit Spectacular Bryce Canyon, Utah

bannack montana ghost town

Bannack, Montana ghost town

Annual Rocky Mountain Festivals and Events

The Telluride Film Festival is a popular and prestigious annual event that attracts some of the biggest stars in Hollywood to a small Colorado town.

The Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous

The Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous (RMNR) is an annual celebration of life on the pre-1840 American Western frontier. The event is both re-enactment and living history, based on the fur-trade rendezvous that was held in the Rocky Mountains by the early fur trappers.  For detailed information regarding this annual event see website…

Cody Nite Rodeo

Wild West Family Fun in Cody, Wyoming every night June 1st through August 31st 8:00 PM. Come early, meet the clowns & bullfighters, get your photo taken on a live bull or try your hand at riding a mechanical bull.

fort garland colorado

Infantry barracks at old Fort Garland, Colorado

Living History Program at Nevada City, Montana

The Outdoor Living History Museum in Nevada City, Montana, has one of the largest collections of Old West Artifacts outside the Smithsonian. The museum site  displays a hundred 1863 to early 1900 structures, and about 70 living history interpreters. Living history weekends are held Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Spectacular vistas, scenic highways and historic sites and towns are all part of the Rocky Mountains and the old west. The above mentioned historic sites, national parks and annual events are just a small sample of what awaits you on your next trip to the great and scenic Rocky Mountain region.

(Article copyright 2015 Trips Into History)

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve / Hard to Reach But Worth It

Here on Alaska’s remote Seward Peninsula, the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve stands as a monument to the ancient migration of Asians to the North American continent. The people who made this migration about 13,000 years ago, eventually moved south and southeast and became the Native populations of North, Central and South America.

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Bering Land Bridge tors and rugged landscape

Today, there is about 55 miles of water that separates Alaska from Siberia. This was once dry land. This land bridge, known as Beringia, was at one time 1,000 miles wide and allowed for this large ancient migration into the Americas. In the present day U.S., these peoples populated from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

It’s Remote / The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve was established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act on December 2, 1980.

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve could be one of the most unique of all North American preserves. Here is just one example of this. The Natives of the area have the same traditions and language as do those living across the Bering Strait in Russia.

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The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve tundra

The Bering Land Bridge Nat’l Preserve offers visitors a total remote experience. The preserve is in the wilderness. No services or roads are available in this park.

According to the NPS, “backcountry campers can hike the rugged granite tors , glimpse raptors and waterfowl, explore ancient lava fields, and relax in the Serpentine Hot Springs” There is a bunkhouse near the Springs but understand that it is available on a first come, first serve basis. This National preserve offers a wild backcountry experience and could make a perfect adventure for someone looking for a completely new experience.

Wild Animals of the Seward Peninsula

Wild animals seen in the preserve include brown bears, muskox, caribou, reindeer, moose and beaver.

The muskox, once extinct in Alaska due to massive hunting, is a very interesting specie that has made an amazing engineered come back. At one time long ago, the prehistoric looking muskoxen roamed the now remote Alaskan tundra alongside the woolly mammoths. The males are known for their thick coats and the strong musky odor and are really more like goats and sheep rather than oxen. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the come back of this specie to Alaska was accomplished as follows….

“Muskoxen from Greenland were brought to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in 1930, and a small group transplanted to Nunivak Island in 1935-36, where they have thrived. In 1970, thirty-six of the Nunivak Island animals were transplanted near the Feather River, 36 miles from Nome. A second transplant followed in 1981, with the release of thirty-five more animals at the Port Clarence Coast Guard Station, 15 miles west of Teller. The latest count of muskoxen on the Seward Peninsula shows their numbers approaching 3,000.”

Thanks to these translocations for cultural and economic reasons, the muskox herds appear to be thriving on the Seward Peninsula and in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

Getting There

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, covering 2.7 million acres and over 4,200 square miles, is open year round. With that being said, flights into and out of the preserve are of course determined by the weather.

A visit to this preserve requires planning. During the summer season access is by bush plane, small boat or on foot. Only certain aircraft operators are permitted to land in the preserve. During the winter season access can be by bush planes on skis, snowmobiles or dog sleds. You will want to visit the Preserve’s Administrative Offices and Visitor Center in Nome.

Nome Alaska is not on the state’s highway system. Transportation to Nome is generally by commercial airline. There are no roads to the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve from Nome. Once you’re in Nome, getting to the preserve is only by the means listed above.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

 Pacific Coast Lighthouses / Point Pinos

The California Chinese and the Napa Valley Wine Caves

Two publications you may be interested in include…

Landcover Mapping for Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Northwestern Alaska, published by the NPS.

Another is Trekking Across Beringer by author John Hemming.

serpentine hot springs alaska

Serpentine Hot Springs and bunkhouse

Anybody planning a visit should bring with them all  necessary food, supplies and equipment. Pack absolutely everything you’ll need.

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is a very unique National Preserve which  can be a fun and educational historic trip for adventurist travelers. Hiking, camping, viewing the remote Alaskan wildlife and vegetation makes for a great time in one of the most remotest outposts on the North American continent.

(Article copyright Trips Into History. Photos are public domain and courtesy NPS)

The Great Sand Dunes / A Colorado Adventure

Our Only National Park That Changes It’s Shape

The Great San Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of the only National Parks in the U.S. that is constantly changing. This of course is the nature of sand dunes everywhere. This very unique national park has the ability to change it’s shape daily. The park is located in a windy region of Colorado alongside the Sangre de Cristo Range. This national park also contains the tallest sand dunes found in North America.

great sand dunes colorado

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

These impressive sand dunes were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and it’s tributaries. Over thousands of years the prevailing westerly winds picked up sand particles from the river flood plain. The wind naturally lost power when trying to cross the high Sangre de Cristo Mountains and as a result deposited sand on the east side of the range.

The wind continues and so does the process that has been going on for some 440,000 years according to geologists. The dunes not only change shape on a fairly daily basis but they are also growing. This is one of the attributes of the Great Sand Dunes that make a visit there so unique.

The Area of the Great Sand Dunes

What we do know about the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado is that they were first noticed by the Native Americans in the area. The names and languages of these earliest natives are not known, more recent American Indian tribes were quite familiar with the area when the Spaniards first arrived over 400 years ago.

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Sangre de Cristo Mountains along the Great Sand Dunes

As an example, the traditional Ute Indian word for the Great Sand Dunes is Sowapophe-uvehe, “the land that moves back and forth“. Jicarilla Apaches who settled in northern New Mexico  called the Dunes Sei-anyedi, meaning, “it goes up and down.”

The Navajo consider Blanca Peak which is just southeast of the Dunes one of their four sacred mountains.

The Great Sand Dunes National Monument was created in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. This was a time when several parks were created and others upgraded with trails and additional shelter buildings.

Many other National Parks and Monuments were created during that period. When the park was originally created it only covered the dunes themselves. What is important to the dunes however is the surrounding area. For the dunes to survive, care must be taken to protect the surrounding watershed and for this reason the park was expanded to include the adjacent area and mountains.

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The Great Sand Dunes

The Great San Dunes Monument and the Preserve

By the year 2004 the park also included a preserve. The preserve was then joined with the Great Sand Dunes Monument and was then the combined area was named a full-fledged National Park in September 2004.

This geologic wonderland contains about 39 square miles of massive sand dunes, some 750 feet high. The Great Sand Dunes National Park also includes alpine lakes and tundra, six mountain peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range over 13,000′ in elevation as seen in the photo above right. Among the trees you will see are spruce pine aspen and cottonwoods.

Also on Trips Into History see Reasons You’ll Enjoy a Rocky Mountain Vacation and The Mysterious Vortexes of Sedona Arizona

See articles on our Western Trips site on the links below…

Where the Southwest Meets the Rockies

Historic Antonito Colorado

Hiking the Great Sand Dunes

There are no roads or official trails into the sand dunes themselves simply because of the soft, ever-shifting sand. Although there are no marked trails you are allowed to walk anywhere and one popular target is the top of the tallest dune  which is only half a mile from the edge.

Walking to the tallest dune will likely take one hour since walking through the sand can be quite a slow process. The hiker will find it easier to walk along sand ridges, rather than straight up the side of the dunes. Be advised that the sand can become quite hot, sometimes up to 140 F, making it much too hot for walking on your bare feet. It is also advisable to carry plenty of water and watch out for lightning during the summer.

blanca peak colorado

Blanca Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of the Great Sand Dunes

The national park maintains three forested hiking trails located east of the dunes along the wooded hills. Some of the trails will take you to high vistas and high country lakes. The wooded trails include Montville Nature Trail, Mosca Pass Trail and San Ramp Trail.

Inquire at the park Visitor Center for free backcountry permits required for overnight backpacking. Designated backcountry sites in the national park are located along the Sand Ramp Trail, in the transition area between the dunefield and the mountains. This is a more sheltered area of the park.

Driving to The Great Sand Dunes National Park

If you’re traveling from the Denver area, Colorado Springs, or Pueblo, the best route is south on Interstate-25 to Walsenburg, then west on US 160 and then north on State Highway 150. If you’re looking for a more mountainous trip from Denver you can travel U.S. Hwy 285 south, then on State Highway 17 south, then County Lane 6 east from Mosca.

Many people also drive up from Santa Fe and Taos New Mexico. From Santa Fe drive north on US 285 to Alamosa Colorado. From Alamosa, you can take either U.S. Highway 160 east and State Highway 150 north, or State Highway 17 north and County Lane 6 east from Mosca. Mileages are about 240 from the Denver area and 185 from Santa Fe.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History)