Bryce Canyon National Park is quite possibly one of the most gorgeous misnomers on the planet. The park’s namesake, Bryce Canyon, is notably only half a canyon. The concave cliff face winds down to the valley below while towering hoodoos bear witness to Gran Escalante.
The emphasis of Guadalupe Mountains is on hiking and camping, though several of the facilities offer both naturalistic and historical perspectives on the area. With ten backcountry campgrounds, two primitive campgrounds, and miles of trail, this is the park for the hiker.
The centerpiece is the former settlement of Tyuonyi. Both buildings on the floor of the valley and the cliff dwellings are part of a trail leading through the former Pueblo town. Hikers are encouraged to climb replica ladders to see what life was like inside the cliff dwellings, while at the end of the trail, there is an excavated kiva high up within the cliff face.
The North Rim has an emphasis on hiking and general appreciation for nature. It has fewer creature comforts and facilities than the South Rim, so the focus is very much on the Grand Canyon itself and the wide variety of trails offered.
Take heart, gentle traveler, for there is a way to mindfully take joy in the true national treasures of the United States. The men and women protecting our parks are fighting an uphill battle to protect us from ourselves, and we can help them. Follow the rules posted on the clearly posted signs. They are meant to protect both you and the wildlife. Place trash in proper receptacles. They’re everywhere. Adhere to the trails. The maps are free and comprehensive. Do not try to steal the limited, federally-protected nature. Basically, don’t be terrible.
While Bryce has educational exhibits and information on the geology and history of the region, the park is generally focused on hiking and the wilderness. The park’s emphasis on light pollution abatement allows for some incredibly stirring views of the night sky, while a battery of hiking options allow for enjoyment for a variety of skill levels.
The park was formed specifically to protect the area around the New River Gorge Crossing, and stretches for over 50 miles along the banks of the river from the Bluestone Dam to Hawk’s Nest State Park. Conservation of ecology, history and wildlife all play a major role in the park’s mission.
Being that Arches is one of the more well-known parks in the world, a great deal of work and consideration has gone into protecting the delicate desert ecosystem as well as the deceptively fragile rock formations throughout the park. There is a large focus on education and hiking trails as well.