Dixie National Forest

Dixie National Forest

We passed by the Dixie National Forest on our way from Zion Canyon National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park. Though we didn't stay to look around, I was impressed by the intense reds of the Navaho Sandstone and greens of the trees and plants that have adapted to this environment. It felt as though someone had increased the saturation setting on my eyes.

Tangled Roots at Bryce Canyon

Tangled Roots at Bryce Canyon

As I mentioned in a post about this photo, I was captivated by the number of trees that clung to the edges of canyon rim. The park signs and literature stressed the erosion of the ever-changing landscape. I can't help but wonder how long this tree has been hanging on for dear life.

The Friendly Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

The Friendly Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

Many of the animals in national parks are very friendly towards visitors despite a strict policy against feeding wildlife. This particular golden-mantled ground squirrel came upon us while we were taking a break for lunch. He didn't get any food, but he certainly gave us some nice poses

Quaking at the Approaching Storm

Quaking at the Approaching Storm

Hiking in the canyon-lands of Utah can be dangerous when infrequent downpours appear in the forecast. The water can rip through the narrow canyons and create dangerous situations for hikers. Despite a low chance of rain, we still saw ominous storm clouds above us as we hiked through the canyon basin. This quaking aspen is a rare sight near the canyon rim. These trees generally grow near the few rivers and streams in the area.

The Rim of Paunsaugunt Plateau

The Rim of Paunsaugunt Plateau

This is a view towards the south along the eastern rim of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. As you can see, the step cliff face is covered by trees above and below. 

Wide Hollow Reservoir

Wide Hollow Reservoir

This view of Wide Hollow Reservoir is from the petrified forest trail at Escalante State Park along Utah Highway 12. Though relatively small compared to the nearby national parks, Escalante State Park is removed from the impacts of modern society.

Dead Tree in Capitol Reef

Dead Tree in Capitol Reef

This was one of the first photos I took at Capitol Reef National Park. We had pulled over and saw the spectacular cliff-faces stretching north and south. It was quite the sight. It's no wonder early settlers called it a barrier reef. It appeared there was no break in these high plateaus. 

Hickman Bridge at Capitol Reef

Hickman Bridge at Capitol Reef

We spent most of our time in the canyons of the water pocket at Capitol Reef. This is a shot of Hickman Bridge after you hike underneath it. There are probably better angles to take photos from that show the sky underneath the bridge, but I was too timid to diverge from the assigned trail. It's certainly a sight to see if you visit Capitol Reef.

A view from the Grand Wash

A view from the Grand Wash

An early arrival at the Grand Wash trail will not only beat the crowds, but allow you to walk in the shade of the canyon walls before the sun can heat things up. It made for some challenging photography without the aid of a circular polarizer.

A view from the Tanks at Capitol Reef

A view from the Tanks at Capitol Reef

If you hike along the Grand Wash trail, you'll come across a short spur that leads you to the Tanks, a formation in the rocks that traps water during the infrequent rains. The trail is winding and very challenging, but the views are amazing.

More views from the Tanks

More views from the Tanks

This is another view from the Tanks trail.

The Tanks at Capitol Reef

The Tanks at Capitol Reef

Though it's hard to see, the light patch of rock near the center of the photo is a crevice that makes up some of the Tanks. The water has gouged out the softer rock and created a space in the impermeable rock that holds water during the dry spells between storms. These desert ponds give life to algae, small frogs, and other life that would otherwise die in the desert environment. 

Holes in the wall at Capitol Reef

Holes in the wall at Capitol Reef

Similar to the mechanism that created the Tanks, the softer rock in the walls at Capitol Reef give way to the rushing water, creating these holes. They are scattered throughout the park, but are most prevalent in the washes and canyons, where water rushes through during rainstorms.

Rock Textures

Rock Textures

Similar to the Tanks and wall holes, this rough surface feature is created when harder rock pieces are exposed as the soft rock is blown or washed away. You can see the uplift in this photo that caused the rock to angle upwards.

Sign-Posts in the Grand Wash

Sign-Posts in the Grand Wash

We noticed regularly spaced holes and metal rods above us on the walls of the Grand Wash. As it once served as the primary road through the Capitol Reef, I can only assume that these used to carry signs that warned of rock slides, flooding, uneven surfaces and narrowing passages ahead. It's hard to believe that this rough path was used by wagons and cars until the early 20th Century.

Slopes of the Grand Wash

Slopes of the Grand Wash

The Grand Wash is more than sheer cliff-faces. There are also piles of boulders that create slopes up to the wash's rim.

Grand Wash scale

Grand Wash scale

It's hard to believe how big everything is until you see the geologic features of Capitol Reef up close. Just look at how small these hikers are in comparison to the walls of the Grand Wash.

The walls of Zion National Park

The walls of Zion National Park

This view, from the Upper Emerald Pools trail, was a spectacular sight to see in the afternoon. Unlike Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon, the floors and rim of Zion Canyon are covered in vegetation.

Splitting the Rock

Splitting the Rock

I'm always impressed when I see the power of nature first hand. You don't think that mere roots could split open a rock, and then you see this. Sure, water probably started the split, but the roots certainly did a good job of cracking it open the rest of the way.

The walls from the Weeping Rock Trail

The walls from the Weeping Rock Trail

This view is from the tree-covered trail to the Weeping Rock at Zion Canyon. Water seeps through the upper layers of porous rock only to be forced out through the canyon walls once it reaches the impermeable layers. Though this photo is not of the actual feature, the trail has some amazing views.

The Narrows of Zion National Park

The Narrows of Zion National Park

One of Zion National Park's most famous features is The Narrows, a slot canyon that serves as beginning of the canyon. The only way to hike through the narrows is to wade through the Virgin River. If you are lucky and can get a permit, you may even get to hike through The Subway, which lies beyond The Narrows.

Squirrels at Zion

Squirrels at Zion

We came across this squirrel enjoying a nut at Zion National Park. They are frequently seen along the Riverside Walk trail due to its popularity with park visitors. It's unfortunate that some park visitors feed the wild animals despite the park policy against this activity. As a result, many fattened squirrels line the path, waiting for free handouts. I'm not sure what this squirrel is eating, but we were lucky enough to see another squirrel working on a beetle he caught.

Deer at Zion

Deer at Zion

We spotted this deer from the Riverside Walk Trail. It can be challenging getting a photo of deer while visiting the park as many of the visitors pause to take photos and watch them forage for food. This can clog up the trails and make it difficult for others to see or proceed during deer sightings.