Utah Trip Part 2 (Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park)
We started Monday hiking the Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon. The trailhead is located outside the main park and when we arrived shortly after sunrise there was only one other car in the lot. This was a relatively easy one mile hike with incredible scenery including hoodoos, a waterfall and a cave.
We then headed south to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and on the way stopped for two short hikes in the Kanab District of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Grand Staircase is a huge federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. At 1.9 million acres it is slightly larger than the state of Delaware.
Our first stop was to see the Belly of the Dragon tunnel under Highway 89. This is a short walk through a man-made tunnel that was created to divert water under the highway. It is more of a roadside attraction than hike but worth the stop (there is a hike that continues past the tunnel but we were short on time).
We then hiked a section of the Elkheart Cliffs Slot Canyon in Grand Staircase. We learned of the trail after seeing the trailhead labeled on Google Maps. We started down the trail and although we did not have time to get down into the slot canyon we did enjoy excellent views of Grand Staircase Escalante. The trail was unmarked and initially follows a jeep trail before branching off.
The highlight of our day was an one hour ATV tour of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The 3,700 acre state park has 1,200 acres of naturally occurring sand Dunes, 90 percent of which are open to ATV tours. The tour leads throughout the entire park and ends on a large sand dune before returning to the rental center. This was far more exciting than we anticipated given it was a guided tour.
Our final stop of the day was the east side of Zion National Park. We had intended on hiking a lesser known trail but when we could not find the trailhead we stopped at a pullout to take some pictures. We noticed an unmarked trail leading down from the pullout and followed it to a short slot canyon. It was incredible to explore and we had it all to ourselves, which was amazing considering we waited in traffic to get into the park.