Vanlife diaries #12: Zion, Kanab & Bryce Canyon
After some much-needed rest and relaxation at the start of the week, we ended up enjoying another string of busy days, joining several awesome canyoneering tours around Zion, then hanging out on the shores of Lake Powell, and finally squeezing in a few hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park.
What we’ve been up to this week
Over the past several weeks, the blog and I have been involved in 5 collaborations with local companies, which is always an amazing way to experience a new place (but also a considerable amount of work).
The busiest collab day yet was this Tuesday, when we joined a half day canyoneering tour in East Zion followed immediately by a UTV tour to Peekaboo Slot Canyon.
Read more: THE BEST HALF-DAY CANYONEERING TOUR WITH EAST ZION EXPERIENCES
Both canyons we explored were incredibly beautiful, all narrow orange walls and swirled sandstone, but we had a particularly good time canyoneering.
Apparently invented in the Zion area, canyoneering involves rappelling deep into desert canyons and then making your way through by means of scrambling, hiking, down-climbing, sliding, and still more rappelling. It’s no easy task, but it’s also one of the most incredible, adrenaline-inducing, mentally-demanding, insanely exciting outdoor adventures I’ve ever experienced!
We followed up our adventure-packed day in the canyons by driving across the border and out to Lake Powell, where we spent the afternoon drinking blended margaritas and cooking homemade tacos at Lone Rock Beach.
It was insanely beautiful and we had an amazing day in the sun, but we were also sad to hear from a local family that the water level was lower than they’d ever seen it. In fact, the lake is only holding about 35% of its full capacity right now due to the ongoing drought in Arizona. By drinking more beer, we can all do our part.
After a leisurely day at the lake, we headed back to East Zion for another day of canyoneering, this time into the much larger and more challenging Rock Canyon.
One of our guides from the first canyoneering tour earlier this week had highly recommended this full-day backcountry canyon as something we were ready for, and we were incredibly eager to get our hands dirty and test our skills.
Lucky enough to get the guide all to ourselves on what was essentially a private tour, we were able to spend much of the day learning how to set up anchors, eight blocks, and safety belays— all essential knowledge for canyoneering on our own.
Not only was the day an awesome crash-course in canyoneering, it was also a massive leap forward in difficulty from the last canyon we’d done and therefore a much more “real” experience in many ways.
Although incredibly fun, Ladder Canyon was a low-risk, beginner tour through a beautiful slot Canyon, while this was real backcountry canyoneering— the demand on each of us was much higher as we had to climb down and out of massive potholes in the rock, scramble along rough terrain, and down-climb nearly a hundred feet through an incredibly sandy crack.
At many points, there was no margin for error and no safety net. The reward, though, was getting to experience true canyoneering.
Read more: ROCK CANYON: THE ULTIMATE BACKCOUNTRY CANYONEERING TOUR WITH EAST ZION EXPERIENCES
Energised by another amazing day of canyoneering, we finally left Zion behind and headed to Bryce Canyon for the weekend— an interesting choice, considering that it was (unbeknownst to us at the time) Memorial Day Weekend.
The park was definitely busy (still not even a fraction of the people at Zion on a random Tuesday), but we managed to find relative solitude on the Fairyland Loop (8mi), Mossy Cave (1mi), and more distant viewpoints along the Scenic Drive.
Having both visited Bryce late last year, two days was enough at the park, but it was still amazing to see all the hoodoos under sun rather than snow— when dad, Eileen, and I were here, a massive snowstorm rolled through and blanketed everything in powder.
Honestly, I think winter is even more beautiful, but it’s hard to beat the comfortable temps and longer daylight hours of spring!
Where we stayed this week
After a slightly bloody UTV mishap at the start of the week, we ended up spending 2 days in a hotel. It always feels like a waste when we have such a comfortable van, but the stays were simply unavoidable considering the mess we had to deal with. Aside from the unplanned hotel stays, we spent the rest of the week camping for free on Forest Service or BLM land, exactly how we like it!
- EconoLodge St George, UT ($47; 24 May)
- Boondocking on BLM land near Mt Carmel Junction, UT (free; 25 May)
- Rodeway Inn Big Water, UT ($52; 26 May)
- Boondocking on BLM land near Mt Carmel Junction, UT (free; 27 May)
- Boondocking on Forest Service land near Bryce Canyon National Park, UT (free; 28 May)
- Boondocking on Toms Best Spring Road near Bryce Canyon National Park, UT (free; 29 May)
- Mt Nebo/North Peak Trailhead near Mona, UT (free; 30 May)
What we spent this week
With our unplanned hotel stays and lots of activity costs, this was a really expensive week for us. Our only saving grace was the fact that we didn’t travel super far and therefore saved on fuel, plus kept eating costs pretty low, but we’re definitely hoping not to repeat this week anytime soon.
- Groceries: $65
- Eating out: $45
- Fuel: $11
- Accommodation: $108
- Activities: $200