Thanksgiving 2019 – Zion and Bryce Canyon

Every year since I moved to Colorado back in 1999, I try to spend part or all of the Thanksgiving holiday outside.

There have been a handful of exceptions (my on-call rotation coming up a few times back in my IT days; going to Rhode Island after I completed the CDT) over the years. But being outside during this block of time is something I’ve been doing long before REI came up with a marketing campaign.

And I am not unique in that regard. For many of the friends, I made back in Colorado, a four-day block of time is a gift too precious to pass up.

So we camp, hike, or backpack. Often together, and usually somewhere on the Colorado Plateau.

The running joke for Marni and Josh, in particular, is that my backside made a permanent indention on the back seat of their Subaru they drove for many years.

In short, Thanksgiving means being outside. And being outside with people I am among the most grateful for in my life.

Our Thanksgiving meal on the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 2017.

And this year is no exception.

Joan and I spent a week with our dear friends in both Zion and Bryce Canyon. We hiked, enjoyed some excellent food, and reveled in experiencing a different part of the Colorado Plateau from Moab.

But first, we made a bonus side trip to Fremont Indian State Park on our way to Zion.  As you can gather from the name of the park, the park is well-known for the Fremont people who frequented this area. The area itself made a travel corridor between the Colorado Plateau and points further west up to the Great Basin.

And the area boasts some rare pictoglyphs (etched rock painted upon).

The night-time temps dropped to 16F. But our cold-weather gear and sleep system made us rather cozy at night. And spending a couple of hours talking to our lone campground neighbor, in her heated camper, certainly helped a bit, too. Talie’s stories of her many travels proved to be the perfect accompaniment over some hot cider on a chilly evening.

Up in the cold morning. PCO Joan.

We delayed our trip a bit to Zion as a friend had some auto hiccups and could no longer join us. But the rest of the gang pushed on, and we all met up at the Watchman Campground in Zion. For three nights, we’d call this place home. A bit busier than where Joan and I usually spend our outdoor time, but the fact we could spend it with friends over a holiday meant a lot.

Our home for a few days. PCO Joan


Start of the famous Zion Narrows.

The famous Zion Canyon is not exactly a remote wilderness. But it is stunning. And memorable. And sharing it with friends only makes the place that much more enjoyable.

Even if we had to cram into the buses a bit at times. 🙂

PCO Joan.

The weather patterns changed, and some cold rain came through, but another way of enjoying the park only presented itself.

But more than the canyon walls, I think seeing a California Condor soaring just above our heads will always be among the most memorable moments of the trip.

Though the canyons and rocks never seemed too shabby, either.

Before making our way to Bryce, and a shared house rental for the holiday itself, we hiked in a small slot canyon outside of the park. We clambered, scooted, and slid a bit through the narrow walls.

We arrived in Panguitch, took a much-needed shower, and kept it local with the falling snow, increasingly slick roads, and cold. Perhaps a heated house with an abundance of food for Thanksgiving would not be a terrible place to spend the holiday?  And with the news of what happened in northern Arizona, a fortuitous choice for Joan and I vs. our original plans.

A stroll to the various stores before the worse of the snow came.

We did spend Friday in Bryce. The NPS did excellent work opening part of the park despite the two-feet of snow in Bryce proper.

At the Bryce visitors center

Snow-shoes or skis may have been better to explore the immediate trail area.

But the famous Sunset Point soon opened up. We all threw on our microspikes and ambled along.

The words “breathtaking,” “magical,” and “beautiful” echoed from the fellow park visitors as we walked down among the hoodoos and rock formations.

And they were right.

Elijah noticed me taking photos of everyone and insisted on taking a picture of Joan and me with my camera. I admit my hesitance to take photos of myself overall. But Elijah shows talent at a young age with photography, and I am happy to encourage him. And, well, I think Joan’s smile says how happy she might be to have a rare photo of us posing together. 🙂

After our Bryce Canyon excursion, we made an all-too-brief trip to nearby BLM land. A bit less-visited but just as stunning as the park, it seems in many ways.

Back at the house, we ate a feast of post-Thanksgiving leftovers, packed up, and readied ourselves for the drive back to Moab on Saturday morning.

I love my friends and grateful for another holiday spent with them on the Colorado Plateau. And I forward to creating more memories with them in the future.

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4 years ago

Great pics of Bryce Canyon with snow. Makes me want to do another hike in the snow.

What trail are you on? Some of the pics look like their from along the rim. One looks like it might be Fairyland Loop, but I’m not sure. Loved hiking that trail. I’ve never hiked Bryce in the snow.

4 years ago

Hi there! My family of four did this same trip over break just a few days earlier – we were at Watchman campground on Sat/Sun and Bryce on Monday before heading to Sedona for Thanksgiving. 🙂 Bryce was so incredible dusted with snow!
I was wondering where that Slot Canyon is located and what it’s called?