The day after I got to Salt Lake City we drove about 4 hours down to Bryce Canyon National Park. This park is famous for its “hoodoos” which are spires of eroded rock sitting in rows, most famously in the “amphitheater” area. We stayed near the old lodge in the park (inside the park they have the lodge, cabins (single or duplex), and two “motels,” so the motel was all they had left by the time I made reservations and we were probably lucky to get that because the town outside the park is pretty junky) which was just a short walk from the amphitheater.
It was late afternoon by the time we got there so we went to the visitor’s center to get oriented, then checked in at the lodge. We walked over to the amphitheater area and walked along the rim between Sunrise and Sunset Points. The hoodoos have a lot of different formations as they slowly erode, forming narrow ridges, then sometimes windows or arches along those spines, and then individual spires along those spines. There is a harder layer of rock on top that protects the softer rock below and as the harder rock cracks, the rock below starts to disappear, making everything look like drip castles you make at the beach only with different color layers (and bigger).
Part of what drives the erosion is the freeze/thaw cycle as water finds its way into a crack. Then it freezes during the cold night, expanding and forcing the crack open more. During the day the ice melts and seeps further down into the crack where it will freeze again and start the cycle over. They said that at Bryce they get 200 freeze/thaw cycles per year. Even though it was pretty hot elsewhere, it got down to 40 degrees at night when we were there.
The next morning we hiked down into the canyon (despite the name, it is not actually a canyon since there isn’t another side wall; instead it is actually a plateau) which gives a better appreciation for the size of the hoodoos. We walked down in an area called Wall Street because it is like going in between tall skyscrapers. At the bottom there is a narrow passageway which then opens up into the bottom of the plateau.
After that hike it was time to head to Zion, but we drove through the viewing points first, including one with a natural bridge (though they said technically it is an arch).