After two days of hiking, break down camp (or check out of your hotel) and wake up early for a sunrise drive on Scenic Byway 12
toward Kodachrome Basin State Park, about 35 minutes from Bryce Canyon City. The park was named after the look of Kodak film when a National Geographic crew was taken by the dramatic colors of the monolithic spires during a visit to the area in the 1960s. Six short trails traverse the park along with one longer loop trail (the Panorama Loop), and the chimney-like spires that dot the park are not to be missed. There’s an option to reserve a campsite here (or a rustic bunkhouse
) for the night and visitors will be rewarded with incredible stargazing thanks to the lack of light pollution. Be sure to make a reservation in advance as spots fill up quickly.
In the morning, continue driving on Scenic Byway 12 toward Boulder. Stop in Escalante (about 50 minutes away) for breakfast or lunch. Thanks to its location on the byway, there’s no shortage of cafés and restaurants. Check out the French-inspired Mimi's Bakery & Deli and pick up snacks for the day at local favorite Escalante Mercantile, a natural grocery store.
Continue on the byway for another 20 minutes for an epic roundtrip hike and swim at Lower Calf Creek Falls
. (Note that this is a popular hike and there’s minimal parking available so this one should be saved for off-peak times. When on the trail, please respect your fellow hikers and the landscape by sticking to the path.) There’s also camping at the trailhead. If you’re planning on camping try to arrive early in the day to claim a site. The hike itself is a moderate six-mile loop. Expect about four hours depending on how long you wish to spend swimming at the 126-foot, waterfall-fed pool. The water is cold but refreshing after a somewhat taxing hike that winds through the red desert sand. Enjoy the lush vegetation and cooling mists before making your way back to the trailhead.
If you’re not camping, head to Boulder
, just 20 minutes up the byway from the trailhead. (Campers will also want to head to town for a memorable meal in the morning.) The town is home to a thriving restaurant scene. Stop by the Burr Trail Grill
for contemporary comfort food or visit Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm
which is only open seasonally, so be sure to check in advance. The Boulder Mountain Lodge
is a cozy but classic spot for a restful last night.
Before leaving town, visit the Anasazi State Park Museum
to explore the cultural heritage of the area. The site was once home to one of the most populous Anasazi (respectfully known as Ancestral Puebloan) settlements west of the Colorado River. Now a preserved archaeological site, don’t miss the self-guided tour that winds through ruins and a replica pueblo for a cultural experience that will deepen your appreciation of this exceptional place.