I haven’t quite figured out yet what it means to visit great places like Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park a second time, except that it is a privilege. I was fortunate enough to visit these national parks again, now with my family in tow, after having seen them 22 years ago when I did my first big cross-country road trip with my sister.

One aspect of me having been there before is that my family deferres to me: “So what is there to see?” But how could I possibly describe what there is to see in Bryce Canyon? You can’t even describe it – yes, it’s created by erosion and is full of hoodoos, as the rock formations are called, but what makes it different from other canyons?

Bryce Canyon: Hiking the Queens Garden Trail
back up to the rim after going
down the Navajo Trail

Like any natural wonder, it’s its own place, and you will grasp what it is when you spot it for the first time, and perhaps, if you’re lucky like me, you will take another deep breath when you see it again for the second time – ah yes, this is why people drive miles to see this, and hike hours in the heat to see it from the bottom, and to press their shutter buttons a thousand times to catch this view or that formation.

Based on my two prior visits to the Grand Canyon, I chose to go to the North Rim again – it’s less crowded and cooler, and the sites are just as – well, grand. Luckily, we even found a shady, moderate trail that not “everybody and their mother” was on, to quote one of my sons. After the rather crowded hike we’d done in Bryce, he wanted peace. The Widforss Trail winds up a wooded mountain side and, through the pines now and then, provides breathtaking views of the canyon.

On our way back, a thunder storm chased us and we just made it to our car before it started to rain. So – we experienced the wide open views of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim Visitor Center right after the air had been washed clean.

Driving into Zion National Park from the east, the rocks look as if scraped into their conical shapes by some some giant wire brush. The hairpin curves and steep inclines reminded me of another such road – the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, except at Zion the rocks are that rich, russet red, and the whole park is a festival of sharp color contrasts: red rocks, cloudless sky, and abundant trees.

Zion National Park – the hole in the middle of the
picture is the entrance to the 1.1 mile long tunnel
on the Mt. Carmel Highway.
Waterfall at the Lower Emerald Pool

Zion is also a furnace as it gets hotter as you descend, and by 11 a.m. it’s 90F. We opted to arrive early to take the shuttle (the main part of the canyon is closed to traffic) and were hiking to the Emerald Pools at 8 a.m. On our way up, we were rewarded by a fairly serene trail that was swarming with people on our way back. We made it all the way to the Upper Emerald Pool but having done that I must say the Lower Emerald Pool is, in my opinion, the most beautiful.