National Park Road Trip 2011: Bryce Canyon National Park
Editor's note: Having fled the snowy North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, our intrepid lodging experts, touring the West to update their book, The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges, find themselves...at snowy Bryce Canyon National Park.
Greetings from snow-covered Bryce Canyon National Park. It started snowing the other night while we were having dinner in the lodge dining room. Huge flakes drifting past the dining room windows made for an enjoyable dining experience.
It was still snowing as we sat in the main lodge building getting ready to check out. Unfortunately, the huge stone fireplaces in both the lodge dining room and lobby have structural issues and are not currently being used. During previous trips guests would have been gathered around the glowing lobby fireplace.
We arrived in Bryce Canyon in the late afternoon following a 175-mile drive from the snow-covered North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The day was cool, but not unpleasant, and we stopped for lunch in Kanab, a small Utah town situated in a picture postcard setting. Three years ago we were tenting on the North Rim until the below-freezing temperatures drove us out and we spent two nights at a private campground in Kanab. An interesting motel on the north end of town -- the Parry Lodge -- has hosted many famous actors and actresses who made movies in the area decades ago.
Bryce Canyon has always been one of our favorite national parks, in part, because it never seems crowded. The National Park Service operates a free shuttle along the 18-mile scenic drive from early May to early October. This helps keep traffic down. In addition, Bryce Canyon Lodge is a relatively small facility with a little over 100 rooms. A small lodge, relatively light visitation, and beautiful scenery make for a wonderful place to visit.
Bryce Canyon has the only remaining original lodge constructed in this region by the Union Pacific Railroad. The UP once brought tourists to Cedar City, where they would be shuttled to lodges in Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the North Rim. The original lodges at the North Rim and Zion burned and were replaced.
The concession at Bryce Canyon lodge is held by Forever Resorts, which won the bid two years ago. Previously, the lodge was operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the company that currently holds the concession at Zion Lodge.
You might notice in one of our photos that roofs on the buildings have been shingled with cedar shakes in a wavy pattern. This pattern gives a three-dimensional effect when viewing the roofs. Reroofing these buildings is very labor intensive and would cost about $100,000 per cabin and $1 million for the main lodge. Preserving history isn’t inexpensive.
This is our sixth stay in Bryce Canyon Lodge. We generally stay only a single night, in part because the lodge is relatively small, which makes it easy for us to update our material. Except for three suites and a studio in the historic main building, the lodge has 40 virtually identical cabins, plus two motel/lodge-type buildings with 70 identical guest rooms.
The Western Cabins could use a little work, but are still our favorite place to stay at Bryce. They are roomy, have a large covered porch, are convenient to the main lodge building, and offer the ambiance appropriate for a national park stay. Some of these log-beamed cabins have vaulted ceilings, which makes them even better. Perhaps best of all is the gas fireplace in each cabin. For the current season Western Cabins are renting for $175 a night.
Although the concessionaire classifies the remaining 70 rooms as “motel units,” we have always considered them nicer than might be inferred from that description, and feel they would be better described as “lodge units.” They are large and offer two queen beds and a private balcony. According to regional manager Jimmy Gomes, plans call for completing a remodeling of the motel units prior to the 2012 season. This will include new furniture, carpeting, window treatment, etc. Motel units currently rent for $165, but are likely to increase in price following the remodeling.
From Bryce Canyon we set off on the 100-mile drive to Zion National Park and a one-night stay at Zion Lodge. Zion is at a lower altitude and it will almost certainly be warmer than here at Bryce. Lodging in Zion is very similar to the lodging here at Bryce Canyon. We wouldn’t mind a little sunshine.