Editor's note: This is a special advertiser-supported article from the Essential Park Guide, Summer 2014.
It sounds counterintuitive to head to the Utah desert this summer to cool off. But Utah is an enigma: it is desert, canyons, and high mountains in one trip. You find groves of Ponderosa pines and wildflower meadows in abundance in Bryce Canyon National Park. The days are warm, the nights are chilly. The view of the desert is astounding, and at night visibility is measured in light-years.
Travelers from around the world come to Bryce to marvel at what time, wind, and water have created: an amphitheater of pinnacles, pillars, and hoodoos. The rosy morning sunlight on the red, orange, and cream-colored limestone is pure magic, and a photographerâs dream.
But, unless you want to drive up Red Canyon from Highway 89 in the dark, itâs best to spend the night here, either at one of the nearby lodges or campgrounds. The parkâs North and Sunset campgrounds fill up fast, but if youâd rather have a warmer experience, then stop at Rubyâs Inn at the park entrance.
In 1916 Reuben âRubyâ Syrett built his family ranch on this high, forested ridge, and soon was showing visitors the wonders of the area. That led to his Tourist Rest lodge a few years later. Then, in 1923, Bryce was designated a national monument, a development that lured more visitors and turned Rubyâs into the de facto base camp from which daily excursions into the monument were launched. In the ensuing decades this hostelryâaffectionately known by locals and repeat visitors simply as Rubyâs Innâcontinued to evolve, adding post office, cafe, gas station, an RV and tent campground with 180 sites, and three lodges with a total of 700 rooms: Best Western Plus Rubyâs Inn, Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel, and the Bryce View Lodge.
These days youâll also find a rock shop, photo supplies, and an auto mechanic on site, too. Itâs just about the center of activity at Bryce Canyon.
Thereâs a lot to do up here at Rubyâs, from horseback rides, ATV and mountain bike rides and rodeos to helicopter tours. If youâre looking for one-of-a-kind merchandise, the gift shop offers everything from ice cream and fishing tackle to native jewelry, artworks, and the requisite postcards. Start your day with a calorie-intense breakfast for a long day hike, or finish the day with dinner, a swim in the innâs pool, and a soft bed. Summer is the busy season, so call ahead to reserve one of Rubyâs 700 rooms, or one of their 180 campsites.
Inside the park, walk the rim, bike the trails, or hike the trails. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday throughout the summer attend one of the parkâs star parties, where Bryce Canyonâs âdark rangersâ will guide you across the night skies, and offer you some time at one of their telescopes.
Then return to Rubyâs and cozy up in front of a blazing fire in the lobby and make plans to return come winter when snow falls deep and snowshoes or cross-country skis are the gear on which you tour the fairyland of stone. Itâs a magical spot. You might even run into some of the Syrett family, who know how to welcome visitors with genuine Western hospitality.