Because we had to leave Yellowstone a few days earlier than planned, due to the bad weather, it gave us the opportunity to insert some additions into our trip home.
Yellowstone Bear World – About 80 miles from West Yellowstone, in the town of Rexburg, Idaho, is a private drive-through reserve that includes animals native to the Yellowstone area. If you didn’t get to see these animals up close in Yellowstone itself, this is a good opportunity. Elk, deer and bison roam around, sometimes crossing the road in front of you. (There were also three moose, but they were in a hard-to-photograph location.) Mountain goats have their own separate section.
Three grizzly bears entertained us with their antics.
A couple of dozen black bears were really the heart of this park, and they even have large round tubes that they use for shelter and even hibernating.
Once you park your car near the gift shop (of course), you can walk out to see the black bear cubs wrestling with and chasing each other—truly a highlight. Bear World was our first fun detour, and we appreciate the recommendation from Angela!
Heading south into Utah, we spent two nights in Cedar City, so we could explore two parks we had previously visited, but not for many years. We love exploring the red rock parks of the American Southwest, so this was an unexpected treat to add into our itinerary.
Zion National Park has an isolated corner section just a mile off Interstate-15, called Kolob Canyons. Its 5-mile scenic drive is lovely just before sunset.
We also hiked the 1-mile round trip Timber Creek Trail to enjoy Kolob Canyons as the setting sun heightened the already-red features.
Next morning, we went back to the Kolob Canyons area (about 20 miles south of Cedar City) to hike the 5-mile round trip Taylor Creek Trail. With 55 stream crossings each way, the hike provided beautiful views of fall leaf colors and so many angles of red rock formations, our cameras got worn out.
The trail ends where the sides of the canyon come together at the Double Arch Alcove, where we tried to take in the magnitude of the formations we were seeing. While still chilly at times, this was the first day that we began to thaw out from our cold weather adventures of the previous two weeks.
Both of these hikes were moderate, with some short climbs followed by lots of level portions. Both trails were very well maintained. Thank you, National Park Service and volunteers!
In the afternoon we headed about 20 miles east of Cedar City to visit Cedar Breaks National Monument, climbing from 6,000 feet in Cedar City to over 10,000 feet in elevation at the visitor center. We had only visited Cedar Breaks once before (over 10 years ago), hiking the Alpine Pond Trail at that time.
This time we hiked the Spectra Point trail, a 2-mile round trip out-and-back trail to a stand of ancient bristlecone pine trees. The only other place we have seen these trees is in Eastern California, again above 10,000 feet in elevation, and then we had to drive 50 miles on a very isolated road through the White Mountains to get to the trees.
Ancient bristlecone pine trees are considered the oldest living organisms on the planet. Some are 2000 years old or more. They’re not huge because they grow so little each year in these very harsh climates. Amazing to see what can thrive at 10,000 feet!
Around every corner of our hike and the subsequent scenic drive were glorious views of the amphitheater that is Cedar Breaks. These rock formations, many of which are hoodoos (or tent rocks), are very similar to what is found at Bryce Canyon National Park, but without the crowded conditions.
Being at Cedar Breaks just before sunset helped to make the red rock even redder and provided one picturesque view after another. If you haven’t visited Cedar Breaks and you love red rock or Bryce Canyon, be sure to add it to your bucket list.
So those were our delightful detours, Yellowstone Bear World, the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park, and Cedar Breaks National Monument, added into our trip because Yellowstone was cut short. A quick stop at Calico Ghost Town Campground at the end of our trip gave us a chance for some crazy fun before heading home (next post will be from our November dive trip).