National Park Hop: Day Three | Bryce Canyon & Capital Reef

We woke early to watch the sun rise over Zion from Lava Point Lookout. Our only other companions were a few deer prancing through the trees and a melody of birds welcoming the day.

We brought whole beans with us from one of our favorite local coffee shops in San Diego, Coffee & Tea Collective. After Luke rigorously ground the beans with his Porlex Grinder, he kindly made us each a cup with his Aeropress. Coffee and camping were made to go together.

And then we fried up some glazed donuts in leftover bacon grease. Yes, they were delicious.

We said goodbye to Zion and headed North on Kolob Terrace Road. The scenic route took us through endless fields, deserted farmland, and past aspen groves, which Kate couldn't get enough of. Eventually the decent dirt road road turned into one of the smoothest paved roads we've ever driven. Besides its beautiful landscape, Utah knows how to do nice roads.


Our original goal was just to head straight to Arches National Park on the most direct route. That quickly changed to the goal of continuing on the scenic route and using our National Parks Pass as much as we could along the way, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of our trip.

It felt good to make use of our National Parks Pass again as we officially made it to our second National Park stop, Bryce Canyon. We didn't spend a lot of time exploring, just enough to see the famous Hoodoos - those odd shaped pillars of rock protruding from the basin. They reminded us of the drip sand castles we made at the beach as kids.

Back on the road we headed Northeast on Scenic Byway 12 - a highway designated as an "All American Road" and known as one of the most beautiful highways in the world. We had never heard of it, but have to agree. It was one of the most beautiful parts of our drive.

We brought books and magazines to keep us entertained on the road, but found we just stared out the window most of the time. Big skies, multicolored mountains, and the open road. Not sure what we pictured of Utah before our trip, but it was much more breathtaking than we expected.

Lucky for us, our route took us through Capital Reef National Park, which is one park neither of us were very familiar with. We didn't technically enter the park or have to use our National Parks Pass, but got to check off the third park of our journey and see a really interesting variety of colorful rock formations. You'd think at this point we would have been bored and tired of seeing rock after rock, but were surprisingly still amazed at each turn.

(Kate collected gemstones as a child, so that may have helped a bit.)

Here it is in all its glory. The swaggin' wagon. This Odyssey took us on an odyssey and kept us in sweet comfort with its cushy leather seats, automatic sliding doors, and middle console drink cooler. Minivans have sure stepped up their game in the recent years. We were impressed.

We drove into a thunderstorm that didn't last long, but produced one of the most incredible double rainbows we have ever seen. It felt like we could reach out and touch it. We could see where each end hit the ground and considered searching for the pots of gold, but decided to stay on course. It was pretty magical.