Learn about visiting Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks with children.
Today’s Exploring Geography post comes from Danielle, whose goal is to expose her kids to 52 new experiences this year!
Last November, I took my kids to southern Utah for a national park vacation. Utah is home to 5 national parks, but we kept it simple and visited two of them. Both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are spectacular, but very different in their appearance.
Zion National Park is known for its beautiful valley, surrounded by cliffs made of many layers of rock. The canyon that is the center of the park was carved out of rock by the Virgin River. You would think that a river would have to be very swift and fast to carve such a steep canyon. My children and I were very surprised to see that the Virgin River appears lazy and narrow. We suppose that is why the river took millions of years to create the canyon! The canyon floor is lush with trees and flowers because of the river’s waters. As we hiked higher into the park, we noticed that the land became very dry.
Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park are part of something that geologists call the Grand Staircase. The top layer of rock found in Zion National Park is the bottom layer of rock at Bryce Canyon. So, the rock layers we saw in Bryce Canyon were quite different from what we saw at Zion National Park. In fact, Bryce Canyon is not a “real” canyon. It was not carved by a river. Instead, it was created (and is still being created) by water seeping into the rock and freezing inside the cracks. Eventually, the cracks expand and break the rocks. Over time, arches are formed and eventually break into the “hoodoos” that are unique to Bryce Canyon.
We enjoyed looking out over the canyon and walking along the rim. Unfortunately, we could not hike into the canyon because there was too much snow on the ground. We weren’t too disappointed because we knew that snow would eventually melt and freeze again– creating more hoodoos for us to see on our next visit!
Teaching about geology and the forces of the earth can be very complicated, but learning about rocks is fun for kids of all ages! Here are a few books that relate to geology that my children have enjoyed: Let’s Go Rock Collecting by Roma Gans The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth by Joanna Cole Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough by Natalie Rosinsky
Thank you, Danielle for this fantastic post with such inspiring pictures! I definitely want to take my kids to visit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, someday!