By Lisa Valentine
A real vacation isn’t on the table for 2020, but if you’re fortunate enough to live near a state or national park, you can pretend for a day or even an overnight getaway.
My sister and I recently drove the 4½ hours from our home in Las Vegas to visit Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. We did our research and ruled out taking the park shuttle, although at the time of our trip in mid-June, Bryce was offering limited shuttle service. Although the park’s website said the shuttle (the size of a school bus) was limited to 20 passengers at a time, it was a hard pass for us.
Fortunately, Bryce is very drivable, and the park’s scenic drive (38 miles round-trip) has plenty of opportunities to park and enjoy 13 scenic viewpoints.
We went to the park on a Tuesday, when we saw a lot of RVs leaving from the past weekend. Our pass was good for seven days, but we were able to see everything we wanted in one, although we did spend the night in Bryce Canyon City so we wouldn’t have to journey back to Vegas until the next day.
Our first stop was the incredibly popular Sunset Point, with access to the Navajo Loop Trail that takes you down the rim. I wore my mask outside at all times and made sure to social distance, although I was in the minority at this stop. Most people weren’t wearing masks, and attempts to social distance seemed half-hearted at best despite stickers provided by park staff. The lines for the bathroom also did not have much social distancing going on, so that’s something to consider.
Overall, the park wasn’t very crowded, and many parts of the scenic drive had almost no traffic. We were able to drive through and make all the stops we wanted in just under 3 hours (we did not hike). Temperatures were perfect in the 80s with a bit of light rain. Nighttime temps even in summer dip down into the 40s here.
We stayed at the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel (not to be confused with the older Best Western Ruby’s Inn), which looked to be following COVID-19 safety measures. All staff had masks, lines were carefully socially distanced (although we elected to skip the complimentary breakfast buffet), and our room was very clean.
We wore our masks at all times outside our room, but I would say only about 60 percent of the guests were wearing masks.
I felt like our overnight trip was relatively low-risk since we spent a majority of our time riding in the car or enjoying views of the canyon far from other people. Probably the most risky thing we did was wait in line to pick up food at a small barbecue restaurant in nearby Tropic. We took our order to-go and ate in our hotel room.
One of the highlights of the trip (at this point in 2020, standards are low for “highlights”) was our discovery of Wanderlust Cowgirl Coffee in Panguitch, Utah. This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, drive-up coffee stand is in the parking lot of a gas station, but, holy cow, they had the best coffee I’ve ever had. And their Texan-style kolache (I had bacon, egg and cheese) was absolutely amazing.
The best coffee Lisa, a confirmed coffee aficionado, ever had and the delicious Texan-style kolache from Wanderlust Cowgirl Coffee.