Exploring Past the Horizon

Guest Blog Post by Southern Utah University Student, Emilee Sims

Having lived in Northern Utah, Southern Nevada, and Southern Utah, I have had easy access to a wide variety of stunning national parks. The Western United States is rich with stunning landscapes, unique wildlife and skies that one can’t find anywhere else. I myself have had the opportunity to live in Cedar City, Utah for the past 3 years while attending SUU which has created a rare experience of having several of the states most beloved national parks right in my backyard. There are roughly five or six that are within just a few hours drive.

There are several that I have absolutely loved and am looking forward to visiting again someday and many others that I have yet to explore. The short distances and array of hospitality offered makes Cedar City a popular destination spot for travelers who are looking to see our outdoor treasures. As someone who has visited and grew up around the parks, I’d like to give details about 3 specific places to visit and how to make the most of them.

Those 3 parks include Zion national Park, Bryce Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend found near Page, Arizona.

Kanarraville Falls (Near Zion)

I have visited this park probably more times than any of the other ones in my life. It is found perfectly in between my home in Las Vegas and my current home in Cedar City. I’ve had the opportunity to camp on site with family a few years ago as well as go on some hikes in the surrounding area. The park is full of lush green against the red rocks and sand which makes for a beautiful contrasting scenery in this part of Utah.

One of my favorite hikes to go on is actually just north of the Zion border called Kanarraville Falls.

I’ve been on this hike at least 4 times now because of how much I enjoy it. Not only that, but it is close to Cedar City which makes it convenient for locals and travelers. For this hike I would recommend going on a day in the spring or summer with temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees if possible. The hikers do the majority of the hike walking through some areas with water, so it’s also better to go with water shoes and on a day that isn’t rainy to avoid dangerous flash flooding. You’ll want to bring lots of drinking water as the most strenuous part of the hike is near the beginning with little to no shade. I would say that this hike is an easier hike as far as distance and terrain goes. Most of it has little to no uphill hiking until you get to the falls. Some people at this point will turn around and others climb to parts of the hike that are more rocky and therefore harder to hike. It’s all up to the hiker!

The reasons I absolutely love going on this hike is because the scenery and environment you get to walk through is absolutely stunning. The first section has a bit of a hill on the mountain side which provides a perfect view of the valley, horizon, and sky. The next part of the hike is very lush with trees, bushes, and wildlife of all kinds. This is where the water starts to appear which becomes refreshing to walk through when it’s on the warmer side. The last part of the hike is walking through narrows with large orange rocks on either side of you. The nature made structure is beautiful and interesting to look at. You will then approach a waterfall with a wood letter next to it. The waterfall itself is pretty to look at, but if you are one to enjoy harder hikes then I would recommend going up the latter where it will be more of a rocky hike. Overall this is a great place to see if you get the chance to! It’s perfect to go on with a friend or with your family. 

Bryce Canyon National park

One of my favorite memories that I’ve experienced while living in Cedar City was going to Bryce Canyon National Park, an american monument established in 1923. I went on a whim with one of my now best friends, and it was incredible. The park is mainly known for the view of its unique geology which forms intricate rock structures found within the canyon. There are several things to do and hikes to go on while you’re there, but for times sake we did 2 of them. Because Bryce Canyon’s main feature is just that, a deep canyon with impressive, striped rock structures, we were able to walk some of the upper perimeter to see down into the rock structures of the canyon.

This was exciting because we were able to get perfect views from trails that most of the tourists that were there weren’t walking on. It seemed that every angle that we looked at it from it always offered something new and beautiful to look at. Basically, Bryce Canyon is very photogenic. With that being said, make sure to bring a camera! After this portion of the day we decided to go on the Queen’s Garden hike that was offered down in the actual canyon. Doing so gave us a different perspective of what the canyon looked like from a completely different perspective. We hiked a loop and had a close up look of the wildlife. Doing so was not originally part of the plan, but it became a favorite memory of that day.

Some other hikes and places that you could see while you’re there include Navajo Loop that features rock structures named Thor’s Hammer and Two Bridges, or Sheep Creek which gives the hiker a better view of the park’s quiet environment scenery (one not as crowded as some of the other more popular trails). I would definitely suggest visiting this park as there are few that are anything like it.

Horseshoe Bend

Found in Page, Arizona, this landmark is one that is worth visiting at least once in your lifetime. Arizona alone is a gorgeous state with lots of different land structures to admire. So far, horseshoe bend has been my favorite from the state. This destination has many hikes and places around to explore. For the 3 days that me and a few friends were there, we were able to go to hidden lakes, random trails that we found, and then horseshoe bend on the last day. All were exciting and beautiful in their own ways.

Horseshoe bend is known for its unique river curve around a large rocky land structure. The water is part of the Colorado River near Lake Powell. We went to Horseshoe bend around 5pm right before the sun was starting to set which not only gave us a beautiful view of the landmark, but it also was perfect lighting for great pictures. So, when you go, take into consideration some of the lighting aspects if you are wanting to take good pictures. We did not hike the bend, we just went to the observation point. However there are some good hikes offered. Most are found in other areas of Page, but there is a hike that is through the canyon itself. Be sure to bring good shoes for these hikes as they are more sandy and rocky ones. While you are there make sure to see Horseshoe but also take time to explore the area and visit as much as you can.

Many of the spots I visited that were not as popular were well worth the time. Overall I loved this part of the U.S. and I hope to revisit it again soon so I would definitely invite all those who are interested to visit it too!

By Emilee Sims