Bryce Canyon National Park in 2 Hours

Bryce Canyon is doable in a day from my hometown, so my family and I set out with plenty of masks, hand sanitizer, and snacks for a socially distanced field trip. Alas, the park was still pretty busy, and only maybe half of the visitors were wearing masks. I don’t think I’ll be braving another state or national park until COVID is finally under control.

We also took a wrong turn and ended up driving the long way on Highway 12 through Boulder and Escalante to get to Bryce. This is a pretty drive, so if you have the time, it’s worth doing. But it did mean we would only have two hours in Bryce Canyon proper. We weren’t planning to do any hikes, anyway, and were just going to stop at the scenic viewpoints as recommended by the park’s official Things to Do page.

View of Bryce Canyon from Sunset Point

The National Park Service suggests going to the Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, and Bryce lookouts. You’re better off doing these in the opposite order, though, to limit the need to make left-hand turns back onto the main road. Parking is easier to come by at Sunrise, Inspiration, and Bryce. Sunset is more of a central hub and can get fairly crowded. All four viewpoints are also connected by the Rim trail, so you can walk as far along it as you have time for.

View of Bryce Canyon from Bryce Point

I don’t think any one viewpoint is better than the others, though, since they all offer unique perspectives of the main amphitheater. Unless you are really short on time and/or were wanting to drive to the other end of the park, you might as well visit them all. If I had to choose just one, though, I’d go for Inspiration. It has the best combination of convenience and beautiful scenery.

Scenic Drives Near Los Angeles

The COVID-19 pandemic makes it a little difficult to go sightseeing. I’ve been itching to get out of the house, though, so I took some advice from Time Out and drove down a few of the scenic roads that surround Los Angeles.

The first road we checked out was Palos Verdes Drive that starts in Redondo Beach and ends in San Pedro. The majority of the ride travels through expensive real estate, but it occasionally opens up so you can see the ocean. There are a few dedicated lookout spots along the way that offer some great views of the cliffs and coves. The scenery doesn’t compete with what you can see along the Pacific Coast Highway, but it’s always nice to see new angles of the coastline:

View of Bluff Cove from a Palos Verdes lookout

Time Out recommended ending at the Korean Friendship Bell, even though it’s on Paseo Del Mar and not Palos Verdes Drive proper. Due to the coronavirus, the parking lot was closed, but we were able to park on the street and hike up to the bell:

The Korean Bell of Friendship

The next day, we took Mulholland Drive that starts in the Hollywood Hills and ends in San Vicente Mountain Park in the west. This drive was a bit of a letdown. It’s a nauseatingly windy road where you’ll probably get stuck behind at least one tour bus. The most popular viewpoint, the Jerome C. Daniel Overlook, was also closed. There are many other lookouts along the way that point northwards, but in normal air conditions, you’re just gonna see a smoggy city:

View of Northern LA from a Mulholland Drive lookout

For the third and final scenic drive, we headed farther north into the Angeles National Forest via the Angeles Crest Highway. Like Mulholland Drive, this is a windy road with several overlooks. The difference being that you’re up in the mountains where it’s easy to forget that a gigantic city is just a few minutes away. These aren’t the most glamorous mountains, of course, but I’ll take what I can get during a pandemic:

View from the Angeles Crest Highway

The Time Out website suggested driving to the Mount Wilson Observatory, but all of their facilities are closed due to COVID. I didn’t want to drive in and out on the same road, so we turned at the Clear Creek Information Center that’s halfway to the Mt. Wilson turnoff and took Big Tujunga Canyon Road back home. Honestly, Tujunga was a more peaceful and interesting ride, and you can actually see some water thanks to the Tujunga Reservoir:

Overlooking the Tujunga Dam

All of these drives were about a 2-hour round trip starting from central LA. I don’t think any of them were must-sees, though, but given the state of the world right now, it was nice to be outside for a few hours and look at something besides a computer screen.

A Day at Red Rock Canyon State Park in California

“Red Rock” is such a common name for a geographical park that you gotta be careful planning your trip lest you end up in a state over. California has its own Red Rock Canyon State Park that’s about 120 miles north of Los Angeles. I don’t know if it’s worth the drive unless it’s on the way to somewhere else or you’ve already seen every other nearby state park, but it’s an interesting place nonetheless.

If you do go, you might be tempted to run straight to the red hills, but you’d be missing out on one of the most enjoyable aspects of the park: climbing the cliffs that tower over the Ricardo Campground. These jagged, non-red mountains have a lot of fun crevasses to explore.

Standing in front of the mountains at Ricardo Campground

If you ask the ranger at the visitor center what the highlight of the park is, though, he/she will point you to the Hagen Canyon Trail near the highway entrance. This is one of very few established trails in the park, but the same ranger will most likely tell you that you’re free to go off road as much as you’d like. While the Hagen Canyon Trail itself is only a mile-long loop, you’ll see a lot of cool mountains along the way that warrant a closer look and some impromptu boulder scrambling.

View from the Hagen Canyon Trail

The most picturesque part of the park, however, is on the other side of the highway. The Red Cliffs Natural Area has the tallest and most pronounced red cliffs. The best views are actually from the parking lot, but don’t be afraid to get closer to truly appreciate the giant slots in the mountain!

The mountains at the Red Cliffs Natural Area