Bryce Canyon National Park: dogs and bikes bad; helicopters good

Like every other U.S. national park (and unlike Canadian parks), Bryce Canyon tries to make life tough for dogs and bicycles.  You can’t walk a Golden Retriever on a leash on a trail anywhere in the park, even on paved trails at overlooks.  In theory you can ride a bike from overlook to overlook but there are no racks in which to park or lock them (the National Park Service did get up enough energy to put fancy “no bikes” signs on all the paved trails to the overlooks so you can’t keep your bike with you).  Needless to say there are no trails specifically built for bikes or trails on which mountain bikes are allowed.  Basically the park is set up for driving SUVs or putting on a pack and hiking in without a dog.

Sound like a paradise for Sierra Club members?  Sure, as long as they love the smell of jet fuel in the morning.  I enjoyed a sightseeing ride in a turbine-powered Bell JetRanger this morning.  We screamed down into the canyon at 70 knots, perhaps 500′ over the tops of the trails and less than that over the tops of the hoodoos, well below the rim of the canyon.  I must come back on Monday morning and buzz the place in the Diamond Star before proceeding onward to Salt Lake City.

19 thoughts on “Bryce Canyon National Park: dogs and bikes bad; helicopters good

  1. I love the reference to the Sierra Club. Yes, they would oppose helicopters that do very little damage but are otherwise noisy and smelly. They love bicycles which destroy the delicate soils, cause erosion, and are perfectly happy to let their dogs run free, shit on everything, and molest the wildlife. Leash laws work next to busy streets in cities, not in parks.

    Bryce comes into its own during the winter with cross country skiing. Imagine that red rock against green pine and snow. It is gorgeous.

  2. Land of free, huh!!.

    Can’t smoke in bars, can’t drink beer on the beach, can’t ride your bike where you want; no dogs allowed; trespassers will be shot; and the FBI follow you around all day if your great grandfather was an Iraqi.

    That ‘s why I like Argentina. If you don’t bother anybody they won’t bother you either. However, I do miss the free landing fees in the USA.

  3. What’s with yuppies and their obsession with their right to bring an overpriced dog with them anywhere and everywhere? I’d love to see smoking banned in all bars. Sadly that ain’t the case in most states.

  4. Mike: What ARE the landing fees in Argentina? And do you get good weather and air traffic control services like here in the U.S.?

    [I’m not quite ready to move all the way to Argentina, by the way. Canada would be fine. Both dogs and mountain bikes are welcome in the Canadian national parks and you don’t hear people complaining that Banff and Jasper aren’t sufficiently natural.]

  5. Having recently moved to the US (for a couple of years) I continue to be amazed by how strict a country it is and how many things are forbidden. Americans, wake up! This isn’t the “land of the free” anymore. And that’s from someone that grew up in a former Communist country.

    I am still trying to grasp just where the problem lies — if I do, I’ll probably write an essay about it. I find the evolution of American society from a free one to a strict rule-based one extremely interesting.

  6. I guess I just don’t understand the issue. It isn’t like there aren’t any places to take your bike and dog in Utah. It’s just that the places where everyone goes need to have a lot of rules, otherwise, they would get destroyed. Go someplace where everyone else isn’t going.

    My favorite was a creek that ran up a canyon down near Moab. The climb was packed dirt and slickrock and the creek kept the heat down and let my dog drink and cool down. The trail itself went 15 miles up into the La Sals, and maybe even beyond. I probably went all of about 4 or 5 miles up it, I never kept track of the mileage. As long as we were within 10 feet of running water, my dog was great in the desert. He was blessed a lack of interest in rattlesnakes and I remember looking back with my heart in my mouth as he leaped some little yellow guy in the sun. But he did it so many times without getting bit, that I think he just knew. I suspect the canyon would have been a death trap in a thunderstorm because when you ride it, you are literally in the creek, with hundreds of feet of sheer canyon wall above you.

    Anyways, if the world wants to think that there isn’t anywhere to go with a mountain bike or dog in the USA, let em, and let em stay home. I know enough wonderful places that I would rather not share.

    As for Jasper and Banff in Canada, they don’t have the fragile desert ecosystem and tremendous usage that the American desert gets.

  7. Tim: If the soils of the American desert are so fragile, why build trails at all? Why not protect the soil from the humans who pound the soil and the horses (you’ll often see a string of 30 horses going down a trail at Bryce)? Is the trail really part of the wilderness?

    [I’ve been to a lot of places in the Rockies where the local officials have tacked up “No biking” signs in front of the wide flat trails. Behind the signs will be a herd of 200 cattle on a federal grazing lease. The cows will be eating the grass on either side of the trail, walking across the trail, leaving behind a few tons of waste, etc. But the trail per se is protected from tread marks…]

    Fortunately there is a solution for people who want to tour the West, including the National Parks, with their dogs and American families have found it: travel in a motorhome instead of a car, burning 2-3X the gasoline. When you get to a National Park overlook and you aren’t allowed to take Fido out of the vehicle, crank up the generator (no emissions controls on those) and flip on the air condtioner.

  8. Philip,

    The landing fees are not really significant for a man of your means. I just meant that the US offers excellent service to general aviation and it’s all covered by the US tax payers ( Why?, I don’t know ).

    Fees vary from around 5-15$ a touchdown. There are people coming to Argentina for flight training because many things are cheaper here than elsewhere ( due to the peso devaluation of December 2001 ).


  9. When foreigners like me visit the US we have certain preconceived notions about what it will be like; one of these is that is it is “The land of the free”. I bought a mountain bike in Birmingham, Alabama; I was disapointed to find only one trail I could ride on ( The shop told me it was only 1 of 2 trails in the whole state). Also living in San Diego for six months I only found a limited number of trails to ride. In my opinion the state parks have some excessive rules on what you can and can’t do.

    There are better ways to arrange things so that everyone can enjoy there own particular activities without undue restrictions. For example in Switzerland they post notices on the forest trails that ask horse riders to give way to pedestrians and bikes must give way to everyone. It works.

    In the UK bikes can use bridleways ( designated wider tracks ) and green roads but not footpaths. Bikers do use the footpaths sometimes as well but if everyone is curteous (and bikes slow down ) there are usually no problems.

    There are better ways to organize leisure time activities and provide public access to nature without lots of signs telling you not to do this, that and the other. The environmentalists and petty officials just have too much power!!

  10. Philip,

    In some regards, that’s why Clinton’s declaration of the Escalante park land status is not neccesarily a good thing. With designated status as a national monument, and perhaps eventually a Nat’l Park, comes more and more regulation. Southern Utah is an astounding place. I have dragged many friends and family members out there, including my husband on our honeymoon after getting hitched in Vegas. When I was out there with my Mom, the Goblin Valley State Park camp ground was full, so we pulled our rental SUV off to a clearing on BLM land and pitched a tent. Not something you can oft do in Massachusetts or Fairfax, VA (my residence). The vista’s are mind blowing. Get back there in October when the heat has abatted – just you and the German tourists on the trails.

  11. It’s funny: I’ve been to europe and there seem to be more regulations and taxes than one can point a stick at. Everything there is taxed. The gov has controls on everything, partly because they own practically everything. Utilities, (esp. Telecommunications) roadways, cars, parking-it all sucks. It’s also amusing, given the amount of cheap or free stuff, subsidized by US taxpayers, that a foreigner can get for naught here and still complains about it. Be happy we let you into our wonderful country so you can escape your crowded, industrialized wastelands.

  12. Oh, and another thing-with Germans and other such foreigners coming over here and complaining all the time and boasting about how great their lame homeland is, think it might be time to call the Germsans the “Uglies,” rather than the Americans. Please go home.

  13. > Is the [horse] trail really a part of the wilderness?

    Technically yes. Horses are allowed under standard designation of wilderness. That doesn’t mean horses aren’t destructive. They do stay on the trail. But there’s really two arguments here. One is with regards to Bryce, which is more of a park and not a wilderness and one is what should be allowed in wildnerness. Both I have strong opinions on, and may not even consistent opinions on. I’m definately not one of these crazy environmentalists who want to define wilderness boundaries on places they’d never been or maybe went hiking there once. I also really love certain places and want to be able to keep going back and not have them trashed.

    Anyplace that has cattle with no bikes then there is something else going on, like “No Trespassing”, and I’ve never seen it. Most people work cattle with 4-wheelers. Cattle aren’t destructive but are unsightly. Even here in RI where I make my home on one side of the road is Chase Farm with horses. It isn’t overgrazed and is a nice bucolic typical new england field. On the other side is a state park with excellment mountain biking. Pretty much any drop than can be ridden has been ridden and the trails are making a mess of the park. What can you do?

  14. Cattle aren’t destructive but are unsightly.

    Tim, are you kidding? Cattle are extremely destructive. They graze where they shouldn’t, they stink, and most seriously, they really foul up the water table, esp. groundwater, horribly. They do this all the time out west on public lands, and it’s a major, major source of concern. So next time do some research before you say others are “crazy environmentalists.”

  15. Bill:

    I meant to say are *necessarily* destructive.

    > They graze where they shouldn’t

    I read that as “anywhere”, which is the view of the crazy environmentalists (I bet a lot of them love their steaks). Let em starve while they freeze (or overheat) in the dark.

    The biggest threat to groundwater are the people in their sensitive houses moving to the desert in droves, not the cattle.

  16. >The biggest threat to groundwater are the people in their sensitive houses moving to the desert in drovesAgreed on that point.

  17. Wow, Bill, you sure had your eyes open in Europe. Share with us which country you visited where the government ‘own practically everything’.

    Much of Europe has a higher population density than most of North America – but not all of it. Utah and its neigboring states are great places to be – but so for the same reasons are the pyrenees, Sicily, the highlands of Scotland to name but a few. Or perhaps your tour bus didn’t get to those places.

  18. Europe just doesn’t have the wide open spaces that we enjoy here. Sure, there are exceptions, but there’s a reason why so many Europeans feel the need to come over here…and tell us how superior they are. “hiker,” please stop complaining or please go back to Switzerland, or Germany, or -most likely-France. I think that the term “Ugly Americans” can be changed to “Ugly French.” Few tourists are as rude as the French-at least Germans learn to speak English extremely well.

  19. If you want to ride bikes on tough trails come to Coe State Park in California. 87,000 ac of mid coast cattle country. Lots of trails and lots of up and down. No dogs however. The mid-pen area below San Francisco has miles and miles of bike trails. Gotta share with hikers and horses. Dogs allowed in most areas. Santa Clara county parks are dog friendly but San Mateo county is not. I agree with the post about need for controls for the heavily used areas. Too damm many people in Cal and a lot of them could care less about the environment.

Comments are closed.