Bryce Canyon, UT
A Mountain Drive
After a couple of days of rain and high winds here in central Utah, we were getting a bit of cabin fever. So on Friday we took the Jeep for a ride over the mountains to the west. We took UT-12 west to US-89, then drove north a few miles to the town of Panguitch, where we picked up UT-143 heading west. As we drove west on UT-143 up into the mountains, the temperature dropped steadily and we were soon into some heavy snow near where the road crests at 10,400 feet.
As we headed back down the west side of the mountains, we passed through the large ski resort of Brian Head, named after the nearby Brian Head Peak.
Once back down from the mountains we hopped on I-15 for about 15 miles south to Cedar City. Once in Cedar City we took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a bit of refreshment at one of those chain coffee shops based in Seattle. Then it was back up over the mountains, this time on UT-14 which winds its way up through Cedar Canyon.
Hiking in Red Canyon
Today (Saturday) the sun was shining but the wind was still very strong. So we drove back down UT-12 west to go to the visitor center for Red Canyon, a beautiful area of red rocks along UT-12 between Bryce Canyon and US-89. We have hiked in this area before and were looking for a scenic trail without the crowds of the national park. The volunteer at the visitor center was new and hadn’t hiked many of the trails yet. But people had told him that a loop hike that begins across the road from the visitor center was very scenic and only had 500 feet of elevation change. That sounded like a good hike for us so we grabbed our packs, crossed the highway, and walked a few hundred yards down a bike path to the trailhead.
We began the hike up the Golden Wall Trail through a fairly flat forest of pine trees with the golden rocks of the canyon on our left.
After a half mile we turned off the main trail on to a loop trail called the Castle Bridge Trail. This trail would take us into the rocks, steeply up and over a ridge, then back down to the Golden Wall Trail. Once back on the main trail we continued our loop hike through the beautiful rocks.
About half way around the loop we climbed another ridge and sat down to rest and enjoy a light lunch.
Then it was back down steeply into a wash, then a steep climb up to the top of another ridge.
We found this hike to be much more difficult than described in the park literature. The trail winds through the rocks and at times is only about eight inches wide while going across loose gravel. At the highest point, about halfway through, it goes across the top of a narrow hogback and steeply down into another wash. A strong, gusty wind added to the excitement.
Fortunately, the forest service made some crude steps down the steepest part of the hike down from the hogback.
Less than a mile from the hogback we could hear traffic and UT-12 came into view below us.
But there were still some switchbacks over loose rocks to traverse before we made it down to the bottom of the trail.
The trail ends in a very nice little campground. We went through the campground to get back to the highway.
Once back to the highway it was a half mile back to the visitor center along the bike path that runs next to the road.
Even along the highway the views of the red rocks all around us were impressive.
We went to the visitor center in Red Canyon with no idea even if we would be hiking. So we were totally surprised by the great hike we found. This hike is not for someone with a fear of crossing steep hillsides on a very narrow trail. It also has more elevation change than we anticipated, due to the four times we went down into narrow washes, then steeply back up the other side to a high ridge. Hiking poles are highly recommended, as much of the trail is on loose gravel. But the beautiful views along the trail make the hike worth the effort.