A Mountain Drive and Hiking in Red Canyon Near Bryce

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.

Lunch with a view

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.

Looking across UT-12 at the visitor center

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.

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37 Responses to A Mountain Drive and Hiking in Red Canyon Near Bryce

  1. Sue says:

    so, you’re saying this hike wouldn’t be for me then…….

  2. Debbie L says:

    I love great surprises! Fabulous hike, amazing photos!

  3. explorvistas says:

    We will probably pass on that loose gravel hike, so thank you for the great photos! BUT…the bike path? Looks interesting! I’m headed over to AllTrails to check it out!

    • placestheygo says:

      Jim, the bike path runs from down beyond Red Canyon all the way into Bryce Canyon. The part up near our park and into Bryce Canyon was just finished. It is a beautiful path. You two would really enjoy it. The hike was amazing but the gravel, narrowness, and steepness made it very tricky in parts. It was definitely not for everyone:) But there are many great trails in Red Canyon without crowds and gorgeous rock formations. We have posts on those from three years ago.

  4. atravelingb says:

    Beautiful photos!! You are getting me awfully excited for my trip in August! The area near Bryce looks spectacular!

  5. That’s a really pretty area. We’ve hiked there before and you’re right, it is steep with loose rock. We didn’t get as far as you did.

  6. Gay says:

    That is lots of snow!
    Sounds like a great hike. Sure can’t beat the rocks and views! We haven’t hiked/explored Red Rock Canyon. Hummmmm…a return visit to Bryce might be in order.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Gay, consider a return to spent time in Red Canyon. Red Canyon is quite large and uncrowded with a nice variety of trails with lots of trees. The puppies would love one of the new sites in Ruby’s with the huge grass patio:)

  7. Jodee Gravel says:

    ….or for me 🙂 But sure glad you hiked it and shared what a beautiful area it is! Love the little balancing rock on the end pinnacle. It looks like a perfect day but if the nimble hiker still has on her warm jacket at the end of hike I know that wind was chilly!!!

    • placestheygo says:

      We hike for you and Sue:) We love having you along on our backs:) The wind was chilly at times but the steep climbs had us warmed up right away. It was actually a perfect hiking temp.

  8. Laurel says:

    What a gorgeous hike! It definitely looks challenging — that loose gravel and steep grade (and high winds!) on a narrow hogback — hmmm. Although I never hike with two poles, I’d go with two on that one! Thanks for the heads up. We’ve only picnicked and done short hikes in Red Rock Canyon — it’s been on the list for a longer return visit. Hope Utah doesn’t decide to start a campaign to advertise the lesser known parks…..

    • placestheygo says:

      There were a few areas, Laurel, where we were both glad we had two poles. Some of the steep, tight switchback turns were unnerving. Let’s hope Utah continues to keep these smaller gems a secret:)

  9. Up and down, up and down….nothing beats a good workout with stunning views!

  10. Wonderful hike! Someday I would love to meet up and hike with you, but I’m afraid I’m not in good enough shape. lol

  11. Jim and Barb says:

    Awesome looking hike although those stairs look grueling!

  12. pmbweaver says:

    I can’t get over how much snow there is there. I know you are on the mountain, but it just seems like a ton.
    That rock formation looks like a llama. But what do I know.
    Gorgeous hike yet again. Wonderful photos!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Marsha! All the snow was was up over 10,000 ft. But they definitely had a great winter and all the rivers (creeks to us from the east) are running high with the melt which is great to see.

  13. We probably would have crossed paths had we decided to continue on to the Golden Wall after our hike across the road. But we only had one water so it would not have worked. It is really beautiful there and quite different from the neighboring parks.

  14. Dick Savage says:

    We did the Golden Wall trail out and back today. Glad we skipped the rest of it. Also did the short but fun trail behind the visitor center.

  15. lesandjill18@verixon.net says:

    Our small group (three senior couples) of retired teachers are planning a trip to the Eastern Grand Circle this fall. Since we are considering some of the past and present hikes you have taken for our trip itinerary, we were wondering how we can get in touch with you if we have questions about some of your experiences? NB. We are not very computer savvy, so have been unable to find an e-mail to address our query(yes).

  16. LuAnn says:

    Hmmm, not sure about this hike, but can’t argue with the beauty all around.

  17. montanaclarks says:

    Love your “lunch with a view” photo!

  18. Nancy says:

    Such beauty all around you but yet you really had to pay attention to what you were doing with the difficulty of the hike along with the wind. Oh you both are adventurers! You handled it quite well. Those views you saw! LOVE! and I always look for “Lunch with a view!” It is your trademark!

  19. Jill Britton says:

    Red Canyon is my favorite place to hike (its trails are less-traveled, they’re dog-friendly and it’s free!). And that loop is one of my favorite hikes in the park. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous pictures!

  20. I love the red rocks, but nice to see some trees with them for a change I bet.

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