Red Canyon Utah – An Overlooked Treasure

RV blog post - Red Canyon, Utah, is easy to miss, but  the hiking trails, bike path, hoodoos and spectacular views worthy of an extended stay.

Red Canyon Tunnel

Red Canyon, Utah, bike path.

Bike path through Red Canyon

Red Canyon, Utah, bike path.

The bike path is almost 9 miles long.

Red Canyon, Utah, bike path. Camped outside Red Canyon, Utah. Afternoon rainbow outside Bryce Canyon, Utah

Afternoon rainbow.

Morning visitors outside Bryce Canyon, Utah

Early morning visitor.

Red Canyon visitors center, Utah.

View from the Red Canyon visitors center.

Red Canyon hoodoos.

Hoodoos.

Red Canyon peekaboo arch.

A peephole on Pink Ledges Trail.

Views on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah.

Burnt orange and forest green

backed by blue sky are the

colors of Red Canyon

Views on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah.

Pink Ledges Trail.

Hoodoos on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah. A storm approaches on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah.

Storms roll in every afternoon.

Hoodoos on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah remind us of Easter Island heads.

Utah's red rock answer to

Easter Island.

Bryce Canyon Rim Run - 5 miles of racing fun.

Bryce Canyon

Rim Run.

Wildflower at Red Canyon, Utah. Hikers headed to Bryce Canyon.

Ken and Marcia Powers,

exceptional long distance hikers.

The scenic road through Red Canyon, Utah.

The road through Red Canyon.

Bird's Eye View Trail in Red Canyon, Utah. Bird's Eye View Trail in Red Canyon, Utah.

Bird's Eye View Trail.

Hoodoos on Bird's Eye View Trail in Red Canyon, Utah. Tunnel Trail in Red Canyon, Utah.

Tunnel Trail.

Horses on the Red Canyon bike path, Utah. Mormon hand-cart in Panguitch, Utah.

Mormon hand-cart in Panguitch.

Quilt Walk Statue in Panguitch, Utah.

Mark helps commemorate the Quilt Walk.

Downtown Panguitch, Utah.

Downtown Panguitch.

Historic brick pioneer homestead, Panguitch, UT

Historic brick pioneer

homestead.

Cowboy Cafe Steakhouse -- a historic jail ? -- in Panguitch, UT

Perhaps the site of the

infamous jail.

Ebenezer Bryce's cabin in Tropic, Utah.

Home of Ebenezer Bryce, of "Bryce's Canyon."

Storms approach Arches Trail in Red Canyon, Utah.

Storms approach Arches Trail.

The first big arch along Arches Trail in Red Canyon, UT

Our one and only arch sighting.

Red Canyon, Utah

Late August, 2011 - We were on a roll uncovering the many gems that make up

America's finest crown jewels in Southern Utah.  Leaving Cedar Breaks, we pointed

the truck down the hill towards Red Canyon.  Most people on this road are headed to

the more famous Bryce Canyon National Park which lies just a little further on, and few

are aware that their path will cut right through the fabulous rock formations of Red

Canyon on their way there.  It's amusing to watch the steady stream of international

tourists flying through this five mile stretch of road, because as soon as they get into

Red Canyon the car windows fly open and heads pop out as the driver swerves into

the nearest pullout.  It is that beautiful.

We did that too, years ago.  And just like

everyone else, each time we have been back to

Bryce we've breezed through Red Canyon

without sticking around long enough to see it up

close.  All we had ever seen was the fantastic

paved bike path that weaves through the canyon

walls for almost 9 miles of spectacular riding.

Years ago we had ridden this

path when the bright blue

lupines were in bloom, but

this year we came later in the

season and the color

trimming the red rock views

was bright yellow.

There is a delightful little

campground in Red

Canyon where we had

camped in a tent long

ago.  It was there, in the

rain (which comes every

afternoon in July and

August), that we decided to get a trailer.  While we were shivering and running around

looking for indoor activities during the rain, we saw people kicking back in their RVs as

snug as little bugs in rugs.  Within two weeks of returning to Phoenix we had purchased

our first pop-up tent trailer and pickup truck.

This time we found a spot to

camp nearby and watched

the afternoon monsoon

clouds build and swirl  The

sky would go from bright blue

in the morning to almost

black in the afternoon, and then

huge raindrops would fall.

Sometimes we were blessed with

a rainbow.

One morning we woke to the

sound of cows mooing, and a small herd walked into a

corral nearby and hung out for a while, as if they were

waiting for the rancher and his truck to show up and take

them to market.

Red Canyon boasts many hiking trails, but some of

the best are short ones right outside the visitor

center.

Pink Ledges Trail took us on a winding, narrow path

partway up the canyon walls.  It led us back into a

vivid red backdrop of craggy rocks decorated with

rich green trees and then wound back out again

towards some hoodoos.

As usual, a storm was gathering in the

distance, and the sky got darker and

darker.  The hoodoos -- humanlike,

almost sculpted rock formations --

resembled the giant heads of Easter

Island.  But these were not crafted by

human hands and they glowed a rich

burnt orange.

We had found it extremely challenging to keep up any

kind of fitness regimen on the boat last winter, and as

soon as we got back to Phoenix, Mark had started

running everyday.  I was a little slower to get going,

but by the time we got to Red Canyon I had put my

running shoes on a few times.

Mark found out there was a 5 mile race at Bryce

Canyon, and before I had a chance to say, "How far?,"

there I was at the start line.  Luckily, the beginning of

the course wound along the edge of Bryce Canyon,

keeping my mind happily occupied with the views.  But when the route turned

away from the rim into the woods and continued uphill for over a mile all I could

think was, "Why did we start this exercise program at an altitude of 8,400 feet?"

Thrilled to have survived the race, we were

inspired to keep training.  One day I ran past

a couple walking down the road with walking

sticks and serious looking backpacks.  There

was nothing up the road for at least 30 miles,

so I had to stop running and find out where they had come from.  It

turns out they had walked 60 miles in the past three days to launch a

two month walking adventure.  They planned to hike through Bryce

Canyon into Utah's canyon country towards Page, Arizona where they

would arrive around Halloween.  Taking a breather at our trailer, they

told us their names were Ken and Marcia Powers and we discovered

they are celebrated hikers who have hiked not only the entire

Appalachian Trail and Pacific

Crest Trail but were the first

people to hike the entire cross-

country American Discovery Trail in one continuous hike

(it took 8 months).  They have done all this since they

retired 11 years ago.  "We didn't want to just sit at home,"

Marcia said.  They have logged thousands of miles of

other long distance hikes, and they chronicle their

adventures at http://www.GottaWalk.com.

We continued ticking off the short hikes around Red

Canyon, very self-conscious now that they were all just a

measly mile or so.  But they were spectacular.  The Bird's

Eye View hike goes up around the backside of the canyon

and the Tunnel Trail Hike follows a series of switchbacks

up a steep hill until it deposits you at a fantastic viewpoint

overlooking one of the tunnels spanning the main road.

Taking a break from the red rocks, we

ventured into the nearby town of

Panguitch.  A small city park

celebrates the town's mormon pioneer

history, and a hand-cart in the park

reminded us that whole groups of

people of all ages, some pulling hand-

carts, walked across this country

years ago to settle Utah.

Those pioneers were tough folk.  In 1864 the new mormon settlers in Panguitch

were starving, and seven men set out to cross the snow-covered mountains to

get supplies from Parowan some 40 miles away over a steep pass.  Unable to

make progress in the deep snow, they threw out a quilt and gathered on it to

pray.  Noticing the quilt supported their weight in the soft snow, they began

laying quilts out ahead and walking across them.  Amazingly, they walked all the

way to Parowan and back this way, lugging heavy loads of flour with them on

the return trip.  Mark decided to help out the commemorative Quit Walk statue

with his quilt.

The downtown

area of Panguitch

is listed on the National

Register of Historic Places, and

I had a walking tour map that

pointed out certain historic

homes and buildings.  The jail

intrigued me, but the location

on the map didn't correlate with

any buildings.

I began asking around, and

ended up on a wild goose chase as one shopkeeper sent me

to the next and I finally ended up with a group of little old white

haired ladies "who know all the history of this town."  My jail

query started quite a discussion among them, but not one was

sure where this jail was or might have been.  "It's down by your

house," one woman said.  "A jail by my house?  No, it was at

the other end of town…"  We were all laughing by the time I

left, but apparently this historic jail in this historic town had

slipped from historic memory.  Making one last stop at

Cowboy's Steakhouse Cafe on my way

out of town, the bartender said

thoughtfully, "Well, this building used to

be a jail.  I think what you're looking for

is right here."

An easier landmark to find was in the

town of Tropic in the opposite direction

past Bryce Canyon.  Back in the

mid-1870's, Ebenezer Bryce built a road through the woods leading to

a pink cliff canyon to make timber more accessible for the settlers of

the area.  The amphitheater of red rock at the end of his road became

known as "Bryce's Canyon," even though he moved to Arizona just a

few years later.  His wee home is on display in Tropic.  Poking our

heads inside the tiny door, I couldn't imagine what winters were like for

a real family of full-sized people living in such a dollhouse.

Ready for one last blast of red rocks, we checked out Arches Trail at

the edge of Red Canyon.  This trail boasts 15 arches, although a

couple completing the hike as we arrived said they had found only

five.  We charged up the path, quickly deciding that this was by far the

best hike of them all.  The path twists and turns as it climbs, and each

view is more enchanting than the last.  We spotted an arch and

rushed up to it just as a huge thunder-boomer rumbled and lightning

flashed in the distance.

In no time at all the sky went black.  We saw a cave in the distance

and hatched a plan to go hide in the cave until the rain ended.

What a terrific adventure that would be!  But we couldn't find a

path to the cave, so we ran back to the truck instead.

Unfortunately, the rain wasn't the kind that would blow over any

time soon, and we were leaving Red Canyon next day, so when

we drove away from Arches Trail we realized we were leaving

most of it for a future visit to Red Canyon.  But at least we now

know it is a hike that is well worth doing!

We hustled south along I-15 making stops for the Iron County Fair in Parowan, Utah and the Interbike bicycle trade show in Las

Vegas, Nevada, and we finally landed in Williams, Arizona on famous Route 66.