Red Canyon Tunnel
Bike path through Red Canyon
The bike path is almost 9 miles long.
Early morning visitor.
View from the Red Canyon visitors center.
A peephole on Pink Ledges Trail.
Burnt orange and forest green
backed by blue sky are the
colors of Red Canyon
Pink Ledges Trail.
Storms roll in every afternoon.
Utah's red rock answer to
Ken and Marcia Powers,
exceptional long distance hikers.
The road through Red Canyon.
Bird's Eye View Trail.
Mormon hand-cart in Panguitch.
Mark helps commemorate the Quilt Walk.
Historic brick pioneer
Perhaps the site of the
Home of Ebenezer Bryce, of "Bryce's Canyon."
Storms approach Arches Trail.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.