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Red Canyon   Paved Trail

The Red Canyon Trail is a 5.5 mile paved trail through one of Utah's most scenic canyons. Slope is fairly gentle, with only 1000 feet of altitude change (200 feet per mile). But not all youngsters are capable of riding up from the bottom. Consider a shuttle ride, coasting the trail downhill, if you're out of shape or have young children.

View of the canyon walls from the trail. The red rock is Claron Formation Limestone, formed at the bottom of a large freshwater lake about 20 million years ago. This same rock is found in Bryce Canyon. Initial review and photos August 15, 2002.

Most of the riders you'll see on this trail are paying customers of the shuttle services. They'll be heading in the downhill direction. If you want to join them, do an on-line search for the local businesses that offer these services. Rental bikes are also available.

Typical trail terrain: long-leaf pine, pinion, and red dirt.

The paved trail continues east another 6 miles beyond the upper Red Canyon trailhead. It runs parallel to Highway 12 all the way to where Highway 63 turns to enter Bryce Canyon National Park. This upper portion of the trail is very flat, with only 150 feet of elevation change over the 6 miles.

The full length of the paved trail is 11.3 miles one-way, a worthy out-and-back ride. But all the good stuff is in Red Canyon.

Approaching Highway 63 and the end of the trail.

The trail has a well-built base and is very smooth. It's marked for uphill and downhill lanes. Curves are slow and easy. The trail crosses two campground entrances, but that's the only traffic you'll encounter. The trail is cut through the bumps, like a road, rather than following the natural contours. This makes for a very smooth ride.

Vincent Bria leads the charge downhill, followed by Kristen (Bruce's daughter), Vince's sister Savannah, then Alex and Jessica. The longleaf pines along the trail smell like vanilla. Stick your nose up to the bark.

Besides the widely spaced pines, there are a few juniper and cedar. Rabbitbrush, manzanita, and sage are found in open areas. Paintbrush blooms in the spring.

At 7000 feet, the summer temperature is usually nice. But in early afternoon the trail can get a little warm for climbing.

Jessica pauses to admire the scenery.

The Red Canyon Trail is also the uphill route for mountain bikers who are doing the Thunder Mountain Trail as a loop. It also serves as a connector for riders who are looping back from Casto Canyon (via the Fremont Trail) or Cassidy Canyon.

The trail crosses the (usually dry) creek.

Getting there:
Upper Trailhead: Drive about 8 miles south of Panguitch on US-89, then turn east on U-12. Go all the way up Red Canyon on U-12 until the road levels out in a steppe area at the top (about 8 miles from US-89). Watch for a gravel road GPS N 37 43.169' W 112 15.322' (on both the right and left sides of the road) about 1/2 mile after reaching the top of the hill. The road is labeled "Fremont ATV Trail." Turn right into the parking area. There is a bathroom at this trailhead. 

Jessica is followed by her mom Diane, while Jackie serves as official pace-dog.

Thunder Mountain (lower) Trailhead: Find Bryce Canyon on your Utah map. Now look a bit west and north and find the town of Panguitch. Head to Panguitch, then drive south on US-89. Turn east from US-89 on U-12 and drive about 3 miles until you reach the Thunder Mountain parking area on your right, just before the Dixie National Forest and "Red Canyon" sign. GPS is N 37 44.595' W 112 19.747'. There is a bathroom here.

Note that both the upper and lower trailheads are used by shuttle services that take paying riders to the top of Red Canyon.

A ride well done. L to R: Vince, Jessie, Alex, Kristen, Savannah.

Riding resources:
One-page riding guide
GPS track file (right-click and "Save as..."):
     GPX multi-track file  (file includes Thunder Mountain)
High-res topo for printing:   View
Lodging, camping, shops:  Links to Red Canyon area resources

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc