Red Canyon Rim
is a 4.8 mile trail on the south rim of Red Canyon at Flaming Gorge. It's
usually done as a 9.6-mile out-and-back, but can also be done as a one-way
shuttled ride or as a loop with a road return. The riding is fairly easy
aerobically despite the altitude of 7400 feet. In some short areas the surface is
technical due to rock ledges and loose rock.
View of Flaming Gorge at Red Canyon at
the first trail overlook. Photos and ride description June 27,
2010 by Bruce. Latest update July 25,
Red Canyon Rim gets a high recommendation. But the ride is
over quickly enough that, if you're here to ride, you may need to add
something else like Swett Ranch or Dowd
Mountain to feel satisfied. Many riders do the trail from the visitors
center to the overlook, then insert the Swett Ranch loop before returning
on the Rim trail. (That would increase your ride to around 15 miles.)
Trail near the visitors center. Flat
slabs of rock provide a little bit of interest, but the riding is easy and
suitable for beginners here.
There are three common ways to do this ride. Pick your
starting spot: (1) Red Canyon visitors center, from which it's slightly
uphill going out, (2) Red Canyon Lodge at Greens Lake (or any of the campgrounds),
riding a connecting trail north to the Red Canyon Rim trail, and (3) the scenic overlook on
Highway 44 at the east end of the trail. Shuttle jockeys will want to
start at the pullout on 44, so the ride will be mostly downhill.
Viewpoint about a mile east of the
The route I describe is a modified out-and-back from the Red
Canyon visitors center trailhead. This ride hugs the Rim as you go east,
but on the way back, it will take the alternate route past the campgrounds
and Green Lake before returning to the Rim.
While the trail spends a couple of miles close to the
rim, it's not close to the cliff edge except at the turnout viewpoints.
There are about 8 special viewing spots.
Drive to Flaming Gorge. On Highway
44, go 3.7 miles west of the junction between 44 and US-191 west and
uphill from the dam. (On the way, at mile 1.1
you'll pass the scenic pullout where the trail ends.) Turn right toward
the Red Canyon visitors center and drive 2.5 miles to the end of the road.
The singletrack trail goes past the outhouse, just where your car enters
the parking circle at the visitors center.
The terrain is almost all long-leaf pine on the
western half of the trail. This creates an open understory.
Typical trail section. Slabs offer
tiny drop-offs downhill, mild ledges uphill. Non-experts will need to
watch to: Not catch a loose rock chunk as they drop over a ledge with
brakes on, and Not pinch-flat by hitting the angular rock edge when riding
Pedal east on fairly level trail. There will be rock slabs
in the trail. Usually they're simple roll-overs, but occasional ledges and
sharp edges will give trouble to beginners. As with all trails frequented
by horses, there will be loose rock that can catch your tread. The angular
rock here is particularly likely to wedge on a tread knob and slide along
as it freezes your wheel.
There are viewpoints looking out over Red Canyon about
every 1/4 mile for the first two miles. Ignore the trails branching right
-- these are spurs to picnic areas and campgrounds. At mile 1.3, you'll
pass the return path from the lodge (you'll be coming back along this
path, so keep left).
The scenery is pretty. Long-leaf pines,
firs, and occasional juniper are widely spaced in grassy meadows. The
balsamroot flowers are striking in early June. Only the late flowers are
still around today.
At this point, the trail gets a little tougher for a while.
There are some uphill erosion-control logs to master (not too tough), and
a section of slightly tricky ledges with loose rock waiting to catch your
wheel and send you over the handlebars. In other words, fun stuff.
At mile 2.5, note this trail intersection. When you come back, you'll
fork south here, rather than repeating the same trail section. For now,
continue on straight through the gate.
The trail is well-marked with plenty
of trail signs (as of 2010). This is the critical fork (looking west)
where you need to fork left on the return if you're doing the ride I
When you reach the scenic pullout, it's time to turn around.
Or continue to Swett Ranch by hopping on the
dirt road at the far east side of the pullout.
Remember to turn left at the first trail fork past the gate. You'll hit
a short section of uphill tricky ledges and rough rock that's a bit of challenge, then
smooth trail at the top.
A fun little creek-dip as the trail
crosses Skull Creek.
Keep right past the spur to Greens Lake Campground, then
ride past the lake. Just after the lake, fork right (left takes you to the
lodge). Rejoin the outgoing trail about 3/4 mile later and return to the
Arrowleaf balsamroot forms the
foreground of this view northeast, nearing the end of the trail.
Riding notes, from Red Canyon visitors
0.0 Find trail on your right at the start of paved loop
N40 53.494 W109 33.619
Keep straight past the toilet.
0.2 Keep L (R = spur from Red Canyon picnic area)
N40 53.374 W109 33.510
1.0 Keep L (R = spur from Canyon Rim CG) N40 53.120 W109 32.815
1.3 Keep L (R = return path, from lodge area) N40 53.028 W109 32.673
1.8 Trail veers away from rim
2.5 Keep L (R = to lodge, return path)
N40 52.578 W109 32.000 Go
2.9 Keep straight (R = Skull Creek CG) N40 52.401 W109 31.561
Trailhead at the scenic pullout on
(riding notes continued...)
4.7 At scenic overlook N40 52.341 W109 29.801
Consider adding Swett Ranch Loop
6.5 Straight past Skull Creek spur
7.0 Left toward lodge and campgrounds N40 52.579 W109 32.000
7.3 Keep R (L=Greens Lake CG) N40 52.404 W109 32.149
7.6 Keep straight N40 52.657 W109 32.359
7.9 Fork R (L = to lodge) N40 52.631 W109 32.505
8.7 Keep L (rejoin outgoing trail) N40 53.028 W109 32.673
Backtrack to visitors center
9.6 Back at car
Passing Greens Lake on the return
Along the rim, then back
past Greens Lakes...
If the above video does not appear on your
browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking
Via Manila: From I-80, take Wyoming Highway 414 through Mountain
View to Utah 43, or take Wyoming 530 from Green River to Utah 43. From
Manila Drive east on highway 44. Turn left on the Red Canyon
visitor center road. Drive 2.5 miles to the visitors center and park. The
trail is next to the toilet, just as you enter the loop in front of the
visitors center N40 53.494 W109 33.619. Alternative east TH: drive another
2.5 miles past the Red Canyon road to a scenic pullout on your left. Park N40 52.341 W109 29.801.
The trail is the singletrack on the far left.
Via Vernal: On Utah Highway 44/US 191, drive north over the Uinta Mountains.
Stay on 44 at the junction with U-260/US 191. At 1.1 miles past the junction,
there's a scenic overlook on your right. This is the east trailhead. For
the west trailhead, drive another couple of miles and turn right on the
Red Canyon visitor center road. Find the trail next to the toilet as
Camping: Greens Lake and Canyon Rim
CGs on Red Canyon Overlook (visitors center) road. Skull Creek CG just east on
Bathroom: At visitors center trailhead. BR at campgrounds. None at
eastern TH at scenic overlook.
Water at campgrounds and visitors center.
Bike services, maps, trail conditions:
Altitude Cycle, 580 East Main, Vernal. 435-781-2595