Our family was blown away by the rich, colorful, striped mountains and desert landscape of Capitol Reef National Park. We were awestruck by the vast panoramic views of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and vista points along Utah’s Scenic Byway 12. Our jaws dropped constantly at the thousands of magnificent hoodoos across the red rock canyons of Bryce Canyon National Park. And, we had tons of fun exploring sights along the way like Goblin Valley, Grosvenor Arch, and Kodachrome Basin.
Utah is absolutely beautiful and we couldn’t wait to see more of it.
With Bryce Canyon a wrap, we set out once again on UT 12 toward Zion National Park. Not long after starting our drive along the winding ribbon of road through contrasting red rocks and green Ponderosa pine trees, we passed through two incredible rock tunnels built by J.W. Humphry. Carved into massive fins of red rock, the Red Canyon Tunnels, also known as the Red Canyon Arches, mark the entrance to Red Canyon recreation area in the Dixie National Forest.
Cut into the Claron limestone of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, Red Canyon sits at 7,400 feet elevation and resembles a mini Bryce Canyon.
From cross-country skiing and sledding to horseback riding and mountain biking to hiking and driving off-road vehicles, Red Canyon has something for everyone. It is a beautiful scenic area full of spectacular red and pink sandstone cliffs, spires, hoodoos, spires, windows, arches, and pinnacles and a destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Red Canyon Visitor Center
Located just off Highway 12 about 4.0 miles from the intersection of Scenic Byway 12 and Scenic Highway 89, the Red Canyon Visitor Center is operated by the US Forest Service and was completed in the winter of 2004.
The Visitor Center provides information, brochures, and maps about the Red Canyon trails, campground, picnic area, and sightseeing opportunities. There are interpretive displays on the area’s geologic features, flowers, birds, and trees, and a gift shop with souvenirs, books, gifts, and Smokey The Bear collectables.
We visited Red Canyon in April during spring break, which meant the Visitor Center was still closed for the winter and all we could do was peek in the windows. This also meant the restrooms — the only ones for miles in any direction — were locked. Can you say nature pee?
Luckily on the patio area outside the Visitor Center and restrooms, there are informational panels and maps of the area, so we could plan our hikes!
Hiking At Red Canyon
There are several options for hiking in Red Canyon, with trails that lead into the forest, through towering hoodoos, and past amazing arches and windows.
- The Hoodoo Trail is an easy, family friendly, 0.3 mile trail that leads from the visitor center to the base of towering hoodoos.
- The Birdseye Trail is a moderate, 0.8 mile (one way) trail offers close-up views of stunning red rock formations.
- The 3.0 mile (one way) Losee Canyon Trail travels along a wash that is lined on both sides by red rock formations and a mixed conifer forest.
- The Pink Ledges Trail is an easy, 0.4 mile, interpretive trail that begins and ends at the Red Canyon Visitor Center. It has an informational pamphlet that matches up with numbered trail markers.
- The moderate, 0.7 mile Arches Trail #33075 is a loop trail that passes 15 windows and arches.
We only had time to do two hikes at Red Canyon, so we chose the short Hoodoo Trail and the spectacular Arches Trail.
The Hoodoo Trail begins on the west side of the Red Canyon Visitor Center near the restrooms. It’s an easy, mostly flat hike — well, more of a walk — through desert and high plateau vegetation to the most famous rock formation in the area called Two Totems. With interpretive signs dotting the trail, it is the most popular trail in Red Canyon
Know Before You Go
- Red Canyon is located just east of the Scenic Byway 12 and Scenic Highway 89 intersection less than 15 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park.
- Red Canyon is part of the Dixie National Forest public lands so there is no fee to visit the canyon.
- The Red Canyon Visitor Center is open Friday through Monday, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. At the visitor center there are flush restrooms, picnic tables, drinking water, and interpretive displays.
- The Red Canyon Campground is located across the road from the Visitor Center. The 35 acre campground is open from May 1 to October 1.
- The 5.0 mile, paved Red Canyon Bicycle Trail winds through the Ponderosa pine forest between Red Canyon and the upper Paunsaugunt Plateau. It provides access to the Grand View Trail and the Thunder Mountain Trail.
- From Red Canyon you can also access trails in Losee Canyon and Casto Canyon, also part of Dixie National Forest. Throughout the area, there are miles of hiking trails, ATV trails, horse trails, and paved bicycle trails.
- Services are available in the nearby towns of Panguitch and Hatch on US 89 and 15 minutes east on Highway 12.