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How and Why You Should Visit Red Canyon in Utah’s Dixie National Forest

One of the most photographed places in Utah, Red Canyon is a part of Dixie National Forest in Bryce Canyon Country. Though Dixie National Forest is well known, it is still significantly less visited than Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park. The trail system in Red Canyon has a lot to offer, including hoodoos and windows that compare to the rock formations in Bryce Canyon itself, which is just down the street.

About Red Canyon

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Image by Keira Ezzo

Red Canyon is bisected by Scenic Byway 12 in Utah and runs through two red-rock arches. As a part of Dixie National Forest, Red Canyon is part of more than 170 miles of red cliffs and canyons. Dixie National Forest is the largest national forest in the state of Utah.

With stunning vermillion cliffs and ponderosa pines, Dixie National Forest offers a unique landscape that you won’t find anywhere else. Located just a few miles away from Bryce Canyon, this national forest is an excellent and easy addition to make to your next trip to southern Utah. 

Driving through Red Canyon is truly a breathtaking experience and getting up close and personal with the cliffs on a hike is a great way to get connected to the surrounding area. Red Canyon has a small valley that you can hike down to, as well as a number of unique sights, like the salt-and-pepper shaker hoodoos or the camel.

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  • why-you-should-visit-red-canyon-dixie-national-forest

Not to be confused with Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, Red Canyon is on the way to Bryce Canyon, and if you stay on Highway 12, you can get to Capitol Reef National Park and Escalante and Boulder National Monument. A lot of people get so caught up in the beauty of the national parks that they don’t always think to stop and visit the beautiful views in this area. 

Suggested Hike: Bird’s Eye Trail

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Image by Keira Ezzo
  • Length: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 229 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time: 90 minutes

Overall Experience

I recently visited Red Canyon on the way out of Bryce Canyon Country towards Kanab, Utah. My group and I hiked the Bird’s Eye Trail, which gave us the opportunity to explore the canyon and—as the name suggests—get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area and Dixie National Forest.

We parked at the Red Canyon Visitor Center, which is located near the Bird’s Eye trailhead. If you’re looking to add a little bit of distance to this hike, there are a number of options to add on, such as the photo trail. We opted to add the Red Canyon Bike Trail to complete a loop. 

The Red Canyon Visitor’s Center is open from Memorial Day until Memorial Day and has a store and bathrooms available. There is also a Smokey Bear statue, so be sure to get a photo with him. 

why-you-should-visit-red-canyon-dixie-national-forest
Image by Tina Ezzo

Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is truly an amazing experience, but we encountered large crowds and busy trails, possibly because we were there during a holiday weekend. When we were in Dixie National Forest the next day, though, we were some of the only hikers around. 

During our time at Red Canyon, we explored the hoodoos and found a number of the advertised formations, like the serpent. We also smelled the ponderosa pine trees and debated whether they smell like vanilla or butterscotch. (We ultimately voted vanilla, in case you’re wondering.)

National Forests as Alternatives to National Parks

Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest is a bit of a hidden gem that is definitely worth adding to your trip itinerary in this region, thanks to its beautiful hiking trails, campgrounds, and smaller crowds than the surrounding national parks.
National parks are great, but they are definitely more popular, and sometimes when you’re in the great outdoors, you want to get away from people. Exploring a national forest is a great alternative if you’re looking to explore a less-crowded outdoor space.

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