Adjacent to Bryce Canyon National Park
The Dixie National Forest wraps around two-thirds of Bryce Canyon National Park: All down the west side, around the south end, and about halfway up the east side. There are a variety of outdoor activities in the forest -- hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping, and cross-country skiing. Bryce Canyon National Park's Sheep Creek Trail connects with trails in the national forest. The climate and seasons here are similar to those in Bryce Canyon National Park. Most of the areas and trails discussed below are at elevations between 7,000 and 8,000 feet.
Information & Visitors Centers -- Stop at the Dixie National Forest's Red Canyon Visitor Center (tel. 435/676-2676), along Utah 12, about 10 1/2 miles west of the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance road. It's usually open daily from early May to early October, and offers various interpretative programs on many Saturdays. Or contact the Dixie National Forest Information Center, 345 E. Riverside Dr., St. George, UT 84790 (tel. 435/688-3246; www.fs.fed.us/dxnf).
King Creek Campground, above Tropic Reservoir, has graded gravel roads and sites nestled among tall ponderosa pines. About 9 1/2 miles west of the park is Red Canyon Campground, named for its vermilion-colored rock formations.
The closest fishing hole to Bryce Canyon National Park is at Tropic Reservoir, in Dixie National Forest, which is a large lake in a ponderosa pine forest. From the national park entrance road, drive west about 3 miles on Utah 12 to a gravel road, turn left (south), and go about 7 miles. There's good fishing for rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout, although some locals say fishing is sometimes better in streams above the lake than in the lake itself. Day use at the lake is free. There is also a Forest Service campground open in the summer and a boat ramp. Note: The boat ramp is not useable during low water periods, so check with the Red Canyon Visitor Center before dragging your boat there.
There are about a dozen trails in the Red Canyon area of the park, and a free map is available at visitor centers. Some trails are open to hikers only; others are also open to mountain bikers, equestrians, and those with all-terrain vehicles. One especially scenic multiuse trail is the 5.5-mile (one-way) Casto Canyon Trail, which runs along the bottom of Casto Canyon. It connects with the 8.9-mile (one-way) Cassidy Trail (legend has it that outlaw Butch Cassidy used this trail) and the 2.9-mile (one-way) Losee Canyon Trail to produce a loop of about 17 miles that is ideal for a backpacking trip of several days. Watch for elk in the winter, and pronghorns and raptors year-round. The Casto Canyon and Losee Canyon trails are considered moderate, while Cassidy Trail ranges from easy to strenuous. Sheep Creek Trail connects the national forest to Bryce Canyon National Park.
For a quick, scenic walk, take the 1-mile Pink Ledges Trail that starts just outside the Red Canyon Visitor Center, at the east end of the parking lot. Rated moderate because of a few steep inclines, the trail has several signs discussing trees and plants, and good views of surrounding hoodoos. The only downside is that you can't escape the road noise from Utah 12.
If you've brought your own horse, you'll have a number of riding opportunities on the forest's multiuse trails. Those without horses of their own can still explore Red Canyon on horseback with Red Canyon Trail Rides (tel. 800/892-7923; www.redcanyontrailrides.com), with offices at Bryce Canyon Pines. Trail rides are offered spring through fall, weather permitting, with rates of $15 for a half-hour, $30 for 1 hour, $50 for 2 hours, $65 for a half-day, and $75 to $100 for a full day, including a box lunch. Minimum age is 6 for the half- and 1-hour rides, 7 for the 2-hour and half-day rides, and 9 for the full-day rides. Advance reservations are requested.
Guided horseback rides in Red Canyon are also provided by Ruby's Inn Horse Rides (tel. 866/782-0002 or 435/834-5341; www.horserides.net), at Ruby's Inn. Rates are $45 for a 1-hour ride, $75 to $85 for a half-day ride, and $125 for a full day, including lunch. Ruby's will also board your horse. (Call for rates.)
There are numerous opportunities for mountain biking in the national forest, but only on roads and specified trails. A particularly popular route is Dave's Hollow Trail, where you'll have a fairly good chance of seeing pronghorn and mule deer. The trail, also open to ATVs, starts at the Bryce Canyon National Park boundary sign on Utah 63, the park entrance road, about 1 mile south of Ruby's Inn. The double-track trail goes west for about half a mile before connecting with Forest Road 090, where you turn south and ride for about three-quarters of a mile before turning right onto an easy ride through Dave's Hollow to the Dave's Hollow Forest Service Station, on Forest Road 087. From here, you can retrace your route for an 8-mile round-trip ride; for a longer 12-mile loop, turn right on Forest Road 087 to Utah 12, and then right again back to Utah 63 and the starting point. A third option is to turn left on Forest Road 087 and follow it about 6 miles to Tropic Reservoir. This part of the journey does not form a loop, so you would turn around once you've reached the reservoir.
The Casto Canyon Trail, in Red Canyon, is an especially scenic trail open to hikers, mountain bikers, and those on horseback.
Mountain bikes can be rented across the road from Ruby's Inn at the American Car Care Center (tel. 866/866-6616 or 435/834-5232; www.rubysinn.com) for $20 for up to 6 hours and $35 for a full day.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities abound along trails and old roads in the national forest, and snowmobiling is also popular. Best Western Plus Ruby's Inn grooms over 30 miles of cross-country ski trails for skating and classical skiing, and also rents equipment. Call for current rates.
Ruby's also offers sleigh rides when there is sufficient snow. Thirty-minute rides ($25 per person 4 and older, free for those under4) are scheduled at 9:30am, 11am, 1pm, and 2:30pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.