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A Walk Through Red Canyon

The turnoff  from US 89 was non-descript. I read about the “road” being deep sand, but  have been on many roads that were described as having “deep sand “ but I didn’t find it that way.  This one, however, was true to form.  The sand,  with a reddish-pink  tinge to it was a bit soft, but a recent rain  had them a little firmer than normal. So, I put the F250 in 4high and off I went.  I didn’t let any air out of the tires. Dumb move.  About a mile in, I felt I was digging in deep. NO worries, I’ll dig out and the trail is popular enough that someone else will be coming soon.  But the ample power of the diesel got me through, but it was a little white-knuckle driving while visions of my wife mocking me dancing in my head.

After about 4 miles of driving(plowing) through  the sand, looking at the Junipers by the road and the White Cliffs  of the Grand Staircase not far away,  I decided to park on a firm area, knowing the entrance to the canyon can have lots of “tour” jeeps and such.  A half mile walking in the sand would be good exercise. It was a crisp 49 out, with a few clouds. No sign of rain, which is important if you are going to wander in a slot canyon.

This one, Red Canyon(there are several “Red Canyons” in Utah) was said to rival the world famous Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona  in color, not distance or depth.  I haven’t been to Antelope, but I’ve seen enough pictures that I was a little excited to see what Red Canyon would offer.

The walk to it wasn’t too much, but the closer I got, the more the wash side began to ride, and a deep red color started to become more prevalent, as well as the individual layers and cross-bedding of the Navajo Sandstone.  Pinyons and Junipers added to the aroma of the recent rains and it was quite pleasant to be in.  Finally, I came to the mouth, and it looked a little narrow.  The canyon faces were not too tall here, but the colors were deep red. A cool breeze was coming out of the canyon. The dogs were looking at me like “we actually going in there?”

Right away, the walls glowed a dull red  a bit as the sun started to rise up, and the smooth,  rounded face of the walls was proof of the power of water coursing through this during a flash flood. Stepping fully into the path, the walls quickly rose and light filtered out a bit.

The floor was soft sand with intermittent gravel. A minute or so, I exited this short slot into an open area with nice crossbedded stone rising up.  Going forward took me to another slot section, and the walls were higher and overhanging more.




The light wasn’t quite bouncing around yet but it wouldn’t be long., but the overhang would not allow full sun to penetrate. This section was a bit warmer for some reason than the previous one . The walls here showed more erosion, and I could see small holes and odd formations in the walls above. The further I went in, the less light was getting through, but  could notice a warm, light growing above, making the stone come alive more. Dark down low, glowing up higher. Pretty neat.  The walls here too were rounded due to time as the wash slowly cut its way through, and just like that, this section ended. There was one more to go.

This last section, the walls were about 80-100 feet above, and the overhangs more pronounced.  Walking in and looking up, I could see a log wedged between the walls 20 feet up.

At first, I thought it might have fell down from above, but I could see debris wrapped around it  meaning water was at least that high. Geez.  Going further in, it got cold. Real cold.  The warmth of the sun must not get down here.  A little further down, I found two more logs wedged high above.

It was hard to get pictures due to the available light.  It was more ghostly in this section, a grayish-white color permeated to the bottom.


And then came the end of the slot: a 20 foot high boulder jam. No way up.  I stayed here a bit to enjoy the cold and pure silence, giving the mutts their water and treats., and waiting for the sun to rise up to start directly reaching into the slots.  Finally, it was time to return.

After walking a bit, I looked up, and the color of a vivid sunset erupted above.  

The walls above literally glowed a bright orange, like it was magma.  It was an intense orange, while the wall face out of the sun stayed red. Red on one side, orange on the other. 

  Wow.  After some photos, I walked further  and the orange creeped down further. When I came through the first time, the walls were dull red. Going back, the red  was more pronounced  on the non-sun side and the orange was neon where the sun could hit it.

I could only marvel at the phenomenon. More details stood out on the face of the walls.

Walking on, the orange stayed high, giving a vivid color hard to describe.

In the middle slot, the orange started to fade, but the red was more pronounced.  If I stayed another hour or so, I bet the red would glow as well.  It was fun to behold.  Since I had another destination to get to, it was time to giddy-up and get back to the truck.  The canyon began to warm up a bit, both in color and temperature. And I had it all to myself.  And the dogs.


When I exited the mouth, I met a guy who was there marking an area for a tour group to come through later that day. Had a nice little chat, and off I went to the truck to head elsewhere. The sun was higher up , and the natural red color came out even more. Mixed well with the red-pink and and green of the trees.  Now, it was to go back, uphill, and fight the sand again. There was one trail I was trying to avoid, as it was made for ATV access. As luck would have it, I was bouncing up the road and missed the path where I came it, and was now on the trail I was told to avoid.  The truck bounced and the dogs went airborne as I did what I could to keep momentum up. The truck was pushing hard and the temperature of the engine was going up. Finally, after a couple minutes I saw some power lines not far off  which meant I was near US 89.  The road was failry straight but deeeeeep sand so I just keep the throttle down,  and kept going. Finally, I got to the ATV staging area. The Gloater did it, and I surprised a couple people there with their ATVS. They gave me that “WTF” look as I drove off.

Next, I drove about 8 miles to the next destination:  Merwin Canyon, as aside canyon which also had a slot.  But first, I had to drive 5 miles on a good dirt road for 2 miles where some old ranches resided.

Once I past these ranches, the road narrowed, got sandy, and sandy. But the scenery was excellent. The walls of Parunuweap Canyon were towering about 300-400 feet above, the red and yellows standing out as well as the white.

John Wesley Powell went through here long ago, after traversing the Grand Canyon. I ended up crossing the stream several times  and down narrow banks the remaining 3 miles to the trailhead. Sometimes, the path was the river itself. Fun!  


At the trailhead, the mutts and I headed up Bay Bill canyon(named for a local rancher) a mile to get to Merwin. The sandstone continued to rise above with its tortured look at times, and some pines started to show themselves.  Bill Bay Canyon was wide, but beautiful, as it snaked its way through the rock. I finally came to where Merwin met Bay Bill and went up a half mile to the slot. The walls slowly closed in and then entrance looked like a cave, not a slot.

It was not as spectacular as Red Canyon, but  nice none-the-less. There was an arch at the entrance, but it was hard to capture.

The walls were rougher and straighter too.  One wall glowed yellowish, not orange like Red Canyon.

Interesting how the same color can “change” depending on the sun. A few hummingbirds were flying above. Another cool breeze was making its way through the slot. After another snack, it was time to head back.

This area seems to be unspoiled, and is set apart as a “wilderness study area.” Outside some cow pies, there were no signs of any spoiling influences. Just the wind, the water gently rolling, and whatever birds deciding to tweet. Cathedrals of stone, just not as towering as the cliffs at Zion, 15 miles away. Another area not visited too much, except for hikers and people taking the off-road tours out of Kanab.

Another fun-filled day enjoying the Great Outdoors.  Get out there dammit.

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