Red Canyon in Utah’s Dixie National Forest is dotted with gorgeous rock formations. The giant rocks jut out from the ground to form unique shapes due to a combination of frost, rain, and erosion from wind-blown grit. Pine trees grow among the many red sandstone hoodoos, also known as tent rocks, fairy chimneys, and earth pyramids.
Adding to the intrigue of the unusual geological landscape is a storied criminal history. The Red Canyon area is known for its links with the famous outlaw Butch Cassidy, who is said to have been born in a cabin nearby. In fact, one of the hiking trails originating from the area is named the Cassidy Trail.
The story goes that Cassidy once got into a fight with another man over a woman at a dance in Panguitch. He is thought to have attempted to kill the man with his bare hands, and then escaped into the rocky area of the desert (now known as Red Canyon), thinking he succeeded. Apparently the man was not dead, and once he regained consciousness, he and a gang of friends set off to track Cassidy down. Cassidy was able to escape his pursuers by hiding out along this trail.
It is said that other criminals have used the very same trail when returning to Utah after committing crimes out of state, in an attempt to evade the law.
Know Before You Go
Red Canyon is just adjacent to Highway 12, which many people use en route to Bryce Canyon. At a 7,400 foot elevation, this area is perfect for mountain biking, hiking, and cross country skiing. Parts of it are also available for off-road driving.
Right alongside Highway 12 is the Scenic Byway Information Kiosk located at the mouth of Red Canyon. This information pavilion provides an overview of the entire byway and highlights significant features. The Red Canyon Visitor Center, open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.