I've already said, all I need to say about the beauty of this rugged country of Red Canyon. More trails exist, but I am hoping to explore some additional areas this summer and today probably marks my final hike in Red Canyon for this year at least.
The Buckhorn Trail and the Golden Wall Trail exists on the southern side of Scenic Highway 12, so far to date, all of my hiking adventures have been on the northern side of the highway. The two trails overlap for awhile and the trailhead starts in the Red Canyon Campground. The parking and trailhead are difficult to negotiate in the circular campground, but I end up parking next to the main pavilion and unload my pack next to the REI adventure van. The REI group is eating lunch in the pavilion and I feel lucky to be here just an hour from home, while the adventure group has probably been traveling for hours. The hillside is steep and I work my way along the connector trail and up the switchbacks. The campground quickly falling away below.
The Golden Wall Trail is a circular loop, through the lower range of hills immediately seen from Highway 12. My plan is to follow the Buckhorn Trail, connect with the Golden Wall trail (33095) until it intercepts with the Castle Bridge Trail (33096) forming a loop, within a loop trail. Exit near the Visitor Center, then follow the Canyon Bike Trail along the highway and back to the Campground.
I arrive at the juncture of the Buckhorn Trail and the Golden Wall Trail and immediately know my plans are going to change. I had assumed the Buckhorn Trail, simply wandered to a high point or a lookout point along the rim. When I could see that it reaches the summit of the nearby hill, I decided it would be worth the extra time to make the detour. As a solo hiker, I don't usually venture off of my intended path and the documentation I have left at home. The Buckhorn Trail is a simple class 2 trail and I felt the added risk of hiking to the summit would be minor compared to the joy I feel standing on such a picturesque summit.
The trail rises along the ridgeline and cuts just below the rocky summit, winding its way through the cliff band to the high tabletop of flat stone and hoodoos.
The detour is already worth it as I cut back onto the high rocky slab and find my favorite sign.
I take the time to walk out onto the various fingers at the summit level. A stunning view of the Golden Wall is seen to the south and the faint outline of the trail I will be traversing after I finish my time here on Buckhorn. One of the fingers is only a couple feet wide and offers a glimpse directly down onto hoodoos located on both sides.
I work my way back to the junction and eat lunch sitting on a large log in the shade, grateful to have taken the extra time to hike the Buckhorn Trail.
Dropping down this time, I follow the Golden Wall Trail through the bottom of a ravine and up the other side. The trail picks up a ridgeline and thankfully they have embedded railroad ties to prevent erosion in this section of the trail. It is steep and the tracks certain to channel the spring and summer rains along this ridge would have resulted in a rough and gnarly trail.
I continue to rise along the ridgeline until I find myself standing next to the massive hoodoo as seen from the Buckhorn Trail. A miracle boulder sits atop a spire at the far end of the hoodoo and I marvel that such a tiny spindle can hold up such a large amount of rock given the amount of wind and rain that are seen in this area on a regular basis. I take several pictures, convinced I will not see this sight again in person before the boulder falls.
Hoodoos are an interesting breed of a formation. To walk among them is always an interesting experience. The opposite side of this massive wall a series of hoodoos leaves one with the impression of discovering a lost army of hoodoo warriors or the last march of hoodoo Ents.
The trail continues to rise to a high saddle and I meet my first hikers of the day. A couple hiking the opposite direction who ask a simple but strange question. "Where does this trail come out?" I smile and let them know how long I've been hiking and how to connect back to where they are parked. I ask if they have plenty of water and they look at me like I've crossed some line of being nosy. I probably shouldn't have said anything, but anyone who is on a trail, in this desert backcountry, and doesn't know how long or where the trail will end, probably didn't bring enough water either. They assure me they are okay, and we bid farewell.
From the saddle, the trail quickly decends a series of switchbacks and drops into the major wash. Somehow I have missed the Castle Bridge loop trail, I was hoping to pick up on this side of the Golden Wall, but it was a simple detour that will re-connect with this main trail soon enough.
The trail continues the long wandering path following the wash, the changing view of the golden wall protected by its massive hoodoo army is stunning. The lower I drop in elevation, the smaller the statue of hoodoo until eventually all are gone. The wide wash carries the remains of taller and larger hoodoos from over the centuries, and I enjoy the pleasant walk back to the highway. The connecting bike path, makes for an enjoyable walk on asphalt, along another tributary back to the campground. The REI van is long gone and a new group of adventure seekers has taken their place in the pavilion.