I don't think people realize how rare it is to find a good hiking location. It isn't, as most people believe, just walking down a trail. It is of course, but it is also so much more than that. I'm drawn back to Red Canyon once again due to all the "other" reasons for hiking here. A trail exists to be sure, but it is a minor point.
Actually, finding the parking spot to Red Canyon trailhead is a little tricky, it is accessible, mainly from the westbound lane and is comprised of a short loop which drops below the level of the road. Surrounded by trees, it is a beautiful setting in its own right. When I pulled into the lot, I was the third car. A horse trailer and another vehicle are all that awaits me. Wonderful.
The parking lot rests in the large wash area, next to the canyon I will be hiking up. It is referred to as Red Canyon Trailhead, but the trail is the Cassidy Trail (093) which I partially completed a month ago in conjunction with the Losee Canyon Trail (090). Losee Canyon Trail (090) connects with the Cassidy Trail (093), the Rich Trail (092) to Brayton Point. Forming a figure 8 by connecting the Rich Trails and Brayton Point. The hiking loop I am taking today will complete the Cassidy Trail (093), the Rich Trail (092), by hiking through "The Gap" and the Ledge Point Trail (093) to a view point. I will then short cut back to the Cassidy Trail, by taking the Rich Trail (092) and back to the parking lot. It's a relatively short hike, but I am looking forward to spending more time here in this amazing landscape.
The trailhead is located on the northwest side of the parking lot. Hiking up and through some damaged area of the trail, before dropping into the wash itself, it is a reminder that these areas are under constant change by wind and water. I quickly spot several horse tracks, and it doesn't take long to realize that this must be a very popular horse touring area. There must be a certain appeal to riding a horse up the same canyon as Butch Cassidy is said to have done.
The trail is an easy grade and the red rock and towering pine trees are beautiful. I hike in total peace and quiet. Something, I'm pretty sure, the hikers in Bryce Canyon are not feeling on their freeway trails in the middle of the park. The trail soon begins to climb through a steeper section of the canyon and the increased elevation gives one pause over the rugged beauty of this backcountry.
Bristlecone Pine trees dot the hillside, which tells me a few things about the area. Bristlecone Pine trees are some of the oldest living things on the planet and thrive under extreme conditions. They are always a sign of a living environment that would be harsh to try and survive under for very long. But the day is stunning, cool temperatures, slight breeze and I've got my camel pack, walking stick and lunch in my backpack.
I connect with the Rich Trail and the Ledge Point Trail as I make my way along the rocky plateau towards Ledge Point. I am as high in elevation as I am going to get, so the walking is pleasant and the views are stunning.
Ledge Point consists of a rocky stone cap along the top of the plateau that I've been hiking along, heading south back towards the main canyon and Scenic Highway 12. The stone cap is wedge shaped and continues to narrow in width until it ends at a rocky point. I wasn't brave enough to stand on top of the crumbling rock, but it sure would have made for an incredible selfie.
Hiking back along the Ledge Point Trail, I spot the group of horses working their way down the canyon. The trail is steep and the rocky surface slick. I'm glad I'm walking.
The horses are making short work of the steep terrain, but I continue to give them plenty of room as their tour guide stops and tells them stories and point out items of interest in the surrounding area. Connecting again with the Cassidy trail, I am back on familiar terrain as I walk down canyon back to the parking lot. A shout from behind warns me of a mountain bike coming down the path, and I yell a warning of horses ahead back to him. In all my years of hiking multi-purpose trails, this is the first time I ever recall being able to see all three users cross paths within a hundred yards of each other. A fun reminder of; no matter how you enjoy the backcountry. Get out there and enjoy it.