The drive on Highway 12 between U.S. 89 and the turn-off for Bryce Canyon National Park  passes through this well-named canyon. Because Red Canyon is not part of Bryce (it's part of Dixie National Forest), many of the trails here are open to mountain biking and ATV riding. In fact, this canyon has become very popular as other Utah mountain biking destinations become crowded.
Staff members at the Red Canyon Visitor Center (Hwy. 12 between Mileposts 3 and 4, 435/676-2676, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily Memorial Day-Labor Day, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Mon. during spring and fall) can tell you about the trails and scenic backcountry roads that wind through the area. Books and maps are available.
The U.S. Forest Service maintains many scenic hiking trails that wind back from the highway to give you a closer look at the geology. The following are open to hikers only (dogs are also permitted).
Pink Ledges Trail, the easiest and most popular, loops one mile past intriguing erosional features from the Red Canyon Visitor Center. Signs identify some of the trees and plants; the elevation gain is 100 feet.
The Birdseye Trail winds through formations and connects the visitor center with a parking area on Highway 12 just inside the forest boundary, 0.8 mile away.
Buckhorn Trail begins from site number 23 in Red Canyon Campground and climbs one mile for views of erosional forms and Red Canyon; the campground is on the south side of Highway 12 between Mileposts 3 and 4.
The Tunnel Trail ascends 300 feet in 0.7 mile for fine views of the canyon. The trail begins from a pullout on the south side of Highway 12 just west of a pair of tunnels, crosses the streambed, then climbs a ridge to viewpoints on the top. Ask at the visitor center for other good area trails worth exploring.
A rather wonderful paved bike trail parallels Highway 12 for five miles through Red Canyon. Parking lots are located at either end of the trail, at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead and Coyote Hollow Road.
True mountain bikers will eschew the pavement and head to Casto Canyon Trail, a 5.5-mile one-way trail that winds through a variety of red-rock formations and forest. This ride starts west of the visitor center, about two miles east of Highway 89. Turn north from Highway 12 onto Forest Road 118, and continue about three miles to the Casto Canyon parking lot. For part of the way, the trail is shared with ATVs, but then the bike trail splits off to the right. The usual turn-around point is at Sanford Road.
This ride can be linked with other trails to form a 17-mile one-way test of biking skills and endurance, with the route starting and ending along Highway 12. If you don't have a shuttle vehicle at each of the trailheads, you'll need to pedal back another eight miles along the paved roadside trail to retrieve your vehicle.
Start at Tom Best Road, just east of Red Canyon. You'll climb through forest, turning onto Berry Spring Creek Road and then Cabin Hollow Road. Once the trail heads into Casto Canyon, you'll have five downhill miles of wonderful red-rock scenery. When you reach the Casto Canyon Trailhead, you can choose to return to Highway 12, or you can pedal out to Highway 89 and Panguitch .
Much of the trail is strenuous, and you'll need to take water along because there's no source along the way. There are several side trails to make this into a shorter ride; stop by the visitor center for more information.