The first section of the Cassidy Trail hike from Highway to the the intersection of the Rich Trail is described in the previous article. The Rich Trail goes to a scenic overlook on a low ridge line near the majestic hoodoos in Red Canyon. By following the Cassidy Trail uphill from this point, a second ridge line at a higher elevation can be accessed. The Cassidy Trail ridge line offers panoramic overviews of the entire Red Canyon region, so it is well worth checking out this section of the trail!
The Cassidy Trail goes several mile into the Dixie National Forest wilderness and this trail is long enough for planning an overnight back country campout. The Cassidy Trail connects with several other Red Canyon trails, so a five mile loop back to the highway or a short out and back to the high ridge line can be done as a half day trek. The Rich Trail is a good half day trek option too. Either way, the views are spectacular in this blazing orange color landscape and the sound of the breeze whispering in the tall pine trees is as peaceful as can be.
The total length of a round trip hike from the highway to the Cassidy Trail ridge line is about four miles. From the highway to the Rich Trail, the ascent is gradual so the hike is easy. From the Rich Trailhead to the Cassidy Trail ridge line, the path is steeper and it is a bit more strenuous. For this reason, it is best to take frequent short breaks to avoid altitude sickness in the high elevations. The hard work going uphill will be rewarded with majestic views and the best part is the trek back downhill will be very easy going!
The scenery sure is beautiful along the trail and plenty of interest red rock outcrops can be seen. As the trail goes uphill, there are a few overlooks that reveal hidden parts of Red Canyon. The trail zig-zags near the destination, then the trail follows a high elevation ridge line west over the top Red Canyon, before the Cassidy Trail heads north into the wilderness. The short ridge line section offers some great views, so be sure to pack a good camera for the hike.
On the downside, by the time that I got to the Cassidy Trail ridge line way up high over Red Canyon, I saw smoke billowing up from the forest down below. I was just at the visitor center about two hours prior and the camp hosts did not mention any existing wildfires or planned controlled burns in the area. However, they did mention how short handed they were in this National Forest. The thought of a communication goof crossed my mind while looking at the forest fire down below. I was trying to decide whether it was a planned control burn or whether it was a wildfire, then I realized that my car was parked near where the smoke was coming from. It only took a split second to commit to the safest thing to do, which was to high step it back downhill as quickly as possible and get my car out of harm's way.
The sight of the smoke down in the forest way down below sure did get the gears in motion. I actually jogged and ran downhill, while only taking short breaks to catch the breath. The trip back to the highway took about half the time of the uphill trek, which was pretty darn quick! Back down at the valley floor I could see the smoke, but I could not see the fire, so all was safe for the moment.
After getting onto the highway, clear views of the forest fire could be seen from an ATV trailhead near Bryce Canyon. From this vantage point, the fire looked like a controlled burn, which was like a sigh of relief. Later that evening after getting back to the job site residence where internet service was available, it was confirmed as a National Forest Service controlled burn. It was frustrating not getting this information ahead of time, but at least I did get to spend a brief moment way up on the Cassidy Trail ridge line and the views certainly were magnificent!
Safety always comes first when a smoke is seen in the woods, so never feel bad about cutting a hike short when wildfires are a threat. Fire travels uphill, so heading to lower elevations is the best way to escape danger. Time is of the essence, so making the right decision has to be done quickly in these kinds of situations, even if the fire only turns out to be an unannounced controlled burn! This is important to keep in mind anywhere out west, because wildfires are an ever present danger, even in the majestic Red Canyon.
Leave no trace!
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