Covering almost 2 million acres, the Dixie National Forest should be hard to miss. But with famous national parks like Zion, Bryce, and Capital Reef nearby, it’s easy to overlook a humble national forest. Our advice for anyone traveling with pets: make time to explore the pet friendly beauty of Dixie.
Southern Utah has such a concentration of breathtaking natural wonders that it’s almost too good to be true. Within a half-day’s drive you can visit Zion, Bryce, and Capital Reef National Parks, and Cedar Breaks and Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monuments. But if you’re traveling with pets, one place you won’t want to miss is the Dixie National Forest.
For your furry travel companions, visiting national parks generally means being relegated to the back seat, enduring a perfunctory drive-through of magnificent landscapes. That’s exactly the opposite of what you and your pets will experience in the Dixie National Forest!
Red Canyon Visitor Center – Dixie National Forest, Powell District
Pets At Dixie National Forest
Much to our delight, the Dixie National Forest is extremely pet friendly. Leashed pets are welcome to enjoy all the campgrounds, picnic areas, and trails with you. In fact, there’s almost nowhere pets can’t go at Dixie!
Pet Policy at Dixie National ForestPets must be leashed, and leashes must be no longer than six feetPet waste must be picked up and disposed of properlyPets are not allowed inside park buildings, including the visitor center
Get The Lay Of The Land
Dixie is divided into four districts, stretching across southern Utah from the Nevada border east to Capital Reef National Park. Each district has its own visitor center as well as unique terrain and special places to visit. And all are close to more popular tourist destinations in southern Utah. So when you’re tired of the crowds, make your way to Dixie for some peace and tranquility.
Brian Head Peak at sunset – Dixie National Forest, Cedar City District
It would take a lifetime to explore Dixie’s 1,600 miles of hiking, horseback riding, and bike trails, hundreds of miles of scenic byways, backways, and drives, 500 miles of fishing streams, and 90 lakes — and every square inch is pet friendly! If you’re traveling to Utah with your pet, you simply can’t afford to miss this.
The settlers who arrived here from southern states to plant cotton and other crops referred to the area as “Utah’s Dixie” for it’s mild weather. But Dixie actually encompasses a wide variety of climates and ecosystems.
With elevations between 3,000 and 11,000 feet, annual precipitation ranges between 10 and 40 inches. And temperatures fluctuate between -30 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. With so many options, finding your perfect weather conditions might be possible without ever leaving the park.
Red Canyon – Dixie National Forest, Powell District
A Closer Look At Red Canyon
Though we have more exploring to do, one of our favorite spots in the the Dixie National Forest is Red Canyon. Located near Bryce Canyon National Park, the red limestone and sandstone here have eroded into elegant spires and burly hoodoos.
A stop at the Red Canyon Visitor Center is a wonderful starting point for exploring this area. You’ll find maps, trail advice, and all the information you’ll to ensure you visit is safe and fun.
Hiking At Red Canyon
When you’re ready to stretch your legs, Red Canyon has a trail for everyone. And most trailheads are at or near the visitor center! Whether you’re looking for a place to push your pet’s stroller, backpack into the wilderness for several days, or peddle your bike while admiring the views, you’ll find it here.
We’ve been bringing our dogs to walk the trails here for years. But this was our first visit with Myles. It was a special treat for us to see him following in Ty and Buster’s paw prints.
Keep in mind the the elevations at Red Canyon are above 7,000 feet, so people and pets will dehydrate quickly. Be sure to carry plenty of water when you hit the trails!
READ MORE ⇒ 7 Essentials For Desert Hiking With Your Dog
Buster and Ty at Red Canyon in 2017
Red Canyon Bicycle Trail
For an easy walk, pick up the Red Canyon Bicycle / Walking Path across the highway from the visitor center. Paralleling Highway 12, the path winds through Red Canyon from the entrance of the national forest to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Rod with Buster and Ty on the Red Canyon Bike Path in Dixie National Forest in 2017
Myles and Rod on the Red Canyon Bike Path in Dixie National Forest in 2022
For something a little more challenging, pick up a map of the Red Loop in the visitor center. Combining the Pink Ledges Trail, Hoodoo Trail, Birdseye Trail, and a section of the Red Canyon Bicycle Trail this 2.2-mile loop begins and ends in the visitor center parking lot.
It’s an interesting walk – especially if you also get the interpretive guide to the Pink Ledges Trail before setting out. Walking along the massive rock formations allows you to begin to appreciate their scale.
Golden Wall Trail
If you have a bit more time, the Golden Wall Trail is our favorite. The trail begins just west of the visitor center on the opposite side of the highway. Connecting to the Buckhorn Trail and returning to the visitor center on the Red Canyon Bike Trail makes for a lovely 5-mile hike.
There are many other trails to choose from at Red Canyon. And I don’t think you can go wrong no matter which you choose! With scenery like this, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed.
Red Canyon Campground
Dixie National Forest’s four districts offer a total of 27 pet friendly campgrounds with varying amenities, and two that can accommodate horses.
At Red Canyon, there are 37 sites for tent and RV camping. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring, and grill. There are no hookups for water, sewer, or electricity, but there are water and restrooms with showers available throughout the campground. There is also an RV dump station and water fill station. The Red Canyon campground is generally open from early May to late September, depending on the weather.
From the campground, campers have easy access to the paved Red Canyon Bicycle trail and miles of hiking trails.
Scenic Drives In Dixie National Forest
Hwy 12 – The All American Road covers 124 miles from Hwy 89, past the Red Canyon Visitor Center, and on to Torrey at the junction of Hwy 24. Along the way you’ll pass through Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, and three state parks.
Keep an eye out for views of the Henry Mountains, Circle Cliffs, and Navajo Mountain!
Hwy 14 – This State Scenic Byway winds its way from Cedar City, through the red rock canyons, over the Markagunt Plateau, and past Navajo Lake and Duck Creek.
A short detour north puts you at Cedar Breaks National Monument, which is well work the drive!
Cedar Breaks National Monument – Dixie National Forest, Cedar City District
Hwy 143 – Known as the Patchwork Parkway, this 55-mile scenic byway takes you across Utah’s high plateaus to Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Starting from either Parowan or Panguitch, both historic Mormon settlements, the route takes you through Brian Head, Utah’s highest elevation community.
We hope our travels inspire you to visit Dixie National Forest on your trip to southern Utah. If you have other suggestions for our readers, please share them in the comments below!
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