(This is the second half of an article describing how you can enjoy traveling to the great national parks of Southern Utah with your dog. The first half last month described visiting Zion National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the town of Kanab and the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. As we pointed out before, America’s national parks are typically not dog-friendly, but the bordering state parks and national monuments are a different story.)
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is an unusual hoodoo-iferous place—matchless eye-candy. “It’s a helluva place to lose a cow” is how namesake Ebenezer Bryce described it. From Sunrise Point to Sunset Point, along the colorful rim, there is a short half-mile dog-friendly trail. (All dogs must be on a leash no longer than six feet.) That’s it for hiking with your dog within the park.
Suggestions: A mere nine miles from Bryce is the spectacular Red Canyon State Park in Dixie National Forest, known as one of the most photographed places in Utah. The recreation opportunities here are endless, including dog-friendly hiking among red sandstone spires and formations similar to Bryce. A well-established trail system leads to fantastic locations like Thunder Mountain and the Pink Ledges. Recommended for dogs is the five-mile trail departing directly across from the visitors center along the scenic Red Canyon Bicycle Trail, the Golden Wall Trail, the Castle Bridge Trail, and the Buckhorn Trail. Rangers at the visitors center are happy to assist in planning good dog hikes.
The Red Canyon Campground is in a grassy meadow high above Flaming Gorge close to beautiful cliffs. RV sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
NOTE: Red Canyon is known historically as Butch Cassidy Country so please plan on putting an appropriate Bandit Bandana on your dog’s collar!
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
The 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), administered by the Bureau of Land Management, is a mecca for adventurous dog owners, a treasure trove of places for serious exploration.
Dogs are allowed in most of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. However, dogs must be leashed on the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail and within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Due to the confined space of slot canyons, dogs are not permitted in the Dry Fork slot canyons off Hole-in-the-Rock Road (Peek-A-Boo and Spooky).
There are so many different ways to take advantage of this amazing, rugged, undeveloped wilderness it’s hard to know where to begin. The BLM maintains information centers around the periphery of the monument. BLM personnel at these centers can provide visitors with essential and detailed information and maps. Nice, primitive campgrounds are scattered throughout the GSENM, and dispersed camping is allowed if you want a true off-the-beaten path experience (backcountry permits required.)
Suggestions: Calf Creek is one of the better-known locations within the GSENM. The small and quiet campground there has space for smaller RVs. The six-mile round-trip hike to Lower Calf Creek is a marvel, beginning in cool woodland and continuing through a desert landscape thick with cactus, to an idyllic waterfall with hanging gardens.
Other ideal locations for dog hiking within the GSENM are Death Hollow, the Escalante River Gorge and Harris Wash (all of these do have water).
Another suggestion is to park at the Paria Contact Station near Big Water, Utah. Just past the ranger station itself are a select few RV campsites (no hookups.) The beauty of this location is its proximity to a number of excellent hikes and sites, like The Toadstools (an amphitheater of awesome hoodoos), the splendid Horseshoe Bend trail, Wirepass Slot Canyon, and even Lake Powell. Horseshoe Bend does allow dogs on the trail; a delightful dog-friendly hike down to Lake Powell can be found just after crossing the Glen Canyon Dam at The Chains. (Note a parking lot immediately on the left with a small site; this is more of a “locals’ secret” so the two trails are usually quiet and friendly.)
Nearby, the rustic Paria Canyon Guest Ranch has RV campsites with hookups, showers and even excellent steak-style Cowboy Dinners. It’s an ideal location for venturing into the pristine Paria Canyon wilderness. The Paria Canyon Guest Ranch is also close to all the sites just described at the Paria Contact Station.
Cedar Breaks National Monument and Duck Creek
Cedar Breaks and the nearby Duck Creek/Cedar Mountain is another area rich in treasures. Cedar Breaks is a natural amphitheater of brightly colored spires that inevitably bring a “wow” to people’s lips. There are colors here there are no names for. Dogs are allowed on the Campground Trail, and on all paved areas—including the overlooks. The splendid scenic drive through Cedar Breaks is a memorable experience. Autumn colors there have been rated among the top ten in America!
Just ten pretty miles away is the great little town of Duck Creek. A friendly, lively little community of hard-core outdoor enthusiasts, Duck Creek has several campgrounds, including Te-aH Campground in the scenic Navajo Lake Basin. Highly rated, this site offers access directly to the Pinks Trail leading to the Pink Cliff. Wildlife is plentiful here, so best that you understand that Fido needs to be well-behaved. A longer, more adventurous trail nearby is the Virgin River Rim Trail off Basin Road. This trail will take you to fantastic views overlooking Zion National Park. Because of wildlife, your dog should be on leash.
So now you have no excuses for not planning that extra special trip to America’s most memorable national parks, and to the many dog-friendly places nearby.
Laurel Beesley is a writer, marketing and advertising professional, and the operator of a bed and breakfast in Kanab, Utah
Tips for Dog Owners
Always bring rabies and other health records with you.
Temperatures get hot in the desert, so avoid the hot sand in the middle of the day. And bring along your dog’s water bowl and lots of water even when hiking in the morning or evening.
Look out for cactus and wildlife, including rattlesnakes.
Remember that the dog leash cannot extend more than six feet on some trails.
For detailed information on traveling with dogs, consult websites such as bringfido.com, dogfriendly.com and gopetfriendly.com.