Paunsaugunt Plateau & Casto Canyon – July 2012

July 5-7, 2012

In 2009, Kim, Jason, and I rode some of the Paunsaugunt ATV trails.  They were really enjoyable as well as very scenic.  This year we had a much larger group, but rode the some of the same trails – but in the opposite direction.

Gardiner: Dee, Kim, Kevin, Jamie, Jason

Barton: Scott, Terri, Ryan, Peter, Allyson

Wright: Taylor, Roberta, Nathan, Rachael, Jason

Taylor: Glen, Janet

Group shot (less the Barton family) while we are still clean


For more photos of our trip, check my Picasa album.


And here is my video summary of the trip.

Thursday, July 5: Coyote Hollow & King Creek Loop

This trip came about at the suggestion of Scott Barton.  Shortly after our annual spring break trip we picked the date and the location.  Unfortunately, Scott’s family had a schedule conflict and was not able to join us until Thursday night.  The rest of us met at my house, and we were on the road to southern Utah shortly after 9:00 AM.

We arrived at the trailhead a little later than anticipated, but we had good weather and plenty of daylight, so we proceeded with our intended ride.  We parked at the trailhead near the top of Red Canyon, just off Hwy 12.  The staging area is paved and contains a restroom.

We rode the Coyote Hollow and King Creek loops in a clockwise direction.  In 2009 we rode it counter-clockwise, which I think is slightly more enjoyable.

“If you get an outfit, you can be a dirt biker too”

We estimated the 36 mile loop would take 2-2.5 hours to complete.  It took us 4 hours – partially due to slow riders, and partially due to the large group size.  Every stop took at least 10 minutes because someone would take their helmet off, or need a potty break.  We would stop at each trail intersection and regroup so that no one would get lost, so these breaks really added up.  Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable ride.

Waiting at a trail junction

For the most part the trails are incredible.  They are mostly smooth and fast.  The scenery is also wonderful – beautiful meadows, forests, and spectacular scenic overlooks.  It is also common to spot deer and antelope along the trail.  There are a few rocky sections, but nothing too technical.

Glen and Janet Taylor

You get to ride the first portion of this trail, from the staging area to junction #1, both directions.  This portion of the trail is slightly more technical than most of the loop since it is an ATV trail, while the rest of the loop is on Jeep roads.

This section is fun as the trail winds through the forest with numerous tight turns and small hills to go up and over.  For a beginner, this section can be a little intimidating, but with caution it is easily ridden.

The eastern portion of this loop (#1 – #24) is fairly straight – mostly through open country.  When riding in the opposite direction, this ‘boring’ part is at the end of the ride when you are anxious to get back to the car.  When ridden clockwise, you hit this section first.

There is another staging area, including a restroom, at Tropic Reservoir (#24), which is about 7 miles from the highway.

Coyote Hollow & King Creek loop GPS track

There is a short, semi-technical ATV trail exiting the Tropic Reservoir staging area to the south.  This can be bypassed by riding along the road, if so desired.  At the southern end of the reservoir, the trail turns west and begins to climb.  This is the Badger Creek road.  We turned north at junction #7 for the King Creek loop.

The King Creek loop has a few rocky stretches, but it also offers some wonderful views towards Panguitch and the mountains near Brian Head.

Dee riding up the King Creek loop trail

The left fork of Blue Fly Creek was perhaps my favorite section of the trail.  It is a long, but fast, cruise through a beautiful valley.

Regrouping at the junction of Blue Fly Creek

Following our ride, we cleaned up as best we could and drove straight to Bryce Canyon Pines for a nice dinner.  This restaurant is famous for their soup and pie.  We considered trying the pie, but we were all too full after a wonderful meal.

We then drove to Cannonville and checked into our motel, the Grand Staircase Inn.  I have been disappointed with most motels I have tried in the Bryce Canyon area, so we thought we would give this one a try.  It is a little further out of the way, but the prices were reasonable and they have rooms with two king-sized beds.  Unfortunately they do not have a hot tub, pool, or continental breakfast.

Friday, July 6: Badger Creek – Straight Canyon Loop

This was to be our long day.  Our intent was to ride the entire main Paunsaugunt loop – 69 miles in total.  Kim, Jason, and I managed to do it in 2009, but with a larger group I figured it was a long shot.

We parked at Tropic Reservoir, and then rode up Badger Creek to the rim.  The trail somewhat follows the western rim of the plateau with occasional scenic views that are similar in nature to Bryce Canyon itself (which is on the east rim of the plateau).

Paunsaugunt loop

One of many scenic overlooks

Jamie taking the previous photo

Once again the trail mostly consists of fairly smooth Jeep roads.  Just south of point #9 is one of the “ATV only” sections of the trail, which is noticeably more technical (and fun).

With all of the trail junctions and scenic overlooks, we were not making very good progress towards our 69 mile goal. This wasn’t a serious issue, however, because there are numerous options for cutting the ride short.  Our main objective was to have an enjoyable and safe day.

Stopping for lunch

At junction #12 we took a short spur to an overlook and enjoyed a scenic lunch stop.


The view from our lunch stop

From point #12 the trail descends the mountain to #13, and then climbs again to #14.  It began to rain on us as we rode this section.  We watched the clouds build while we ate lunch, but the sky didn’t seem too threatening.  So we pressed on.

The trail between #14 and #16 is fairly steep, slightly rocky, and contains some ruts.  It didn’t seem as bad as in 2009.  I don’t know if that was because we rode down the trail this time, or if the trail has been improved.

The rain did not let up – in fact it started to rain even harder.  About 2/3 of the way between #16 and #17 I decided it was time to bail.  We took a shortcut that dropped us down to the East Fork Road.  By this time, those of us who left our raincoats in the car, were soaked.

The ride down the East Fork Road was quick and easy.  I picked a speed that would hopefully dry us out without causing hypothermia.  At one point I spooked two bucks out from under a pine tree.  I guess Peter was watching the deer and didn’t notice the rest of slowing down.  Once he realized this, he slammed on his breaks and crashed.  Luckily he was not hurt, but his bike needed a little tweaking.

This shortcut eliminated the entire southern portion of the trail, which is the most scenic and the most technical.  I estimate it would have taken us an extra 2 hours to ride that section even though our shortcut only dropped the ride from 69 miles to 53 miles.

It is not recommended that ATVs ride the main gravel road due to high-speed traffic.  So, we rejoined the ATV trail at Podunk Creek and rode the ATV trail back to the cars.

I think everyone but Scott felt the ride was long enough.  Scott was disappointed that we missed that southern end, so I guess we will just have to go back again.

After returning to our motel and cleaning up, we went to dinner at Clarke’s restaurant in Tropic.  I had heard that it offered good food, but I was pretty disappointed.  It was expensive, but not all that great.

Saturday, July 7: Casto Canyon

Our plan for our final day was to ride up Casto Canyon, up Barney Cove, and out to Peterson Point for a nice overlook above Panguitch.  From there we would ride the Fremont ATV north to Sandford Canyon, and back.

Casto Canyon is one of our family’s favorite ATV trails – or at least it used to be.  It is not very long, but it is very scenic and fun to ride.  It is a typical ATV trail with rounded ruts on each side of the trail.  Most of the trail zigzags through the trees with beautiful red rock formations throughout the canyon.

Casto Canyon

The trail is just technical enough to keep you on your toes.  Just when you think you can speed up, you come to a tight corner, a rocky stream crossing, or some exposed tree roots – nothing too technical, but enough to keep things interesting.

Unfortunately, our plans were cut short because Jason crashed just 3 miles from the car and broke his arm.  See my separate trip report for that story.

Everyone was very helpful in providing first-aid and a quick evacuation for Jason.  Most of the rest of the group continued on the ride once we were safely on our way to the hospital.  Unfortunately, I can’t provide any details for that portion of the ride.


About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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One Response to Paunsaugunt Plateau & Casto Canyon – July 2012

  1. Pingback: Casto Canyon Trail Utah | Rider Destinations

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