Halloween Hike to Ghost Flats. Or, the Abbadog Hikes Again.
With Abby finally ready for her first real hike we were in the market for something short and easy. Red Canyon is only a couple miles from the house and offers some nice scenery as well as some variation for Abbs as well as a short section of narrows about 2.5 miles from the tralhead that would be a good destination.
Abby and I had hiked in this area last spring soon after I moved to Cedar City and remembered it being quite pretty, but hiking it again made me appreciate just how beautiful some of the features are. Spending time in visually-striking southern Utah makes red rock formations and endless views just an everyday thing, but it still continues to strike me how beautiful it all is – even the “normal” stuff. In any case, the BLM obviously thought this area was special enough because where there was once an informal trail and some footpaths going up the canyon from route 14 there is now an official trail marked by a sign: Red Canyon. The trail seemed mostly unchanged though perhaps a little more trafficked as we hiked up the canyon, but upon reaching the high point there suddenly appeared an elaborate fence, and then multiple trail signs! Oddly they all seemed to be named “Thor’s Hideout” (whatever that is) and seemed to crisscross eachother down the north side of the canyon; we selected one and ended up immediately being turned back to the fence. It was strange not only that there was more than one trail in the canyon (I mean, it’s a canyon), but that none of them seemed to follow the original route. And that none of them led to the little section of narrows that is arguably the neatest thing about the canyon.
Anyway, we found the narrows, sat down for a snack, and decided to hike up a small hill to get a better view of the new trailhead area that had been created to the north before turning around… but as we were approaching the overlook we passed the once-informal-footpath that led up to the eastern side of the canyon and so we decided to walk up the quarter mile to get that view. Plus, the route had been officially named “Ghost Flats” and it was Halloween, so how could we resist? I had gone this far on my previous solo expedition, but Tom informed me that you could continue waslking this trail up to the rim that separated this canyon from the next and from there descend on a diagonal back to our trailhead which wouldn’t add much more than a mile. Abby wasn’t fatigued and seemed quite happy to be out hiking again so we decided to go that route and lengthen our hike a little bit.
The Ghost Flats Trail starts with about a mile of switchbacks up the canyon face through the juniper, with each turn providing better views of the north side of Cedar City and the valley beyond. It’s pleasant, but it is certainly not flat; we gained 500 feet in elevation before we reached the highest point. From here we began a slight descent through a forested section and then emerged in a pale, grassy meadow – presumably Ghost Flats. As we crossed the meadow the trail entered another dense forested section and began ascending again. Though we were looking for the turn off to descend we walked onwards, looking for potential paths down to Cedar Canyon. After walking more than a mile past the meadow I went ahead while Abby rested only to determine that unfortunately there wasn’t a walkable way down this canyon, so we all retreated. Making our way back through the forest and meadow and then forest we eventually found a promising side path that did in fact bring us back to route 14, east of where we parked. But our easy 5 mile hike had turned into a 6 mile hike with an extra 500 feet of elevation, which had turned into a 10 mile hike and even more elevation though Abby ended up doing just fine even if she was noticeably tired the last mile. So while she still can’t really jump up or down much because it’s puts stress on her pelvis, she obviously is ready to return to hiking with us.