Dixie National Forest
Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Intermountain Region
1,967,165 acres (1,889,127 federal/ 78,038 other)
Dixie National Forest is spread across southwest Utah surrounding Cedar Breaks National Monument and near three National Parks: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion. The National Forest has a wide elevation range from 2,800 feet near St. George to 11,322 feet on Boulder Mountain. The change in average temperature and precipitation leads to wide variety of ecosystems from a desert-like environment all the way up to subalpine conifer forests and tundra. The warmth of southern Utah reminded some early emigrants of “Dixie,” the part of the U.S. south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but with growing public distaste for that name it may be changed in the future.
Markagunt National Scenic Byway, Brian Head, Navajo Lake, Cascade Falls, Strawberry Point, Red Canyon Recreation Area, Honeycomb Rocks, Powell Point, Hell’s Backbone Bridge, Virgin River Rim Trail, Hancock Peak Trail, Whipple Trail, Casto Canyon Trail
Highway 12 Scenic Byway winds through much of the National Forest, including Red Canyon Recreation Area where the popular Casto Canyon Trail is open to hikers, bicycles, horses, and ATVs. The mountain ranges west of Interstate 15 are a less-visited section of the forest, with numerous trails traversing the Pine Valley Mountains Wilderness, including the 35-mile Summit Trail.
Leaving from a trailhead across Highway 143 from the road to the top of 11,312-foot-tall Brian Head, Rattlesnake Creek Trail skirts the edge of spectacular Cedar Breaks National Monument and enters the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness (established in 1984). About one mile in, one of several side trails leads off to the left for an overlook of the Cedar Breaks, a red rock badlands full of hoodoos situated at the edge of the Markagunt Plateau. Gnarled Great Basin bristlecone pine trees cling to the eroding edge of the natural amphitheater, making a great foreground for photographs with a beautiful backdrop. The trail continues to drop more than 2,400 feet to the canyon bottom over four miles connecting with Ashdown Creek which eventually crosses Highway 14, but there is not an official trailhead there.
A variety of mammals call Dixie National Forest home: black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, three species of foxes, minks, pine martens, porcupines, beavers, raccoons, skunks, badgers, snowshoe hares, pika, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and pronghorns. Large birds include bald eagles, golden eagles, California condors, turkey vultures, wild turkeys, and various species of woodpeckers. There are many gamefish found in the streams and small lakes spread across the high-elevation Markagunt, Paunsaugunt, and Aquarius Plateaus.
South of Torrey, Highway 12 climbs into an aspen forest with incredible views of Capitol Reef National Park and Waterpocket Fold.
Highway 12 and Highway 143 are paved roads that access the high elevations of Dixie National Forest, but they may be closed seasonally due to snow. There are numerous dirt roads that traverse the area, including the popular route to the top of 11,312-foot-tall Brian Head.
There are numerous campgrounds located throughout the National Forest, as well as dispersed camping opportunities on dirt roads west of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Ashdown Gorge Wilderness
Box-Death Hollow Wilderness
Cottonwood Forest Wilderness
Pine Valley Mountains Wilderness
Cedar Breaks National Monument (Utah)
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Utah)
Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)
Nearest National Park
Utah juniper, singleleaf pinyon pine, ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, Great Basin bristlecone pine
quaking aspen, Bebb willow
Explore More – On the Markagunt Plateau, Navajo Lake drains out of two lava tubes that formed how many millions of years ago?
Learn more about this and the 154 other National Forests in our new guidebook Out in the Woods
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