Casto Canyon Trail
Casto Canyon is like a miniature Bryce Canyon. Spires of orange rock rise
above you on the canyon walls, among pine and cedar. All except for 2 miles of
fairly technical singletrack, the trail is an ATV path that's easy to ride. But
the many creek drips and turns will hold your interest while you gawk at the
awesome spectacle of rock. The trail clears of snow in May.
View of the canyon wall, about a mile up Casto Canyon. Photos by Bruce
Argyle, July 17, 2001.
|The lower 3.7 miles of Casto Canyon is an easy ride on an ATV trail. But I
don't recommend it for tiny tykes, because small wheels and lighter bodies will
hang up on some of the large rocks in the many creek crossings. Beginning riders
will turn back where the singletrack forks off of the ATV trail, for a total
ride of 7.4 miles. Almost all of the eye-popping rock formations are on the
lower section anyway. Vertical climb will be 600 feet for this version, but the
altitude gain is slow and almost imperceptible.
Jackie pauses to cool her feet and
grab a drink of water. The eroded creek walls are the result of flash
flooding two nights before our ride.
||For those who are interested in a longer ride, I suggest you form a loop of
the singletrack past Casto Springs, the Fremont ATV trail, and the northern end
of the ATV trail. This ride will be 14.4 miles. (See map.) Peak altitude will be
8000 feet, for a climb of 1000 feet.
View of the canyon walls about 3 miles
up the Casto.
You'll ride into the creek over 20 times. (The creek may dry up before it
reaches the parking area.) Plan on dust settling on a wet chain. To prevent
chain suck on the steeps that follow, I suggest you wash your chain before you
exit the creek the last time (either at the trail fork if you're heading left,
or at mile 5.4 on the singletrack). Packing a tiny bottle of chain-lube with you
Bruce rides the singletrack in upper
Photo done with the camera's timer.
(This was before GoPros and digital cams.)
|The orange rocks on the walls of Casto Canyon (and of Bryce
Canyon) are formed of Claron-formation limestone. This limestone was
deposited at the bottom of a large fresh-water lake about 40 million years
ago, before the plateau area was lifted up above the valleys of the Great
The lower canyon has spaced fir and long-leaf pine, with a
scattering of brush and wildflowers. Walk up to one of the tall long-leaf pines and stick your nose in a crack in
the bark. Seriously. It smells like vanilla.
Paintbrush blooms alongside the trail
in the July sunshine.
|Once you're up on the mesa, the vegetation becomes more
dense, with lupines and grasses among the brush, with low forests of
pinion, fir, and juniper.
Lupine blooms among the brush on the
loop portion, upper mesa.
||The upper mesa also offers a different panoramas, looking at
rock cliffs of a different color and views over the valleys to the north.
The volcanic rock here originated within the past 20 million years,
when volcanoes dominated the southwest corner of the state.
From the Fremont ATV Trail looking
|Another riding option is to head down the Cassidy Trail, either to highway 12
for a road return, or to Losee Canyon. Be warned -- the Cassidy Trail was hard to
find, but (I hear) a sign has been installed, and more tires are following the
Casto-Losee loop. Cassidy forks south (right) off
Casto near Casto Springs, about 0.5 miles from where the singletrack meets the
Fremont Trail. In 2002, perhaps it was because I was riding just two days after massive
thunderstorms, but I couldn't find any sign of the trail.
| If you plan on using
the Cassidy Trail from the bottom end, the trailhead is the "Red Canyon" Trailhead, 2.5 miles
uphill from the "Red Canyon" sign on the left at GPS N 37° 44.692' W
View over the handlebars in the wider
section of lower Casto Canyon.
Riding notes for loop version:
0.4 metal gate, continue straight
3.7 signpost marking fork of singletrack off ATV trail GPS N 37° 48.174' W 112°
17.062', go right across creek
5.1 pass Casto Springs
5.4 steep short climb up out of wash on left, last chance to wash the chain
5.7 reach Fremont Trail ATV path GPS N 37° 48.158' W 112° 15.372', turn left
7.5 after crossing large "meadow" area, descend steeply into creek
then climb again
8.5 junction of Fremont Trail with Casto Canyon ATV Trail GPS N 37° 49.577' W
112° 16.687', turn left.
10.7 back to junction of ATV trail with singletrack, turn right downhill.
14.4 back at trailhead
||Getting there: From US-89, drive 2.9 miles east on
U-12 (towards Bryce Canyon National Park). Turn left on the gravel road
marked for Casto Canyon. Drive 3 miles. Parking is on your left, the
trailhead is on the right at GPS N 37° 47.038' W 112° 19.919'.
Thanks to Jon Parker for GPS track file.
Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc