“This 13 mile loop climbs Red Canyon with awesome views of the Paradox Valley and beyond.
— Paul Koski
This is a great "short" ride if you are in the West End looking for a challenging yet fun outing. Easily accessible off the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway, this ride is a visual treat as it heads up the canyon through large strata of Navaho and Entrada sandstone. The old two track gets rougher as it heads up the canyon through sage flats, juniper and pinion pines while old mines can be seen near the top of the canyon rim. Views of the San Juan and La Sal Mountains are evident from the view point high atop Carpenter Ridge overlooking the Paradox Valley.
This is rideable most of the year. Short hike a bike section at the end of the canyon. Some soft and sandy conditions exist along the trail. Interesting rock formations make this ride a visual treat. Plan on 4-5 hours for the full loop.
Need to Know
All West End rides are on undeveloped public lands with wilderness characteristics. Most trails are unmarked and there are no facilities readily available.The towns of Naturita and Gateway provide the only services on Hwy 141 while Nucla boasts a small bike shop for limited parts and repairs.
Utilizing a section of the 118 mile long Paradox Trail
, the Red Canyon Loop is easily accessible from Hwy 141 about 30 miles south of Gateway. Look for the only bridge crossing the Dolores River off the highway. Park on the west side and follow the Paradox Trail
signs as the two track climbs a bench meeting the mouth of Red Canyon less than two miles from the bridge. The two track gets rougher as it climbs the canyon but follows a bench on an easy gradient.
About 5 miles up, you'll encounter a steep and rocky hike a bike section that eventually becomes more rideable as it nears the canyon rim high above the Paradox Valley. Here you can turn this loop into an out and back or continue up the trail until you see a two track coming in from the right (north) at about mile six. Follow this road down for about a half mile where it intersects with CR Q13. This rough and wild road descends Carpenter Flats back to the bridge. Stay on the main track turning right at most intersections.
History & Background
Uranium has a long and colorful history here and is the major reason for the hundreds of miles of old two track trails in the area. The original road down Red Canyon was known as the Radium Trail for the uranium ore which was hauled out of the area mines to the mill town of Uravan.