Nearly two million acres stretch throughout the lush, desert landscape of Dixie National Forest. Established on September 25, 1905 by the General Land Office, the name of this famous national treasure was famously dubbed by the locals who deemed the warm Southern climate of Utah as “Dixie.”
The U.S. Forest Service took over the upkeep and protection of the land in 1906, and the following year on March 4th, Dixie officially became a National Forest. Sevier National Forest was included in Dixie territory on July 1st, 1922, and the famously plentiful Powell National Forest was officially designated as part of Dixie on October 1st, 1944.
Three sections of Dixie National Forest cross into Bryce Canyon County. Each section encompasses a major plateau, and elevations range from approximately 6,000 to over 10,000 feet. The Markagunt Plateau, Paunsaugunt Plateau, and Aquarius Plateau are each within these three sections of the Dixie National Forest. The Aquarius Plateau is believed to be the highest plateau in North America.
Wildlife abounds in these areas, which represent some of the most remote forests in the continental United States. Scenic Highway 12 passes alongside and through two of these sections of forest. Red Canyon is located in the Paunsaugunt section of the forest and is close to Bryce Canyon National Park. Red Canyon looks very much like Bryce Canyon with its limestone Hoodoo formations. Red Canyon was also one place used as a hideout by Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch” gang.
Scenic Highway 143 goes west from the town of Panguitch to Panguitch Lake. “Big Fish” is the English name for Panguitch, which comes from the Paiute (Native American) language. This lake and the nearby streams are famous for their plentiful and large trout. The fishing is great! To the west of Panguitch Lake is Brian Head Ski and Summer Resort.
The Markagunt section of the forest also comprises the Boulder Mountains. This is a famous place for backcountry lakes and great fishing. ATVing, biking, and backroad trails are prevalent throughout the forest.
Dixie’s famously “warm” climate shifts to many extremes. Summer highs exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the areas near St. George, while winter ushers in a staggering below 30 degrees on the plateau tops.
Thunderstorms are common in the late summer months, and rains pour heavily in some areas of the forest. In the lower areas, precipitation remains around 10 inches, while in higher elevation areas such as Brian Head Peak rain reaches more than 40 inches per year. Forest elevations range anywhere from 2,800 feet near St. George to 11,322 feet at Blue Bell Knoll on Boulder Mountain, while areas such as Markagunt, Pansaugunt, and the Aquarius Plateaus sweetly soak in the high altitude climate of the rolling hills and sweeping peaks.
Famous for its dense vegetation and desert plants, the lower elevation of Dixie National Forest boasts beautiful bounties of juniper and pinyon pine while higher elevations flaunt the more sought-after and rare forest life of aspens, and variations of conifers such as spruce, fir, and pine.
This entire region is a great location for hiking, fishing, backcountry, and off-road touring. We encourage you to remember to treat the land and our resources with respect and care