There is a very small town located just east of Zion National Park called Mt. Carmel. If you have never been to Zion park it is amazing! Since we live so close we have been there many times but it has been a while since I’ve been there. It is a beautiful place but since we have been there so many times it’s sometimes not worth the entrance fee and the crows. There are, however, many backcountry areas and places located near Zion that offer a similar experience. Mt. Carmel is one of those places.
My brother-in-law is an engineer for UDOT and was there on a job a few weeks ago. He and my sister invited us to come stay there with them since they would have some free time and wanted to go hiking. We hiked for a while but we didn’t dare venture too far into the canyons for fear of flash floods since there had been some large cloud bursts. We decided to head back the next weekend just to camp and hike. There was a little bit of rain but there were no large thunderstorms so we ventured into a place called “The Barracks”. It is the East Fork of the Virgin River that eventually runs into the Zion Narrows. They call it narrows because it is a deep red rock slot canyon. I’ve hiked the Narrows a few times but I was excited for a different perspective.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to hike all the way to the lower Barracks where the canyon narrows and deepens but we did take the time to explore a side canyon called Mineral Gulch.
Most red rock canyons like this are very sandy. This one was sandy but there was also quite a bit of silt that had washed down from the mountains that turns into a dark, slimy mud when it sits and mixes with plant matter. The mud was all over around the edges of the water and Mineral Gulch was full of it! It was nasty stuff but it didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves.
During our first visit we hiked a very short slot canyon called Red Canyon or Red Cave as the locals call it. You can see from the pictures why it’s called a cave. It is so narrow and twisted that very little light comes into the canyon even during the middle of the day.
The trip turned out to be quite an adventure with snakes, very large lizards, toads, slot canyons, caves (there were real caves as well), off roading, crazy attacking ants, deep mud, and even some quicksand! We will definitely be going back. I would like to hike further into the lower Barracks and I would also like to hike to the end of Red Canyon without worrying that a giant wall of water is going to destroy us at any moment.
Here is a gallery with more of our pictures: