Charming, Historic Panguitch
By Dixie Brunner
The small community of Panguitch, on Scenic Highway 89, is located in a valley between the Paunsaugunt and Markagunt Plateaus. It’s name came from a Native American Paiute word meaning ‘Big Fish,’ probably due to nearby mountain lakes that feature some of the largest rainbow trout in the state.
The charming town of about 1600 sits at an elevation of 6600 feet above sea level. It is the county seat of Garfield County, one of the last areas to be explored and settled in the continental U.S.
While originally settled in 1866 and abandoned during the Black Hawk War, determined pioneers returned in 1871. But it was a difficult existence due to long winters and short growing seasons.
The first winter thoroughly tested the settler’s survival skills. Supply routes were blocked by snow, and the residents were beginning to starve. Seven brave men volunteered to make the perilous journey over the mountain to secure flour.
Since the snow was too deep for wagons, the men were forced to walk most of the trek. To avoid falling through the snow’s crust, the men used quilts to cover the surface of the snow, creating a cushion to safely walk across. When they reached the end of one quilt, they would place another one down before retrieving the first.
The technique led the men safely to the neighboring settlement and back again, saving the Panguitch inhabitants from starvation and thus became the famous “quilt walkers.” Every Spring, Panguitch hosts an annual Quilt Walk Festival to commemorate the historic event.
In summer, the highly popular Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally is held. Brightly-colored balloons fill the sky, and those attending can enjoy fun, food and plenty of activities.
The outlaw Butch Cassidy grew up in the area. His childhood home is 25 miles north of Panguitch.
The quaint community boasts all conveniences such as food, fuel and lodging, with excellent fishing at nearby Panguitch Lake. There is also great hiking on Pink Ledges, Birdseye and Arches Trails in Red Canyon. If you want to stay in Panguitch, there is a walking trail through the historic town. Pick up the walking tour brochure at the Garfield County Tourism Office.