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Red Cliffs Trails

This page covers the trails in the northern end of the Red Cliffs Recreation Area. Trails and facilities are maintained by the BLM, and there is a small fee for use. The trails are generally easy to ride, suitable for beginners and families. There are many options. This page discusses the short trails close to the White Reef and Red Reef trailheads. For additional trail information see the White Reef to Leeds Reef page, the Quail Creek to Tipple Trail page, and the Prospector Trail page.

From the Cordura trail, we see the Pine Valley Mountains and the Red Cliffs to the west. Review and photos by Bruce on February 12, 2022.

There are two trailheads that access these trails directly (you can also connect by riding the Prospector Trail from the south, see below). Both of these trailheads are fee areas ($5 per car in 2022). Both trailheads have water and a bathroom.

White Reef Trailhead:  Large trailhead just off I-15, reached by exiting at Silver Reef, Leeds, or US-9 and taking the frontage road that runs east of the freeway. At Harrisburg, turn under the freeway then turn right at the T intersection. Self-service fee envelopes are at the step-over at the southwest corner of the parking area

Step-over gate at the south end of the White Reef parking area. There's a box with fee envelopes and a deposit box between the gate and the kiosk.

Red Reef Trailhead:  Parking lot in the campground and day-use area at the mouth of the canyon, reached via the paved road. Shaded picnic tables. From the frontage road along I-15, turn under the freeway then go left at the T intersection. Cross Quail Creek and follow the road towards the cliffs. Pay the entry fee at the station (or self-serve if unoccupied). The Red Reef East trail and the Anasazi trail have separate entrances on the northern side of the loop road and are not directly accessed from the parking lot.

Bathroom at White Reef with freeway noise for ambience. The water spigot is to the left of the bathroom.

Old Harrisburg Area Trails (White Reef Trailhead)
The White Reef trail starts at the step-over gate on the far west corner of the White Reef trailhead, across the I-15 freeway from modern Harrisburg. The White Reef trail can take you to all the trails in the system.

The trails of Old Harrisburg will be to your left as you head northwest on White Reef. They are the McMullen trail (to explore the ruin), the Adams trail (to head for big rides on Prospector and Quail Creek, or to see the Adams home near the recreation area road), then the Cordura trail (in case you forgot you wanted to go on either of the previous two trails).

The Leeds Reef trail will fork to your right to head northeast, then the White Reef trail will turn also to the northeast. White Reef and Leeds Reef form a fairly easy loop ride.

I'm also including the High Grade connector to Prospector as part of this system (see below). More information can be found on the Prospector Trail page.

Closeup map of White Reef trailhead area.

White Reef Trail

This is the entry trail from the White Reef trailhead. All the options discussed in this section fork away from White Reef. The White Reef trail ends at the Adit trail after 1.7 miles and around 300 vertical feet of climbing.

White Reef is a very easy trail to ride, suitable for children.

There's a covered picnic table ahead as we roll away from the trailhead.

McMullen Trail

Just 100 feet after the step-over gate between the parking area and the White Reef Trail, the McMullen trail forks to the left. In 100 yards, it ends on the Cordura trail. Turn left here, and ride across the pile of stones -- the corner of an old rock fence around the McMullen home -- to explore the ruins.

Approaching a corner of the rock fence surrounding the McMullen property.

Leeds Reef trail

The Leeds Reef trail forks to the right from White Reef around mile 0.2. Leeds Reef is an easier-intermediate level trail. It is 1.8 miles in length, with around 400 vertical feet of elevation change. Compared to White Reef, Leeds Reef has some steeper pitches and bumpier trail surfaces.

Looking south on Leeds Reef, we're in an area that was not burned by the 2020 fire.

Adams Trail

The Adams trail is the second option on your left, 0.2 miles from the trailhead, and just after passing the entry to the Leeds Reef trail on your right. The trail is 0.2 miles in length and runs from White Reef to the paved road, passing the old Adams home near the road.

After turning left onto the Adams trail, the Cordura trail crosses in 100 feet. (Turn left if you want to go to the McMullen ruin, otherwise, keep straight.) In 0.1 miles, the Adams trail crosses Quail Creek. At the trail fork, make a hard right onto the Prospector connector if your destination is the Quail Creek trail or Prospector. (If you want to see the Adams home, keep left and grunt up a steep slope.)

Heading down toward the Quail Creek crossing.

Cordura Trail

The Cordura trail is the third trail to leave White Reef on the left, just 100 feet past the Adams trail. It rapidly turns back to the southwest, 180 degrees opposite of the direction you were riding on White Reef. Cordura is 0.3 miles long, ending at the McMullen ruin.

After turning, the Cordura trail crosses the Adams trail, then heads toward I-15. A few feet before the rock wall, the McMullen trail joins on the left.

Eastbound on the Cordura trail. The Quail Creek Reservoir is below that notch in the hills.

Continue into the open area around the old home. (People who don't want the trail to end have created a path down to the creek, but trust me, the trail ends at the old buildings.) I count three buildings, including one that's probably a storage cellar.

A bit of remaining wall from the McMullen home.

High Grade trail

If your target is southbound on the Prospector Trail, it's most efficient to backtrack to the trailhead road. Follow the road parallel to the freeway, keeping straight at the intersection at the freeway tunnel. Cross Quail Creek, and as the road climbs and turns to head northwest, go to the step-over gate at the apex of the turn in the road. That's the High Grade trail, and it will take you directly to Prospector.

Entry to High Grade from the recreation area entry road.

High Grade is 0.4 miles long. After the initial grunt climb away from the road, it runs northwest along a ridgeline before descending to the desert where it meets Prospector. At the trail fork, a left turn takes you southbound on Prospector. Forking to the right will take you down to the recreation area road, where you can cross over to connect to the Quail Creek Trail, or to take the Adams trail back to White Reef.

Westbound toward the Pine Valley Mountains on the High Grade trail. This area was also affected by the fire.

Red Reef Area Trails (Campground Trailhead)
The two trails leaving the Red Reef campground loop are the Anasazi and Red Reef East.

Mano and Metate cross between these two trails to create short hiking loops. Or, a way for cyclists to avoid going into the campground area when they're on a loop ride using Quail Creek and Red Reef East.

Zoomed-in view of the trails around the Red Reef camping area.

Red Reef East

The Red Reef East trail begins on a camping spur on the northern side of the main campground loop. The trail starts as a broad track heading east, then narrows to singletrack as it passes the Metate connector from Anasazi at mile 0.3.

There are dinosaur tracks just off the trail, on your left as you descend a modestly-steep slope at mile 0.2 from the campground. There's a small dino-footprint sign to alert you.

Riding north on Red Reef East just past the step-over entry gate from the Red Reef camping loop.

Red Reef East is 0.9 miles long, ending on a dirt road that continues northeast into Silver Reef. Most riders fork off the trail at the Tipple trail (mile 0.7) to make a loop ride. See the information on the loop ride for more details on Red Reef East.

Riding in mesquite on Red Reef East as we pull away form the cliffs and head for the Tipple trail.

Anasazi Trail

The Anasazi trail begins just uphill from the main parking area in Red Reef. It runs to the top of a low hill, where there are ruins of native structures. The trail is 0.5 miles in length, with around 60 feet of elevation gain on the small hill.

Looking north on the Anasazi trail at the T intersection where the Quail Creek trail ends.

When starting from the campground loop, Anasazi's first trail fork comes in less than 1/10th mile. To the left, the Mano trail heads gently uphill 150 feet to the Red Reef East trail.

At mile 0.2, the Quail Creek trail is on the right.

At mile 0.4, the Metate trail forks to the left. This trail angles slightly downhill to end on the Red Reef East trail after 100 yards.

Great views everywhere.

Anasazi then turns into a hiking-only trail. If climbs up the hill to end at mile 0.5 at the ancient ruins.It's worth stashing your bike in the bushes and walking 1/10th mile up the hill.

These were likely storage rooms for grain at a farmstead site. The top of a hill was a good spot for these, as the soil was dry and there were fewer marauding rodents.

Riders coming up the Quail Creek trail may want to fork to the left on Anasazi and ride into the campground for water or a shaded lunch.

Down into the riparian flood plain of Quail Creek as Anasazi approaches the campground.

Mano trail and Metate trail

For mountain bikers, the main use of these trails is as a shortcut between the Quail Creek and Red Reef East trails when doing a loop ride from the White Reef trailhead (or a lariat ride via Prospector). When arriving in the Red Reef area on Quail Creek, you can turn to the right onto Anasazi, then turn left on Metate to reach Red Reef East, keeping you a bit further away from all the hikers from the campground area.

The Metate trail forks away from Anasazi. Looking west.

Bottom Line:

Nice trail system, suitable for beginners, kids, and older riders. Tons of riding options. See my other trail page for the White Reef-Leeds Reef beginner-level loop ride. More experienced riders will like the Quail-Tipple loop.

Pretty view... for the middle of winter.

Getting there:
From St George, take the Hurricane (Highway 9) exit from I-15. At the Telegraph Street (Highway 212) traffic light 1 mile later, turn left. Drive 4 miles northeast on Old Highway 91. At Harrisburg, turn left to the tunnel under the freeway and duck under both sides of I-15.
If southbound on I-15, exit at Leeds. Turn right under the freeway, then right onto Old Highway 91 southbound through town. At Harrisburg 3.4 miles later, turn to the right and go under the freeway on a narrow single-lane road.

White Reef trailhead:  After passing under I-15, turn right at the T intersection. Follow the road as it turns left and enter the parking area. Self-service fee envelopes are at the step-over for the White Reef trail at the southwest corner of the parking area. 

Red Reef trailhead: At the T intersection after passing under I-15, go left. Cross Quail Creek and follow the road towards the cliffs. Pay the entry fee at the station (or self-serve if unoccupied). The Red Reef East trail and the Anasazi trail have separate entrances on the northern side of the loop road and are not directly accessed from the parking lot.

Both trailheads have a bathroom and water. Camping and picnic tables are available at Red Reef. Note there is a $5 per car fee (2022 price) for day use of the Red Cliffs recreation area.

For other trails in this area, see the White Reef to Leeds Reef page, the Quail Creek to Tipple Trail page, and the Prospector Trail page.

Silver Reef:  Take the Silver Reef I-15 exit and head west, following the signs to Silver Reef. Find the parking area just south of the Wells Fargo building. Work southwest on dirt roads until you arrive at the fork between the Tipple trail and the Leeds Reef trail, both of which are dirt roads at that point. The intersection is not marked. GPS navigation is recommended.
Cottonwood Trailhead (for Prospector Trail):  Take the UT-9 exit from I-15 (highway 9 goes to Hurricane, Zion Canyon, Grand Canyon) about 15 miles north of St. George. Turn towards Hurricane and pass Coral Canyon. Instead, drive to the traffic light in 0.7 miles. Turn left on Old Highway 91. Now go exactly 2 miles north. Watch on your left for a gravel road that enters a tiny single-lane slot under the freeway, with a sign that says "Cottonwood Trailhead". It will be between a beer warehouse labeled Winkel Distributing and a Rocky Mountain Power office. Turn left and drive 0.25 miles under both lanes of the freeway to reach the trailhead. Follow the Cottonwood Trail 0.5 miles then veer left at two forks that are about 50 feet apart. The Prospector Trail will parallel the freeway heading south 3 miles. If you want, turn left when it intersects the Church Rocks Loop and ride the loop clockwise. The ride will be about 11 miles.
Grapevine Trailhead (for Prospector Trail):  On I-15 just north of Washington, take exit 13 for Washington Parkway. Turn north on Washington Parkway toward the mountain (left if you're coming from St.G). The road will end immediately after the northern off-ramp. Continue straight onto dirt (note: will change as area develops). 100 yards later, pass through fence and park. N37 08.981 W113 29.430. The ride starts on the dirt road that's to your right as you go through the fence, heading northeast parallel to the freeway. As the road turns west (left), find the singletrack trail that continues north. Follow it to the top of the hill. Straight ahead is a steep rocky plunge into the wash. If you go left 1/4 mile, there's an alternate trail that's a calmer smoother ride. It will take you down through the wash to the southwest corner of the Church Rocks Loop. To get directly to Prospector, fork right.
Riding resources for this trail:
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
      Red Cliffs Recreation Area multi-track file
      Prospector trail    Silver Reef tracks 
Maps for printing:  View riding area   White Reef TH    Red Reef TH
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

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