This loop combines the best of the trails in the Red Cliffs Desert Conservation Area/Preserve. It includes deep chiseled canyons, some scrambling, vast views of far off bluffs and mountains, and plenty of wildflowers if you time it right.
This is a recreation area. At the time of writing day use passes were $5, with the typical ability to use national park, and other, passes.
Don't count on any water being available. Bring plenty.
There won't be a ton of running in the canyon areas. The rest is very runnable.
I chose to start at the White Cliffs TH. This is a more peaceful parking area than the starting point for the Red Reef Trail
. I headed down the road to connect with High Grade
in order to get to Quail Creek
. However, to avoid the road you can head straight out on the trail from White Cliffs and just drop down to the stream (I was not aware they connected at the time).
is a lovely, though short trail that starts to take you closer to the Red Cliffs. This will soon connect with the Anasazi Trail
, where you'll hang a left to head into the parking area/campground. At this point, the Red Reef Trail
begins. The first mile of this trail is where you'll see 95% of the people on this loop. It starts going though a sandy area before beginning to get into the canyon. There are two or three waterfalls, when water is flowing. These are the main destinations of visitors.
The first waterfall has an easy path up and around it, to the left. The second requires a bit more work, with footholds carved into the rock and a rope placed to help. This second obstacle filters most people out. The next is a fall about 8 feet high of very smooth rock. This filters out the rest of the crowd. You can get up it if you shimmy between the two walls. It'll help to have a friend but can be done solo.
Beyond this point you'll be rewarded for your effort by, likely, a completely solitary experience deep in the beauty of the red rock and all of its geological insanity. I have no idea what forces created those rocks and patterns. It makes my head hurt but it's gorgeous.
The third obstacle is only about 1 mile up Red Reef Trail
. You'll need to take a left up another canyon to stay on the trail about another .5 miles up (1 mile tops). Keep a look out for footprints going up a canyon to the left. Continue up that canyon, following the drainage. You'll eventually climb over the ridges line and drop into another drainage on the other side. This drainage is less exciting than the first, but is still a beautiful stretch.
Eventually you'll drop down until it simply becomes a wash. When this wash, which is red sand, merges with another wash, which is grey, cross this new wash and go up over the other side and look for the trail to hang a left, generally following the creek, then veering further away. Shortly, this will take you to Prospector Trail
. For the first stretch of this trail, the views are simply amazing. The layers of topography is something you'll only find in SW Utah, with snow capped mountains (at the rights time of year), bluffs, canyons, crags, etc... The layering is amazing.
Take Prospector Trail
back to High Grade
, or back to the way you took to get to Quail Creek
, and head back to your vehicle from there.