Red Reef Trail

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Near Washington, Utah

Red Reef Trail does not offer reservations through Recreation.gov. Please take a look at the area details below for more information about visiting this location. Enjoy your visit!

Overview

Recommended Users: Hikers. Route. 5.74 miles in length. Difficulty: Strenuous. This is a tale of two trails: the upper Red Reef Trail accessed through the Red Cliffs Recreation Area and lower Red Reef Trail accessed from Cottonwood Trailhead. Tale 1: The upper section of the trail is wildly popular. Springtime can bring 100s of visitors to the narrow canyon seeking pools of water from Quail Creek trapped in deep slickrock bowls. The trail also sports a section requiring the use of “moki steps” and a hand rope. This unique combination of features, set within the beautiful sandstone cliffs of Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness, is irresistible, albeit crowded. If you’re looking for water though, come the heat of summer, Quail Creek dries to a trickle, leaving just enough to sustain the rich riparian habitat. The end of the trail starts on the west side of the campground just before the road crosses Quail Creek. It is signed to the wilderness boundary only, but the trail is heavily used and easy to follow to the first pool. To get beyond the first pool, hikers must negotiate the moki steps carved into the steep sandstone side cliff on the right. Most visitors stop here or just beyond to lollygag and dip in the water or just sit in the shade of the canyon. Following Quail Creek further leads into the Dixie National Forest Cottonwood Forest Wilderness. To return to BLM managed lands and continue on the Red Reef Trail, the route diverges from Quail Creek into another drainage, a small tributary (as noted in Tale 2 below) heading south. The trail is not signed and is rugged: filled with boulders, brushy, sandy, and traverses large sections of slickrock. It should be considered off-trail travel with the requisite precautions taken (see note below).