The Silver Reef Trail is a fun, short trail that weaves right through the Red Cliffs Recreation Area camp ground up to a lookout point. This is a fun trail for families of all ages. Not only is the beauty of the surrounding area a huge payoff, there are also dinosaur tracks along the way that are exciting for every explorer! There are two areas with dinosaur tracks and you have to look closely or you’ll walk right over the ones on the way to the look out point! Whether you stay in the campground and go for a walk, or make a special trip, this trail does not disappoint!
Hellhole Canyon Trail, sometimes known as Kayenta Canyon or Kayenta Wash North, is a hike that takes you into a spectacular canyon that you can’t see from the road, and at the right time of the year, will reward you with an amazing waterfall! The trail follows Kayenta Wash up into the canyon. You can walk up the wash, but it will add a significant amount of time and effort to your trip. The hike does have a few steep climbs and takes you along some drop offs. Give yourself a couple of hours to enjoy this hike thoroughly. Make sure you take plenty of water!
The Red Reef Trail is known by some as the Red Cliffs Hike, as most people travel the lower portion of the hike from the Red Cliffs Recreation Area Campground up to the pools and then circle back. (The full Red Reef Trail is actually part of The Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness trail system and can be a full 5.9 mile back country experience for someone seeking a more challenging adventure. This report only covers the lower segment of the trail.) This trail provides spectacular views at any time of the year because of the variety of plants and rock formations. If you are looking for a water hike, this trail is best traveled in early to late spring, or after a series of good rain storms in the area.
This is a great, short hiking trail for families of all ages! The first part of the trail is a little bit sandy, but doesn’t last too long. It changes to a solid trail that leads right down to the dinosaur tracks. As you bottom out on the trail you will see a slate rock surface in part of the stream bed to the left of the trail. In the hardened sedimentary rock you can find 17 well preserved dino tracks presumed to be from Grallator, Kayentapus, and Eubrontes dinosaurs, which paleontologists suggest were bipedal, meat-eating theropods during the Jurassic Period. Access to the trail head is over a dirt road that is passable by most vehicles.
Map to Trailhead. From St George, head north on I-15 for approximately 2 miles and take exit 10 to Washington City. Turn left onto Green Springs Drive and take an immediate right onto Buena Vista Boulevard and continue for about 1.2 miles. Turn left onto Main Street and follow for .5 miles. Turn right at the “Y” in the road and follow it for approximately .25 miles. Turn left at the “Y” and head up the hill toward the water tank. Continue past the water tank until you see the trailhead for Dino Cliffs Trail on the right. Park on the left and get on the trail!
Why hike this trail?
The Elephant Arch trail is a stone’s throw from Washington city, but you wouldn’t ever know it was there. Access to the trail is a little tricky, and I definitely recommend doing this in a truck or SUV, but once you get there it is an easy trail. The first half of the trail is easy walking along a dirt road, and the you meet a wash that is pretty sandy. The rest of the hike is fairly sandy. Because of the sand, this trail is not super family friendly, but if you can pack the kids, or if they can walk the distance it’s not too bad. Typical low land desert landscape, lots of red rocks, and a cool arch at the end that does strangely look like an elephant’s trunk! Worth every sandy step!
Map to Trailhead. From St George, head north on I-15 for about 9 miles and take exit 10 to Washington. Turn left onto Green Springs Drive and take an immediate right onto Buena Vista Blvd. Follow Buena Vista for about 1 mile and turn left onto the dirt road immediately after the fire station. Follow this dirt road for about 1.2 miles and it will meet up with another dirt road that is heading north-south. Turn left onto this dirt road and follow it for about 0.6 miles and your will come to the gate and trailhead.
Like I said above, the access is kind of tricky. As Washington builds more neighborhoods this description may change, but until then you should be able to get there via these instructions.
I love the red desert or Southern Utah. I have recently been learning about the early pioneers that settled the area, and for them I don’t think the area was as much beautiful as it was harsh and barren. There was nothing easy about the lives they led. It was said among them that eventually this desert would blossom like a rose, and I believe it has. Now, ease and comfort are the main part of our lives, and the desert has become a beautiful thing to us, or at least it has to me! If only those early pioneers could see us now… If I could take them for a hike, this is one I would take them on, and let them just take in the beauty of this harsh area.
We left before sun up in order to keep from hiking in the heat of the desert sun. I could not find a map to the trailhead so I improvised, having learned beforehand the place where I would park. I tried several routes, and was thwarted as new developments have caused dirt road closures. I was finally able to access the correct road and when we parked at the trailhead the sun was making its way up. The first part of the trail passes over a closed off dirt road. We plodded along, enjoying the views of the wild Navajo sandstone hills ahead of us at the base of the towering Pine Valley Mountain. After a quarter mile we branched off to the right and followed an adjoining road that was marked ‘Bone Wash’. This road takes you past a small power substation and into Bone Wash.
Rains from a couple days previous had brought some water down the wash and we could see remnants of a small water flow that was quickly drying up. This part of the trail was very sandy, but despite our filling shoes, we carried on in anticipation of the arch. As we plodded along we passed through corridors of sandstone that were weathered and worn. I could tell that they had seen years of rain, wind, and likely flash floods that come barreling through once every few years. There were little sandstone pockets containing what was left of the last late summer shower.
We left the wash as it met with a small tributary on the right. The trail marker for ‘Elephant Arch’ spurred us on, although my explorative mind wanted to continue the journey up the wash when I looked and saw a small slot up a hundred yards. I told myself I’ll have to explore the rest of Bone Wash another day – today I’m going to the arch! As we climbed up the hill out of the wash the trail beneath our feet solidified a little, which was a nice change from the sandy wash bottoms. We could feel that we were getting close as we continued our quick pace along the trail. We wound along and followed the trail up as it curved up toward some rock outcroppings. Up ahead in the distance we strained to see what looked like it might be our destination. As we scrambled closer we could see the shape more clearly. Having only seen a few pictures I had an idea of what I was looking for, and was not disappointed at all to see that the arch before me truly resembled an elephant’s head and trunk! It was big enough walk under the trunk, and I could see its eyes where chunks of rock have fallen out from years of erosion! What a spectacle! We climbed around and took a few pictures of each of us sitting on our desert elephant, riding it along. We had a little snack, and then we were headed back to civilization.
We pushed even harder on the way back as the sun began to crest the hills that had hidden it so nicely. The heat was on and we needed to hustle back! As the sun lit the hills surrounding us we enjoyed another view at the landscape that we had passed in the early morning light. The sage and creosote around us contrasted the red sand and the big blue mountain to the north of us. As we completed our journey I was grateful once again to live in such a beautiful place! This is a quick, easy, and little known about landmark that you should definitely check out!
Until next time…your next adventure is right out your door!
Babylon Arch trail is a very sandy, but very gratifying trail. It doesn’t take long on the trail to feel like you have landed on Mars with all the cool sandstone formations around you, and the arch is very unique compared to any I have seen before. This hike is NOT stroller friendly, but young kids can make the trek with help. The trail forks and will take you to the arch or to the Virgin River. It doesn’t take much longer to do both and the river is refreshing and fun to look at! This one is definitely worth the trip!
Map to Trailhead. From St George, head north on I-15 for about 13 miles and take exit 22 to Leeds/Silver Reef. Head north on Hwy 228/Main Street for 2 miles and take a right onto 900 North (there is a sign indicating Red Cliffs National Conservation Area). Follow 900 North for about 3 miles and turn left after the sign indicating Sand Cove Trailhead.
You can take the trail from two start points – Sand Cove Trailhead, or the Primitive Camping Area Trailhead. 4WD and high clearance are REQUIRED to get to the Primitive Camping Area. Even the road to the Sand Cove Trailhead is pretty sandy and 4WD or at least AWD is recommended. If you continue to the Primitive Camp Area, then go on passed the Sand Cove Trailhead for a few hundred feet and take a right. Follow this road until you can’t go anymore and you’ll be at the trailhead!
We headed out early on a Saturday morning to beat the mid summer Southern Utah heat and got to the trailhead just after the sun peaked over Zion National Park. The sun was just starting to light up Red Cliffs Recreational Area as we parked the truck and hit the trail. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful start of the day! We drove to the Primitive Camping Area so cut off some distance on the hike, and to test out the 4WD on my truck! We had a good time getting there, and upon arrival, started on the trail.
From the beginning of the trail we were walking through patches of sand, and that was just a foreshadowing of the trail to come. (I must say, it is fun to go on an adventure where you know very little about the place you are going. I started this site/blog, as a means to give people the full picture of their adventure before they go, but there is a bit of excitement in just going and seeing if you can find what you’re looking for!) After rounding the first few rocks the trail before us opened up and we could see across the river to Sky Mountain, and the Navajo Sandstone rock formations were out of this world! I felt like I had landed on Mars and was treading in uncharted territory. It looked like someone had squeezed little piles of red sand all over the place and let them dry.
As we continued on our trek the sand got more loose and started filling our shoes. As we made our decent toward the river bottom we came to a little ridge that we had to drop down that was just a sand hill. What room we had left in our shoes was filled with sand and we made our way down. This point in the trail is important because there is a more prominent trail to the left, but we could see faint tracks going straight down to the right. We chose left, and we ended up at the river with no sign of an arch anywhere. I’m actually glad we went that way first because I had wanted to go down to the river. On our way back we noticed a fork in the trail and looked up, and about 100 yds away was Babylon Arch. We hadn’t seen it on our way down the trail because there was a large rock blocking our view.
We approached the arch with excitement because we had been afraid that we would miss the thing we had come to see. As we approached it was not hard to notice that this arch was unlike any I had ever seen. Babylon Arch is not a typical arch you see in the side of a mountain somewhere. It looks like someone took a hole saw and bored through a huge rock. It is a almost perfectly round hole, and it is very interesting.
The arch is about 8 ft tall and 10 ft wide. We were able to walk right through it as if the rock had been positioned perfectly so the trail could pass through the middle of it. After taking a few pictures of the arch and surrounding rock formations we continued up the trail and were reminded why we decided to take the trail to the left on the way down! We were looking at a sand hill with a 60 degree pitch that we had to climb up (we could have turned around and gone back up the way we had come down, but we wanted the challenge). We made our way up in a step-slide fashion. Eventually we triumphed over the hill and felt good about our accomplishment amid our huffing and puffing.
After emptying our shoes we got back on the trail. It wasn’t far to go now. I looked around me again at the strange rock plop formations and admired their strange uniqueness as our vehicle came into view. This trail was a fantastic reminder that there is so much adventure and beauty to be found, if only I am willing to get out and embark on the journey. Add Babylon Arch to your list! You won’t be disappointed in the trip!
Until next time…your next adventure is right out your door!
The Scout Cave trail just south of Snow Canyon State Park is a great mix of easy and moderate. It passes over lava flow fields, stream beds, and Navajo Sandstone rocks. Trail is open all year, but watch for flooding in rainy seasons. This trail is not stroller friendly, but is passable by young children (5 and up). Great morning or evening hike!
The Red Mountain Trail holds some of the most incredible views of any hike in Southern Utah. The trail passes along the Snow Canyon Overlook, which is a site to behold, and carries along through wilderness area that few have seen. This trail can be done on foot, or horseback. The trail cuts through all different types of vegetation and scenery. It can be done as a long day hike, or as a backpacking trip. Be aware of the weather before you go. Although there are small trees along the way, the trail is primarily fully exposed, so prepare accordingly. Be safe and have fun out there!
Owen’s Loop is a fantastic little single track hike that provides incredible views of St. George, Santa Clara, and Ivins. It is a well maintained single track trail that meanders along the cliff side of the Red Hill and loops around to give you a nice view of Red Hills Golf Course. Most people don’t even know this trail exists so you can enjoy it pretty much by yourself!