by Katy Stephens
on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 at 4:59pm.
Trail Tuesday took me on my favorite hike of the summer – Red Reef at Red Cliffs. The Red Reef hike begins at the Red Cliffs campground and it takes you by beautiful red rock formations, arches, caves and great water holes. There are spectacular views and numerous photo opportunities. The trail follows Quail Creek and you enter a winding beautiful canyon. There were several pools of water and at one point you have to navigate around a large pool, over an 8-foot sandstone wall, with carved-out foot holds. These are called the Moki steps by locals. Going up these steps is scary, but coming down them was fairly terrifying. There is an anchored rope for you to hold onto, but if you fall you land right in the pool of water.
This pool is often used as a favorite swimming hole. The trail continues up the stream to a slot canyon. There were multiple pools of water along the canyon. I hope to come back to this hike when the water is flowing and when I can jump in the various pools. Finally the trail diverts to an unnamed side canyon. This is where the second segment of the trail begins. I stopped after the first segment because you had to scramble up steep slopes and red slick rock to go around the water holes. The website urges you to be experienced at canyoneering or to go with a guide who knows the hike, after the first segment.
The Red Reef Trail is actually 6 miles in length if you hike the entire trail. Most people travel the lower portion of the hike from the campground to the pools and back. This is the hike I did. This trail is alos know by some as the Red Cliffs Hike.
Trip Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy
Area: Red Cliffs Reserve in Leeds, Utah. The trail goes along the Quail Creek into the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness area.
Directions: The Red Reef Trailhead is reached by north-bound travelers on I-15 by taking Exit 22 toward the town of Leeds and immediately making a right turn back to the south on Old Highway 91. Southbound travelers on I-15 should take Exit 23 into Leeds and proceed south through town. From the Exit 22 turnoff, travel almost 2 miles on paved road to the small historic RV community of Harrisburg. Turn right at the sign that says Red Cliffs Recreation Area. Travel on a narrow paved road through two I-15 underpasses. Turn left at the “T” intersection and follow the signs about one mile to the recreation area. Park at the Day Use parking lot right by Campground 2. We only saw one couple as we hiked, but apparently this is a popular hike and parking is hard to find during the summer months (30 spaces throughout the campground). There is a daily permit fee of $5 that you pay at the self-serve station.