Trail Tuesday took me out to the middle of the wilderness in the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area. There are a couple of hikes from the developed campground, picnic/day use area, but you can also just explore the area and make your own hiking path. The recreation area is close to the Interstate, but you don’t even notice it after you leave the road. Soon you are surrounded by colorful, beautiful cliffs and rocky canyons. The Virgin River runs right through the area. I read that you should keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, but I didn’t see any this trip.
There are two wilderness hikes:
Virgin River Gorge Nature Trail
Sullivan Canyon Trail.
The Virgin River Gorge Nature Trail is extremely short. You climb about 40 feet to the crest of a desert shrub-cover hill that gives you an incredible view of the Virgin River Gorge. There are plaques at the summit that display information about the history and geology of the area. It is listed as 0.2 miles.
The Sullivan Canyon Trail begins at the campground. Sullivan Canyon is 15 miles long -one way. The trail winds around the canyon next to the river. You occasionally have to climb up and over the surrounding cliffs in some areas. After approximately 2 miles the trail drops into Sullivan’s Canyon. I ventured as far as Sullivan’s Canyon and then turned back. I read that there isn’t really a trail to follow at this point and you just walk along the wash bottom. I understand the hike leads to Mount Bangs.
These are the two designated hikes in the area, but you can just explore the area by the Virgin River, walk around the red cliffs, and adventure up the rocky crags. I spent a few hours here and then jumped into the river to cool down. It seemed like I was all alone, out in the wilderness.
There are fees in the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area. The overnight use fee is $8 per site (up to 2 vehicles) and the day-use fee is $2.
Trip Length: Virgin River Gorge Nature Trail – 0.2 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy
Trip Length: Sullivan Canyon Trail – as long as you want it to be, but 15 miles to the end
Difficulty Level: Moderate/Difficult
Area: Virgin River Gorge on the Arizona Strip
Directions: The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is located off of I-15. It is about 20 miles southwest of St. George, Utah and about 20 miles northeast of Mesquite, Nevada. Take Exit 18 which is the Cedar Pocket Exit. Continue on to the campground and picnic area. You will see the two trails there.