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Red Reef Trail

With waterfalls, swimming holes, and ancient pictographs, it’s no surprise that the Red Reef Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the St. George area.

At just 1.5 miles round trip, this trail is excellent for everyone in the family, including children and beginners.

Trailhead

The Red Reef Trail begins near Campsite 2 in the Red Cliffs Campground, just before the road crosses Quail Creek in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area. Red Cliffs is located about 15 miles northeast of St. George.

Directions from St. George

  1. Take Exit 22 off of I-15.
  2. Turn south onto Old Highway 91 and continue south for about 2 miles.
  3. Turn right at the signed junction for Red Cliffs Recreation Area.
  4. Continue under the freeway then turn left and follow the road into the Red Cliffs Campground.

Directions from the North

  1. Take Exit 23 from I-15.
  2. Turn left off the exit, then right onto Main Street/Old Highway 91.
  3. Continue south for 3.5 miles to the signed junction on the right.
  4. Continue under the freeway then turn left and follow the road into the Red Cliffs Campground.

Parking at the trailhead requires a $5 day use fee per vehicle. Parking spaces are very limited, making access difficult on busy weekends. The BLM may even turn cars away during peak usage due to lack of parking.

NOTE: The freeway underpass used to access Red Cliffs will not accommodate vehicles taller than 11’9”.

The Hike

The Red Reef Trail begins by traversing a sagebrush-covered bench above Quail Creek before dropping down to the watercourse. The trail follows the creek for a short distance before a well-worn path appears on the left. This leads to the upper falls and moki steps, but it is worth following the stream another 150 yards to the base of the lower pools and waterfall (37.228237,-113.410511).

Beyond the lower falls, keep an eye out for a large alcove on the right (37.229305,-113.410987). Most hikers pass by this, but it makes a great side trip if you have the time. This alcove, likely once used by ancient Native Americans, contains at least two pictographs. Appreciate the rock art without touching it so that it can be preserved for future generations. Do not add to graffiti on the walls.

The canyon narrows just beyond the alcove. Those trying to keep their feet dry might have a tough time as the trail approaches a few more pools and small waterfalls. Just to the right of the upper falls there are deep steps cut into the rock face that are commonly known as moki steps. You can use the moki steps to access the more difficult sections of the canyon above, but for most, this is the turnaround point of the family friendly section of the Red Reef Trail.

Relax at the pools and enjoy the scenery before returning the way you came. Round trip mileage is approximately 1.5 miles.

Rules and Regulations

  • A day use fee of $5 per vehicle is required. Pay fees at the self-pay station near the entrance to the campground. You may use Federal Interagency Annual, Access, and Senior Passes for day use fees. Stop by the self-pay station for more information. 
  • All pets must be on leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • No littering.
  • Pack out what you pack in.

Special Considerations

  • Quail Creek has high potential for flash flooding. Do not enter the canyon if it is raining, if the creek is flowing swiftly, or if there is a high chance of precipitation. If you notice a sudden change in water clarity or flow, seek higher ground.
  • The depth of the pools can vary, especially after flood events. Never jump into a pool without first verifying depth.

Credits

This trail guide provided by Backcountry Post.