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Red Reef Side Canyons, Red Cliffs

There are two side canyons that enter the west side of main Red Reef Trail that runs from the Red Cliffs Campground to the Moki steps.

The first one is very interesting and starts about 250 yards from the campground parking. This canyon has a short slot section and eventually you can climb to the plateau above.

The second one starts about 1/3 mile from the parking lot and ends in a box canyon high above the trail.

Trail Rating

Overall rating = easy

Distance: 1 mile return – easy
Elevation gain: 300 – easy
Terrain: sandy wash, loose gravel – easy
Exposure: steep slopes, rock ledges – moderate
To see the trail rating system used here see Trail Rating System

Getting There

If travelling north-east on Interstate I15, take exit 16 towards Hurricane and then turn left at 5300 W towards Quail Creek State Park and Reservoir. This road ends at the service road near Harrisburg. Turn right and then turn left on the marked Red Cliffs Desert Reserve Road which goes west under the interstate highway.

If travelling south-west on Interstate I15 take exit 23 into Leeds and turn left onto N Main Street. Continue through Leeds to a stop sign at the I15 exit. Veer left taking the service road to the marked Red Cliffs Desert Reserve Road and turn right going west under the interstate.

Drive into the Red Cliffs Campground and park at the first parking area. The trailhead is just down the road on the left before you turn through the Quail Creek Wash.

Directions to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve from I15

Directions from Harrisburg to the Red Cliffs Campground

The Trail

The trail to the first canyon follows a wash for about 400 yards to a short slot section. There are two routes in, one which follows the wash and the other which follows higher ground on the south side of the wash which drops down into the wash part way into the canyon. There are two short 6 foot high dryfalls along the wash which are fairly easy to scale.

As you travel in, notice that there is a narrow slot to the left and a steep brush covered section to the right. Travel into the slot section which narrows and rises vertically about 10 feet. This can be scrambled up along a log wedged into the crevice. You exit onto a flat sand area above which is another high narrow slot section which would be difficult to climb.

On exiting back out the slot section, notice a trail to your left. This leads up the brush covered section noticed earlier. Follow this up the steep slope to get above the impassable slot. From here you can work your way along a ledge and over another steep section to bypass another dead end. Eventually you will exit out onto the plateau above.

The trail to the second canyon is much rougher and eventually ends in a box canyon high above the Red Reef trail. This canyon is not as interesting as the first one. Hug the left wall of the canyon all the way up and the going is not difficult.

Location of Two Side Canyons

Location of Two Side Canyons


Here are some pictures of the first canyon.
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Here are some pictures of the second canyon.
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Here are pictures of side canyon 1 on April 2, 2015.
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