There are several sections of the Red Reef Trail: the one described below which follows a drainage from the northern Red Reef wilderness area down to the Cottonwood Canyon at the Harrisburg Flat; the popular Quail Creek drainage that flows from above the Moki steps down into the Red Cliffs Campground; and the Dicks Canyon drainage that flows from the north eastern wilderness area down into Quail Creek east of the Red Cliffs Campground.
The Red Reef Trail from Cottonwood Canyon follows a sandy wash for most of its length, passing through many scenic sections of red rock. The upper reaches of this trail is a beautiful area of red rock where you could spend countless hours exploring.
We travelled up the Red Reef Trail from the Cottonwood Canyon parking lot near the Hurricane Industrial Park. An alternate route into the upper reaches of the trail is from the Red Cliffs Campground where you hike up the Red Reef trail 1/2 mile to the upper waterfall and cross over the Moki steps. Instead of turning right into the Water Canyon, cross the stream and continue straight ahead for about a mile to reach the same area.
Overall rating = moderate/difficult
Distance: 8.5 miles return – difficult
Elevation gain: 900 feet – difficult
Terrain: Deep sand – difficult
Exposure: some rock climbing – moderate
To see the trail rating system used here see Trail Rating System
From Interstate I15 take exit 16 to State Road 9 east towards Hurricane. Turn left at the first set of traffic lights – Old Hwy 91, 6300W, 0.9 miles from the interstate.
Take Old Hwy 91 through the industrial park 2 miles and turn left on the gravel road between the Winkel Distributers building and the Rocky Mountain Power building. This gravel road takes you under I15 to the Cottonwood Parking Lot.
For a one page printout of the directions to this trail click Red Reef Trail
The trail leaves the Cottonwood parking lot and crosses the Harrisburg Flat 1/2 mile to the junction of the Prospector Trail. Take the right branch and follow this trail about 500 feet to the junction of the Prospector Trail on the right and the Cottonwood Canyon Trail on the left. Take the Cottonwood Trail down the hill to the Cottonwood Wash and along the left side of the wash a total of about 1000 feet to the Red Reef Trail sign.
Follow this Red Reef Trail down through the Cottonwood Wash, up the other side, over a small hill, and down into the Red Reef Wash. Turn left here and follow this trail for several miles. At about ½ mile from the Trailhead you come to a box canyon which you climb around on the left side. Shortly after that you come to a rock slot that you have to climb through. A further half mile there is a rock shelf which can either be climbed over or hiked around over a knoll to the left. Finally after another mile you come to a rock shelf with a steel beam to allow climbing over.
Beyond this point there are several small rocky places which can be easily navigated. There is one large water filled pothole that must be navigated high up on the west side which could cause difficulty for someone with a fear of heights.
The trail continues on to the upper reaches of the Red Reef Wash to a beautiful open sandy area with great views of the surrounding countryside. From this point the trail can be followed on to Quail Creek, then down through the Water Canyon, over the Moki steps and out to the Red Cliffs Campground but this part would need to be done in summer when the water is warmer.
This is a dry trail with no drinking water so be prepared in hot weather.