A Square 1/2 mile in the Red Cliffs

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Jan 4, 2014

The Red Cliffs Recreation Area is a popular site north of St George. It has a developed campground, dinosaur tracks, old buildings, and a little canyon with a waterfall. I thought all of that fine and cool, the first time I visited. But as the visits there started to add up I began to wonder what else would be possible to find. So after a day cooped up by rain I headed out to a familiar place in hopes to find some new sites.

It's odd how such a simple thought could turn out to be so difficult. I walked up the trail a couple hundred yards and veered into a drainage that I always thought had promises to get on top of the cliffs.

See?? It's promising!
Red Cliff Wandering-2.jpg

It had flowers! Surely it must reach the top!
Red Cliff Wandering-1.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-3.jpg

But after a bit of bushwhacking the drainage decided to slot up and turn into a twenty foot chute. With a little drive, some P-cord for the backpack, and someone to take me to the hospital if I fell, the chute would have been climbable but not today so I turned around to find another way.

I tried a weak looking side drainage, really more of a gully and quickly I was above the chute! Yes this could still work! Until another hundred yards hit another dryfall, this one not comfortably climbable. I spied another weakness to follow ledges to what might have been a passable crack. Darn it this was going to work!!! Alas, another spot of climbing, only ten feet, juggy, but a fall would have been more than the ten, more like thirty-forty... Dismally I turned back.

The view on the way out.
Red Cliff Wandering-4.jpg

I headed around to the east, hoping that if the drainage wouldn't work maybe the ridge would. No. No. Not there. No. Holy cow this ridge won't work. So around the ridge I went into the next drainage, another very promising one. It has a giant soft slope for crying out loud!
Red Cliff Wandering-6.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-8.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-9.jpg

It also had flowers!
Red Cliff Wandering-7.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-10.jpg

But I couldn't even get to said slope across the seemingly easy looking slickrock terrace. Sure enough... that sheerly dropped into the drainage. At least the way down had a cute little flute of a crack.
Red Cliff Wandering-11.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-12.jpg

Finally I had reached a slope that I could see reaching a "top." It even had flowers! And agave.
Red Cliff Wandering-14.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-18.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-15.jpg

Not only was I gaining elevation, I was gaining views! My upward goal was finally working!
Red Cliff Wandering-19.jpg
I hit the ridgeline and started following it up. I hit another questionable spot but following a ledge appeared to go to another weakness. Would this end like all the other trial routes?
Red Cliff Wandering-22.jpg

Weakness reached and surpassed, I found myself now above my original drainage. Holy cow looky there. I quickly moved to retake the ridgetop, where I found a moqui marble factory.
Red Cliff Wandering-23.jpg

The views were great on the ridge.
Red Cliff Wandering-26.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-27.jpg
Red Cliff Wandering-28.jpg
Sadly my upward journey looked like it would stop here for today. On another day I might try to tackle the ledges to reach the top but for today I was content.
Red Cliff Wandering-29.jpg

So back I went. I had somehow wandered only a square half mile in this crazy country and gotten beaten by it. Gorgeous stuff.
Red Cliff Wandering-30.jpg Red Cliff Wandering-31.jpg

Featured image for home page:
I love running the trails of RCCA with my dog when I'm down there. There is a lot of hidden beauty.
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