Red Cliffs Conservation Area

Jammer

❤2Hike
.
Joined
Feb 23, 2012
Messages
641
After driving by the Red Cliffs Conservation Area just north of St. George for so many years, I finally decided to stop and explore a little. My ultimate goal was to find a backpacker-friendly route through the heart of the Cottonwood Wash area. Planning for a longer hike someday, I was looking for a cool route that would link St. George to the Pine Valley Mountains en route to the Kolob Canyons. But, now I know this area is cool enough to be a destination in its own right. What I present here is not actually how I did the hike, but instead a suggested route for a 2-3 day backpack trip. I actually stayed out two nights and then did two additional half days hiking in from alternate trailheads just to make sure all the routes would connect.

I wanted to set out from the Green Spring or Millcreek areas just north of St. George, but the recent development here has led to a series of road closures and a confusing maze of residential streets. Here's a peek into the conservation area (behind me are rows and rows of new homes!):



So, instead I headed over to the Grapevine trailhead and went in that way. It was a crazy day of intermixed sunshine and snow:



The Grapevine Trail (ie dirt road) ends at an island of slickrock walled in by this cliff of lava:



BTW -- those last two pictures were taken about 40 minutes apart. Crazy weather!

This is the boundary between the Lower and Upper Zones in the Conservation Area. In the Lower Zone you must stay on designated trails and no camping is allowed. In the Upper Zone you can go cross-country and camp. So, with that freedom, I was able to route-find just a bit to get on top of the lava and then head up toward Washington Hollow.

I skirted along the edge of Upper Bone Wash. I was originally going to come up this canyon and climb out at the dryfall. Looking down in I'm glad I didn't as it would have been a lot of work:



From here I kept heading toward Washington Hollow and a pass that I hoped would connect me with Cottonwood Wash. It was a lot of up and down across the drainages, but when the sun popped out it was worth it with great views:



Sure enough, the route up to and through the pass worked with only minor amounts of scrambling. Here's looking back down the sandstone ramps I went up:



This pass is actually quite colorful with nice swirls of orange, brown and white sandstone:



From here it's a fairly easy walk over to the mid-section of Cottonwood Wash. It's in this area that I found a steep route up to Yant Flat which could lead over to Cottonwood Road, but for now I wanted to stay in the canyons so instead I headed down toward Heath Wash and made camp. Here's looking back up Cottonwood Wash from near the jct with Heath Wash:



BTW -- there's decent camping in this area with a LOT of wood if one wanted to make fire. You aren't likely to see any water though until in the upper sections of the canyon and even then still very little.

Walking in Cottonwood Wash was nice with fairly firm gray sand and occasional boulders. Heading up Heath Wash wasn't as much fun due to non-stop boulders, thus I ridge walked some of the way. Here's the actual wash:



About half way up Heath Wash there are several side canyons that are really cool with some big full potholes of water. I scouted the area, but wasn't able to connect any routes with higher ground above:



I finally found a way out of Heath Wash via the canyon just south of Big Hollow. The route wasn't that bad with just a bit of brush and minor boulder hopping. Here's a shot from the rim:



From here it's easy to go cross-country to the road near the top of Yankee Doodle canyoneering route. Walking the road along here affords some great views into Yankee Doodle and Big Hollow canyons:



After fighting through a little brush it's easy to get down into Big Hollow. I was happy to see a dripping wall and what looked like a permanent spring right near the top. Walking down canyon required some boulder-hopping, but nothing bad at all:



About a mile farther down or so is the junction of Heath Wash and then some fairly shallow narrows:



Less than another mile and I was back to where I left the wash up the side canyon. From this point it was just a couple of hours back down Heath Wash/ Cottonwood Wash and down to the Trailhead. Lower Cottonwood Wash is nice, but not as scenic as the upper portion:



Near the bottom it would be possible to follow the Cottonwood Hills or Prospector trails to close the loop back to the Grapevine TH. I didn't do this section, but it looks fairly straightforward and well traveled.

In summary -- this is a little-visited, nice little area to escape the nearby urbanization (though I could still hear the roar of I-15 from one my camps!) There are plenty of opportunities for exploring and if you get lucky you might even see a Gila Monster or a Chuckwalla.

See the original report on my site for a few extra pictures and a map of the route.

- Jamal

Featured Image for Homepage:
slide.jpg
 

blueeyes

ephemeral excursionist
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
1,109
I have to wonder if the day you experienced the crazy weather was the day I was out mountain biking Babylon. Rain, snow, little bit of sun. Made for some beautiful dramatic views of that area! Love the report. Between this report an Red Rock Hiking's multiple outing to Yant Flat I am really interested in hiking over there. Just need the time!
 

Michael

Alien from over the pond...
Joined
Sep 5, 2012
Messages
962
...looks great, Jamal!
Some interesting formations are there. :)
Looks like, greater St. George area has a good bunch of hiking opportunity.
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
957
Wow, spectacular! Thanks for sharing, I'm going to have to add this to my list of places to explore.
 

Yvonne

I lava it!!!
.
Joined
Jan 19, 2012
Messages
3,561
great report, Jamal. The area has so much potential and I'm always so curious to see more of it. You showed some really nice parts of it and now I'm more than excited to explore parts of it by myself this year.
Thanks for the great trip report and pictures.
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
fossana Red Cliffs & Dixie NF fire-related trail/road closures (St George area) Trip Planning 1
Artemus Road Proposed to be Bulldozed through Red Cliffs Recreation Area General Discussion 7
fossana Red Cliffs Après Work Scramble Hiking & Camping 3
Scott Chandler A Square 1/2 mile in the Red Cliffs Hiking & Camping 5
Seldom Seen Anderson Arch Trail, Red Cliffs Hiking & Camping 1
Seldom Seen Anderson Arch Trail Red Cliffs Hiking & Camping 8
Tyler Red Cliffs National Recreation area Feb. 2010 Hiking & Camping 14
Tyler Spring Break 2011: Zion, Snow Canyon, Red Cliffs Hiking & Camping 0
pixie1339 Zion, Snow Canyon & Red Cliffs New Years 2012 Hiking & Camping 16
Stephanie B Our Intro to the Red Desert, September 14 - 16, 2020 Hiking & Camping 4
wsp_scott Two kids and the Red River Gorge Backpacking 7
wsp_scott A year in the Red River Gorge Backpacking 15
wsp_scott Red River Gorge (KY) Backpacking 3
WasatchWill Red Castle vs Cirque of the Towers vs Titcomb Trip Planning 50
Ehouston24 Uintas Loop (Red Castle/Kings Peak) Trip Planning 14
Rockskipper Snowshed on Red Mountain Pass, Colorado, 3-16-19 General Discussion 7
b.stark Red River Gorge 2010 "From The Vault" Backpacking 5
fossana Red Reef loop Hiking & Camping 3
DrNed Red Castle Kings Peak Henry's Fork Take Two Backpacking 8
cmgz Red Breaks from Harris Wash Canyoneering 13
J Red Rock(s) Canyon Natl.Conservation Area Hikes and Scrambles Nov. 15 and 16, 2017 Hiking & Camping 0
L Red Castle Lakes / Wilson Peak OR Rock Creek Basin Trip Planning 4
Dustin Gent Red Breaks via Spencer Creek Road General Discussion 1
Ugly Wednesday Night's Red Pine Winter Sports 2
jdfut66 Red Castle Loop Backpacking 13
George_Washington_Hayduke Possible to go up Red Breaks? Trip Planning 5
Tystevens Henry's Fork -- Red Castle loop from China Meadows Backpacking 2
Kootenai Red Castle recommendations? Trip Planning 1
Perry Red Castle Is Open for Business ... eeh .. Almost Backpacking 19
scatman Red Butte Canyon Rim-Walk - May 20, 2017 Hiking & Camping 10
AKay09 Red River Gorge/Clifty Wilderness Trip Planning 0
Stephanie Quick trip to Coyote Gulch via Red Well Trip Planning 4
danger02ward Dead horse lake with a visit to continent lake,reconnaissance lake, red knob pass, and allsop pass Backpacking 4
Perry Off Trail Porcupine Pass to Red Castle Lake Trip Planning 5
Kullaberg63 Indecision Peak, Red Rocks, NV Hiking & Camping 0
Perry Question About Number In Red Shown At Top of Main Page Questions, Suggestions & Support 2
Jackson Lower Red Castle Lake Backpacking 4
Ross Hiking/easy canyoneering partner for Bull Valley Gorge,Sand Wash (Red Cave) & other spots Trip Planning 0
Seldom Seen Anderson Red Butte Wilderness Hiking & Camping 3
IntrepidXJ Red Mountain Colors Hiking & Camping 4
W Red Breaks Northeast & East Forks Loop? (Escalante area) General Discussion 3
BJett Hikesgiving 2015 in the Red River Gorge Backpacking 10
Dan_85 John Muir Trail: Yosemite to Red's Meadow Backpacking 8
Red Rock Rangers Red Canyon Hiking & Camping 0
BJett Red River Gorge, Kentucky - Perseids Hiking & Camping 5
Bigred72 Red Pine Lake Backpacking 1
IntrepidXJ Red Mountain Pass Peaks Hiking & Camping 8
Jackson Red Pine Lake Backpacking 6
BJett Upper Red River - Red River Gorge Geologic Area On The Water 13
lostlandscapes Lower Red Castle Lake -- 6/13/15 Backpacking 19

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.

Top