Located within the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness includes 11,667 acres in the state of Utah. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness shares a border with the Cottonwood Forest Wilderness to its north. Within the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness there are huge blocks of Navajo Sandstone from the Jurassic period that wind and water have eroded, resulting in domes and canyons. The unique landscape offers an ideal location for quiet exploration that is popular among hikers and equestrians.
Temperatures within the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness can rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and the plants and animals that are encountered in the area are those typical of the Mojave Desert. Visitors will encounter banana yucca, agave, scrub oak and single-leaf ash in the area’s lower elevations, with pinyon pine and Utah juniper at the higher elevations. Numerous wildlife species make their home in the area, to include mountain lion, bobcat, mule deer, Mojave Desert tortoise, golden eagles, redtail hawks and the western screech owl.
When it comes to things to see and recreation activities to engage, in, Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness has a lot to offer!
The Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness Area is within the confines of the Red Cliffs National Recreation Area. You won’t have to adventure over any rough roads to get to the Red Cliffs Recreation Area; first, you will take I-15 to exit 22. Upon reaching the off-ramp, turn right onto Old Highway 91. Continue on Old Highway 91 south for two miles and turn right. As you proceed, you will travel under two freeway tunnels. If you continue on the road, which is paved and runs parallel to Harrisburg Creek, for a little over a mile, you will arrive at the Red Cliffs Recreation Area Campground.
Parking is available in the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness.
Public transportation is not available to Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness.
Snow Canyon State Park, included in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, offers a campground with RV sites that include water and electrical hook-ups, along with some multi-use sites and two group campgrounds. RVs and trailers that are up to 40 feet long can be accommodated and sites include a fire pit, barbecue grill, and picnic table.
Drinking water is available, along with bathrooms and hot showers, ensuring that you have all of the comforts that you need during your outdoor adventure. Camping at Snow Canyon State Park ensures you will have easy access to the myriad of recreation activities in the area.
Quail Creek State Park is home to Quail Creek Reservoir, which offers some of the state’s warmest water. The park is popular year-round among those who enjoy boating and fishing. Quail Creek State Park’s campground includes 22 campsites and one group site and is able to accommodate RVs and trailers that are up to 35 feet in length.
Each site has a picnic table, fire pit, and grill and the campground has bathrooms and water available for campers. After a day of outdoor adventure, you can return to your campsite and relax among the scenic red rocks.
If you are looking for a small, scenic campground, Red Cliffs Campground may be the perfect choice. With 10 campsites located within canyon walls of a reddish-orange color, Quail Creek flows through the campground seasonally.
There are several trailheads at the campground, making it easy for you to get an early start on a hike. You can also easily get to rock climbing and rappelling opportunities from your campsite. The campground is first-come, first-served, with two of the sites being accessible. Bathrooms and drinking water are available at the campground, and sites include picnic tables.
Within the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness Area are 20 miles of hiking trails that visitors can explore. The Cottonwood Canyon trail, considered one of the most scenic trails in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, is almost entirely within the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness Area. Considered difficult, the trail requires some boulder hopping and includes an elevation change of 1400 feet.
There are plenty of other options for those looking for a more relaxing hike; for example, Red Reef Trail is 2.2 miles out and back that includes a waterfall and is a fit for people of all abilities.
The brilliant color of the rocks at Red Cliffs National Conservation Area makes them very appealing to climb. During your visit to the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness and the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, plan to spend some time rock climbing. You can choose to climb with local guides or if you have the experience, go on your own. Snow Canyon State Park, most of which is located with the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, has plenty of established rock climbing routes for you to explore!
While visiting Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness, take a quick trip to St. George to check out the Red Hills Desert Garden. The first desert conservation garden in Utah, it includes five acres with 5,000 plants that thrive in the desert, a stream that is stocked with fish, a replica of a slot canyon and dinosaur tracks that date back 200 million years. The Red Hills Desert Garden is a great place to learn about desert plants while taking in their unique beauty.
A little more than an hour away from the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness Area is Zion National Park. At Utah’s first National Park, you can take in views of enormous cream, pink and red sandstone cliffs, experiencing their significant contrast from the bright blue of the sky. Zion offers the opportunity to explore a narrow slot canyon, along with hiking, camping and equestrian activities. Visitors can view the area’s unique plant and animals and learn of its culture and history.
About 40 minutes from Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness is Quail Creek State Park, which is home to some of the state of Utah’s warmest water as well as a mild climate during the winter months.
The State Park includes Quail Creek Reservoir and is popular among those looking to spend time boating and fishing; anglers can find rainbow trout, bullhead catfish, crappie, largemouth bass and bluegill in the reservoir. Quail Creek State Park is a great place to spend time on or in the water.
Those looking to spend time mountain biking in the area will find plenty of opportunity within the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. Bike rentals are available, and you can choose to join a guided ride.
You can check out Dino Cliffs and Church Rock Loop, a 9.5-mile loop which is considered to be at an intermediate level. You can enjoy views of sandstone bluffs and mountain peaks covered with snow, and even a few dinosaur tracks along your journey. Other recommended options include Broken Mesa Rim Trail and Icehouse Trail.