On the edge of the Mojave Desert, in Southwest Utah, the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area offers almost 45,000 acres of outdoor playground for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. The area is known as the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and is managed collaboratively by the State of Utah, the Bureau of Land Management, Washington County, and local municipalities. The main goal of this collaboration, effective since 1996, is to protect the Mojave Desert tortoise, its habitat, and other native animals and plants. The result is a massive recreational area with stunning red cliffs, abundant wildlife, and excellent camping.
This BLM property offers visitors the use of 45,000 acres of land, and the area has around 130 miles of trails to explore. The most popular times to visit Red Cliffs National Conservation Area are in the spring and fall when temperatures are more moderate. Extreme temperatures in the summer and winter decrease the number of vacationers here.
The BLM campground at Red Cliffs is a fantastic option for an overnight trip in this highly traveled part of Utah. Campsites are at a premium due to the proximity of Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park. Take up residence at Red Cliffs and you can easily make day trips to these other world-class destinations.
To access the campground and day-use area, vehicles must pass through two tunnels. RVs must be less than 12 feet high and 12 feet wide in order to make the trip. Additionally, the ground of the tunnels is made up of dirt and gravel, which can impact clearance levels up to a few inches.
The roads within the campground and day-use area are all paved and wide enough for any vehicle that has made it through the 12x12 foot tunnel.
A journey to this BLM property from Las Vegas will take you northeast past the small town of St. George and right by Quail Creek State Park. The scenic Nevada and Utah mountains will prompt you to stop for excellent views and photos along the way.
The most popular times to visit this Bureau of Land Management conservation area are during the spring and fall. One of the main challenges of using Red Cliffs for recreation in peak season is the difficulty you may encounter finding parking. It's possible that you might arrive, only to be turned away due to lack of space.
There are only 52 parking spaces available for day use here. Given the size and the popularity of this BLM property, to say the parking is limited would be an understatement. To avoid being turned away, arrive as early as possible or park at the campground and explore on foot or by bike.
Any vehicle that has a trailer is not permitted in the day-use parking area. Instead, they can use the parking area at the White Reef Trailhead. once you pass the second tunnel, take the first right turn. Vehicles with trailers should also aim to park as early as they can.
The Red Cliffs Recreation Area provides the option to camp and enjoy everything the Red Cliffs NCA has to offer without having to drive in and out daily. Available on a first-come, first-served basis, 11 sites accommodate tents and RVs up to 30 feet will find room.
The caveat to being able to stay at this well-situated BLM campground is that the access to the campground itself is limited. Vehicles must pass through two tunnels on the way that allow passage for vehicles under 12 feet high and 12 feet wide. Gravel and dirt within the tunnels can shift to affect clearance levels as well.
Each site has a shelter with a picnic area and a fire pit with a grill. The BLM property provides drinking water along with access to vault toilets. Visitors can travel with their pets as long as they are on a leash at all times. There are no hookups or showers but you'll have a parking spot and tent pad. Parking can be at a premium at this busy park, so this is a definite feature for campers.
The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area welcomes equestrians to most trails. Visitors traveling on horseback will have the choice of shorter trail rides or long ones through the backcountry. Since water is limited within the BLM property and surrounding area, carry water for yourself and your horse with you.
Popular equestrian trails include ones that pass through the Mill Creek and Grapevine Areas. You will also enjoy the undeveloped landscape and varied canyons within the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness Area. Most trails suitable for hikers are considered multi-use and can be traveled on horseback as well. Just be prepared to share the trail.
If you've snagged one of the campsites at Red Cliffs Recreation Area, there are quite a few handy hiking trails. You can easily access the Red Reef East Trail and the Anasazi Trail from the BLM campground or the day-use area.
The kids will enjoy the short hike on the Silver Reef Trail. The payoff is the chance to see dinosaur tracks in the sandstone from the Jurassic Age. Tracks from three different dinosaurs are visible. Just follow the dinosaur footprints to the individual tracks and informative signs.
Depending on your preference, you can choose to dine outdoors at Red Cliffs National Conservation Area at designated picnic facilities or by spreading out a blanket in your favorite spot. The BLM campground at the recreation area offers picnic tables for day-use visitors as well as registered campers.
If you are seeking a more natural picnic spot, the thousands of acres of the BLM property are at your disposal. You can find suitable picnic spots in open areas, canyons, and clifftops. The ground is generally very firm, so bringing your own chairs is a good idea.
One of the unique outdoor activities in this picturesque region of Utah is rock climbing. Visitors with experience can head out on their own, while beginners can find help from local guides.
The best option for both rock climbing and canyoneering is at Snow Canyon State Park. Its location, mostly within the Red Cliffs National Recreation Area makes it extremely quick and easy to get to. Established rock climbing routes are plentiful at this state park - it has the highest concentration in the area. There are also many canyons to explore here.
Hopping on a bike to explore the cliffs, canyons, and historical sites at Red Cliffs is a good use of time. You can cover a lot of ground while remaining on designated trails at all times. Cyclists can navigate all the trails except the ones within the Cottonwood Canyon and Red Mountain Wilderness Areas.
The availability of water is limited throughout the conservation area, and reserve, so make sure you carry some with you. Riders should use the slickrock areas as trails to limit vegetation destruction and avoid skidding stops.
One of the main reasons the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve exists is to ensure the protection of the Mojave Desert tortoise. These desert dwellers roam free throughout the BLM property, and the babies hatch in late summer. Bring your camera to snag the perfect photo, but do not approach or handle these slow-moving creatures.
For bird lovers, golden and bald eagles can be seen soaring above the red rock hills along with several types of falcons, hawks, and owls. Other animals observed here include deer, fox, bobcat, and mountain lion.