Ascent of Red Reef on 2013-01-25

Climber: Steven Thompson

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Friday, January 25, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Red Reef
    Elevation:4240 ft / 1292 m

Ascent Trip Report

Every once in awhile I stumble across a scramble route that has that wonderful balance between risk and reward.  Challenging without being frustrating.  I've mentioned before that I believe Lady Mountain in Zion National Park might just be the perfect scramble route (having that perfect balance for me anyway).  Now, I believe Red Reef might be a close second.

Growing up in Southern Utah, Red Cliffs Recreation Area was a mainstay of my
childhood.  It has been years since I hiked along the Red Reef trail, and doing so today opened the flood gates of memories.  Now known as the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area which was established through the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, Congress designated the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) in Washington County, Utah “to conserve, protect, and enhance …the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources” of public lands in the NCA.

Take Interstate 15 north from St. George, Utah, to Exit 22*.  At the end of the freeway off-ramp, turn right onto Old Highway 91 (frontage road). Travel south 2 miles and turn right after passing the sign for the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.  Continue under two freeway tunnels and follow the paved road for 1.3 miles into the campground.
*If heading south from Cedar City, Utah, take Exit 23. Turn left on Silver Reef Road, then turn right onto Main Street. Travel south for 3.5 miles on Main Street (which turns into Old Highway 91). Follow the remaining directions above.

Parking for day use is extremely limited (33 spots only), day use is $2.00 cash placed in an envelope and deposited at the gate.  Park in the parking spaces designated as day use and proceed up the Red Reef trail to the west.  Note: the Red Reef trail does not lead to the summit of Red Reef.  To reach the summit turn south at the first main wash (if you reach a wooden square step you've gone to far).  There is a well worn path leading up the wash to the south.  The trail spiders into dozens of exploratory trails, but stay with the main trail directly up the wash.

The wash soon constricts into a slot canyon, continue to follow the well worn trail leading to the hikers right in a work around to the next wash level.  Class 2.  With the climb to the second level, I begin to appreciate the difficulty that this scramble will entail.  Looking up the eastern face, the cliff bands are layered and steep, this scramble is going to take some work.  Continue to work up the second layer wash to the end.  On the hikers left is a dirty ledge system to the crux of this hike.  A 10' class 3 move, up a rocky outcropping.  It involves a stretch move and depending on leg length might be class 4.  A bolt exists at the top for the return trip.  I tossed a hand line through the quick release, only because it was available, it is certainly possible to down climb the crux and the primary reason for my class 3 rating.

Above the crux is a beautiful small valley and the trail spiders once again.  I wandered to far south before realizing this is a box canyon of sorts.  Above the crux follow the trail east toward the saddle and beautiful views north and east.

At each layer, the trail becomes more faint, and reaching the saddle, I find only a few foot prints to guide me.  I have not spotted a single cairn, but my TOPO shows a wash on this eastern face and I move horizontally toward the feature.  Skirting around the head of a wash, I see a faint trail on the opposite side, but I am unable to reach this trail.  Backtracking, I scan the hillside and determine that scrambling up the slickrock, through the series of ledge systems will deposit me at the ridge leading to the summit.  The way is steep, and a couple of blind turns lead to easy routes with good step systems.  I have to backtrack a couple of times, but I am enjoying the jig saw puzzle of the east face immensely.   Soon the ridge line is reached and within a few steps I find a cairn marking a trail on the southern side of the wash.  I peer over the edge and discover the route not any more traveled than the route I took.

The ridge line traverse is about as enjoyable as any I have taken.  Not cluttered with massive boulders, it is a pleasant stroll along a grassy knoll.  The views, both east and west are breathtaking in their rugged beauty.  The summit is marked by a small summit cairn and stick.  No summit registration is found, but people have left their mark in the soft sandstone.  I had forgotten to bring any kind of registration jar, but settled for a picture, standing on the summit, instead of carving my name in the rock.

Stunning views in all directions.  To the east I-15 makes it's way near Harrisburg Bench and Quail Creek can be seen.  Further east is the box shaped summit of the West Temple, the iconic land mark of Zion National Park.  South I can make out the circular shape of Shinob Kibe and the waters of Sand Hollow.  Looking west is the stunning backcountry of Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, with Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness forming the horizon.

I eat a small snack amid the rumbling sounds of the freeway and the quiet solitude of the summit.  A storm is moving in as clouds begin to descend across the face of Pine Valley.  What a beautiful place.  I look west-northwest and south-southwest trying to spot the other ranked peaks in the area.  I'm already looking forward to scrambling more summits in Red Cliffs.

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Steven Thompson
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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