Cottonwood Canyon Trail
Recommended Users: Equestrians, Hikers
Length: 6 miles
Sub-Area: Cottonwood Canyon
Zone: Lowland and Upland
Managing Agency: BLM
Access: Cottonwood Trailhead—Take I-15 Exit 16 to Hurricane City (SR 9). Take the exit ramp south toward Hurricane and continue to the first traffic light in 0.8 miles. Turn left at the light onto 6300 West and continue for 2.0 miles as 6300 West turns into Old Highway 91. Just past Winkle Distributing, turn left onto a gravel road between Winkle Distributing and the Rocky Mountain Power maintenance building. Continue through two freeway tunnels (height and width restricted to 12’ x 12’) to reach the trailhead.
Description: The first 0.6 miles of this trail are signed two-track, while the remainder is an unmarked route. The unmarked route follows Cottonwood Creek (a desert wash that is dry most of the year) as it travels through Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness. From the trailhead follow the trail north until it intersects Prospector Trail. Turn right unto Prospector Trail heading north. In 0.1 miles, continue straight at the intersection (as Prospector veers to the right) and back onto the Cottonwood Canyon Trail. The Red Reef Trail starts on the right in another 0.2 miles, but may be difficult to see. Stay close to Cottonwood Creek and continue heading directly north.
Don’t be disheartened by the landscape surrounding the trailhead as it was damaged from a severe fire in 2005. Note that most of vegetation was burned so severely that almost nothing remains today of the original creosote and blackbrush vegetation and is now largely infested with invasive cheat grass. Continue into the lower canyon as it is a beautiful mix of desert willows, yuccas, agaves, native grasses, and colorful boulders washed down all the way from Pine Valley Mountain. For those in the know, a short spur trail leads to a view of a historic aqueduct used by Mormon pioneers. Equestrians generally remain on the lower section due to the narrowing width of the canyon upstream and the many boulders strewn throughout the wash.
In the upper canyon, views of classic red rock country (formations and endless slick rock) abound. This is also where visitors have a chance to see some larger wildlife not so readily seen closer to the urban edge: mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions. It’s possible to through hike to the Danish Ranch Road (FS031) to the north, but it is a LONG trip and requires a second vehicle to shuttle; parking is limited to one vehicle off the Danish Ranch Road near Cottonwood Creek. The road conditions are rough, slow-going, and require a high clearance vehicle (4WD recommended).
can be accessed from Cottonwood Canyon at 2.6 miles from the trailhead, providing another access into the wilderness area.
If you plan on any off-trail, or backcountry travel (only allowed once inside wilderness), navigational aids are strongly recommended. Search and rescue operations are not uncommon for hikers lost in this wilderness as distances are deceiving and many people go unprepared for the rugged conditions. Please read Know Before You Go
before venturing off-trail. There is generally no cell phone coverage in the upper canyon and throughout the wilderness area.