Recommended Users: Hikers
Managing Agency: BLM
Access: Cottonwood Trailhead--From St. George take1-15 north to exit 16 and travel east on State Route 9. From State Route 9 take a left onto 6300 West, the first traffic light. Follow this road back into the industrial park for approximately 2 miles. Just past the Winkel Distributing Company on the left, look for a small sign for the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve/Cottonwood Trailhead. Turn left and take this road through two freeway underpasses to the trailhead. Note: the underpasses limit vehicles to 12 feet in height and 12 feet in width.
Description: This hike takes you into the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness by way of the Cottonwood Canyon Trail. This route may not be signed past the start of the Cottonwood Canyon Trail. From the Cottonwood Trailhead, take the Cottonwood Canyon Trail as it travels gradually uphill through creosote flats that burned in the Red Cliffs fire of 2005. From here you have a 360 degree view that includes the Cedar Breaks area, Zion National Park, and the Pine Valley Mountains. At the first junction, take the Prospector Trail on the right. You will drop off the volcanic bench, and be heading down towards the drainage of Cottonwood Creek. Stay on the Prospector Trail until it junctions with the Cottonwood Canyon Trail again on the left. Continue on the Cottonwood Canyon Trail to the left, as it passes the junction with the Red Reef Trail and travels alongside Cottonwood Creek. You will then drop into the Creek. (Note: Despite its name, the Cottonwood Creek more resembles a dry wash.) Once in the creek, you must turn to the north.
As you head up the creek bed, there is a side trip to a historic site. Look for the first route on the left side of the wash that heads up towards the red rock cliffs. All that remains are a large metal pipe and a tunnel that was carved in the rock. The particular history of this artifact is unknown, but likely is associated with early pioneers who were constantly trying to gather and distribute water. From here, walk in the creek bed, as there is no constructed trail from this point on. Note the wilderness boundary sign on the right side of the wash. As Heath Wash joins Cottonwood Creek it creates a noticeable junction. (Note: This junction may be signed, but has a habit of washing out in flashfloods.) Take Heath Wash to the right. From here, the wash is boulder strewn, making it slower going than the lower section of Cottonwood Canyon. You can go 2.55 miles up Heath Wash to the boundary with the Dixie National Forest. This is a mostly open wash, with lovely views and lots of colorful granitic boulders that have made their way from the Pine Valley Mountains. The entire trip, one way, from the Cottonwood Trailhead to the Dixie National Forest is 5.21 miles.