The Millcreek and Grapevine sections of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve are an easy-access, easy-hiking option to stretch your legs and take in some lovely desert scenery.
Red Cliffs Desert Reserve: Millcreek and Grapevine Areas
Difficulty: Easy and moderate hikes
The Millcreek and Grapevine sections of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve are unfussy, easy on the eyes, and, for the most part, quite mellow for hiking or mountain biking. This rolling, sandy desert terrain lights up in the early and late hours of the day — just when the temps are moderate and the sagebrush scent wafts through the air. A network of trails here serves hikers with dogs and mountain bikers looking to cover some pretty and unchallenging ground. The red rock formations and cliffs frame the winding washes and ensure there’s always an interesting view to be found.
One popular walking trail is the Millcreek Trail proper — and the other paths it links up to. It’s essentially a quiet service-road, dirt and dust, that works its way up a picturesque and wide canyon. Toward the canyon’s upper reaches, four miles from the trailhead, the canyon narrows a bit and the trail follows a creek bed. Desert wildflower viewing around here is tough to beat — these dainty little plants have a tough life in this landscape but make the most of every drop of water.
Departing from another nearby trailhead, the Dino Cliffs trail delivers actual dinosaur tracks if you take the time to carefully look and find them a couple hundred yards from the trailhead. The trail makes its way along the lower edge of the red cliff walls that jut up above the town of Washington. It gains several hundred feet over the course of two miles, treating hikers, bikers, and horseback riders to peaceful views of ancient formations.
If you’d like to cover more ground, whether on foot or on a bike (or even on a horse), nearby Bracken’s Loop offers 5.5 miles of pristine, pleasant terrain that varies from sandy to rocky. You’ll pass multiple gorgeous rock formations as you go, including the Church Rocks and a group of hoodoos. While this trail isn’t terribly challenging or dramatic, it’s a beloved go-to for a walk close to town. The sunrises here are particularly great: as the sun comes up over town, it casts a warm light on the hoodoos and cliffs, starting the day very much on the right foot.
Another area trail great for hiking, but lends itself especially well to mountain biking is the Prospector Trail, which links up with the Grapevine Trail a ways up from the Grapevine trailhead. You can catch Prospector from Grapevine, or from another trailhead farther east like the Cottonwood Trailhead. However you get onto the trail, it’s a total joy for beginner and intermediate mountain bikers, or more advanced bikers just looking to get out and stretch their legs. You’ll roll over undulating hills and washes, cross pretty redrock portions, and flow over smooth red dirt for sections in between. At times the sand can make pedaling a little harder, but if you hit it as a storm is drying up, the surface is at the perfect tacky consistency for amazing cruising.
These trails’ proximity to town is tough to beat, and while many visitors gravitate toward the Red Cliff Reserve’s more dramatic terrain, Millcreek and Grapevine are always worth ambling around. While they don’t feel too remote, always make sure you’re practicing careful desert travel protocol. Watch out for flash flood danger, which arises quickly if it’s storming. And always carry far more water than you think you’ll need.
Distance & elevation gain: Distance and elevation are dependent on the trail you choose, but in general vary between a couple miles and several miles; elevation gains range from 50 feet along the Millcreek Trail to 1,500 total elevation gain at Bracken’s Loop.
Trail type: A network of loops, out-and-backs, and infinite options
Multi-use: Hiking, mountain biking, trail running and horseback riding
Dogs: Allowed on leash
Seasonality: Hike during cooler seasons or cooler parts of the day
Bathroom: There is one at the Cottonwood Trailhead only
Take the time to find special historical remnants like dinosaur tracks and the ancient Spanish cross etching off the Prospector Trail in Spanish Wash.
Nearest destination: All trails described are near Washington, a St. George suburb
Where to park: Established parking areas at each trailhead
Trailhead GPS coordinates:
Millcreek Trailhead: Dirt road begins at 37.144165, -113.509517 (drive the bottom mile and then park)
Grapevine Trailhead: 37.149667, -113.490319
Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.