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Prospector Trail

The Prospector Trail is a delightful desert romp near red cliffs of Navajo Sandstone. The trail begins near Leeds, about 15 miles north of St. George, and continues to Washington. The trail is in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The Prospector Trail itself is 6 miles long, but you'll need to add on a few miles to get back to civilization, one of four ways. The trail is an easier-intermediate technical. 

View from a low hill we just climbed, looking back to the north. Photos June 25, 2002 by Bruce.

There's about 300 feet of altitude change, but the up-and-down raises the total climbing to around 600 vertical feet. Most riders combine Prospector with Church Rocks. See the Short Version, via Cottonwood Trailhead, below.

Option 1, add Silver Reef:  Some riders begin this ride at Silver Reef. From the gravel parking area just south of the Wells Fargo building, N 37 15.142' W 113 22.028', work southwest on dirt roads. Drop into the small valley heading south. Stay southbound, approximately level, at a few confusing forks. 

A final fork offers two routes: high and low, which rejoin near the end. You'll arrive at the White Reef parking area 3 miles later. From here, head down the paved road to the singletrack trailhead. [ Track Files for Silver Reef to Harrisburg: GPX Silver Reef ]

Handlebar view as we head towards the Navajo sandstone cliffs. The cactus is a cholla.

Option 2, loopy out-and-back:  My favorite! Begin at the north end of Prospector. When you hit the Church Rocks loop, ride around it. Head back on Prospector to your car. This makes for a great 16-mile ride! 

Those mountains -- solid rock!

Option 3, Washington routes A-C:  When you hit the wash at the southern corner of the Church Rocks Loop, you have three options to get into Washington for a point-to-point ride. A.  Go down the wash and through the tunnel under the freeway. Really. Jog downhill a bit, then climb up the mesa to your left. Follow the gravel road east and find a paved bike trail dropping off the mesa into Coral Canyon. Go east until you find Telegraph Road then turn right.  B. Hike a tiny distance up the wash, and find the Grapevine Trail heading up over the hill. Expect to hike-a-bike. Keep left past two trails. At the border of the Reserve, catch the doubletrack down to Buena Vista Blvd.  C. Start out as in (B), but at the second fork, go right up the Grapevine Trail, then left on the Dino Tracks Trail. When you reach the water tank, drop down the dirt road to Buena Vista.

The trail rocks and rolls through the desert, dropping through washes and hugging the edge of sandstone ledges. It's a fun ride, and (except for one spot where the trail drops over a tricky ledge) not scary. There are constant eye-candy views of the cliffs.

View as the trail hits some areas of ledgy sandstone.

As signs are prone to disappear, the complex trail intersection at mile 2.5, N 37 11.258' W 113 25.429', requires some explanation. As of 2007, as you pull up to the base of the ridge you'll see the Cottonwood Canyon Trail, a very buff trail heading level up the canyon (this trail is closed to bikes about 1 mile uphill). Go left up a broad trail to the top of the ridge. Take a hard right (uphill) at the top of the hill. Prospector has joined the Cottonwood Ridge Trail. About 100 feet later, fork left (toward St.George) to continue on Prospector at N 37 11.202' W 113 25.457'.

FIRE DAMAGE:  The first 3 miles through which the Prospector Trail passes were burned by a fire in 2004. The area is recovering nicely.
Getting there:  Take the Leeds exit from I-15. If you're going southbound, drive through Leeds to reach the northbound I-15 Leeds exit. Go south from the southbound I-15 exit 1.8 miles. Turn left on a narrow paved road and go under the freeway. Turn right and park in the White Reef parking area (there's a bathroom). Begin the ride by hopping back on the road, crossing the creek, and riding about 1/2 mile to the trailhead at GPS N 37 12.574' W 113 24.078'. Lift your bike over the step-over to the trail.

 

Short version, via Cottonwood Trailhead:  This is a great ride! Take the UT-9 exit from I-15 (highway 9 goes to Hurricane, Zion Canyon, Grand Canyon) about 15 miles north of St. George. Turn towards Hurricane and pass Coral Canyon. Instead, drive to the traffic light in 0.7 miles. Turn left on Old Highway 91. Now go exactly 2 miles north. Watch on your left for a gravel road that enters a tiny single-lane slot under the freeway, with a sign that says "Cottonwood Trailhead". It will be between a beer warehouse labeled Winkel Distributing and a Rocky Mountain Power office. Turn left and drive 0.25 miles under both lanes of the freeway to reach the trailhead. Follow the Cottonwood Trail 0.5 miles then veer left at two forks that are about 50 feet apart. The Prospector Trail will parallel the freeway heading south 3 miles. If you want, turn left when it intersects the Church Rocks Loop and ride the loop clockwise. The ride will be about 11 miles.
Riding resources for this trail:
One-page riding guide for this trail
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin     GPX
   Track Files for Silver Reef:  GPX 
High-Res topo map:  View 
Lodging, camping, shops:
   Links to St. George area resources

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