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.
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
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
|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.