Prospector/Church Rocks/Dino Cliffs Trails
One of the many downsides of riding on sandstone is that it is in fact made out of sand. This often means that while riding on the slickrock itself is fascinating, flowy and fun, once the rock ends and the trail transitions to the singletrack that connects the rock areas, deep sand sucks both the speed and fun right out of the ride. We are fortunate in this area to have numerous layers of erosional deposition to work with and the area that this trail system follows is right on the boundary between the water deposited Kayenta sandstone and the mud and clay slopes of the upper Chinle layer. This provides a wide range of strata to lay tracks over and makes for a great trail system to ride during a variety of weather conditions.
This trail system has several points of access. The northern trail head is just off of the entrance road to the Red Cliffs Recreation area and the Prospector trail runs along the base of white sandstone ridges while dropping into and out of several washes, which can be wet and sticky when wet. It runs south generally far enough away from the interstate for the traffic noise to be absent, and over 3 miles gains a bit over 400 feet in elevation until it crosses the access trail to the cottonwood trailhead. This trail head is reached via tunnel access under both sides of the interstate and as the most popular method of access has ample parking and a pit toilet. The trail departs from the access trail to the south and runs along the top of a bench before dropping down a rocky hill and then onto the top of a red sandstone ridgeline. Constant up and downs and nice flow in sections leads south gaining another 200 feet in elevation another 3 miles from the cottonwood trailhead to the junction with the Church Rocks trail. There is a short section of deep sand that requires pushing when dry, but is very rideable during wet conditions especially in the winter.
Difficulity: Begininer to Intermediate
Kid Friendly: Yes
Wet Weather ride: Red Cliffs- No Cottonwood- Yes
% Singletrack; 100%
Quality (1-5): ***
Church Rocks Loop
This trail has long been the local intro to slickrock ride, and offers a 3 mile long loop ride that can be done on its own, or added to the out and back Prospector trail. Church rocks runs along the top and bottom of a north south ridge of Kayenta sandstone the offers numerous opportunities to get used to riding on sloping acres of slickrock, as well as ledges, bowls, and steep faces of stone to ride up and down. Most riders do the loop clockwise, staying at the bottom of the ridge while riding south and then climbing onto the ridge for the return trip to the north. This offers a nice fast rocky downhill on the northeast end of the loop as you regain the lower trail. Church rocks can be hard to follow over the rock sections as many of the signposts installed by the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve are either missing, fallen over, or hard to read due to sun damage. There are also numerous spur trails that connect the southern ends of the loop through technical drop offs and jumps to confuse things more, but riding the southbound trail to a wash at the foot of a hill of black basalt boulders provides a good clue to start to look for the northbound turn. The climb up onto the top of the ridge is rewarded with spectacular views of the Pine Valley Mountains, and Zion national park.
The Church Rocks loop is often accessed via an approach trail that departs from Highland park on the top of a bench on the east side of the interstate, down an eroding jeep road, and then through a long (dark) tunnel under the interstate. This provides access to the south tip of the loop trail and makes for a quick 4 mile ride.
Difficulity: Beginier to Intermediate
Kid Friendly: Yes
Wet Weather ride: Yes
% Singletrack: 100%
Quality (1-5) ****
This trail continues through and over the basalt flow at the south end of the Church rocks loop, via a couple short sections of the Brackens Loop trail that climb over the basalt flow. At the top of the basalt continue south towards a water tower and the trail will continue south along the top of some broken benches and then into and out of several drainages. This trail is somewhat more technical than either the Prospector or Church rocks loop, but the sections are short and easily walked through by less experienced riders. Mostly a downhill ride while heading south nearly 300 feet of elevation are lost over 2 miles, until a quarter mile from the end a deep hill of sand marks the point that most riders will turn around and begin the return ride. The trail ends at a sep over at the top of the sand hill, and from there a dirt access road used to ride south then east 1 mile to the trailhead parking at the exit 13 interchange.
Kid Friendly: No
Wet Weather ride: No
% Singletrack: 100%
Quality: (1-5) ***