Exploring Red Cliffs Desert Preserve and Snow Canyon State Park

For our first hike after returning to Utah, we rode with Terry down to the Red Cliffs. En route to the hike we decided to start from an unnamed trailhead the two of them had hiked from previously, one that was in close proximity to the boundary of Snow Canyon State Park and a rock joint that had multiple petroglyphs etched in the rock. The alignment of the joint prevented almost all sunlight from penetrating the depths making photography of the glyphs difficult, but Terry and I managed to get a few decent shots before exiting the narrow crack and rejoining Tom and Abby on top of the nearby sandstone fins.

From near the top of the sandstone knolls we could see black, iron-rich volcanic rock capping some of the red sandstone to the north and so decided to head in that direction. Within a couple miles we came upon multiple interesting formations and even a small cave; soon after we picked up a worn path running north that turned out to be the Gila Trail. The trail brought us back up a couple hundred feet to the canyon rim which provided more fantastic views and then dropped us into another canyon where we came upon wonderfully-striped rock and Liesegang rings swirled into the sandstone. Once we turned back we made a side trip out on a plateau finding moqui marbles (iron coated balls of sandstone) and the best view of the day – an overlook down the length of Snow Canyon.

Near Cougar Cliffs, Red Cliffs Desert Preserve, Utah

Near Cougar Cliffs, Red Cliffs Desert Preserve, Utah

Red Cliffs Desert Preserve, Utah

Red Cliffs Desert Preserve, Utah

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Red Cliffs Desert Preserve, Utah

Red Cliffs Desert Preserve, Utah

Tree near the mouth of the rock joint, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Tree near the mouth of the rock joint, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Walking into a rock joint, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Walking into a rock joint, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Looking up while walking in the rock joint, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Looking up while walking in the rock joint, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Petroglyphs, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Petroglyphs, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Petroglyphs, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Petroglyphs, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Terry ahead of me in rock joint, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Terry ahead of me in rock joint, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Terry hiking up the sandstone fins, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Terry hiking up the sandstone fins, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Swirls in the sandstone, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Swirls in the sandstone, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Tom and Terry ahead of me, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Tom and Terry ahead of me, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Looking out from a cave, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Looking out from a cave, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Green moss on black volcanic rock, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Green moss on black volcanic rock, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Black volcanic rock capping Navajo sandstone, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Black volcanic rock capping Navajo sandstone, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Striped sandstone, Gila Trail, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Striped sandstone, Gila Trail, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Liesegang rings, Gila Trail, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Liesegang rings, Gila Trail, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Moqui marbles, off Gila Trail, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Moqui marbles, off Gila Trail, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Terry photographing the black volcanic rock, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Terry photographing the black volcanic rock, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Terry, Tom, and Abby overlooking a canyon, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Terry, Tom, and Abby overlooking a canyon, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Petrified dunes, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Petrified dunes, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Overlooking Snow Canyon, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Overlooking Snow Canyon, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah