Red Cliffs: Sculpted Canyons and Plateaus

Tom and I took a few days to travel to Southern California to see his daughter and family but once we returned to Terry’s house we set off on our next hike. Storms were continuing to roll through southwest Utah, depositing fresh snow on the mountains ranges almost daily so we opted for a low elevation hike in the Red Cliffs, normally too hot for our liking at the end of May. As we hiked that day in unseasonably cool temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the low 60s, the mountains just to the west and north of us were getting even more snow; we were fortunate to have a fairly sunny day without so much as a single raindrop however.

We began by walking up one of the main canyons – a common entry route for us – and followed the water up one of the branches to the northwest. Because of the snowfall above there was more water than usual making the fissures in the sandstone look different, more vibrant in hue and deeper in texture. The amount of water in the canyon too changed the appearance of the canyons, masking the wide variety of colors and patterns in the rocks that spoke to the dynamic geological history in the immediate area; many of the smaller, more uniquely patterned sandstone for example seemed to be submerged under the flow of snowmelt, leaving the larger, plainer volcanic rock exposed.

We took our time route-finding and rock-hopping up through the chasms, climbing out a few times in an effort to look at interesting sandstone formations above, but at some point we decided to make a committed climb to the top after we’d reached a narrower area of the canyon with deeper water. This was a random spot but once we’d reached the crest and were able to see distances to surrounding landmarks we knew we’d been, both together and separately, within a half mile of this spot multiple times.

At this point we decided to head back, walking over the mesa for a bit before selecting a route to drop back into the canyon. From there we more or less retraced our footsteps back along the watercourses until we popped out onto an alternate overland trail that would return us to the trailhead. Though it was again a place familiar to all of us, the experience was somewhat new – and definitely interesting.