The house is quiet. The sun's not up. Kids are still sleeping. At a family reunion, this is the prime time to get out and explore, go for a run and plan the day. On our most recent trip to St. George, my sister and I wanted to get a good run in but also wanted to find a fun hike to take the younger kids on later in the day. And lucky for us - our planned run into the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve had both! Here are our detailed directions for a quick, fun hike the kids will love, coupled with our description of a longer run that caters to moms, dads, and others who are looking for a little bit more.
Just as the sun was coming over the horizon, my sister and I put our running shoes on and stepped out the door of GatherHouse 2. Clean air and desert serenity were steps away. I started my FitBit and we were off. Today’s planned run: a gorgeous 8-mile stretch in the rugged beauty of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve - no car required.
From out the front door, we ran south on Casitas Hill Loop drive to the entrance of the development. At the round-about we crossed to the east side of the street and hopped on the wide and beautifully landscaped sidewalk lining Grapevine Crossing Road.
This took us slightly downhill to Red Stone Road. At Red Stone Road, the sidewalk continues down to Sienna Hills Park or it takes a hard left and leads down a slope. We took the downhill route. From here the path loops under Grapevine Crossing Road through a small tunnel. This is the beginning of the trail system that leads directly to the Red Cliff Desert Reserve.
The trail is still sidewalk at this point. It winds uphill and passes a fun and little-known park accessible only by walking. My kids call it the Secret Park. This little oasis has a spacious grassy area, shade trees, playground equipment and best of all...A DRINKING FOUNTAIN.
Because it is accessible only by walking, you can usually have the whole place to yourself. It is the perfect destination if little ones want to go for a hike or even a morning run but can’t make it very far. This is where we planned to take the younger kids later in the day.
But this was not our stop. We continued around the park, running across a little bridge that spans a portion of the Grapevine drainage. This trail basically follows a small drainage system uphill directly to Reserve. On most maps it's simply an unnamed branch of the Grapevine Trail. After crossing the bridge the trail becomes gravel and then dirt. Mountain bikers will want to know about this place too. The trail has seemingly endless branches breaking off from it with the unmistakable tracks of mountain bike tires. At this point the trail is running pretty much parallel with Washington Parkway.
We continued uphill until we came to the first of a series of slightly longer tunnels. This first one goes under 1100 East. The trail is a little washed out right before the entrance but not enough to lose it. In the tunnel the trail turns back to wide cement. This tunnel is relatively short and well lit by the sun --it's easy to run through. However, the next three tunnels pass under the freeway. By way of warning, I don’t feel comfortable running the under-the-freeway portion of the trail by myself. Everywhere else I totally feel comfortable and would run alone, but the under-the-freeway-tunnels are a little longer; there are no lights -- it's dark. Do this part with a friend. My sister and I had to pull out our cell phone flashlights to see better.
At the end of the last tunnel the trail makes a pretty steep incline up the wash and then meanders northwest until it levels off. We followed the trail until we came to the unmistakable sign that we were entering the Desert Reserve.
The unique Reserve entrance portals are in place to allow visitors to come in and keep the endangered Mojave Desert Tortoise from going out. The tortoises have a much better chance to survive in the protected environs of the Reserve.
Once we crossed over into the Reserve we stayed on the Grapevine trail until we came to a dirt road that lead uphill to the North. (Don’t be alarmed by all the uphill. It’s all very doable and makes for an even better run home.) We followed the dirt road for .3 miles until we came to an information sign about the reserve which included a long list o
f trails we were excited to discover. So far, by my watch, we had run 1.46 miles.
Up Next: Part 2 - Prospector Trail