Red Mountain Traverse, Utah
Red Mountain Traverse is an extremely strenuous expert only backcountry hiking route (not a trail) that offers tremendous views of Snow Canyon State Park and passes through an amazing variety of landscapes. The hike is 10 – 12 miles depending on how you choose to do to it and any side trips you might do. It’s a one way hike but to make it a loop I decided to do a hike and bike, which made my trip a total of 22 miles. This hike is in Southern Utah and not to be confused with another Red Mountain Traverse located in Wyoming. A map and description of the route is here.
Red Mountain looms above Ivins, Utah and is part of the Red Cliffs National Conservation area which includes the Red Mountain Wilderness. There is usually no water on the route, temperatures are extreme in warmer months, weather is unpredictable on the top of the mountain and there are no markings on the route. Research and preparation beforehand is absolutely necessary. Red Mountain is notorious for rescues off the mountain. Because of this I decided to do the route in reverse, going up from the bottom and generally continuing uphill to the other end of trail. The last couple of miles is on an old jeep trail, and since I didn’t know how long it would take me, I thought it would be nice not to have to climb down the mountain in the dark, when I was tired. Both of the “official” routes off Red Mountain are confusing and difficult to find. I also wanted to use this hike to get in shape for some harder things I wanted to try later.
One of the unique and cool things about the traverse is that you start or end the hike right at the end of a street in an Ivins neighborhood! There are very few epic hikes that end that way. It reminds me of the spectacular Carthew Alderson Trail in Canada’s Waterton Park or the amazing Walrus Lakes hike in Anchorage, Alaska. On the right side picture the trail starts on the ridge in the foreground.
Once you’ve made it to the top of Red Mountain you can pat yourself on the back because you made it to… the beginning! This panoramic view does not look like what one expects to see at the top of a mountain. The Red Mountain Wilderness stretches out before you. It’s all sand. You have to hike down a few hundred feet before you can work your way up the far end of the valley.
Congratulations you made it to…. yet another rugged desert valley. At this point it should really be sinking in what kind of task you’ve chosen, and this would be a good place to turn around if you aren’t feeling up to it. The correct route can be confusing between this area and the last, so really pay attention to landmarks and maps. It’s like trying to navigate between turbulent ocean waves of rock. This was also the hottest of all the valleys I walked through. After the valleys the land opens up into a miles long dune field. Instead of walking through this stuff I decided to heads east towards Snow Canyon State Park.
Eventually you will arrive at the old jeep/cattle trail. It’s incredibly rocky and I find it very boring. There are several large hills the road will take you over before connecting to the Snow Canyon Overlook trail.