Padre Canyon

The trail leads through a maze of red sandstone formations with distant views into the white sandstone areas of Snow Canyon State Park.

This strenuous trail is one of the most interesting and scenic trails in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. Many visitors access the trail from a pull-over just outside the south Tuacahn Center main gate on Tuacahn Drive.  From the pullover, the trail can be reached by proceeding along the fence line through the adjacent wash to the east. Visitors can also access the trail from the Tuacahn parking lot via a small connector trail at the northeast portion of the facility.  The marked trail runs above the east bank of the wash and continues through private property owned by Tuacahn and lands administered by Snow Canyon State Park. This interesting part of the trail lies outside of the park’s fee area and does not require a permit.  Visitors are asked to respectfully comply with the requirements posted on various signs while entering and using the trail through the Tuacahn property and to avoid crossing through the equipment wareyard and animal corrals.  Once past the Tuacahn facility, the trail crosses lands administered by BLM inside the Red Cliffs NCA and the Red Mountain Wilderness Area.   From the Tuacahn gate the trail winds about 1½ miles as it climbs nearly 600 feet to the upper saddle. The trail follows a foot path that varies from packed dirt to very rocky with a good deal of boulder hopping, especially as the trail approaches the saddle.  Hikers will find the trail challenging but beautiful and awe-inspiring as it meanders through the drainage below awesome red cliffs with spectacular views to both the south and the north.  A small landslide ¾ of the way up the canyon eradicated a short portion of the trail and requires some scrambling to get over it and to return to the main user trail.  Once over the saddle from the Tuacahn side, visitors will enter a scenic wonderland of remote peaks and cliffs of red and white sandstone and extraordinary rock formations. From the saddle, the trail descends ¾ of a mile via a dirt, rocky, and slickrock path to a wash near the Three Ponds trail junction. Elevation loss from the saddle is about 230 feet with a total elevation change of about 300 feet. User cairns will help hikers stay on the designated route through the slickrock sections.  No signs are provided in the wilderness area portions of the trail.  Observant visitors who explore off the main trail on this side of the saddle may find unique formations including some excellent arches.

The Padre Canyon trail can also be accessed from the north starting from the Three Ponds trail in the fee area of Snow Canyon in which a permit or an annual park pass is required. It is about 1½ miles to the Three Ponds/Padre Canyon trail junction from the Three Ponds trailhead inside the park, much of it through deep, soft sand.  As most of the Padre Canyon trail is in the Red Mountain Wilderness Area, bicycles are prohibited.  Equestrian use occurs on the southern and northern portions of the trail but is not observed on the steep, rocky, and bouldered portion or the trail on either side of the saddle.  A 1-mile extension of the Padre Canyon trail extends from the Johnson Canyon trailhead parking area on Tuacahn Drive to the gate at the south Tuacahn boundary but is closed to use from March 15 to September14 during the most active tortoise season.  This trail is single-track, packed dirt and relatively easy with some ups and downs and a few, small wash crossings.  This trail extension facilitates a very nice but moderately strenuous loop option of nearly 7 miles to bring hikers back to their vehicle at the Johnson Canyon trailhead parking area.  The loop includes the Whiptail (paved), West Canyon (graveled), and Three Ponds (deep sand) trails inside the fee area of the park.  Fees are collected at the south entrance station for hikers going in either direction.

BLM website for Padre Canyon

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