Mill Creek

The Mill Creek trail consists of a sandy, utility maintenance road for its first 2.1 miles from the trailhead at the RCDR south boundary to the end of the graded road. Visitors will pass trail junctions for the Bone Wash, Middleton Powerline, and Mustang Pass trails. At the end of the road, the Washington Hollow trail breaks off to the east. From that junction to the east-west Mill Creek Canyon fork is an additional 1.2 miles. From that fork to the functional end of the west canyon route (an impassable dry-fall section) is an additional ¾ mile – a total of about 4 miles, one way. The upper segment consists of an open canyon environment with sloping walls covered in large part with volcanic boulders from the lava cap on top of the escarpment. Hikers will frequently have to scramble around large rock falls or dense vegetation to move through the main canyon. This will add distance, time, and physical effort to the hike. To continue beyond the dry-falls either requires technical equipment and expertise or a tricky climb up the canyon wall on a basaltic rock flow to the top of the plateau. However, remarkable views of the entire mountain/desert ecosystem can be seen from this point. From there hikers can continue by dropping back down into the canyon after a quarter mile (gets you past multiple dry-falls) or following the rim for close to a mile to access the Ice House trail for a long loop back to the start. Because of deep sand and very large boulder fields, the route is not suitable for bikes other than as access from the main trailhead to the Bone Wash trail. After the first 2 miles, the route inside the wash is not suitable for horses either because of the abundance of large, volcanic boulders in and above the wash. Hikers will find the left fork to be quite strenuous for the same reason. The Mill Creek east fork will take hikers ¾ of a mile into a red sandstone canyon environment without as many volcanic boulders.  One or two side canyons on this fork provide some interesting options for exploration and opportunities for play in sandstone formations in the wilderness area.  Floral displays in either fork can be bountiful during wet springs with Indian paintbrush, desert marigolds, four-o’clocks, primroses, sego lilies, and cliffrose, among others. Common wildlife include mule deer, coyotes, ground squirrels, cottontail rabbits, hawks, canyon wrens, a variety of lizards, and occasional tortoises, Gila monsters, chuckwallas, and snakes. The net elevation change from the main trailhead to the west fork dry falls is about 950 feet with a total elevation change of about 1260 feet (1100 up, 160 down). The net elevation change to the reasonable end of the east fork route for most hikers is about 780 feet. The trail starts on lands administered by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and ends on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management in the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness Area within the boundaries of the Red Cliffs NCA.

BLM website for Mill Creek