The sandstone formations from which Silver Reef gets its name were formed when tectonic stresses forced long, longitudinally aligned sections of Navajo Sandstone to buckle and stand on their sides, giving them the appearance of ocean reefs. Over long periods of time silver ore, sediments, and vegetation were carried in water runoff from the Chinle Formation to the White, Buckeye, and East reefs. The ore settled as deposits and the vegetation became petrified. The Silver Reef Mining District's geologic resources consist mainly of silver deposits, with smaller deposits of copper, gold, lead, and uranium oxide. Iron oxide deposits in the soil rocks cause a red coloration, and dinosaur tracks from the early Jurassic period have been found in the area.
Silver Reef is close to the western border of the Colorado Plateau and about 15 miles (24 km) northeast of St. George and 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Leeds. Dixie National Forest, Leeds Creek, the White Reef, and the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness lie directly west of Silver Reef. The Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness has sage steppe, mountain brush, pinyon pine, coniferous trees, and ponderosa pine. Interstate 15 and Toquerville are 1 mile (1.6 km) and 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Silver Reef, respectively. Pintura is 9.5 miles (15.3 km) north of Silver Reef, and Quail Creek State Park, the ghost town of Harrisburg, the Buckeye Reef, and Red Cliffs Recreation Area are south of Silver Reef. The elevation of Red Cliffs Recreation Area is between 2,000 feet (610 m) and 3,000 feet (910 m).