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Hidden Gem: Red Cliffs Recreation Area

It’s no secret that there is an amazing National Park in southern Utah. However, it’s not the only awesome place to experience down here, and Red Cliffs Recreation Area is one you probably haven’t heard of. It’s a hidden gem that has all the charms of Zion in a smaller package.

Desert Potholes and Waterfalls

In Spring and right after rainfall, this recreation area is blessed with some beautiful waterfalls that gush over its dry red-rock canyons. Since it’s pretty tough to plan a trip around rain, and rain also makes for less enjoyable camping, I would suggest planning a Spring trip, especially if you want to see the falls running. Even when the falls aren’t going, there are large potholes in the canyon that stay full of water year round, making for great pictures.

Petroglyphs

It’s super easy to miss, but as the canyon starts to tighten up and turn to the left, you can cross the dry stream bed, where a large alcove is cut out of the cliff face, and it is marked with some plastic posts. In this shallow cave, you can look up and find some ancient Native American drawings! It took me three trips out here before I stumbled onto these, but it was worth it.

Slot Canyons

Nothing says desert adventure like slot canyons! They are hands down my favorite thing about hiking in southern Utah. Making your way between towering cliffs, sometimes only an arms’ width apart, you feel like you’re on another planet.

Drying river bed in red rock canyon.

Campsites in Red Cliff Recreation Area

These campsites are the icing on the cake. If you’ve ever tried to get a campsite in Zion, you know how hard it can be to score one without doing so almost a year in advance. Many of the popular national parks are this way now. Red Cliffs Recreation Area is only 45 minutes from Zion, but its campsites are really easy to get. In conclusion you are better off camping at Red Cliffs if you make a trip out here without a lot of advanced planning. Yet it’s not just how easy it is to get these camp sites that makes me recommend them. You will really enjoy these sites, as they have all the facilities you need, like tables, pavilion cover and restrooms. 

Campsite pavilion in the desert.

Learn More about Hiking

Read about hiking in Greater Zion and explore trail guides in the area.