Red Cliffs Recreation Area
The Red Cliffs Utah campgrounds is home to natural water slides, swimming holes, dinosaur tracks, Native American archeological sites and more!
Overview: The Red Cliffs Recreation Area is a campsite near Leeds Utah, and it is quite possibly one of the best campsites you will ever stay at. Zach and I just got back from a trip down to Southern Utah that had nothing to do with Zion, Moab or any of the other big tourist destinations. This trip was all about checking out the local Cedar City and St. George residents’ recommendations.
Red Cliffs looks like a barren dry desert, but it hides a secret little trail known as Red Reef. This trail leads up the canyon to natural swimming holes and water-slides.
When we went last weekend (first weekend in May), the water was so deep that Zach couldn’t touch the bottom in parts (the photos are very deceiving)! And the water is cold. Very cold. So you will want to check this out in the middle of a hot sunny day!
We actually got to this trail in the late afternoon, and the sun had already set past the canyon wall. I really wanted to try the water slides, but I was also afraid of having wet hair all night (we were camping there). Luckily, peer pressure from those already jumping in propelled me to to do it too. I even had a nice little audience of hikers to watch me work up my courage to do it…It was cold, but – I have no regrets! In fact: it was the highlight of my trip! (Another highlight of my trip was hiking to Kanarraville Falls check that post out here!)
As if Red Reef trail wasn’t enough to get you to check out this place – it also has a trail with dinosaur tracks! It is called the Silver Reef Trail and it is only 0.16 miles (see photo in slideshow).
If you don’t want to camp overnight, Red Cliffs Recreation Area also has day-use fire pits and picnic tables. You still have to pay a day use fee, though (see the photo in slideshow).
You should also know that the campsite is first-come first-serve. We arrived on a Friday morning at 10am and were able to snag a spot, but we saw many hopeful campers drive by that weren’t so lucky. (I would have offered them a spot to set up their tent at our site if they had stopped and asked.)
- I talked with a local girl at the swimming hole (she was form St. George) and she said to catch the swimming holes, you need to visit before July! Otherwise, the water will not be deep enough!
- It is always nice to know what the prime camp spots are. If you want more space and shade, go with number 11. If you want to be closer to the bathrooms, then go with number 7 (close, but not too close…they are port-o-potties my friend). All the campsites have ants – that is just the nature of the area, but the ants never bothered us while we were there. I was kinda surprised (we were at campsite 9).
There are more trails we didn’t have time to explore at the Red Cliffs Recreation Area (like an Native American archeological dig site), but I am already planning our next visit!
Trails Difficulty: Easy.
Dog-Friendly: Yes – must be on leash.
Location: This area is located southwest of Leeds, UT.
Heading southbound, take I-15 Exit 23. Once off I-15, take the left southeast onto Silver Reef Road. The road will shortly come to a ‘T’ – turn right and travel 3.4 miles to Old Highway 91, where you will find a KOA campsite to the east. Turn right and follow this road through the two tunnels for 0.2 miles. Turn left and follow this road south until it bends and starts taking you further west. Follow the road until you get to the BLM booth – the campsites are just ahead!
Heading northbound from St. George, follow I-15 until you get to exit 16. After taking the exit, merge onto St. Highway 9 E/St. Street. Follow this road for 2.6 miles until you come to N 5300 W. Take a left and follow this road north for 3 miles, where you will find a KOA campsite to the north. Turn right, follow the road for 0.3 miles, and then turn west (left) onto the road leading below both tunnels for 0.2 miles. Turn left and follow this road south until it bends and starts taking you further west. Follow the road until you get to the BLM booth – the campsites are just ahead!
GPS Coordinates: (N) 37.222539, (W) -113.403411