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.)

Tips:

  • 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!

Trail Details: 

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

Comments

    • Rising_Darkness says

      The canyon is irrigation controlled and *typically* stops mid-April, NOT July.
      -former resident of St. George

      • wADMIN says

        Thanks for commenting! I visited in late May/early June last year and the water level was high enough to swim. (Though it was dang cold!) I can’t imagine going here any earlier and swimming in it without freezing lol. Maybe the irrigation stops, but the water hangs around for a bit? Or maybe they vary it more?

        • Kristen says

          It depends on the year. Two years ago we hiked here and totally enjoyed the swimming holes and river. Last year we went back and it was totally dry except some stagnant yucky water. My guess is they didn’t have as much water because of the lack of snow last year. Both times we went were in April. We’re going again this year. My kids LOVE this hike!

    • wADMIN says

      I wouldn’t recommend strollers for this area. The water trail isn’t stroller friendly and the dino trail is extremely short (so no need for a stroller) and the incline wouldn’t be great with a stroller.

  1. Cory Elvidge says

    Hey, any idea how long the trail is to the pools? Would a toddler enjoy this hike or would he need to be carried? Thanks! :)

    • wADMIN says

      When I did this trail my kid was in a carrier. I’m not sure if a toddler could get past the steps built into the side of the rock with a rope (you can see the spot I am talking about in the photos). However, there is plenty of water access before that point that I think your toddler would enjoy. (Make sure you go when the water is still flowing, I think it stops around now. I would shoot for June next year.) This area also has a cool dinosaur track trail that I think your toddler would enjoy.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 4. Silver Reef Trail: Have a kid obsessed with dinosaurs? Silver Reef trail at Red Cliffs Recreation Area is a dinosaur-track trail located near Leeds, Utah. The Silver Reef trail is not a mile long by itself, but if you are visiting Red Cliffs anyway, you will want to check out their Red Reef trail (swimming holes and small waterfalls) and Native American archeological trail too! Each trail is about a quarter mile long and you can choose to stay at the Red Cliffs and camp or use on of their day use parking spots! This place will become your all in one place camping destination! For more info click here. […]

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