Planning a visit to Zion’s epic Red Caves? Stick around; we’ve written a handy guide with everything you need to know before you go.
As one of Utah’s Mighty Five, Zion National Park isn’t exactly short of jaw-droppingly beautiful sights and hiking trails. But the Red Caves are on another level, if you ask us.
These colorful canyons span the entirety of the park. Though we’ll let you in on a secret – the best place to enjoy Zion’s beauty is at the upper and lower caves. Endless Instagram opportunities await.
Ready to explore the Red Caves of Zion National Park? Let’s go.
Why Visit The Red Caves, Utah?
If we’re honest, it’s criminal not to visit caves in Zion National Park, especially if you’re going on a road trip through Utah. These majestic caverns are a striking mix of red, cream, and pink sandstone that swirls through Zion Canyon, which is quite a sight to behold.
A journey to the Red Caves makes for an epic day of hiking as you explore these beautiful rock layers. There’s also lots to explore after visiting the caves, including The Narrows and Angels Landing – a couple of Zion National Park’s other famous attractions.
History of the Red Caves
Zion is Utah’s oldest national park, dating back to the early 19th century. But, the Zion Canyon and caves are much older, formed over 150 million years, and spanning over three historical periods.
Zion has two stunning caves called the Upper and Lower Red Caves. These are two slot canyons just east of Mount Carmel. You might have also heard them being called Sand Wash or, simply, the Red Caves.
The Red Caves, Zion National Park
Contrary to what most people think, the Upper Cave is the easier of the two. That said, you shouldn’t underestimate the hike – the cave has a few steep parts with a drop of 10 feet in the lower section and gradually rises to about 5,500 feet.
Trust us when we say it’s well worth the effort, though. An epic view of colorful Navajo Sandstone greets you as you enter the cave.
After a short hike that requires some climbing (but no technical skill), the canyon enters into a deep area that will leave you breathless before opening up to the other side.
The lower caves are much trickier than you think and we only recommend tackling them if you’re feeling confident. There are two incredibly steep drops of 40 feet separated by a mid-section.
Fair warning, the trail to the caves will test your fitness levels and work your calves.
The path leading up to this section of the cave has a rope to guide you. Unlike the upper canyon, which is a straightforward climb since it’s just elevation, this one requires you to climb up. It then leads you to the midsection and drops down to the lower part.
But all the climbing is worth it because the views that come with venturing into this area are incredible.
Planning Your Visit to the Caves in Zion National Park
Zion Caves Address
Zion National Park: 1 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, Utah 84767
Upper Cave: 1.8 Miles from Highway 89 and Tait Lane, Mount Carmel Junction
Lower Caves: 3.5 Miles from Highway 89 and Lait Lane, Mount Carmel Junction
Visiting the Red Caves Independently
It’s ridiculously easy to visit the Red Caves solo.
They’re situated just 45 minutes away from the town of Springdale, so all you need to do is jump onto Highway 89 near Mount Carmel Junction and travel another 1.8 miles to the Upper Caves or 3.5 miles to the Lower Caves.
From there, you can begin your hike into the Red Caves.
On a Tour
If venturing to the Red Caves alone seems like a bit much for you, you can always opt for a guided tour. There are multiday tours that leave from Las Vegas that combine visits to Zion National Park with some of the other Mighty Five.
On your stopover in Zion Park, you’ll get to visit the Red Caves on a guided hike that will take the hassle out of trying to find the caves yourself.
Where to Stay near Zion National Park Caves
La Quinta by Wyndham
This Wyndham hotel is the perfect base for exploring Zion National Park, as it’s only 3 miles away. It offers comfortable, modern rooms for a good night’s rest. The amenities are excellent and, better yet, the hotel is pet friendly.
Holiday Inn Express Springdale
Situated just 1.5 miles from Zion National Park, the Holiday Inn Express is another hotel conveniently close to the park.
It offers stunning views of the red cliffs of the park and has all the amenities you’ll need for a cozy stay – including an outdoor pool for cooling off after a long day of hiking and exploring in Utah’s hot climate.
Cable Mountain Lodge
For the best Zion Canyon views, book a stay at Cable Mountain Lodge. It sits adjacent to Zion National Park and boasts modern rooms and comfortable amenities. There’s also a convenience store, picnic area, and outdoor pool on-site.
What to Pack for Zion National Park Caves
- A good sunscreen is crucial. Utah’s sun is harsh, and particular areas of the caves get quite a bit of sun, so you will need some protection.
- A refillable water bottle is essential. You’ll be doing a lot of climbing, so it’s important that you stay hydrated along the way.
- All that walking will have you working up an appetite, so bring along some trail mix to keep you going.
- You will need to cross pools of water in certain areas, so bring a lightweight jacket and quick-dry hiking pants to keep you warm.
- We highly recommend purchasing a good pair of hiking shoes with a good grip, as certain areas of the trail are hard to get around, especially after crossing the pools of water.
- Hiking poles are also a great tool to bring along as they will make the trek through the pools and steep descents much easier to manage.