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The Red Reef Slot Canyon, accessible from the Red Cliffs Conservation Area, is an incredibly gorgeous hike up a stunning red rock slot canyon with a stream flowing through its bottom.
The hike up Red Reef can have two distinct personalities.
In the most common and most popular version, hikers traverse a mellow trail to the bottom of a waterfall at a choke point in the canyon and, at the most difficult, climb up around the falls to explore the area just above.
This is the version of the hike mapped here. However, the entire Red Reef slot canyon measures 5.9 miles long.
It runs deep into the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness Area, connecting to more trails deep in the mountains and slots of Southern Utah.
Heading much beyond the waterfall turns Red Reef into a much more epic adventure that will require true canyoneering skills, wading through water, difficult route finding, and more.
Only venture on if you're truly prepared for an epic adventure. **Description for Basic Route:** From the trailhead, the hiking begins easy, winding its way past beautiful rock cliffs.
You'll notice the walls of the canyon slowly coming together.
As you approach the first stream crossing, the walls form Red Reef Canyon.
The further you hike, the more impressive the canyon walls become as they grow in height and the bottom of the canyon narrows in width. Along this middle section, you may have to cross the stream several times.
Even if there's water flowing through the bottom, you can usually hop across on stones quite easily.
However, note that in this wider section of canyon, there's quite a bit of trail braiding, and the main path is not always obvious.
That said, most of the paths will take you to the right place. Soon you'll find yourself walking along the edge of the water, marveling at the incredible beauty of the canyon.
All too soon, you'll arrive at the waterfall, which cascades off of a small cliff at a narrow point in the canyon, splashing into a pool below. This is a popular turnaround point, and choosing to turn back here makes for the easiest hike.
However, you'll notice some small steps carved into the canyon wall to climber's right of the falls.
You can use these steps to gain access to the stretch of canyon above the falls.
However, note that this crux move is much more difficult than the "Moderate" FATMAP difficulty rating noted here.
But if you can manage it, once beyond the falls, the walking is again easy for a few tenths of a mile. Beyond the falls, you'll find yourself in a tranquil canyon valley filled with pools of water, green grass, and some surprisingly tall trees.
This small canyon feels like the Garden of Eden, removed from the stresses and concerns of the world.
Spend some time soaking in this small Eden and destressing from civilization. Once done enjoying this beautiful spot, it's time to turn around.
Heading deeper into the wilderness from here will require wading up a narrow slot canyon and getting into much more serious terrain.
If you head further on, make sure you're prepared for a true adventure! Otherwise, return the way you came.