Added by Thomas Burton
The Red Caves of Sand Wash is two different short slot canyons that are truly spectacular. They are a little difficult to get too but once there, they are gorgeous.
They don't require any technical gear unless you would like to do two short rappels near the beginning of Lower Red Cave and one short rappel into the Upper Red Cave. We didn't take a rope and were fine although the canyons are usually filled with water and have some difficult obstacles to overcome.
To get there from Mt. Carmel junction, travel north on highway 89 to a dirt road called Tait Lane. Tait Lane will eventually pass over a small river and lead to a farm. Park your car somewhere near Tait Land but not on private property. From here cross the river and use the GPS waypoints to help you find the slot canyon entrances. There was a small fence that is easy to climb to the left of a locked gate on the private property. Remember to be respectful on the private property.
- Tait Lane: 37.248683,-112.662903
- Cross over the Fence: 37.247395,-112.657902
- Drop Down into the Wash: 37.241077,-112.647595
- Lower Red Cave Entrance: 37.225166,-112.647941
- Lower Red Cave Exit: 37.220052,-112.635894
- Upper Red Cave Entrance: 37.235311,-112.638708
- Upper Red Cave Exit: 37.220053,-112.635893
You can explore each canyon from the bottom to the top and then come back down or you can do a loop hike and combine the two by following the above GPS points. I would recommend bring a GPS so you don't get lost.
The trail will pass through a farm and up onto a hill. You will see some 4WD tracks that lead up the hill. Follow those tracks and stick to the right fork. Eventually you will start heading back down hill into Upper Sand Wash. At the wash you will head down the wash and around a bend then start heading back up the Lower Sand Wash. This will lead to the bottom of Lower Red Cave.
Enter here, but you wont be able to progress too far before coming to a dry fall. Head back out canyon and head to the left (looking down canyon) up the steep sand to the top of the canyon. You can enter back into the canyon after just a few minutes but it is steep to get back in. It may require team work or jumping, BE CAREFUL!
Follow the canyon up passing a few easy obstacles and possibly a little water depending on the last time it rained. Near the end of the Lower Red Cave you will get out and start the cross country trek to the upper section of Upper Red Cave. There really wasn't a trail to get from the Lower to the Upper. Head north and eventually you will reach Upper Red Cave. There is a small wash that you follow that will lead you to a 25 foot drop into Upper Red Cave. You could take a rope and rappel this section or you can head left out of the canyon for a little bit and there is an easier but still steep way to drop into the canyon.
Form here follow the canyon down to the mouth. Upper Red Cave had a few challenges and a lot more water than the Lower when we went. In fact one of the pot holes I was unable to feel the bottom of as we tried to swim/chimney through it. Make sure you don't take anything that can't get wet or if you do that it is well protected. I only got wet to just above my waist but I think we were lucky.
As the canyon ends, follow the way back to the 4WD road you followed in and back to the car. Both canyons are excellent for photos, but a tripod is a must with the low lighting. We also saw a white owl in the Lower Red Cave high above us on the canyon walls. When I heard this was a nontechnical slot canyon I underestimated its difficulty. While we were able to do it without a rope or harnesses it was very difficult and I wish I would have have been a little more prepared. If it wasn't for my father, who is an expert climber, I doubt my trip through these slot canyons would have been as pleasant as it was.
- GPS or Map
- Dry Bag
- Good shoes with good rubber to help with climbing
- A rope if you want to do the few rappels which can be avoided
- A Jacket, it is cold in the canyons and you are in very cold water
- Beanie and Sun Hat
- Sun Glasses
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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