Photographer’s Guide to Scout Cave near Santa Clara, Utah


The hike to Scout Cave is just north of Santa Clara, Utah, with the trailhead just before the entrance to Snow Canyon. The parking lot is easy to spot as it is the only parking lot in sight of the Snow Canyon pay booth. The parking lot is on the left side of the road, but you can also park along the street if the parking lot is full, which it will be early if the Johnson Canyon Trail is open (it closes part of the year for tortoise nesting).

The hike to Scout Cave is fairly easy as it is mostly flat, but it is 4.4 miles out and back of very boring landscape. You can be the judge of whether the cave at the end is a big enough payoff for the 4.4 miles. You start on the same trail as Johnson Canyon and follow it straight east over the lava flows, then head right (south) at the fork before Johnson Canyon. Start looking for wildflowers like the ones above after the fork. The shot above shows Johnson Canyon in the background.

You will walk along the ridge for a while before dropping down into the wash. The trail is clear so there is no concern about getting lost here. You follow the wash until it turns east, at which point you can look up the hill and see the cave. It is the indention on the left in the image above with a couple people standing at the entrance.

The climb up to the cave is really the only difficult part of the whole hike. It is pretty steep, but it doesn’t last that long. Once you reach the cave, you have to climb up a little bit to reach the entrance. As you can see in these images, the cave is actually pretty dang big.

I used a wide-angle lens and tripod to be able to fit most of the cave in these shots.

Obviously, HDR was required to expose the interior of the cave without blowing out the exposure outside of the cave.

Using the time on my camera, I was able to get a self-portrait at the cave entrance. I really like this shot because it shows the scale of the cave.

At the back of the cave, there is a little chimney leading out to open sky. Unfortunately, people have defaced the cliff walls here.

Just to the south of Scout Cave, there is another little double cave, but the entrance is a bit more difficult to access.

There is another much longer trail that continues beyond Scout Cave. It is a cool trail that goes along the ridge. It continues all through Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. Even if you don’t want to hike all day, it is worth spending a little time to hike along the ridge and enjoy the views looking back north.

We ended our hike at this point where the trail went around a bend and you could get a great view looking back toward Snow Canyon.

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