When you road trip through the Beehive State, you’re probably hitting up the “Big Five” National Parks or driving north to explore the Salt Lake City area. But if you’re into underground exploration, we have a list for you! These nine amazing caves in Utah are worth visiting, and some are close to other popular attractions, too. Let’s dive in!
What Is Utah Known for?
If you’re a national park enthusiast, you’ve likely heard of the Utah “Big Five.” Zion National Park in the southwest, Bryce Canyon National Park just north of Zion, Capitol Reef National Park near Escalante, and Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Parks near Moab in the southeast offer some of the most unique and breathtaking landscapes in the country. And they’re all in Utah!
These parks welcome millions of visitors yearly who want to explore the canyons, hoodoos, spires, arches, fins, and plateaus that make this desert landscape famous. Other state parks like Kodachrome Basin, Goblin Valley, and Dead Horse Point offer similar sceneries.
People also know Utah for its thriving Mormon community, which constitutes 62% of the population. In 1947, the first Mormon pioneers settled in Utah as they sought religious freedom and fled persecution in the Midwest. Mormon settlers named Zion National Park because they thought the land looked like a heavenly city. Today, the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in downtown Salt Lake City.
Pro Tip: You’ll love hiking through these 10 Best Slot Canyons in Utah That Will Transport You to a New World during your Utah adventure.
Is Utah a Good State for Exploring Caves?
Because of its diverse landscape and climate, Utah is a good state for exploring caves, canyoneering, rock climbing, and more. You can find caves throughout the Beehive State. Some are hidden gems off the beaten path, while the public frequently visits others. If outdoor exploration is your cup of tea, Utah is your kind of state.
9 Caves in Utah You Need to Check Out
Although some caves are off-limits, on private property, and closed to the public for whatever reason, there are nine caves in Utah that you’ll want to check out along your road trip. You don’t have to be an underground explorer to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of these topographical features. These caves will wow all visitors!
1. Mammoth Cave
Sitting in the Dixie National Forest of southern Utah, Mammoth Cave has over 2,200 feet of passages and is roughly ¼ mile long. It’s one of the largest lava tubes in the state, formed by cooling lava and flowing water. Mammoth Cave is open year-round. However, because of hibernating bats, you’ll find some portions close to visitors from October until April. It’s also crucial to note that although the entrance to the cave is a large hole in the ground, the exit is relatively tiny and requires you to scoot on your belly. Please remember to bring a flashlight on your visit!
2. Moqui Cave (also known as Kanab Sand Caves)
If you’re visiting Zion National Park, just a half-hour drive from the east entrance will take you to the nearby city of Kanab. Right off Highway 89 are the Kanab Sand Caves, visible as you drive down the highway. Sometimes visitors call it Moqui Cave but don’t confuse it with the souvenir and gift shop next door. This cave in Utah requires scaling a rock wall to enter. But it’s worth it! The colors of the walls are spectacular, making it an excellent photo spot. This cave in Utah is also unique because it’s manufactured.
3. Mount Timpanogos Cave National Monument
You cannot enter the caves at Mount Timpanogos Cave National Monument without a guided tour. Led by park rangers, these tours are only available during the summer season. It’s also one of the more strenuous hikes on this list. The 1.5-mile trail rises 1,092 feet, but it’s worth it. Tunnels connect the three caves, and as you pass from one to the other, you’ll duck under delicate rock formations, view stalactites and stalagmites, and enjoy the chilly temperatures underneath the ground.
4. Bloomington Cave
The fifth longest cave in Utah, Bloomington Cave, is 1.43 miles long. The St. George Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management supervises it. This cave has six levels, a depth of 240 feet, and a maze of narrow and steep passages. You must get a permit from the St. George Field Office to visit, so stop by before you head out to Bloomington Cave. There’s a daily visitor limit.
5. Meadow Lava Tubes
The trail to the Meadow Lava Tubes can be fun and challenging due to the huge boulders. Dogs are welcome, but you’ll want hiking booties as the rocks are pretty sharp. You can walk around or inside the lava tubes if you’re adventurous. The cave is accessible to anyone who wants to travel inside. Just make sure to bring a flashlight.
6. Main Drain Cave
This vertical cave near Logan Canyon drops 1,127 feet into the earth. It’s also the fourth longest cave in Utah, with over two miles of passageways. Main Drain Cave earned its name because of the significant snowmelt and groundwater running through it. Because of its depth, only professionals should explore Main Drain Cave. Like many pit caves, it requires expert rappelling. So don’t attempt to visit unless you’re confident in your cave exploration skills.
7. Wind Cave
Another cave in Logan Canyon is Wind Cave. Sitting across from the Guinavah Campground, the 4-mile out-and-back trail to the cave offers breathtaking canyon views. The trail ends on top of the cave roof. It’s vital to note that there are over 1,000 feet of elevation gain on this hike.
8. Duck Creek Ice Cave
If you need to cool off from the summer’s desert heat, visit Duck Creek Ice Cave in the southern portion of the Dixie National Forest. The cave is small, but it’s worth a visit to enjoy the 40-degree temperatures. Plus, it’s a short, manageable hike from the parking lot. This enchanting oasis is only open on the weekends during portions of the year, so call ahead before you visit.
9. Hobbit Caves
Finally, the last cave near Logan Canyon is Hobbit Caves. If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, you’ll want to ensure this cave in Utah is at the top of your list. It’s also very family-friendly. They’re easy to explore with little ones. Portions are too small for adults but perfect for kids to pop in and out of. You must cross a river to reach the caves, but there are boards to make the walk easy and safe. The whole area makes you feel like you’re walking through Fangorn Forest.
Tips for Underground Exploring Safely
If you want to explore these caves in Utah, it’s crucial to understand the potential dangers. Caves are dark, so you’ll want at least a flashlight. It’s better to have at least two light sources if one fails. It’s also better to have a headlamp to keep your hands free as you explore. But at the very least, have a flashlight.
You might also want a helmet if you explore underground tunnels and passageways. If you’re popping in and out of the Kanab Sand Caves or walking around the Meadow Lava Tubes, a helmet isn’t necessary. You won’t receive a helmet if you book a guided tour of the Mount Timpanogos Cave National Monument, either.
However, you will want to pack a jacket. Even if it’s 100 degrees in the Utah desert, it will be much colder underground. You might welcome the breeze for the first few minutes. However, you’ll soon wish you had long sleeves.
Finally, don’t explore these caves in Utah alone. Always have someone with you. If you don’t have a friend willing to go with you, tell someone where you’re going and when you should return. Check in with that person after your adventure.
Pro Tip: Whether you’re hiking on a trail, in a slot canyon, or underground in a cave, make sure you pack these 10 Hiking Essentials You Should Never Hit the Trail Without.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Caves in Utah?
Some of these caves in Utah aren’t open year-round. So it’s vital to call ahead to ensure you’ll be able to explore. It would be pretty disappointing to plan a trip to a few of the caves in Logan Canyon to find out you can’t go inside.
If a cave is open and accessible all year, pay attention to the weather forecast. Flash flooding is severe in Utah. Winters are harsh. Whenever you decide to visit, plan and wear the appropriate clothing and footwear.
Lace Up Your Hiking Boots and Head Out to the Caves in Utah This Camping Season
Utah may be famous for its canyons, arches, and hoodoos, but there are plenty of underground adventures here, too. The next time you plan a road trip through the Beehive State, check out one or two of these caves. Some of the trails are strenuous, while others are easy. So choose one that suits your abilities and enjoy adventuring underground this camping season!
Which cave in Utah will you visit first? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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