Scout Cave Trail is one of the best hikes in Snow Canyon State Park, located just outside of St. George in southern Utah. The hike leads to a teardrop- shaped cave that is perfect for exploring, cooling off from the desert sun, and even has some amazing views of the surrounding red rocks! Scout Cave Trail also offers the option to continue to a nice viewpoint, as well as an easy detour to Johnson Arch and Johnson Cave. The hike to Scout Cave is definitely one of the more underrated hikes in southern Utah. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Scout Cave Trail and help you plan your hike!
- Snow Canyon State Park
- Overview | Scout Cave Trail
- Hike Details | Scout Cave Trail
Hi there! We’re Sarah and Matt, two nomads road tripping across the United States with our cat, Fitzgerald, making a new place our home month to month while working full time and adventuring as much as possible. We spend any free time we can get hiking, camping, backpacking, and exploring new places! We hope that our experiences will help you plan for your next adventure and inspire you to be an outlier!
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Snow Canyon State Park
Located in southern Utah, just outside of St. George, Snow Canyon State Park features a variety of unique landscapes, from basalt lava tubes to rocky slot canyons, caves and swirly petrified sand dunes. Spanning 7,400 acres, Snow Canyon State Park is a top-notch hiking spot and is also a great place to go biking on a 3 mile paved bike path or horseback riding along the 15 miles of trails accessible to horses. There is so much to do!
Located about an hour from Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park is a lesser known spot and great detour on any southern Utah road trip! In fact, Snow Canyon is reminiscent of Zion Canyon in some ways, including the white and coral stripes of the canyon walls and dreamlike swirls of the petrified dunes.
Hike Overview | Scout Cave Trail
- Hiking distance | 3.6 miles
- Elevation gain | 600 feet
- Total time | 2 – 3 hours
- Epic-ness rating | 6
- Difficulty | Easy to moderate
- Fees | $15 fee out of state, $10 Utah residents
Find this hike on AllTrails: Scout Cave Trail
Please note that if you are using AllTrails, Scout Cave is located before the end of the provided trail map, about 1.8 miles into the hike.
Scout Cave is a unique teardrop-shaped caved carved out of the red rock cliffs of Snow Canyon State Park. The cave is accessible via an easy to moderate 3.6-mile round trip hike that is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
- Unique cave with views of the surrounding red rock.
- Option to continue to viewpoint and/or detour to Johnson Cave.
- Relatively uncrowded (good chance to have the cave to yourself for a while!)
- Proximity to a neighborhood means part of the trail backs up to houses.
- First mile or so is fairly boring.
- The $10-$15 state park entrance fee for one day is a bit pricey.
How difficult is Scout Cave Trail?
The trail to Scout Cave is flat most of the way, with a fairly steep climb up to the cave towards the end. There is a very short section of moderate rock scrambling to get into the canyon, but nothing that isn’t kid friendly. I would rate the hike as easy to moderate.
If you continue to the viewpoint after Scout Cave, expect to add an additional 300 feet of elevation gain and 1.5 miles roundtrip, making for a moderately difficult hike.
You can extend the Scout Cave trail hike by continuing about a mile past the cave to a beautiful viewpoint looking down over St. George and back towards Snow Canyon. Additionally, you can take a short detour from the Scout Cave Trail to see Johnson Arch and Johnson Canyon. Below are the additional mileage and elevation gain for these two option add-ons:
- Continue to viewpoint past the cave | add 2 miles and 400 feet of elevation gain
- Johnson Arch and Johnson Canyon | add 1.2 miles and 150 feet of elevation gain
Scout Cave can also be accessed via the Kestrel Trail, a shorter 1.2 mile round trip hike that starts just off the Snow Canyon Parkway. Unfortunately, there is no parking area at the Kestrel Trailhead, so you would need to find a place to park nearby.
When is the best time to hike?
The best time to hike in Snow Canyon State Park is during the winter, spring and fall. I did this hike in mid-February and it was lovely! Mid-50’s and sunny – the perfect weather for hiking.
Summer in Snow Canyon gets very hot, with average temperatures in the area reaching 100 degrees or higher! Most of the trails in the park, including Scout Cave Trail, offer little to no shade. I would recommend avoiding June through August.
Scout Cave Trail packing list
In addition to your standard hiking gear, below are a few items to pack for hiking Scout Cave Trail.
- Sun protection (sunscreen, chapstick and sunglasses)
- Hiking poles | I found them to be helpful for the steep climb up/down to the cave and along the steeper trail to the viewpoint.
- Hiking boots | It’s good to have some traction on your shoes for climbing into the cave.
- Snacks, lunch and plenty of water | I always hike with my Camelbak Helena and 2 liter bladder.
- Utah state parks pass (if you have one)
Things to know before you hike
Below are a few important details to be aware of before you hike:
- Snow Canyon State Park charges a $10 fee for Utah residents and $15 fee for out-of-staters. You must pay the fee even though the trailhead is technically outside of Snow Canyon. You can pay with cash at the trailhead or online here.
- Utah offers an annual state park pass for $100 for Utah residents or $150 for out of state residents – a bit pricey and likely not worth it unless you live in Utah or plan to visit many Utah state parks.
- Dogs are not permitted from the Johnson Cave trailhead.
- The trail leads behind a neighborhood with views of the backs of the houses, so don’t expect a “wilderness” experience from this hike.
- The trail through the wash can be a bit difficult to follow in places. Be sure to keep an eye out for cairns, or better yet, download the trail map on AllTrails Pro.
Hike Details | Scout Cave Trail
In the section below, we will detail each section of the Scout Cave Trail so you know what to expect from the hike.
I hiked to Scout Cave on a beautiful day in mid-February. I started the hike around 8:00am and hiked directly to Scout Cave, where I had the place to myself for about 15 minutes. Then I continued to the nearby viewpoint and tacked on a detour to Johnson Canyon at the end of my hike. The entire hike, including add-ons, took me around 3 hours moving at a steady pace.
Parking and getting to the trailhead
The hike to Scout Cave starts from Johnson Canyon Arch Trailhead just outside of Ivins and about 15 minutes from St. George, Utah. Please note that if you put “Scout Canyon Trail” into GoogleMaps, it will take you to the wrong trailhead, located inside a private neighborhood. Instead, look for the Johnson Canyon Parking area on Snow Canyon Drive.
The parking lot and road to the trailhead is paved, so you will have no trouble accessing it regardless of the type of vehicle you drive.
Starting the hike
Scout Cave Trail starts out fairly flat, with views of the surrounding red rock cliffs. The trail meanders through piles of lava rock, before dropping down into a small canyon where the trail continues through the wash.
This part of the hike is fairly boring, and views of the backs of houses in a nearby neighborhood make for a less-than-scenic experience. Nonetheless, the cave is worth pushing through!
Climbing out of the wash to Scout Cave
At 1.2 miles into the hike, you will face your first real elevation gain, as you climb out of the canyon and up towards Scout Cave. You will come across a set of steep stairs, after which the cave comes into view above.
There are actually two caves in the canyon wall – Scout Cave is the one to the left. The cave on the right is smaller, and though it may be possible to climb in, I did not see a clear path.
After a steep scramble, you have arrived at Scout Cave! Take a moment to explore the cave and enjoy the views looking out. This is a great place to take a break for a snack or lunch and appreciate the rare bit of shade the cave provides!
Continue to viewpoint
Once you’ve gotten your fill of exploring Scout Cave, you can either return back the way you came to the trailhead, or continue farther along the trail for some even more awesome views. The trail remains fairly flat for about 0.4 miles past Scout Cave, and then starts to gain elevation. As you climb, the views open up and you can see the white canyon walls of Snow Canyon to the north and look down over Ivins and St. George to the west.
Please note that this trail continues for several miles. The highest point of the trail and best viewpoint is about one mile past Scout Cave.
Detour to Johnson Arch and Johnson Canyon
I would highly recommend taking a quick detour to Johnson Canyon either at the beginning or end of your hike, which adds just 1.2 miles and 150 feet of elevation gain roundtrip. The trail veers towards Johnson Canyon to the left about a quarter-mile from the trailhead and passes by Johnson Arch before getting up close to the rippling red rock walls of Johnson Canyon.
I was slightly disappointed that you can’t actually get into the canyon, as the trail stops just short of it. Nonetheless, the short spur trail is worth adding on to the Scout Cave hike.
Other hikes nearby
Planning a trip to southern Utah? Be sure to check out these other great hikes nearby:
- Moqui Caverns | A quick stop off highway 89, located 1 hour 45 minutes east near Kanab.
- Snow Canyon Lava Tubes & Petrified Dunes | Another incredible hike in Snow Canyon State Park
- Red Reef Trail | A unique waterfall and canyon hike in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.
- Kanarra Falls | The “mini Narrows” slot canyon hike 50 minutes from Scout Cave.
- Zion West Rim Trail | One of the best hikes in Zion National Park, only one hour away.
- Scout Lookout & Angel’s Landing | Another Zion classic!
- Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon| From Scout Cave, you can get to Bryce Canyon in 2 hours 30 minutes.
For all things Utah: Utah Travel Guide
Have you hiked Scout Cave Trail? What was your favorite hike in Snow Canyon State Park? Let us know in the comments section below!