Snuggled up to Zion National Park, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and Snow Canyon State Park, St. George makes a great base camp for desert shenanigans with the family. There’s things to do in St. George that will suit everybody — from babies rolling down sand dunes to moms rolling down extreme mountain bike trails. There's reservoir swimming in the hot summer and hiking in the mild winter. Duck into a museum for a minute or spend an evening watching a local theatre production. You really can’t go wrong, unless you step on a Silver Cholla cacti on top of a Gila monster den. That would be unfortunate.
Saddle up the OHV, bridle the ski boat and shimmy the horse into a wetsuit because this park has it all. Sand Hollow State Park has 20,000 acres of horseback riding, boating and off-roading. Recline on the sandy beaches and cultivate that famous St. George sunburn. Camping is available at the Westside campground or the Sandpit campground.
Hours of operation:
Cost: $15 per vehicle (up to eight people)
Location: 13 miles / 24 min east of St. George
Sometimes, when a volcano and a petrified sand dune love each other verrrrrrrry much, they create a beautiful and diverse landscape like Snow Canyon State Park. Run full speed down a sand dune or wander a cave formed by ancient lava flows. Hold out your arm and wait for a Peregrine Falcon to perch. Keep waiting. Yep. Just like that. You’re doing fine.
Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Cost: $10 per vehicle (up to eight people)
Location: 11 miles / 16 min north of St. George
Snow Canyon State Park
Everybody knows that selenite crystals collect negative energy from your body so that it can be blasted out your eyeballs at enemies. If you don’t have a selenite crystal yet you can get one at “Glitter Mountain,” a small hill with an exposed selenite crystal vein. The land is privately owned, but the owner allows visitors to collect a few(!) smallish(!) crystals as long as you promise to balance your chakra with it.
Hours of operation: Daytime
Location: Littlefield, AZ (13 miles / 29 min south of St. George, just across the Arizona border)
It is said the ghost of sharpshooter Gunlock Will Hamblin wanders the park, asking for tandem rides on boatercycles. He probably gets lonely out at remote Gunlock reservoir. It’s a nice spot for swimming, boating, fishing and tandem boatercycling. In years with good snowpack, spring overflow creates waterfalls and swimming holes below the dam.
Hours of operation: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Cost: $10 for day-use, including use of watercraft launches
Location: 20 miles / 33 min north of St. George
Take a day-trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument on the Markagunt Plateau above Cedar City. At 10,000 feet elevation, it makes for a refreshing summer outing. Cedar Breaks has a natural amphitheatre with sandstone spires and bristlecone pines. Hike Spectra Point trail for a good look at all three.
Hours of operation: 24 hours a day. Some facilities and roads close during winter.
Location: 86 miles / 1h 30 min north of St. George
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Even in the desert, the sport of golf perseveres. St. George’s climate makes it a great year-round golf destination backdropped with beautiful views of red rock buttes. Extra points for hitting balls into holes.
Pro tip: Driving around in golf carts is fun. Hit the ball with a golf club to get it in the hole.
Some of St. George’s best courses include:
Every desert tortoise, Gila monster and Mojave Desert sidewinder needs a safe space to roam. The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve has 44,724 acres of land especially reserved for animals in the Witness Protection Program. Humans are welcome to hike, bike or camp, as long as they don't fondle the residents.
Location: Just north of St. George
You ain't seen nothin' yet. B-b-b-baby, you just ain't seen n-n-nothin' yet. Here's a world-famous-dramatic-sandstone canyon that you never gonna f-f-forget. Seriously though, Angel’s Landing trail is like no other sheer cliff you’ve walked before. Zion is real popular these days, so try timing your visit on a weekday.
Pro Tip: Not kidding about Zion being popular. Avoid holidays like a rattlesnake baby and try carpooling.
Hours of operation: 24 hours a day
Cost: $35 for a private vehicle (valid for 7 days)
Location: 41 miles / 54 min east of St. George
Zion National Park
A funny thing happened on the way to Parowan. A sandstone canyon popped up OUT OF NOWHERE for NO REASON whatsoever. Then, ancient Native Americans pecked hundreds of petroglyphs for good reasons that nobody understands exactly. It's possible they were geniuses in astronomy and built a calendar based on the seasonal movement of the earth. NOBODY KNOWS.
Be there on December 21st at sunset and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.
Location: 71 miles / 1h 8 min north of st George
This irrigation reservoir was built in 1918, but quickly became the preferred swimming hole of a generation of skinny dippers. Nowadays there's a path around the perimeter and picnic areas for a lovely day out (don’t forget the kayaks/paddle boards). The west side has a beach of imported sand that is perfect for kids to run amok.
Location: Ivins (11 miles / 22 min east of St. George)
198 million years ago some dinos pranced around the shores of Lake Dixie hunting for prey. Those dinos are waaayyy dead, but their tracks live on at Johnson Farm. The Jurassic-era prints were discovered in 2000, and then St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site was built around them. Kids love hands-on exhibits like the sandpit where they can “discover” dino tracks all by themselves.
Hours of operation: Monday - Sunday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM. Closed some holidays.
Location: 2180 East Riverside Drive, St. George
Larsen’s Frostop is a classic burger joint with picadilly fries and a side of 1960’s American nostalgia. Locally owned since 1965, it was once part of a nationwide chain, but now is one of the last Frostops in the nation. Order their famous Glacier slushie at the drive-in, then drag St. George Boulevard in a 1987 Suzuki Sidekick. For old times’ sake.
Hours of operation:
Cost: Depends how hungry you are
Location: 858 UT-34, St. George
Have you ever wanted to see New York street-urchin musical NEWSIES! while sitting under the stars at the mouth of Padre Canyon? Well, never fear, Tuacahn is here. Tuacahn Center for the Arts is the home of “Broadway in the desert,” an arts organization that has performances of Disney musicals, touring bands and family-friendly comedians at their outdoor amphitheatre.
Cost: Season tickets range from $60 to $279 (musicals only). Prices for individual performances vary.
Location: 1100 North Tuacahn Dr, Ivins
Let your kids man-handle every exhibit at the St. George Children’s Museum. Each room of the historic Dixie Academy has been converted into a place where kids can pretend to be as important as adults by delivering imaginary mail, buying imaginary groceries, or paying imaginary bills. Thanks kids, for your imaginary help!
Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm
Cost: $5 per person (kids under 2 are free)
Location: 86 S Main St, St. George
Have you ever wanted to go hiking in the wilderness but not actually use your legs? Try outsourcing your hike to a horse. Tour companies at Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Snow Canyon and even the Grand Canyon all offer guided rides through the area. Learn about local history and geology while not getting a workout.
Pro Tip: Wear pants and close-toed shoes. Chaps and a bolo tie always add a nice touch.
Brigham’s Playhouse is a small community theatre with a big wholesome heart. It was started in 2013 by two theatre grads who wanted to create a community for thespians like themselves. Families can enjoy classic broadway shows like Camelot and The Man of La Mancha in an intimate setting. Brigham would be so proud.
Location: 25 N 300 W, Washington
When the pioneers settled St. George, they made sure to center the city in the middle of great hiking trails. Paradise Canyon, a part of Red Cliffs Reserve, is so accessible it’s practically in the city. Take a moderate hike to the Scout Cave Trail for great views of red rock formations. Get out of town for a wilder experience at Snow Canyon, Zion, Bryce or Cedar Breaks. Backpacking often requires a permit that can be obtained online or at the appropriate visitor’s center.
Pro Tip: Always check the weather before entering a slot canyon. Rain can create dangerous flash floods in a matter of minutes.
St. George welcomes cyclists from all wheels of life. There are paved, multi-use paths like the seven mile Virgin River Parkway or the 18 mile Snow Canyon Loop. The east side of the city is famous for its mountain bike trails like Bearclaw Poppy and The Zen Trail. And then there's the annual Tour de Saint George, which is 100 miles of road cycling through beautiful desert country. Bring some spare tubes if you plan on riding over cacti.
Building a town next to Zion canyon on the Virgin River floodplain seemed like a good idea in 1861. But when the floods came the following spring, a whole town was filled with regret. Flooding and isolation drove everybody out by 1944. Today a few of the adobe brick buildings have been restored and the ghosts are thriving. You might even recognize the neighborhood from iconic movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Pro Tip: Be sure to see the beautifully carved headstones at Grafton’s graveyard.
In the suburb of Bloomington there’s a modern neighborhood with an ancient past. In the middle of suburbia, a small park preserves boulders inscribed with hundreds of petroglyphs. These boulders were so popular with Native Americans that the patina is almost gone. A popular spot for pecking it seems.
Hours of operation: Sunrise to 10 p.m.
Location: 1460 W Navajo Dr, St. George