Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top five (lesser known) outdoor destinations from St. George


I’m so excited to share with you five outdoor destinations that I believe are must see and must do adventures for those living or visiting Southern Utah.   These are lesser known destinations that you may not have heard of or have never been to, but they are definitely worth adding to your bucket list!  Besides the gas costs in getting to these destinations, nearly all of them are free.  If you have not been to these amazing attractions, make plans now to see them!

Here are my top 5 must see outdoor destinations:


Tuweep/Toroweap, Grand Canyon National Park

Why it’s awesome: Top on my list of places to see in Southern Utah is Tuweep, a beautiful, remote spot on the Northern Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.   I first experienced Tuweep as a teenager when my aunt who works as an archaeologist for the Arizona BLM took me there.  I’ve since been there several times to share this amazing place with others and I always enjoy going.  At Tuweep, you can literally lay on your stomach on a giant slab of sandstone and look straight down to the river bottom 3000 feet below you.   It’s a rugged look out point of the Grand Canyon and you won’t be fighting any crowds when you get there.  There are free campgrounds spots and picnic tables available.  It’s truly the way that the Grand Canyon should be experienced.  If you live in Southern Utah and have not yet been to Tuweep, you must go ASAP!

What to know:  There are multiple roads to get there.  I recommend traveling the Clayhole Route through Colorado City to get there, then take the Main Street Route through Mount Trumbull where you can see the Mount Trumbull sawmill site and the Mount Trumbull school house.  You’ll be re-entering St. George from the dirt road at the bottom of River Road.   {Contact the Arizona Strip BLM office in St. George at 435-688-3200 for exact directions.}  The roads to Tuweep are very rough – make sure you are taking a car that can handle rough dirt and rock roads and carry a spare tire and plenty of food and water.   There is no visitor’s center at the site – so be prepared with anything you might need.  Head out on your adventure early in the day.  Getting to Tuweep and back is an all day excursion!

Cost: FREE!

For more information and directions: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/tuweep.htm


Fort Pearce Historic Site, the Honeymoon Trail and Warner Valley Dinosaur Tracks

Why it’s awesome:  I have to admit that I have lived in St. George for 8 years and just recently learned about Fort Pearce and the Warner Valley Dinosaur tracks!  The ruins of Fort Pearce are what is left of a guard post constructed by the St. George pioneers against attacks from the Ute and Navajo tribes from 1866 to to 1873.   Just east of Fort Pearce are the Warner Valley Dinosaur Tracks.  Originally there were thought to be 161 dinosaur tracks but a recent site investigation in 2010 led to the discovery of 400+ dinosaur tracks!  Also located in Warner Valley is the Honeymoon Trail where wagon wheel trails are still visible in the dirt.  Because the location is so close to St. George, this is the perfect Sunday afternoon lazy drive.

What to know:  I wish I could tell you from experience how awesome this destination is, but unfortunately when my family and I set out to get there just last week, the road into Warner Valley from Washington Fields was completely covered by a very large sand dune {we even had to help push a minivan that attempted to cross it and didn’t get far}.  It seems that this is quite common so I don’t anticipate that the road will be cleared anytime soon.  You can still reach these sites from the Hurricane route {follow the dirt road at the end of 1100 West}.   I’m also told there is a place called Glitter Gulch that is an old Gypsum mine, so be on the watch for that {thanks Kendra!}.  I would highly suggest that you contact the BLM Arizona Strip office in St. George at 435-688-3200 for directions and to confirm that the road is clear before you set out.

Cost: FREE!

For more information and directions:

Grafton schoolhouse


Why it’s awesome:  It’s no secret that Grafton is an amazing and popular Southern Utah ghost town.  With Zion National Park as the backdrop, Grafton’s scenic beauty has attracted several films to be shot there, including one of my favorites Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  If you are a photographer, Grafton is an excellent spot to capture amazing landscape photography or snap a few family photos in a rustic setting.  In fact, Grafton has been called the most photographed ghost town in the American West.   Besides exploring the schoolhouse built in 1886, stop by the cemetery where pioneers and Southern Paiutes are buried.

What to know:  To get to Grafton from St. George, go east on State Highway 9 from Hurricane towards Zion National Park.  In Rockville, turn right on Bridge Road. Turn right on 250 South/Grafton Road until you get to Grafton.  Located approximately 40 miles from St. George.

Cost: FREE!

For more information:


Cathedral Gorge State Park

Why it’s awesome:  Many people living in St. George have never visited Cathedral Gorge State Park, but if you’re up for a long drive it’s a fun family destination.  Cathedral Gorge is a Nevada State Park located just west of Panaca.  It’s geology has created unique slot canyon formations that provide endless places to explore, and is perfect for kids!  Eat a picnic at the picnic tables available or camp nearby.

What to know:  I would recommend checking out Cathedral Gorge in the spring or fall because there is little shade and it gets very warm in the summer months.  Once inside the slot canyon formations it’s quite cool and comfortable.   Panaca is approximately 95 miles from St. George.  Also consider traveling nearby to the historic train station at Caliente or the mining town of Pioche.

Cost:  The cost to enter the park for day use is $5 per vehicle for Nevada residents and $7 per vehicle for non-residents.

For more information: http://parks.nv.gov/parks/cathedral-gorge/ or call 775-728-4460.

Forsyth Canyon

Forsyth Canyon Trail, Pine Valley

Why it’s awesome:   The Forsyth Canyon Trail is an incredible hike to the top of Pine Mountain at Burger Peak.  Starting from Pine Valley you will ascend over the south face of Pine Mountain {the side visible from St. George}. Climbing from a starting altitude of 6,700 to 10,108 feet at the peak, the Forsyth Canyon Trail offers a panoramic stunning views of Ivins and Snow Canyon, St. George, Hurricane and Zion National Park, and the Arizona Strip.  The hike is approximately 6 miles to the top, and 12 miles round trip.  The first 5 miles are relatively moderate with the last mile being the most difficult as you climb to the peak.  The trail is also an equestrian trail.  If you hike Forsyth Canyon Trail in May and even into June it’s not uncommon to run into patches of snow left on the trail.  Rumor has it that at the peak there are caves in which snow and ice is present year round, although I’ve never been able to find them {there are even stories of the pioneers getting snow from the caves in summer months to make ice cream}.  From Burger Peak Forsyth Canyon Trail continues to the Oak Grove campground on the east side of Pine Mountain for a total of 11 miles.

I’ve hiked Forsyth Canyon Trail twice.  The first time I camped the night before the hike in Pine Valley, which allowed my body to adjust to the altitude and I had no problems completing the hike.  The second time I hiked Forsyth Canyon Trail I got extremely altitude sick over the last mile to the peak, which subsided as I hiked down the trail.  Allow your body to adjust to the altitude if you can, and be well hydrated and carry lots of water.  Children over the age of 12 would be able to complete the hike.  I highly recommend this trail if you enjoy hiking.  It’s one you won’t easily forget.

What to know:   Plan on leaving early as the hike takes approximately 8 hours to complete.  From Pine Valley at the intersection of Main St. and North Grass Valley Road, drive north on Main Street about .7 miles to Meadows Drive. Turn right onto Meadows Drive and continue about .5 miles to the parking lot.

Cost: FREE!

For more information: http://southernutahhiker.com/Pinevalley.html


Have you been to these destinations?  Would you recommend them to a friend?  I’d love to know what your experiences have been, so feel free to leave a comment!

Kelly lives in St. George, Utah and writes Dixie Dollar Deals, a blog dedicated to finding the best deals in Utah’s Dixie!  She loves being a Utahn and exploring the back roads of Southern Utah with her family.  You can follow Dixie Dollar Deals blog, facebook or twitter.

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