Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Beyond Zion: Visit These Awesome Parks in St. George, Utah

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For America’s birthday, it only seems right to give a proper tribute to her almighty land. And though there are a dozen national parks that I think every traveler should prioritize—among them, the Smokies, Glacier, Yellowstone, Arches, Badlands and Yosemite, to name a few—there’s no denying that Zion National Park has been at the top of my list since I first visited 15 years ago.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Zion is a highly convenient park to visit, as its jumping off point is just two hours north of one heavily trafficked airport: Las Vegas. And if there’s anything that prohibits folks from seeing America’s national parks, it’s time in transit and also cost. I get it, you don’t have a lot of PTO (one of the downsides of being American) and you have to spend it wisely (upside: you have so many choices!).

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

But the great thing about the St. George region is that it is accessible over a long week (versus somewhere like Yellowstone that’s a bit harder to reach).

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

With that said, I think we often parachute into a place like St. George that’s known as being the gateway to Zion and forget to explore the areas around it. And St. George is home to some absolute beauts of state parks and recreation areas, too. So next time you head out to Zion, promise me you’ll check out some of my other favorite area parks, too.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Sand Hollow State Park

I sang the praises of Sand Hollow on my last visit in 2016 and still think it’s one of the most diverse spots in all of Utah. Sand Hollow is the perfect place for families, adventure seekers and water sports enthusiasts alike—it’s got a little bit of everything! You can boat, fish, camp, ATV or even hook up your RV at this slick reservoir.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

This change of scenery is dramatically different than what you see in Zion, too, thanks to the state park’s shimmering turquoise waters that contrast against the red rock landscape.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Getting there: Sand Hollow is about 25 minutes due east from St. George, though you’ll take I-15 up to Highway 9 (the Hurricane exit) to get there. It’s pretty well marked, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Pro tip: Definitely pack a swimsuit. If you want to do any water activities like kayak or SUP, there are rentals on site at the marina. There’s also a rock outcropping that’s popular for jumping off—try it if you dare (I wasn’t brave enough … on that visit at least).

Red Cliffs Desert Reserve

On my most recent trip to St. George, I visited a new-to-me spot: the Red Cliff area. The desert terrain also has so much of what I love about the rest of Utah: lookouts, cool rock formations, petroglyphs, slot canyons and even an arch.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

photo by Laura Lawson Visconti

Our group got split up while hiking this area and went every which way before finding the trail we were actually looking for (if it was marked, it wasn’t overly visible), so I definitely suggest picking up a print map from one of the area visitor’s centers before you try to venture out to Babylon Arch, lest you get lost!

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Getting there: The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area is mostly to the left (west) of I-15, but where you want to go is that small patch of greenery on Google Maps just to the right (east) of the interstate. The 1.5-mile trail to Babylon Arch can be accessed from the Sand Cove trailhead parking area just off off 900 N Road , which is almost four miles south of its intersection with Main Street in Leeds. There are some signs for Sand Cove once you get off of I-15, but again, they’re small so know where you’re going (GPS coordinates: 37.201971, -113.336474).

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Pro tip: We got lost on the way home when the desert was cloaked in a veil of darkness, so plot those GPS coordinates and know where you’re going before you get out into the wilderness and have no phone service. It’s not super far from civilization, but it sure feels like it when you’re driving around at night with no street signs for help.

Snow Canyon State Park

This park is right smack in the middle of St. George—well, eight miles by car on major highway, so virtually—and is a treat and a half. The paved road cuts through the center of it and is popular among bikers (as well as other crazy fitness types; see below).

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Last year, I only had a quick half hour to pop into Snow Canyon and take some photos. This time, we went on a sunset hike and settled in for awhile as the terrain changed from yellow to pink to twilight.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Getting there: Take Highway 18 from town. There are two entrances into Snow Canyon: the southern route right past Red Mountain Spa or the northern entrance near White Rock Amphitheater. It will only take you 20 minutes, tops, from downtown.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Pro tip: This is by far the easiest park in St. George to explore due to its relatively easy hiking terrain and also its proximity to town. Don’t pass it up because of that! Sunset here is particularly pretty—even better than Dixie Rock in my opinion.

Yant Flat Cliffs

The swirling patterns of this remote area belong in Willy Wonka’s candy factory. The sandstone rock has been pushed and pulled in every which way, forming a mesmerizing tapestry of undulating pattern and white-and-yellow tones. We concluded our most recent InstaMeet to St. George with a group hike out here, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect end to a great weekend.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area
Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

If you’ve always wanted to see the Wave, Arizona’s iconic rock formation, you can experience a very similar scene here—only without the crowds.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

It’s a great place to bring your kids or simply to channel your inner child as you’re going to want to run, jump and frolic all over this tantalizing landscape. (I won’t judge; I did the same!)

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Getting there: Yant Flat took us half an hour to reach from the Leeds post office. From there, you’ll take Oak Grove Road under the Interstate then the left fork for FR 031 after you pass under. It’s a good 25 minutes or more from there on an unpaved road, and I guarantee that you’ll think you’re lost at least once. Keep going, and almost seven miles from the time you turn onto the road, you’ll reach a small parking area on both your left and right that mark the trailhead. The flats are an easy mile walk out from there in sand.

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

Pro tip: You need 4WD to reach this point, so don’t try it unless you’re prepared–lest you get stuck in the middle of the bumpy gravel road miles from town (and without cell reception, too!).

There are a couple other spots in the area like Toquerville Falls and Kanarraville Falls that I’m still dying to visit. Maybe on my next trip to Utah!

Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area

In the meantime, what’s your favorite park in southern Utah?


 

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Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area
Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area
Beyond Zion National Park — Four Gems Worth Exploring in the St. George, Utah Area
COMMENTS
  • July 5, 2017

    Red Mountain Resort has been on my bucket list for years…hopefully I’ll finally make it happen this year!
    Leigh recently posted..Southwest US Road Trip – 1 Week ItineraryMy Profile

    • July 6, 2017

      I’ve still never stayed there, but I’d love to!

  • July 5, 2017

    Wow what amazing pictures! I need to visit Utah one day! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • July 6, 2017

      You definitely do. It’s stunning in every direction!

  • July 5, 2017

    The USA is so overwhelming. How could I ever plan a trip there, when there are so many gorgeous National Parks & cities to visit?
    Dominique recently posted..Edinburgh – Exploring Dean VillageMy Profile

    • July 6, 2017

      Guess you’ll just have to move here for a year or two 😉

  • July 5, 2017

    WOW! You captured this trip so beautifully and it took me right back there 🙂 I LOVED THIS!! And we need to do more trips and acro together, no brainer!! Miss you!
    Justin recently posted..Flying High in a Hot Air Balloon over Phoenix, ArizonaMy Profile

  • July 5, 2017

    Yant Flat was such a treat!! I truly love Zion, but more the backside of it where there aren’t many people. Ditto backcountry Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands/Needles, and Kodachrome Basin. Basically, I like my red rock country with as few people as possible, lol.

    xox
    Feisty Harriet recently posted..Tikal National Park, GuatemalaMy Profile

    • July 6, 2017

      Ha, me too! Will you take me to all those other places on my next trip out?

  • July 6, 2017

    Wow! Those pictures are breath-taking! Especially the pics of the open land, water, and sky! I’ll, definitely, have to add this to my list of places that I’d like to visit around the United States! 🙂

  • July 6, 2017
    Joscelyn

    Ah, Utah is on my bucket list! I want to see these gorgeous places in person, because although the pictures are beautiful, I know they probably don’t do it justice!

    • July 6, 2017

      You’re right, they don’t. 360-degree views around every turn. It’s jaw-dropping!

  • July 6, 2017

    Stunning images!! My mom has been, but I haven’t yet visited! This makes it rise to the top!

    • July 6, 2017

      Definitely prioritize it, Amanda! Such an easy trip to make, too.

  • July 6, 2017

    I LOVE the pictures of the scenery! I have never been to anywhere in Utah before, but these mountains look awesome! They are so picturesque, so big, so beautiful. I would like to visit there someday. I am glad that you had a good time there.
    Patricia recently posted..Patriotic edition: 5 Things I’m Thankful For and 5 things we could improveMy Profile

    • July 16, 2017

      Everything about Utah just seems bigger! Bigger rocks, bigger sky—I love it =)

  • July 6, 2017

    Wow, what an adventure ! I love the western United States ! It offers a variety of astonishing landscapes: rose coloured deserts, high snow-capped peaks, broken mesas, meadows and forests. If you get a chance to go to Arizona, do not miss the Coyote Butte South, White pocket, Yellow Rock and the Wahweap Hoodoos 🙂 These are amazing places to visit as well.
    C-Ludik recently posted..New Mexico: Land of EnchantmentMy Profile

    • July 16, 2017

      I used to work in Arizona (summers in college) but would you believe I didn’t make it to any of those spots?!

  • July 6, 2017

    Oh my gosh! This place is breathtaking and I love the shots

    • July 16, 2017

      Thank you, Aylin! One of the most stunning parts of the country, I think.

  • July 6, 2017

    Utah has such beautiful parks, I’d love to be able to explore one day!

    Birdie Shoots
    kelly torrez recently posted..Red, White and BlueMy Profile

  • July 7, 2017

    I absolutely loved the post and the photographs depicting the landscape are even more gorgeous. The Wave rock particularly intrigued me and i am google all about how and when it formed in detail.
    Ketki recently posted..NDSM Wharf – The most sustainable hotspot in AmsterdamMy Profile

    • July 16, 2017

      Have you been to the actual Wave? One day, I hope to make it there, too!

  • July 7, 2017
    Flo

    Wow – I had only heard of Zion and not Sand Hollow, Red Cliffs or Snow Canyon before! The US National Parks look amazing and I hope to explore them one day!

    • July 16, 2017

      We’re so lucky having so many amazing spots in the US. It’s no wonder that a lot of Americans never make it abroad; we have such a massive amount of things to see in our own country!

  • July 7, 2017

    Great Photos! I had never even heard of all those Parks in Utah before this – so Ive saved it! 🙂 Also, love your blog layout! So user-friendly!
    Leigh recently posted..The Ultimate Guide to Reims, a Day Trip from Paris.My Profile

    • July 16, 2017

      Thank you, Leigh! I appreciate that =)

  • July 7, 2017

    Beautiful post! I have a trip planned to visit a bunch of the national parks and monuments in Utah, but I haven’t found time to do it yet. Now I have even more parks to add to that trip ha ha. The ones you mentioned look incredible. Utah has such otherworldly and gorgeous landscapes!
    Erin Bast recently posted..AMNICON FALLS STATE PARKMy Profile

    • July 16, 2017

      The problem with national parks is that they usually require much more time than most Americans have off from work! I love Arches and Canyonlands but they’re a bit further into Utah. Love that St. George is relatively compact and so easy to reach from Vegas.

  • July 7, 2017

    Gosh I would love to go to utah. I used to have a coworker from there and all of her photos on her desk were amazing. Yours make me want to visit even more now.

    • July 14, 2017

      It’s such an amazing state, full of plenty more parks than just these. You could easily spend a month there and not repeat anything!

  • July 10, 2017

    Wow! Those pictures are breath-taking!

  • July 14, 2017

    oh wish we were there again! – although it’s probably SUPER hot right now!
    Jennifer recently posted..Our House: Bathroom RenovationMy Profile

    • July 14, 2017

      Let’s go back in the winter and do the Narrows!

  • July 16, 2017

    Wow, what wonderful photos! I never got to explore St George unfortunately, but definitely plan on heading back through Utah. I will make sure to bookmark so i don’t miss these parks. They look incredible!
    Toni recently posted..Page, Arizona: The Gem Of The American SouthwestMy Profile

  • July 16, 2017
    Jen

    This is a great list! I’ll admit I’m one of those who did Zion though I know Utah has so much more to offer. The natural beauty on the West Coast is unreal, your pictures are beautiful! I have to plan a follow up trip asap 🙂
    Jen recently posted..Get Amazing Photos as a Solo Traveler: My Travel Photo Shoot with FlytographerMy Profile

    • July 20, 2017

      You’re one of many, Jen—I didn’t know it myself until my first trip there in 2002! Zion is really the only park that gets a lot of press play in that area of Southern Utah.

  • July 17, 2017

    Wow, this looks amazing! I love the pictures and will definitely go there if I ever visit Utah.

  • July 19, 2017

    I think this is a great place for hiking.
    I liked the pictures, can I ask what camera did you use to shoot them? Thanks.

  • July 22, 2017

    This place is really wonderful. Everywhere just rock hill and rock. Their very interesting part is, that is a park I first time see this category park. I have a question. There you go with your family, team. just alone? I am also a traveler. I want to go there can you told me what is the very interesting part there?

  • August 22, 2017

    These are some of the most amazing parks which i have read about. One must truly visit them.

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