"Adventure" means different things to different people. For some, it means scaling walls of sheer sandstone, speeding down a trail on a mountain bike, or hanging off a chain on top of a narrow, 1,500-foot-tall crest (lookin' at you, Angels Landing). For others, though, it can mean immersion in a new culture, exploring a new neighborhood, sampling local cuisine, or browsing one-of-a-kind shops. This guide is dedicated to that second kind of adventure; exploring a new place to find the best hidden gems and most unique attractions around. Here are some unexpected and totally unforgettable adventures around St. George's red sandstone deserts.
One of the most intriguing things about Southern Utah is that you have the chance to encounter Anasazi petroglyphs and ruins in the wild. The Anasazi Valley Trail (also known as the Tempi’po’op Trail) leads right to a site where you'll find the remains of a storehouse used for food and herbs, along with some truly strange and mesmerizing ancient rock art. The meaning of the strange figures carved into the stone is still unclear, but it is obvious that the site is sacred. It's about 3.5 miles roundtrip, and it's free to visit, so take full advantage!
You'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to browse and explore this strange village overflowing with local artist shops and small hiking trails. Luckily, the town has a cafe where you can refuel with coffee or a burger after hours of exploring the little galleries and studios in the village. Before you visit any studios and load yourself up with shopping bags, make sure to check out the Desert Rose Labyrinth. It's an eleven-circle labyrinth set in the village sculpture garden, so it's just as much an art installation as it is an experience. It's meant to be a place for visitors to clear their minds as they slowly walk through the winding path that ends at the labyrinth's center.
Don’t let this smaller Utah state park fool you, Snow Canyon State Park is home to some of the most incredible scenery St. George has to offer. Virtually endless views of dramatic Navajo sandstone, rolling sand dunes, mysterious caves, and unusual rock formations reach as far as the eye can see. Add in diverse terrain for all levels of hiking and adventure, and Snow Canyon State Park is a great place for a morning hike or an afternoon of adventure. If you only do one hike in the park, make it the Lava Tube Trail, which winds through petrified sand dunes and sagebrush down into rocky caves formed by hardened lava flows. Headlamps or glowsticks and sturdy shoes make the hike even more enjoyable!
Nestled in the middle of wonderful national park sights a stone’s throw away, Canyon Breeze at Red Mountain Resort is the perfect place to post up and relax after a long day exploring. The resort offers rooms and private villa suites, all set among black lava gardens and offering views of the mountains in the distance. The resort has a focus on mental and physical well-being, so take full advantage of the healthy dining, indoor and outdoor pools, adventure concierge, dozens of fitness classes, walking trails, cooking classes, full-service spa, and other unique amenities.
Fancy a delicious steak? Your next stop best be the Anasazi Steakhouse and Gallery. This restaurant is the gold standard of hot stone cooking-- should you choose, your server will bring your steak to you on a piping hot lava rock, and when you're ready, you can dig into the steak at your perfect temperature. Anasazi also offers cheese and chocolate fondues as appetizers and desserts. It all makes for a unique, hands-on meal that's sure to be as unforgettable as it is delicious.
Built in 1911, Thomas Judd’s Store is one of the oldest running businesses in St. George, and up until the early 1980s, it was one of the longest-running family businesses in the United States. Thomas Judd was one of Utah's early settlers, having arrived in the 1860s, and to this day, the store retains its original shelves, counters, safe and scale. Browse the store for glass bottles of soda and old-fashioned candy, or grab some grub from the cafe. Judd’s serves up sandwiches, homemade soups and breadsticks, and scoops of ice cream with a side of old-school charm.
Take a stroll through the gorgeous Red Hills Desert Garden, boasting over 5 acres of the most mesmerizing scenery around. With 5,000 species of plants, flowers, trees, and bushes, you've never seen the desert so filled with life. The garden also has a 1,150-foot wandering stream filled with local marine life that ends at a waterfall in a replica slot canyon. Towards the back of the garden is another surprise; 200-million-year-old dinosaur tracks! Relax on one of the swinging benches, or take advantage of the fact that the garden connects to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve-- with loads of hiking trails-- while you're here.
Make the most of the unique ancient history in the region at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery site at Johnson Farm. Literally built right on top of dinosaur tracks from millions of years ago, this small museum has multiple dinosaur displays, showcasing the dinosaurs that once roamed Utah. In addition to high-quality exhibits, there is even a scavenger hunt for the little ones in the group, and a cute little gift shop to end the visit. Nothing sparks the imagination quite like seeing dino teeth and bones in real life, up close and in person!
Stop by and explore Silver Reef, a booming mining town in the late 1800s. Now considered to be a "ghost town," Silver Reef was once a lawless Wild West outpost known for murder, riots, gambling, and more murder. It's also home to the Wells Fargo Express building: part mine, part bank, and one of the first Wells Fargo locations in the country. Today it serves as a museum and art gallery dedicated to the history of Silver Reef. Once you're done browsing this surprisingly informative museum, head out to see the remains of the rest of the town. If you really want a taste of what the late 1800s felt like, be sure to take a guided tour.
Located about half a mile north of Zion National Park's south entrance, the Zion Human History Museum is a great way to learn about the park's lesser-known history. Displays tell the story of Zion, from the days when Native American tribes called its canyons home, to its establishment in the National Parks System. When visiting, be sure to watch the 22-minute introduction film, as it provides lots of great information. The museum is also a great place to pick up the shuttle bus that runs through Zion. Since the park can get crowded, the bus will save you a lot of time and effort when exploring!
With so much unique culture on offer, a trip to St. George will be completely one-of-a-kind. Whether you’re looking for high-quality museums to explore, beautiful views to enjoy, ancient history to encounter, or just a bit of peace and relaxation, there's a lot more to this destination than just hiking through Zion!
The St. George area offers the perfect combination of excitement, relaxation and adventure.