There’s a reason every Utahn ends up in St. George. Or, lots of reasons, really.
Brigham Young sent Mormon settlers down south to grow crops in the big sun. Your uncle and aunt retired there for the premium warm-weather golfing. Your hippie friends love Zion and the surrounding state parks’ year-round adventures. Your city-slicker friends just want to be warm and comfortable and have a million restaurant options.
Whatever brings you to Dixie, be open to getting sidetracked. If you’re outdoorsy, drawn by the fresh air and red rocks, branch out and get a spa treatment or see a play or go shopping or eating or gallery-hopping.
If you’re indoorsy… Come on. HAVE YOU LOOKED OUTSIDE?! Hike Snow Canyon! Boat and ride ATVs at Sand Hollow. Bike the Anasazi Trail (for single-trackers), Gooseberry Mesa (for technical tricksters) or the Snow Canyon Paved Loop (for the rest of us). Ride a horse, fish a river or canyoneer a… you know… a canyon.
ST. GEORGE, BEFORE AND AFTER SAINT GEORGE
The city was named for 19th century LDS Church apostle George A. Smith (not the Roman martyr the English are so fond of) but the Mormons were hardly the first to set up shop. From 1000 BCE to 1300 CE, Ancestral Puebloans (forbears of the modern Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo and Southern Paiute nations) traded their nomadic ways for rows of corn and squash. The Southern Paiutes were settled there when the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition passed through in 1776 and when 300 Mormon families founded a cotton mission in 1861.
Besides a convergence of cultures, the St. George area is also the nexus of three geographical regions. The MOJAVE DESERT, which extends west-southwest to California, gives St. George that where-can-I-fill-up-my-canteen? atmosphere. The COLORADO PLATEAU, which contains southern Utah’s other four national parks, adds photo-hungry canyons and a reddish tint. The GREAT BASIN to the north creates an unmistakably endorheic quality. (Right?!) All that makes for a lot of variety, a lot of borders — and good things happen at the geographical edges…
NATIONAL PARK GATEWAY
…especially if you like national parks. (Who doesn’t?) Zion is the area’s biggest draw for hikers, bikers, campers and red-rock-gawkers — and for good reason (see: Kolob Canyon, The Narrows, Angels Landing, etc.). But St. George is also the perfect basecamp for national park multitasking. It’s 2 hours to Bryce Canyon, 2:30 to Grand Canyon, 3:20 to Great Basin and 3:30 to Capitol Reef, so if you’re trekking from one of these to the next, block out a few days in St. George to recharge, restock and take a stroke off your handicap.