Adventures in southern Utah start in St. George. The lively small town just 90 minutes north of Las Vegas, Nevada, has been nicknamed “Utah´s Dixie”, due to its climate. However, it feels a million miles away. The fantastic location and pleasant climate, the proximity to some of the most beautiful National Parks the US has to offer, and the attractive recreational opportunities make St. George an ideal holiday destination, where you can easily spend a few days or even weeks. Utah is never boring anyway.
Nestled in glorious countryside, surrounded by majestic mountains and red sandstone cliffs of the desert, palm trees swaying in the wind – it is no wonder that National Geographic appointed St. George as one of the 50 best places of live.
Prospectors, trappers, fur hunters – they all were here to find their luck. However, St. George was only settled in the early 1860’s, when Brigham Young, leader of the Mormons, arrived and sought economic independence for the Mormons. This settlement was linked to the extreme shortage of cotton in the southern states and territories during the Civil War. Those few bales of cotton that made their way to the West were extremely expensive. With a group of about 300 people, led by George A. Smith, Brigham Young founded the St. George Cotton Mission – a boon for the poor area. Pioneers dammed the waters of the Virgin River and cultivated first cotton, and then, later, silk.
Cultivating cotton and silk was certainly not a bad idea, but both projects were not successful. The Virgin River is wild and prone to disastrous flooding; southwestern Utah is extremely hot and dry with temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in July and August. Rainfall is scarce in the area, and if, it comes down as torrential rain which in turn fills the parched riverbeds, leading to floods.
Not a good place to grow cotton and silk. Brigham Young recognized this and decided to temporarily subsidize the settlements – mainly with food – to build the St. George Tabernacle and the St. George Courthouse. Work on each of the two projects took years and provided the residents with enough food to survive the rough times.
Today, St. George is one of the most desirable places to spend the retirement years. When walking along St. George Blvd., it is hard to believe that anyone ever tried to grow cotton here. “Snowbirds”, not only from the north of Utah, escape their winter at home and come here. When it is snowing and windy in Salt Lake City, St. George is still sunny and dry with pleasant temperatures. Anyone who likes to spend his time outdoors, the location of St. George is particularly appreciated – they can, for example, go skiing at nearby Brian Head, just 90 minutes north of St. George on one day, and the next day play golf or tennis in shorts and t-shirt on one of the fabulous courts. St. George´s Red Rock Golf Trail offers more than 12 golf courses, all within 20 minutes of driving.
But even for those who are not interested in golf, St. George offers a lot of attractions and variety. The small, historic downtown invites with its galleries, cafes, restaurants and shopping opportunities.
The St. George Art Museum provides an insight into the history and culture of the area and exhibitions of local artists.
In February 2000, one of the best preserved and most significant dinosaur tracks were discovered on the Johnson Farm. The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site contains hundreds of fossils, plants, rare dinosaur remains and structures that suggest that this place’s history dates back almost 200 million years to Lake Dixie.
The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum has an impressive collection of objects and artifacts of the first settlers from the time around 1857.
Historic sites are also the Brigham Young Winter Home with its free guided tours; the St. George Tabernacle as well as the St. George Latter-day Saints Temple, built in 1870 by pioneers, which can only be admired from the outside.
In recent years, St. George has worked hard on satisfying their visitors need for shopping. Red Cliffs Mall offers more than 50 stores, and Zion Factory Stores is an outlet mall with over 30 shops and restaurants. There you will find well-known brand names, sport shops and well-stocked bookstores.
About one hour to the East of St. George you will find Zion National Park (south entrance Ranger Station in Springdale. Other natural beauties like Snow Canyon State Park (less than half an hour to the Northwest), Kolob Canyon and Cedar Breaks National Monument (both within two hours to the Northeast) can easily be reached. Bryce Canyon and even the Grand Canyon are only a day’s trip away. Several trails and paths in the parks invite not only for hiking and climbing, you can also trail ride or take a guided horseback riding tour. Is there anything more beautiful than to explore the stunning scenery on horseback?
Snow Canyon State Park is a beautiful park that offers a whole range of activities, such as horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, climbing and cycling. The entire area also provides exceptional photo opportunities.
On the way to Zion, you will pass Grafton, a historic ghost town; other historic sites with rich Mormon history are located around St. George. In Zion there is also an IMAX cinema. The Tuacahn Amphitheater, about 10 minutes outside St. George, offers a variety of exceptional shows and concerts.
If after all those activities you are still full of energy, you should come to St. George in October. The first Saturday in October is a fixed date for the St. George Marathon, one of the most scenic marathons with a maximum of 7.800 participants. The marathon leads through mountainous terrain, desert landscapes and past the spectacular beauty of this area.