Travel to Where Desert Meets Mountains
There’s a lot to explore and enjoy in Southwestern Utah beyond the national parks
Boasting Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, more than a dozen golf courses within a 20-mile radius, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails, the region in and around St. George, Utah, is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Adventure seekers plan trips to the area for canyoneering, mountain biking and climbing sand dunes in off-road vehicles.
It also has become a hotspot for athletic events, including competitive marathons, such as the Ironman North America and Ironman 70.3 World Championships. And when you need a sedentary break, a variety of scenic drives offer spectacular views of red sandstone cliffs and towering rock formations against endless blue skies. Spring and fall are the weather sweet spots for visiting, but the climate is mild most months of the year (December and January highs average in the low 50s, making it a good time to escape Colorado’s chilliest months).
You could play a different course each day of the week, but if you only have time for one round of golf, book a tee time at Sand Hollow Resort in Hurricane. The Championship Course, opened in 2008, has earned accolades from golf publications and blogs for its challenging but rewarding layout. The course plays around red rock formations and rolling terrain at first, then really shines when the elevation climbs on the back nine. Golf Digest likened arriving at hole 11 to stepping “on the edge of the world.” In addition to the par-72 Championship Course, there’s the par-36 Links course and, for beginners or those looking to practice their short game, there’s the Wee Course with nine par-3 holes.
The newest fairways and greens are at Copper Rock Golf Course also located in Hurricane. Opened in 2020, Copper Rock hosted an LPGA Symetra tournament earlier this year. The course was designed and built as part of a master planned community by the Zitting family, which has been in the area since the early 1940s. Its unique feature is a double green shared by holes 9 and 18.
If the National Parks are too packed for your liking, there are hundreds of miles of trails in the region’s parks and conservation areas. Each has its own appeal, such as the lava fields and slot canyons at Snow Canyon, and the varied terrain at Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, which has a visitor center where you can learn about about local wildlife, plants, and ecosystems, and see live animals. “Everywhere you go is uniquely beautiful,” says Kevin Lewis, director of tourism at the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office “When you understand the geology, you see how intricate and layered it is and how the colors and canyons are unique,” says Lewis, a 30-year resident of the area. stateparks.utah.gov; trails.greaterzion.com
LAY YOUR HEAD
The Advenire Hotel in downtown St. George is a lovely boutique property that is within walking distance of restaurants, shops, and historic sites. Part of the Autograph Collection, its pioneer chic room décor includes vintage-inspired wallpaper, poster beds, vanity tables with wood-framed oval mirrors, and cushioned window seats. Get a room on the fourth floor and it’s a quick walk to the outdoor hot tub, where you can soak aching muscles. Some rooms have balconies and claw-foot bathtubs. Note to those who bring their bicycles: the hotel offers a bike valet service.
In Hurricane (pronounced “hera-kun”), take a short jog off busy State Route 9, with its constant traffic and chain motels, and stay at Sand Hollow Resort. Choices include resort rooms and suites, and vacation condos or homes that sleep up to 10.
BREAK SOME BREAD
With handmade pastas and bread baked on-site, responsibly sourced fresh fish, and items like dry-rubbed steaks, lamb korma, and duck tacos on the dinner menu, Wood Ash Rye is hard to beat. The restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch, and brunch, as well as a limited menu in the lounge.
Across the street is George’s Corner Restaurant & Pub, a local favorite, popular for its affordable American fare (try the buttermilk fried chicken). While waiting for your food, walk around and check out the vintage photos.
DO NOT MISS
Muddy Bees Bakery, tucked into the corner of a strip shopping mall off the main drag in Hurricane, is worth a stop not only to see its honeybee operation and sample local honey and honey products, but for its delicious and ginormous $3 cinnamon rolls. (The hubs and I shared one and still had some left over).
Then, work off the decadence by taking a free stroll among 5,000 water-efficient plants at the Red Hills Desert Garden. High above the city of St. George, the garden is spread out over 5 acres and has a slot canyon the kids can walk through, as well as prehistoric dinosaur tracks.
For more about the area, visit greaterzion.com.