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10 Top-Rated Hikes near St. George, Utah

Jul 24, 2017

Located in the far southwestern corner of Utah, St. George is well positioned for accessing some of the state's most incredible terrain, especially when it comes to hiking. Many of the best hikes around St. George are found in the nearby Snow Canyon State Park. This little gem has all the punch of a national park without all the people. Snow Canyon is hardly known by tourists from out of state, but it's a favorite with locals. Hikes in this incredibly scenic park offer a true variety of sights and experiences, from lava tubes to slot canyons. Trails here are generally short, but many of them interlink and are easy to combine to form longer trails.

The Santa Clara River Reserve is another popular area for hiking and mountain biking but relatively unheard of outside of St. George and the surrounding towns. Also worth investigating are hiking opportunities in Red Cliffs Recreation Area. If you have time for a longer day trip, just over an hour away are the hiking trails of Zion National Park.

1 Petrified Dunes Trail, Snow Canyon

Petrified Dunes Trail, Snow Canyon
Petrified Dunes Trail, Snow Canyon Lana Law
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Petrified Dunes Trail is arguably the most enjoyable hike in the St. George area, and one that is popular with all ages and abilities. Wide-open rolling rock hills covered with curving ridges stretch out in all directions, just begging to be explored. There is no truly defined trail for much of the route, just a field of wavy petrified sand dunes that delivers a sense of freedom. Kids can run up and down the hillsides and along gently sloping ridges. Views across the valley to the sheer cliff walls and mountains are outstanding. Photographers will find no end of inspiration, with curving lines; beehive shaped mountains; and, if recent rains have left water in some of the pools, circular ponds that provide additional shapes and reflections.

The total distance for this hike is 1.2 miles for the return trip, but you may find you don't do the entire hike, or you may end up walking much further to gain different vantage points along the way.

2 Lava Flow Trail, Snow Canyon

Lava Flow Trail, Snow Canyon
Lava Flow Trail, Snow Canyon Lana Law
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Lava Flow, a 2.5-mile return trail, is one of the most unique hikes in the St. George area. The trail begins across a lava field left from an ancient eruption that occurred to the north of here. The ground is a crumbling black carpet of sharp rock, lightly covered with grasses and other small vegetation. Along the trail, you'll pass gaping holes in the ground, which are the mouths of lava tubes, some of which you can walk down into for deeper exploration.

About halfway through the hike, a short spur leads to the Lava Flow Overlook. This is a quick hike up a rock mound, offering incredible views over the lava field behind you and the canyon stretching out in front. Don't miss this overlook. Beyond here, you can continue on to where the trail dead ends at the West Canyon Road, and then return on the same route.

3 Butterfly to Lava Flow Overlook, Snow Canyon

Butterfly to Lava Flow Overlook, Snow Canyon
Butterfly to Lava Flow Overlook, Snow Canyon Lana Law
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Butterfly Trail is an easy two-mile out-and-back trail, beginning from the same parking area as the Petrified Dunes hike. The trail is named for a split boulder along that trail that resembles a butterfly, but few people know this, and the feature is often overlooked. Look for it about halfway through the hike when you come to the end of the boulder ridge and are about to head across the open field. The highlight of this hike, and the reason many people choose to hike this short trail, is the Lava Flow Overlook, accessed by a spur at the end of the trail, leading off to the left. Views from the overlook are spectacular. You can then return via the same path, or veer right at the end and take the Lava Flow trail, which will mean you need to walk along the highway from Lava Flow parking lot to Petrified Dunes parking lot.

4 Johnson Canyon, Snow Canyon

Johnson Canyon, Snow Canyon
Johnson Canyon, Snow Canyon
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Johnson Canyon is a popular hiking trail, but it is closed between mid-March and mid-September. If you are visiting in season, it's definitely worth doing. This is an easy two-mile hike across a lava field to a canyon, but the highlight is a 200-foot red rock arch. The arch can be seen on the right side of the canyon as you are walking in. This is an out-and-back hike, and the parking lot is the first one you come to at the south end of the park.

5 Hidden Pinyon, Snow Canyon

Hidden Pinyon, Snow Canyon
Hidden Pinyon, Snow Canyon Lana Law
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This delightful 1.5-mile trail offers a mix of interesting rock formations and adds an educational component, with information on the vegetation in the area. At the start of the trail is a box, where you can pick up a pamphlet. Numbered signposts along the path correspond with the numbers in the pamphlet, offering descriptions and information on the plants and sites along the trail. Even if you choose not to read along, this scenic path is well worth doing. Heading in a clockwise direction, the trail winds through some fallen boulders and behind a rock ridge, opening onto an area with waves of petrified dunes. Beyond here, the trail enters a field of red sand covered in sand sage and other plants, and eventually joins up with the paved Whiptail Trail taking you back to the parking lot.

6 Whiptail Trail, Snow Canyon

Whiptail Trail, Snow Canyon
Whiptail Trail, Snow Canyon Lana Law
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The beauty of the Whiptail Trail is that it is accessible to everyone. A wide paved trail, it can accommodate wheelchairs and strollers, and unlike the rest of the hikes in the park, dogs and horses are welcome on this trail. It's also a great place for a morning jog or bike ride.

Whiptail runs along a three-mile stretch of the park, from the south entrance to the Petrified Dunes parking lot, and offers views out to several of Snow Canyon's most popular hikes. You can join the trail at several parking areas, so you can make this as long or as short of an excursion as you like. Out and back, from end to end, this is a six-mile trail.

7 Jenny's Canyon, Snow Canyon

Jenny's Canyon, Snow Canyon
Jenny's Canyon, Snow Canyon Lana Law
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Jenny's Canyon is a short out-and-back hike to a narrow slot canyon and a nearby overlook. The hike takes only about 20 minutes, but if you've never seen a slot canyon, this is the perfect opportunity. The trailhead is located at the south end of the park, not far from the entrance. It begins by heading out over a flat area and quickly approaches a rock wall. To the left, you can see the narrow opening to the slot canyon, and if you walk in a short distance you'll find a plaque. The canyon continues on a short distance and then comes to an abrupt end, at which point you turn around and exit by the same route you entered. To the right of the slot canyon, a short trail climbs up over rock stairs and a quick switchback to a lookout. From here, you can see the sand dunes on the opposite side of the road and views to the east.

8 Cove Wash Trails, Santa Clara River Reserve

Cove Wash Trails, Santa Clara River Reserve
Cove Wash Trails, Santa Clara River Reserve Lana Law
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The Cove Wash Trails at the Santa Clara River Reserve are multi-purpose trails and are a favorite with trail runners, mountain bikers, and local hikers. At the parking area, which is off a dirt road, a map shows the interconnecting paths. Trails are rated in terms of difficulty for mountain bikers but this also serves as a good indicator for hikers.

As you approach the drive to the Cove Wash Trailhead, you may be thinking that this doesn't look like much of an area for hiking, but continue on and you won't be disappointed. The views out the back side of the parking area reveal a beautiful mix of rolling hills and mountains. In the spring, the wildflowers can be spectacular. The trails head out across flat terrain and then offer options to walk along a ridge or descend into the valley below.

The Cove Wash Trailhead is located in Santa Clara and is a little tricky to find. Heading north on West Sunset Boulevard, turn left on Gates Lane, just before the Jacob Hamblin Home. This street begins as a paved road and then curves right, but you need to keep going straight onto the dirt road in front of you. The road climbs up a hill at the start. Further along this dirt road, a sign indicates the way to Cove Wash Trailhead.

9 Yellow Knolls Trail, Red Cliffs Recreation Area

Yellow Knolls Trail, Red Cliffs Recreation Area
Yellow Knolls Trail, Red Cliffs Recreation Area Lana Law
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As the name suggests, the main attractions of this hike are the rolling yellow rock hills, but the entire hike is pleasant. Located in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve just north of St. George, this is a 3.8-mile out-and-back hike. From the parking area, the trail heads out across a field that is covered with wildflowers in spring, towards a red rock mountain. Just a hint of yellow can be seen in behind. The trail descends into a valley and curves around this first mountain, taking you out onto the yellow stone, where you can explore the open rock landscape. This is the highlight of the hike, but the trail continues on, ascending to a high point for a view over the surrounding hills and rock formations.

Yellow Knolls Trailhead is in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, to the north of St. George, off Cottonwood Road. If you want a quick view of the trail and terrain before you set off hiking, you can drive past the trailhead to a viewpoint further along this road.

10 Hiking in Pioneer Park, St. George

Hiking in Pioneer Park, St. George
Hiking in Pioneer Park, St. George Lana Law
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If you don't have time to head out to one of the nearby state parks or surrounding suburbs to explore trails, you can find good hiking right in St. George at Pioneer Park. This 52-acre urban park overlooks the city and is the perfect place to escape the sights and sounds of St. George for an hour or two. Although the park is just a five-minute drive from downtown St. George, you feel like you are in the desert or on a canyon hike. You can walk among red rock boulders, explore a slot canyon, and enjoy a picnic at the shade-covered tables near the start. Access to the park is off Red Hills Parkway.

Where to Stay in St. George

  • Luxury and Mid-Range Hotels: If you're looking for a little pampering after your day of hiking, try The Inn at Entrada. This luxury resort, located near the entrance to Snow Canyon State Park, offers a variety of well-appointed suites and casitas, all with views. On-site is a quality restaurant and outdoor pools. Overlooking St. George, the Inn on the Cliff offers views, an outdoor pool and hot tub, and large rooms with balconies. Also popular is the centrally located Best Western Plus Abbey Inn and La Quinta Inn & Suites, located on the south end of St. George.
  • Budget Hotels: One of the most popular value hotels in St. George is the Chalet Motel, with clean and comfortable rooms. Also offering good prices and quality rooms are the pet-friendly St. George Inn and Suites and the Comfort Inn Saint George North, with an outdoor pool. Both of these properties offer complimentary breakfasts.
  • Campgrounds: To find out about camping options in the area, see our article on the Best Campgrounds near St. George.

More Great Hiking and Camping Destinations in Southern Utah

If you have time to explore beyond St. George, you'll find some great hikes in Zion National Park, as well as more camping options near Zion. Heading further north? Check out our articles on Best Campgrounds near Bryce Canyon National Park, Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park, and Best Campgrounds near Capitol Reef National Park. For a more complete look at destinations in Utah, see our articles on the Best Parks in Utah, and Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Utah.

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