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Spotlight: St. George/Washington County

Walk in the footsteps of southern Utah’s intrepid pioneers

Washington County has served as the home of a diverse stream of visitors, from thriving Native American tribes to adventurous trappers to industrious missionaries. Today, this region of southwest Utah draws RV travelers to enjoy great golf, beautiful scenery and a splendid town.

The earliest settlers of the area were Pueblo and Paiute tribes. In later years, trappers and explorers made their mark, and settlers of the Mormon Church put down deep roots here. The settlers’ cultivation of cotton and sugar cane in the 1860s earned the area the name of Utah’s Dixie. Later, silver mining and cattle also helped grow the economy in Washington County and in its constituent communities.

Among the most significant historic sites in the area is the Jacob Hamblin House in nearby Santa Clara. The two-story homestead was built by the pioneer and Mormon missionary who founded the community in 1854. The home operates as a museum and invites guests to view replica period furniture and walk through the fruit orchards on the property.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Road to Zion

Washington County is a popular destination today thanks in large part to the proximity of Zion National Park, which lies just 45 miles east of St. George. Declared a national park in 1919, Zion Canyon is the jewel in the park’s crown, boasting breathtaking rock monoliths and canyon walls worn by the Virgin River, one of the nation’s few remaining free-flowing waterways.

Other memorable sights in the park include the Great White Throne, a 2,400-foot mountain of white Navajo sandstone; Court of the Patriarchs, a set of sandstone cliffs; and the Kolob Arch in Kolob Canyon. At 310 feet, Kolob Arch is the world’s second-largest natural arch.

Hiking is the best way to see the many features of Zion, and trails are abundant. Visitors looking for the perfect shot should take the short Canyon Overlook, which passes through ferns and trees on the way to the cliff that is the hallmark of the overlook. The view encompasses the expanse of the canyon, and East Temple rises above the Overlook.

Water features are hidden gems within the park, and the Emerald Pool Trail leads to waterfalls pouring over red canyon outcroppings. The Lower Pool Trail is the easiest hike while Middle Pool is steeper and longer; Upper Pool has the greatest degree of difficulty but provides stunning views of the waterfalls.

Weeping Rock Trail, less than half a mile round-trip, leads hikers to an overhanging cliff covered in moss and ferns where rivulets of water drizzle over the edge into pools below. Riverside Walk is bordered by cottonwood trees that provide shade, and hanging gardens cling to the walls along the way to Gateway of the Narrows. Stop here and cool off in the mouth of the Narrows before turning back to finish the 2-mile round trip.

Settle Down in St. George

Roughly 40 miles outside the park lies St. George, the county seat. St. George began as an Indian mission established by the Mormon Church and later was the site of farms that worked to grow semitropical crops as a way of becoming self-sustaining during the Civil War. As one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation, St. George offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities for all family members.

Challenging and immaculate golf courses carved out of the rugged landscape welcome golfers eager for long fairways and challenging hazards. The Red Rock Golf Trail welcomes players to explore Coral Canyon, Sunbrook, Green Spring, the Ledges and more.

For younger visitors, the St. George Children’s Museum offers hands-on, interactive fun and a variety of ongoing and special programs. The Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm shares the region’s prehistoric treasures through exhibits and collections, including dinosaur tracks and a track-making area that gives children the chance to make their own footprints. Kids can learn how paleontologists go about uncovering and investigating dinosaur remains.

Explore Green Gate Village Historic Inn, a collection of pioneer-era and early Victorian homes in St. George. Some of these residences were built by the original homesteaders; others relocated here for preservation. A carriage house, granary and general store have also been restored and moved to the property, where they serve as an inn, restaurant and reception center.

The Angels Landing Cliffs near the Virgin River in Zion.

Matt Morgan

St. George Outdoors

Municipal parks abound in St. George, welcoming visitors and residents to play and relax among pristine landscaping, fun playgrounds and serene ponds. The city also celebrates and displays the creative endeavors in the St. George Art Museum. Its exhibits include Western art, native crafts and permanent collections featuring works by Utah artists.

On the hottest of days, take the family to Sand Hollow Aquatic Center to cool off and have some fun. The center’s leisure pool features a zero-depth entry, children’s water toys, a water walk and slides. Nearby Sand Hollow State Park offers trails for riding ATVs through sand dunes, and a warm-water reservoir is ideal for boating and fishing. Angle for crappie, bluegill, bass and catfish.

Lees Ferry, below Lake Powell, is a tributary of the Colorado River that’s ideal for boating and trout fishing. You can also cast a line in one of the small streams that carve their way around the mountains surrounding St. George. Gather up your gear and head to the upper and lower Tawa Ponds, Skyline Pond or Gunlock State Park.

For More Information

St. George Area Chamber of Commerce
Utah Travel Council