By Merle Rosenstein
With rugged red peaks rising from desert plateaus and deep canyons filled with low-growing foliage, St. George’s spectacular scenery and temperate climate draw visitors from around the world.
St. George, Utah’s Number One year-round vacation destination is the gateway to Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, making it an excellent base for park excursions.
While golf and outdoor adventure figure prominently in any St. George itinerary, the city also has a rich Mormon history and a wealth of restored homes and churches giving visitors a glimpse of Mormon life in the 1800s. Visitors can also explore St. George’s cultural side through art, film festivals, and live theatre.
No visit to St. George would be complete without a trip to Zion National Park, oldest park in Utah, and Snow Canyon State Park. With nearly three million visitors annually, Zion is a Mecca for outdoor adventure. The 48 kilometres of jaw-dropping landscape cannot be fully captured with a camera. The park’s four main sections are Zion Canyon, Kolob Canyons, Kolob Terrace, and Highway 9. Zion Canyon is a favourite with visitors. The Zion Museum teaches about the canyon’s creation through years of sandstone erosion.
The eight-kilometre Angel’s Landing hike provides amazing canyon views and is one of the best short adventure hikes in any American park. It’s not suitable for those with a fear of heights, however. The 10-kilometre Zion Narrows route, running along the Virgin River, is the park’s most popular hike and can be adapted to any ability level.
St. George Convention & Tourism OfficeSnow Canyon State Park boasts soaring sandstone cliffs and lava flows in a sensitive desert environment and was the locale for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Electric Horseman, and Jeremiah Johnson. Discovered in the 1850s by Mormons searching for lost cattle, Snow Canyon State Park offers more than 12 kilometres of hiking trails, rock climbing, horse back riding, camping and wildlife viewing. And you’ll find plant and wildlife not seen anywhere else in the state. Among the protected species are peregrine falcons, desert tortoises and Gila monsters.
In warm weather, water sports fans head for large, warm-water reservoirs such as Sand Hollow State Park, Quail Creek, and Gunlock Reservoir.
Winning Golf Courses
Coral Canyon Golf CourseSt. George is home to some of the best golf courses in the southwest United States. The Ledges Golf Course was recently ranked Number Five by Golf Digest as one of the “best new public golf courses with green fees of $75 and above.” St. George’s 13 courses are located within a 20-minute drive of one another and 10 of them are for public use, including the 18-hole Coral Canyon Golf Course with breathtaking views of nearby Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park; the 27-hole Sandy Hollow, an 18-hole championship course and a nine-hole Links course with beautiful red rock surroundings, deep canyons, and stunning views; and the challenging 27-hole Sunbrook with well placed water hazards and holes carved out of volcanic lava fields.
St. George Convention & Tourism OfficeIn 1847 a group of Mormon settlers led by Brigham Young reached Utah from the Midwest. The settlers’ legacy is evident in structures such as the St. George LDS Temple dedicated in 1877, the St. George LDS Tabernacle, the Brigham Young Winter home and the Old Pioneer Courthouse. The Tabernacle still holds church services, daily music recitals and the weekly Dixie History and Music Series.
Jacob Hamblin converted to Mormonism and moved his family to Utah in 1847. Hamblin made peace with Native Americans and accompanied settlers safely to southwestern Utah. Completed in 1863, his two-storey adobe, sandstone, and ponderosa pine home is an example of early pioneer building. Guided tours are given by Mormon missionaries.
Pine Valley Church, north of St. George, was built in 1868 by shipbuilder Ebenezer Bryce who established a homestead next to what is now Bryce Canyon National Park. The chapel resembles the upside down hull of a ship and is still in use.
Two ghost towns – Grafton, just outside Zion National Park, and Silver Reef near the town of Leeds – show the challenges of pioneer life. Silver Reef witnessed an economic boom in 1870 with the discovery of silver in the hills north of town. By 1891 the veins were exhausted and the town went broke. A small museum is housed in the old Silver Reef Wells Fargo Express office.
Unique Entertainment and Events
Dave BeckerThe 1,920-seat Tuacahn Outdoor Amphitheater in Padre Canyon boasts a stunning backdrop of 457-metre-high red rock cliffs. Broadway musicals, concerts, and Disney classics all benefit from the unsurpassed acoustics. From June to October 2012, Disney’s Aladdin and the musical Hairspray will be staged.
New for 2012, on March 17 and 18, the Blue Angels’ Thunder Over Utah Air Show is estimated to draw some 30,000 spectators. The St. George Art Festival on April 6 and 7 is a yearly event showcasing local artists and their work. There’s also an Ironman triathlon competition to be held May 7 bringing competitors and visitors from around the world. Pioneer Day on July 24 celebrates pioneer heritage and is a holiday unique to Utah. It usually ends with fireworks.
And all this takes place amid St. George’s splendid scenery. More information: www.utah.com/stgeorge.