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How St. George Became the New Kona

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Written by Susan Lacke

Kona? Out. St. George? In. Instead of a big island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, triathlon’s Big Show will take place in southwestern Utah—the story behind what brought it there.

Like many triathletes, Julie Dunkle had big race goals for 2021. After early-season qualifying races for both the Ironman and 70.3 World Championships, she plotted out an ambitious plan to do both races, one month apart:

“My original idea was to have a solid day at 70.3 Worlds,” said the Encinitas, California native, “then go for a PR and podium at the Ironman World Championship in Kona.”

Dunkle trained with this goal in mind, only to have it all fall apart with an email from Ironman: Kona was postponed to February due to tightened COVID-19 restrictions in Hawaii. Suddenly, her plans changed. 70.3 Worlds was no longer a tune-up race, but the main event.

For the past two seasons, athletes have gotten used to pivoting in response to race cancellations and reorganizations. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has meant that every race registration is a gamble; athletes simply sign up and hope the host city doesn’t shut down the event due to an active or imminent outbreak, or that there are no travel restrictions imposed by the destination.

Athletes aren’t the only ones impacted by this uncertainty. After a hiatus in 2020, the Ironman organization fully expected to be able to put on its world championship events this year. In mid-July, race organizers traveled to Kona and the 70.3 Worlds host city of St. George, Utah to finalize plans with local officials:

IM 70.3 WC 2021 MCM12

“At the time, COVID case numbers and hospitalizations in the area were at a manageable level and race details were moving forward as originally planned,” said Kevin Lewis, president of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office in St. George. “There were positive indicators that the travel restrictions for international visitors to the U.S. would be reduced. Two weeks later, the situation had changed significantly.” 

With the development of the Delta variant, COVID case numbers rose rapidly in Utah and Hawaii. In other parts of the world, they were even more pronounced. U.S. leaders announced they would not be making changes to international travel restrictions, which limited nearly half of all athletes who qualified for Ironman’s world championship events. It was a flurry of activity at the Ironman organization as they worked with local officials in Hawaii and Utah to find ways to still put on a world-class event. 

The two states have had vastly differing approaches to the pandemic. Hawaii has exercised extreme caution, requiring quarantines for non-vaccinated travelers and only accepting vaccination records from a small list of approved countries. With limited hospital beds and medical facilities, a surge of the COVID virus would overwhelm the tiny island community. Back in 2020, the Ironman World Championship was first postponed to February 2021, then canceled. It wasn’t surprising, then, when Ironman announced the 2021 World Championship would be postponed as well:

“The resurgence of the virus and new Delta strain has had significant impact on the island community of Hawaii,” Ironman CEO Andrew Messick said in a press statement on Aug. 19. “Combined with substantial border closures and travel restrictions for qualified athletes, there is not a viable pathway in October to host the Ironman World Championship.”

Utah, on the other hand, has adopted a “return to normal” approach, hosting large events throughout the year, including the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship race back in May.

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“This isn’t our first large format event during COVID. We’ve been hosting events with enhanced safety protocols for several months,” said commissioner Gil Almquist, chairman of the Washington County Commission in Utah. “We have stayed open in Washington County while exercising all precautions at large events. With the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship, we showed our health department, citizen volunteers, spectators, and participants that an outdoor race can be held with minimal health risk.”

The conversation in Utah was much different than in Hawaii. In addition to more relaxed rules surrounding COVID, St. George has access to more hospital beds and medical facilities than Kona. Instead of looking at if the race could be held, race organizers and local officials began discussing how to hold a world championship event with a reduced global turnout. As many as half of qualified athletes for the 70.3 World Championship race were from outside of the United States, and many would not be able to travel into the country. Instead of 5,000 athletes from around the world, the race would be less than 3,000 mostly Americans. (Ironman estimates 70% of the 2021 70.3 World Championship field will be from the United States). 

“In August, when it became increasingly clear that travel and border restrictions would not be relaxed in time for all athletes to attend the 70.3 World Championship event, we formulated an alternative plan,” said Ironman spokesman Dan Berglund. That plan included condensing the two-day race format, where men and women raced on separate days, into one day.

“With the smaller athlete field size, and bringing a two-day event back to St. George in 2022, we looked at how we could lessen the strain on the local community this year,” he said. “We collectively decided to move this to a one-day weekend event, removing the weekday component, which has the natural ability to cause increased impact on the local community.”

The one-day format also makes it easier to recruit volunteers for the event. “Even as a one-day event, the volunteer requirements of the World Championship are almost twice what we normally provide at our annual race,” explains Lewis. “To put on an event of this magnitude is a significant commitment.” 

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Changes to the race in St. George have not been completely without criticism. Athletes who made travel plans based on the original two-day format had to scramble to change their flights or lodging reservations, some at great cost. Others have noted that merging the men’s and women’s races puts women at a competitive disadvantage, as the women’s pro race has historically been hindered by interference from pro and elite age-group men. And, of course, there is the criticism that the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship will not be a true world championship, but more of an American one. Still, athletes and race organizers alike are happy just to have a race.

“With all the obstacles in the world today, the fact that we are putting on an event like this, in a place like this, at a time like this is a testament to the Ironman mantra that ‘anything is possible,” Almquist said.

With Kona out of the picture for 2021, all eyes are now on St. George. The sole Ironman world championship race of the year has attracted deep fields in both the pro and age-group categories, looking to test their mettle against an elite group of athletes. And for the first time since 2019, new champions will be crowned.

Written by Heather Wurtele

Hosting the Ironman World Championships in Utah might threaten our triathlete sensibilities, but it’ll make for new, exciting, and better racing.

For the first time since my retirement from professional triathlon in 2019, I have a serious fear of missing out.

It began when I saw an Instagram image of Snow Canyon in St. George, Utah. In the photo, the beautiful red rock scenery had an Ironman brand race sign slapped on top. I scrolled right past, assuming it was a photo related to the recent 70.3 World Championship race. Only when I saw some pros posting about the change (and all the arguments in the comments) did I realize it was something new. Ironman had announced the 2021 Ironman World Championships will take place in St. George, Utah on May 7, 2022.

The full Ironman World Championships. Not in Kona, but St. George.

It took a moment to sink in. When it did, I felt a pang of heartache. This was the first real yearning for triathlon that I’ve had since I retired. St. George is one of my favorite hard, hilly courses. My husband, Trevor, and I loved it so much that we lived there in our RV for four months out of the year, simply because it was the ideal training environment. 

Just when I had zero longing for anything triathlon-related anymore, they had to go and taunt me like that. Man, I would have loved to race an Ironman World Championship in St. George. 

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The die-hard Kona crowd will argue that Hawaii is the spiritual home of Ironman. They claim the race history makes it the only place that athletes will ever want to go for the world championships, and they shake their head at the folly of this change.

Meanwhile, others think it would be great if the venue moved around the world. The world champion could be decided by different races in different conditions on different courses, allowing athletes to test their mettle in a variety of circumstances, not just the hot and windy one on Kona. When St. George was announced, these folks gave a cheer (but not too loud, so as not to offend Pele) for the silver linings of COVID cancellations. I’m cheering, too.

I get it: a race-vacation to Hawaii sounds more appealing than a trip to Utah. But once you get past the initial romantic idea of sandy beaches and poke bowls, you’ll soon realize Kona is a costly, difficult place to get to for many in the world. If we’re talking about ideal places to actually race a global triathlon event, Utah wins in my book.

No, there’s nothing quite like swimming in the ocean in Kona. The speedo-clad posturing and people-watching at Dig Me Beach during race week is pretty spectacular, but look away from the people in the water, and you’ll see understandably grumpy locals rolling their eyes as thousands of triathletes descend on their small community. At the single tiny local pool, triathletes can be found deck-changing, jumping in sweaty after running or riding, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. For pros, race week is often a special exercise in timing training sessions to avoid people—hard to do in a village of only 15,000.

There’s room to spread out in Utah. In addition to the swim venue at Sand Hollow Reservoir (and Quail Creek, if you really want to avoid crowds) there are four pools to choose from in the St. George area, including a spectacular new 50m pool that’s part of the Human Performance Center at Dixie State University. It really is nice to have so many options for so many athletes. 

IM 70.3 WC 2021 MCM21

The same goes for biking and running. If endless hot laps of Ali’i Drive and the Queen K float your boat, that’s cool, but for pre-race training safety, St. George is going to be amazing. Since the first edition of Ironman St. George in 2010, the county has built an impressive network of paved trail systems, bike lanes, and parkways with big shoulders. If you prefer to run on dirt there are endless options in the state parks and BLM land all around. (The West Canyon Trail in Snow Canyon is one of my all-time favorite training run locations.)

And if a black lava background shot is a must for the ‘gram, you only need to cruise the Lava Flow Trail off of Pioneer Parkway through St. George and Ivins. In southern Utah, you get Kona-esque black lava rocks and orange sandstone.

One of the more frustrating things about racing the Ironman World Championship in Kona was the logistics. It’s hard for people to get out and spectate portions of the bike and run beyond Ali’i Drive and the Hot Corner in town. In St. George, there will be so many more chances for friends, family, supporters, sponsors, photographers, and your personal social media entourage to actually get to see the race and cheer you on. What’s more, the locals turn out to cheer, too. They love the race, and many volunteer to help athletes have the best race experience possible.

Of course, the main performance difference between Kona and St. George is the climate. To date, winning the Ironman World Championship has meant solving the very particular physiological problem of performing well in oppressive heat and humidity. I, for one, would have really liked the humid-heat element to be less of a deciding factor. Trying desperately to get enough fluids to survive that particular war of attrition keeps competitors from going out and racing as hard as they want to (or could under a different set of conditions). It’s kind of a bummer when you know that the World Championships is always going to be like that, and it simply doesn’t suit you. 

Rotating through multiple locations gives athletes a true world championship challenge in proving they can adapt to any environment, not just one particular corner of the globe. Dealing with terrain, climate and race conditions is all part of the game, and I think it’s good when those conditions change. Race dynamics change. Different athletes with different strengths can take different risks. It will be new and interesting. The cream will still rise to the top, it won’t just be curdled.

In 2013, Ironman announced it would shorten what had been a full distance race in St. George to a 70.3, because the full distance, with its challenging terrain, had gained a reputation for being “too hard.” I say the hard is what makes it so great. I’m excited to see the race return in 2021, and to see the world’s top triathletes take on a new and exciting and equally tough challenge.

And to answer the obvious question: No, I won’t be one of those athletes. Coming out of retirement is tempting, but it’s not going to happen. However, I will be cheering on the athletes who do take on what I feel is truly a world-class course for a world-class event.

Scott Kramer – Forbes.com

I always enjoy finding sleeper golf destinations — those that aren’t quite on the mainstream radar but are surprisingly nice. And I discovered one this week — St. George, Utah, which is also known as the Greater Zion area. Actually, I first visited in the mid-1990s for golf, but hadn’t been back since for no apparent reason. But now, there’s a lot to like for golfers — including 13 really nice courses.

Aerial view of golf course with pond at sunrise

For one thing, it’s relatively accessible — about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas. But it’s also a world away. Forget the bright lights motif of Vegas, this is a blossoming town that happens to have many outdoor activities to enjoy. Then there’s the scenery — wow, red rock mountains serve as the backdrop pretty much everywhere in the area. If you enjoy hiking and camping, the incredible Zion National Park is on the edge of town, too. Here’s my experience:

I flew in from Phoenix — yes, St. George has its own airport that serves several major airlines — and bee-lined to The Advenire — Autograph Collection, a boutique hotel that’s centrally located and has a cool vibe. It combines standard rooms and luxury suites. Mine was really nice and spacious, with an ultra-comfortable bed, big-screen TV and walk-out balcony. Met up with some friends at wood•ash•rye in the lobby that has a wonderful and relaxing atmosphere — it’s an indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant that serves tasty food all day.

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The next morning, we go for an hour-long hike at the scenic Snow Canyon State Park — one of four state parks in town — before heading to The Ledges Golf Club, which is located in a nice residential golf community. This 7,200-yard Matt Dye (Pete’s nephew) design features red rock backdrops, immaculate greens and fairways, and a wonderful view of Snow Canyon State Park. The front line is average with a lot of straightaway holes, but then the back nine gets dramatic with elevation changes. All along are subtle moguls in the fairway, which create plenty of uneven lies. This is essentially an upscale daily fee course. The day we played it, the course was not in magnificent shape. But you can tell that when it is, it’s probably one of the top courses in town. We also played on a busy Saturday, and the pace was slow for no particular reason. Maybe it’s because the course apparently attracts out-of-towners who aren’t familiar with the layout. Or because you’re up at a 3,600-foot altitude and the ball flies a shade longer than back at sea level — perhaps golfers were searching for their shots in the wrong place. Regardless, some of the back nine views are spectacular. One thing I learned quickly: Putts don’t break as much as they appear. This was actually a common occurrence in every round we played. 

Our tee time the next day is at the Championship Course at Sand Hollow Resort in nearby Hurricane. Ranked the best public course you can play in Utah since 2009, this John Fought/Andy Staples-designed 7,300-yard layout peaks at the 11th tee where I think you can see the entire state in 360 degrees. The combination of red rock outcroppings, natural vegetation, lush fairways and indigenous red-sand bunkers is stunning. It’s a visual delight that lasts the entire round. Picture lush green holes, each surrounded by desert. The elevation drops are frequent, yet the fairway landing areas are generous. That means you can keep the ball in play on this golf roller coaster, without being pinpoint accurate. Yet there are plenty of wide fairway bunkers that seem to be in the landing areas, so golfers need to be somewhat careful on shot placement and where they aim their drives. Expect to have a lot of fun, regardless. It’s challenging yet fair. And your score will reflect that. Course conditions are fantastic, the greens and fairways roll true. There’s one hole on the back nine that has you teeing off between a chute of tall red rocks — only enhancing the drama. I honestly didn’t want the round to end.

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Afterwards, we grab a quick lunch on the balcony and head across the parking lot to play the 3,600-yard, nine-hole Links Course. This course boasts Utah’s largest greens and fairways. Although it’s relatively flat, there are still some blind shots. The short par-3 7th, for instance, has a green you can barely see glimpses of from the tee. Thankfully, the flag was red the day we played it, so it was at least visible as we hit over tall vegetation to get there. The layout does remind me of some in Scotland, but in the middle of the desert. This is an ideal course for beginners and veterans, alike. Our group stays on property starting that night, at a spacious and upscale rental house. Talk about convenience!

Dinner that night is at Balcony One in nearby Virgin, which has a wide food selection. I was sold on the Dino smoked-beef ribs served with Chili Nopales, corn cakes and a side of apple jalapeño BBQ sauce. OMG. I can say without a doubt it was the largest single piece of beef I’ve ever attempted to eat. As it happens, I wind up sharing some of it.

Next morning I’m on the tee early at the year-old Copper Rock Golf Course in Hurricane — the Symetra Tour holds an event here, which should clue you in on the excellent course quality. It’s a 6,823-yard course designed by a local architect, in near-perfect condition. The course features native sage, desert dunes and copper mountains. Again, lush green fairways and greens with gorgeous backdrops. I rank this course my second favorite on the trip, behind the Sand Hollow Championship Course. There’s plenty of elevation change, birdie opportunities, twists and turns, and places to get into trouble. There are also several water holes. To be honest, it reminded me of a typical Scottsdale or Palm Springs course in many ways — course condition, backdrop, several home-lined fairways, and a resort-like feel even though it’s just a daily-fee layout at this point. It was playable and enjoyable, and required me to use every club in the bag. Best of all, play just moves along for a fairly fast pace.

Golf 7

Afterwards, we head 45 minutes over to Zion National Park for a pair of short hikes and a beer at the lodge. Great as the golf was, this was the most-spectacular highlight of the trip. I was a first-timer here and was wowed by the red-rocked scenery, and the ease at which you can get around inside the park by tram. No wonder it’s the third-most visited national park in America. If you’re into nature — or even if you’re not — this is an absolute must-see if you’re ever in the area. There are even first-class spas located just outside the gates, to help pamper your body after a long hike or mountain bike ride. There are even electric bikes for rent, if you want to experience the beauty without all the exercise.

Overall, the golf in St. George is super fun and I will return someday in the near future to play again. Plus there’s another new resort course — Black Desert — and a renovated Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club opening up in the near future. Am already planning on bringing my wife to Zion for some hiking, playing a few rounds of golf, and taking another stab at that Dino rib.

We all love Zion National Park and walk away from it, saying a camera can never truly capture its beauty. A photo simply isn’t going to do it justice. You have to see it to believe it and treasure it in your memory and in your heart.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t try to put it into a digital image. Whether a pro or amateur behind the lens, those digital images help us remember.

And there are lots of visual delights to take in across Greater Zion, beyond the borders of Zion National Park too. Whether you’re committing them to film, pixels or just to memory, you’ll be amazed at the buffet of views and vistas.

Greater Zion staff can’t get enough and continue to marvel at that “awe at every turn.” We’ve assembled a list of some of our favorite eye candy. Make them a check-list, Instagram moments, or an exploratory day trip. However you capture them, hold them in your heart.

Petrified Pools at Snow Canyon

“I love that you can access such amazing views in such a short amount of time.” The Petrified Dunes hike at Snow Canyon State Park is easily accessible to almost everyone and it offers views from every angle. The pools are accessed via this trail and are more pronounced immediately after a rainfall. Even without the water, the Petrified Dunes provide many photo opportunities as you climb and explore these wrinkled layers.

PetrifiedPools

Cliffside Restaurant Patio

“The views from the Cliffside Restaurant patio are stunning.” It’s a taste of the red rock without getting your feet dirty and a taste of some amazing food at the same time. Fine dining with breathtaking and far-reaching views. The green trees and leaves of spring are especially gorgeous against the red rock.

Cliffside

Babylon Arch

Folks have said you might feel as though you’ve landed on Mars on the Babylon Arch Trail in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The trail, just north of Leeds, abounds with sand and red rock.

Directions: Take the Leeds exit going north on I-15, take a left onto Main St., follow through town until you see the sign for the Red Cliffs Recreation Area. Take a right on to 900 N or Sand Cove Road, as the locals call it. The scenery along that road is beautiful with views of Zion, Pine Valley Mountain and Sky Mountain. This road leads to the trail for Babylon Arch and the old townsite of Babylon, which has petroglyphs. You can follow the road all the way down to the Virgin River and there are ruins from the “Babylon House” or John Vought Home. 4×4 vehicle with high clearance is preferable due to most of the road being filled in with sand.

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Snow Canyon Overlook

A spur trail off the Red Mountain Trail, located north of Snow Canyon State Park on Hwy. 18, provides the spectacular vantage point and place to rest and take it all in.

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Snow Canyon Overlook at Sunset

The perfect place to catch the sunset. Every minute provides a different glow, a different perspective on the canyon below. This panoramic view is available just steps from your car at the Snow Canyon Overlook, just off Hwy. 18, north of St. George.

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Snow Canyon at Night

Snow Canyon’s red mountains and red sand dunes at night provide a unique and otherworldly experience. Are you sure this isn’t Mars?

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Eagle Crags

Two miles south of Rockville on a dirt road, catch this view of Zion, which you can’t see from the main canyon. Consider it Zion’s backyard.

EagleCrags

Water Canyon

Draining the south side of Canaan Mountain near the Utah/Arizona border, Water Canyon provides some stunning scenery – red rocks, touched with green and reflections of the blue sky in the stunning mountain water. North of Hildale – close to Zion’s border – but found on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.

WaterCanyon

Top of the World

Accessible by Jeep or ATV, a sign literally marks the “Top of the World” at Sand Hollow State Park. Take in the red sand dunes and off  in the distance you see the layers of different rock, building up to Pine Valley Mountain.

Top of the World

Sand Hollow

If not by Jeep or ATV, by foot still provides some stunning views from Sand Hollow, incorporating the red dunes, glistening water of the reservoir, mountains and vast sky.

Sand Hollow Dunes

Sand Hollow Sky

And, if you work the camera and angles correctly, it might just look like the sky is touchable!

Sand Hollow Sky

Red Cliffs Desert Reserve

So pretty, it’s been featured on the cover of our travel planner magazine. The canyons of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve – best after rainfall – provides water, red rock and sky in unending combinations. Hike the canyons and see what you can explore and capture.

Red Cliffs Desert Reserve

Drive from Kolob

Really, any of the roadside views coming out of Zion echo the National Park’s beauty, but this is one of our favorites, headed toward Kolob Terrace and Kolob Terrace Road.

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Sky Mountain

The perfectly manicured Sky Mountain Golf Course provides some stunning views for golfers. Green, green grass and blue, blue sky seems to make everything pop. A camera just can’t capture it all. Good luck keeping your eye on the ball with scenery like this!

Sky Mountain Golf Course

West Cinder Knoll Trail

West Cinder Knoll Trail is accessible through the city of Hurricane. Black lava rocks are left over from a substantial lava cone, along the Virgin River.

West Cinder Knoll Trail

Hellhole Canyon in Kayenta

Starting in the private development of Kayenta, the Hellhole Canyon Trail grants Red Mountain wilderness views. The majority of the trail crosses BLM lands and the trail follows the wash.

Helhole Canyon Kayenta

Pine Valley Mountain from the Vortex

The Bowl or Vortex near Gunlock State Park … this trail not only takes you to a unique bowl feature, but provides stunning views of the sometimes snow-capped Pine Valley Mountain.

View of Pine Valley Mtn from Vortex

Pine Valley Recreation Area

In the northern section of Washington County/Greater Zion is the Pine Valley Recreation Area … up over nearly 4,000 feet in elevation from St. George. It’s a great escape from the desert heat of the summer. Moderate forest coverage of ponderosa pine and oaks, and views of the peaks around are a photographer’s dream.

Pineview

Quail Creek State Park

One of the four state parks in Washington County, Quail Creek’s main feature is the reservoir. The shadows from the surrounding mountains and bluffs create some fun light effects while attempting to capture the park’s grandeur.

Quail Creek State Park

Gunlock State Park

Tranquil waters beckon you to the shore for a picnic or photography adventure in this somewhat rustic state park.

Gunlock State Park

In between all these views and vistas are hundreds more in this Land of Discovery. Find your own magic in Greater Zion.

Southern Utah’s “Volcano Country” Encompasses Extinct Natural Wonders — and Homemade Pie

The tiny town of Veyo, Utah — just 20 minutes northwest of St. George with a total population of 822 — sits nestled in the shadow of a volcano.

“Volcano country,” its welcome sign reads. A little over eight and a half miles south of Veyo, just south of picturesque Diamond Valley, is the Santa Clara Volcano.

No need to worry: Neither the Veyo Volcano nor the Santa Clara Volcano will erupt ever again.

That’s because they’re both cinder cones — also called scoria cones — said recently retired BYU geology professor Eric Christiansen.

And cinder cones are monogenetic, meaning they erupt only once, he said.

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Christiansen was part of a research team that, in 2013, discovered evidence that a supervolcano near Wah Wah Springs erupted 30 million years ago, burying a region that stretches from central Utah to central Nevada and from Fillmore in the north to Cedar City in the south.

The eruption lasted for a week and spewed more than 5,500 cubic kilometers of magma, making it about 5,000 times larger than the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. Ash has been found as far away as Nebraska. In southern Utah, deposits from this eruption are 13,000 feet thick.

It collapsed into a caldera — the technical term for a volcano’s crater; essentially a giant hole in the ground — after its eruption, but this caldera was difficult to map because fault lines stretched it out over time.

“Imagine drawing a circle on a piece of paper and then cutting it with scissors in about four different places, and then stretching it apart,” Christiansen said, adding that his team worked across five different mountain ranges to determine where all the caldera’s pieces were.

He also said the Wah Wah Springs eruption happened too long ago to be responsible for southwest Utah’s current landscape.

But the tectonic stretching that broke up the supervolcano’s caldera is the same type of stretching which shaped the stunning natural beauty that southwest Utah is known for today, Christiansen said.

And while the Veyo Volcano and the Santa Clara Volcano are extinct, he said cinder cones group together, meaning the area has the potential for more volcanic activity.

“I think a lot of people believe we’re not in a volcanically active region,” Christiansen said. “And I would like to put forth that we are in a volcanically active region. It’s just [that eruptions] don’t happen very often.”

So while you’re not likely to see new volcanic action in southwest Utah any time soon, there’s still plenty of evidence that the Earth’s fire once blazed hot and furious above ground.

Here’s how to explore the Veyo Volcano and the Santa Clara Volcano.

Veyo Volcano

The Veyo Volcano doesn’t have an established trail, but it is open to visitors. Hikers should come prepared — and be mindful that the volcano is covered in loose, rocky terrain that could quickly cause someone to lose their footing on the steep incline.

To explore the Veyo Volcano, look for a pullout on the west side of Highway 18 about a mile south of downtown Veyo. Here you’ll see a gate with a yellow sign asking visitors to close the gate behind them. The gate is held shut with a simple chain and swivel snap; there is no lock.

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When you’ve gone through the gate, you can walk or drive along a bumpy dirt road that runs towards and then alongside the volcano. A muddy stream creates a striking slash of green on the landscape, while the nearby town spills out below.

Once you’re close enough to the volcano, you can begin climbing at any time, though the west side seems to have a gentler upwards slope.

The ground will become increasingly covered with loose pieces of black and red rock as you get closer to the volcano. Pale green stalks with hardy orange blossoms burst out of the charred terrain.

When you’ve had your fill of exploring the Veyo Volcano, there’s more volcano-themed fun to be had in Veyo itself. Swing by Veyo Pies for a slice — Or three. Or eight. We’re not judging! — of their signature Veyo Volcano pie: layers of cream cheese, chocolate and butterscotch, ensconced in a graham cracker crust and topped with whipped cream. (And yes, it’s every bit as guiltily delicious as it sounds.)

You can also sample any of their other 24 pies, which include a variety of fruit, cream and specialty pies, or from their pastry selection which includes turnovers, cookies and doughnuts. Pies can be purchased whole or by the slice.

And if you’re hungry for more than dessert, just across the street from Veyo Pies is the Slice of Veyo pizzeria.

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In addition to traditional pizzas, pastas and paninis, their menu features the Veyo Volcano pizza (pepperoni, Italian sausage, jalapenos) and the Maui Volcano pizza (Canadian bacon, pineapple, jalapenos), both of which are made with the restaurant’s spicy “lava sauce.”

Santa Clara Volcano

If you’re looking to check more than one volcano off your list, hit up the Santa Clara Volcano as you drive back to St. George along Highway 18, located just past the turn-in to Diamond Valley (total drive time is about 10 minutes).

Unlike the Veyo Volcano, the Santa Clara Volcano has an established hiking trail. As you pass Diamond Valley, keep an eye out for the easy-to-miss trailhead marker for the Cinder Cone Trail.

The Hike St. George website ranks the 1.9 miles roundtrip hike as moderately difficult due to the trail’s steepness and slipperiness.

Still, if you can handle the hike’s 500 feet of elevation, the top offers beautiful views of Snow Canyon and Dameron Valley, the website states.

Once at the top, visitors can also hike down into a crater and check out a small rock fort and rock wall.

View the story on The Salt Lake Tribune

Adrenaline-Filled Activities in Greater Zion

When you’re in Greater Zion, the adventures call to you. The adventures are plentiful, and provide a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the land, geology and history – to whatever extent you wish.

With the adventures below, fill up your agenda. Plop one excursion on each day, or get creative and try to squeeze multiple in a 24-hour slot. You’ll be taking home memories that last a lifetime.

Insider tips: if these adventures require a guide, book before you arrive. Many guides and outfitters fill up weeks in advance. Be prepared too.

Via Feratta

Attention adrenaline junkies! This adventure brings a day packed with scaling vertical mountain walls using iron rungs and safety cables. Greater Zion is one of the few areas in America where you can experience this adventure and the best part … there’s relatively no experience required. The guides and outfitters of Greater Zion will educate you on the technical and physical requirements and provide you with the necessary safety equipment. When finished with the climb, be sure to refuel at the nearest restaurant and put a check on that ol’ bucket list.

Greater Zion Via Ferrata

Visit Zion National Park

One day in one of America’s top-visited National Parks is doable with the right planning. Start your morning with sunrise at the Zion Human History Museum, watching the cliffs light up to a fiery red hue. Next, venture to the Visitor Center to catch the Zion Canyon Shuttle onto Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Once inside the canyon, you’ll have your choice of trails. Thrill seekers will gravitate toward Angels Landing, one of the world’s most epic hikes with unforgettable views and steep drop-offs. Hikers will enjoy The Narrows, which guides you through towering canyon walls, hiking the cool waters of the Virgin River. Or, take one of two trails beginning from the Visitor Center, The Pa’rus or The Watchman Trails. The Pa’rus is a paved, easy hike, running along the Virgin River. The Watchman, often overlooked by visitors, takes you along desert greenery and evergreen trees to a beautiful valley overlook. Head up the switchbacks along Mount Carmel Highway and take in the views on your way to the distinctly different East side of the park. On your way, do the Canyon Overlook Trail for a quick out-and-back that looks back on canyon you were exploring earlier. Stay past dark and take in the magical night sky of this International Dark Sky Park.

Bike the Hurricane Cliffs Trail System

The ten trails comprising the Hurricane Cliffs Trail system traverse 31 miles of plateaus, drop-offs and sweeping desert views. Found between Gooseberry Mesa, the Virgin River and Hurricane Cliffs, this trail system includes a variety of trails with varying levels of difficulty. Generally, the trails are flowy with technical sections that are short and easily traversed. Smack dab in the middle of Greater Zion, it’s easy to jet into Hurricane or La Verkin for a bite to eat and get back to the trails. And, of course, finish the day with a hearty meal at a local steakhouse or rib shack.

Mountain biking man dropping into canyon

Escape the Heat on Higher Ground

Many visitors to Greater Zion make a stop in Zion’s scenic canyon and its Kolob Canyon, but most never explore the Kolob Terrace area. This hidden gem begins at the Kolob Terrace Road turn-off in Virgin, and continues up a winding canyon road, to around 8,100 feet in elevation. The cooler temperatures bring a scenic array of pine trees, rolling meadows, natural wildlife, classic Zion Canyon walls and a sparkling reservoir. Spend the day kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing or hike along one of the lesser explored local trails like the Hop Valley, West Rim and Lambs Knoll trails. Oh! And be sure to stop into the Kolob Marketplace and Grill for a delicious meal or snacks.

Explore Greater Zion on Four Legs

Giddy up! Seeing Greater Zion via horseback offers a unique opportunity to bond with nature the way cowboys and pioneers did. Experienced guides will pair you with a horse that reflects your riding ability and personality, allowing you the chance at spectacular views of red slick rock, dramatic expanses of towering sandstone cliffs and fields of black basalt lava flows. A handful of outfitters will take you to various destinations often not seen on two legs.

Hike to Kolob Arch

One of the lesser-visited and more amazing viewpoints in Zion National Park, Kolob Arch flaunts its curves above the park, high on an exposed cliff. It’s the second longest arch in the world, but its remoteness makes it a little less traversed. The trail is an out-and-back trail encompassing around 15 miles. The arch itself is off-limits to hikers, but the views along the trail and of the arch are spectacular. Heft those water- and snack-filled backpacks for a day trip that will leave you inspired.

Schedule a Canyoneering Trip

A hidden gem canyon located in Hildale, Water Canyon makes a great beginner technical canyoneering adventure. The hike up has visitors weaving into tall canyon walls along a cool running stream to a waterfall and slot canyon where canyoneering outfitters will guide you up and into beautiful canyon rappels. The canyon sits just outside of Zion National Park, so no permit is needed, but it’s a Zion-like experience. Start early to see the sun rise over the gorgeous canyon walls. Guides across Greater Zion will assist with instruction and gear for this canyoneering adventure and/or many others.

Man dropping down into canyon with climbing gear on.

Take an OHV Ride

Knowledgeable guides know Greater Zion better than the locals! Take advantage of this intelligence and go to places many don’t get to see. Book an off-road, backcountry adventure tour to experience dinosaur tracks, Native American petroglyphs and glittery gypsum mines, all within the valleys, mountains and dry washes of Greater Zion.  You can even opt to pilot your own ATV or side-by-side. Many of the guides and outfitters offer add-ons and customizations, like a rappelling and zip line experiences, meals, a helicopter tour and more. All the options are perfect option for families and groups. Thrills shared are thrills multiplied.

These adventures are just a start. Explore more things to see and do as you plan out your time in Greater Zion. Work in something more relaxing like a visit to an art gallery or spa treatment or take in a leisurely round of golf. Everything pairs great with adventure.

The Land of adventure is calling … rise to it.

As you’ve made your basecamp in Greater Zion, a quick day trip can lead to all kinds of additional discoveries and experiences. Here are a few options to consider.

Bryce National Park

One of the most beautiful day trips outside of Greater Zion is Bryce Canyon National Park. Located about 2.5 hours from St George, Bryce is nothing short of breathtaking. It is one of the most unique places on the planet, as it houses the largest concentration of hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) found anywhere on Earth. Situated about the Grand Staircase, it covers 36,000 acres. Easy

pull-offs along the main park road, provide canyon views, access to hikes, and miles of awe-inspiring sandstone hoodoo spires.

Bryce

Grand Canyon North Rim

Located about a three-hour drive from St. George, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon will allow you to stare down the heart of the canyon, spanning over 277 miles with wonder, awe and amazement. The Grand Canyon is also the home to many Native Americas who for thousands of years, built settlements throughout the canyons and inside many of its caves. While visiting, be sure to stop at the Jacob Lake Inn for a cookie and shake!

grand canyon north rim

Valley of Fire State Park

Known for its bright red Aztec sandstone crops and twisted, taffy-like domes, Valley of Fire State Park is a hidden gem among the desolate Nevada desert. Drive through and hit the main lookouts or spend the day hiking trails like Fire Wave with white and red sandstone, Elephant Rock, Seven Sisters, and Mouse’s Tank or Atlatl Rock, where you can see petroglyphs. Don’t skip Rainbow Vista. This state park is approximately 90 minutes from St. George.

Las Vegas

Whether you’re a high roller, show-goer or a sightseer, Las Vegas is the perfect one-day getaway. By day or night, try your luck at a casino, see a dazzling performance or take a gondola ride through the Venetian Hotel, see the Bellagio Fountain Show, dine at the Tournament of Kings (a live-action medieval dinner show) and tour the famous Fremont Street. If you want more natural experiences, explore Red Rock Canyon. Or travel a little farther and see the modern marvel of human engineering, Hoover Dam, or play in Lake Mead.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Located East of Zion National Park, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes offer roller-coaster style cruises over shifting dunes via OHV and coastal-like surfboarding down the slopes of pink hills. Pack a lunch and rent an OHV or sandboard for the perfect day of sailing the sands. Downtown Kanab offers a handful of restaurants for a meal on your way there or back. Kanab is also home to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the nation’s largest sanctuary for homeless animals, that offers free tours.

Pine Valley Recreation Area

Pine Valley Recreation Area offers a great escape from the heat of the Southern Utah desert, located just 40 minutes north of St. George. Enjoy fishing from the serene Pine Valley Reservoir and explore the forest via trails like the Santa Clara River Trail, where the smells of pine are inescapable. Plan a stop for dinner at dessert at the Brandin’ Iron Steakhouse.

pine valley utah 068

Cedar Breaks

Bryce Canyon’s lesser-known and less-crowded little sister, Cedar Breaks National Monument, features unusual limestone formations and beautiful hiking trails surrounded by a natural amphitheater. Spend the day hiking and picnicking amid quiet meadows and view the local wildlife from incredible canyon overlooks. Then, stay after dark for close encounters of the Milky Way and the starry night sky.

Shakespeare Festival

Embark one hour north on I-15 and air a visit to I/G Winery in downtown Cedar City with a theatrical experience like no other at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. The festival is a Tony Award-winning, professional theater on the campus of Southern Utah University, presenting plays by The Bard and other playwrights every June through October in three theaters. Magic, backstage, orientation and costume and props seminars also offer you some theater insights. Don’t forget the wine – IG offers locally made, blended and vented wines in a fantastic tasting room. Grab a flight and try many of their offerings.

Use the Itineraries Below to Plan Your Dream Vacation

Greater Zion is made for adventure. If you have simply a half a day or want to build your extended stay, consider these half-day adventures. And, if you really like something, feel free to make it a whole day!

Visit Zion National Park

Get up early and hit the Canyon Overlook Trail to take in the sunrise overlooking Zion Canyon. The trail is only one-mile round-trip, so easy to get to the lookout before the sun appears over the towers below. If you don’t make it up before the sun, Zion, as the nation’s third-most-visit park, is still a must-do. Take in the iconic hikes such as The Narrows or Angels Landing, or try one or more of the lesser known trails for a less crowded experience.

Go Canyoneering

Do what? Yep, try a guide-led canyoneering expedition. Desert slot canyons are an irresistible lure to visitors of Greater Zion. The narrow, banded rock caverns with twisty bends and corners create an experience only accessible via rope and harness. See secluded labyrinth passages in Zion National Park and the surrounding area. Canyoneering adventures are available in half or full-day options.

Golf a Round

Greater Zion is home to 13 top-notch golf courses. Take a half day and tee it up among the green fairways in red rock surroundings. Keep your eye on the ball, but take some good time to concentrate on your beautiful surroundings. Many courses will have rental clubs available and have onsite dining for that before- or after-the-round meal.

Experience via Ferrata

Greater Zion is one of the few places in America where you can experience this combination of scaling steep faces of gorgeous canyon walls with the security of iron-rung ladders and safety cables. This adrenaline-filled adventure will definitely earn you some bragging points. No experience required, as your guides and outfitters will education you on technique and you’ll soon be a pro. Make sure to bring your camera. You’ll be seeing things very few others ever get to experience

Explore via Two Wheels

Rent a bike or ebike and take a ride along the Virgin River Trail, a popular favorite among biking enthusiasts because of its easy accessibility, beautiful scenery and diverse landscape, winding through St. George and Washington cities. The area offers hundreds of miles of paved trails, so explore beyond the Virgin River too. Or simply ride through a state park or let a bike take you to the many downtown shops.

Hike and Explore Snow Canyon State Park

Within just a few hours, you can tackle many easy to moderate trails in this gem of a state park, and you won’t believe the variety of things to see. The Pioneer Names trail is a fairly easy, crescent-shaped trail passing a canyon wall that was signed by early settlers. Jenny’s Canyon Trail is a short walk into a slot canyon. The Whiterocks Amphitheatre Trail leads hikers to impressive sandstone mountains and beautiful views. The Petrified Dunes are a playground of ancient-formed steps that lead to a different view every few feet.

Couple standing atop the Cinder Cone with view of Snow Canyon State Park

Catch an ATV/UTV Tour

For the perfect combination of discovery and adrenaline, take a tour on four-wheels on a UTV or ATV perfectly made for exploring the rocky overlooks and rolling sand dunes. As one of the most diverse landscapes anywhere, let a guide show you all the secrets including petroglyphs, slot canyons and even the best place to catch a sunset. No experience needed here either, as you can opt to be driven or let the guides show you how to maneuver these machines. Your heart is going to want to escape to see what your eyes are experiencing. The land of adrenaline is calling.

Hit the Water

In the middle of our desert landscapes, you’ll find a number of reservoirs that can provide hours of wet fun and relaxation. Soak in the sun on a sandy beach, rent a paddleboard or stand-up paddleboard. Or lease something a little faster, like a jet ski or motorboat and go skiing. Or plunge from a cliff into the beautiful blue waters below. Or do all the things. Outfitters are found at Quail Creek, Sand Hollow, Kolob and Gunlock reservoirs.

Two girls sun bathing at Sand Hollow

Walk with the Dinosaurs

Greater Zion is rich with prehistoric and culture wonders. Visit a museum like the Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm and glimpse into the past with evidence of these creatures that inhabited our land long before we did. Come face-to-face to these unique species and then go hunting for signs of them “in the wild” on the Dino Cliffs Trail or in Warner Valley.

See Greater Zion as the Crow Flies

Helicopter rides combine thrills and chills with scenic beauty in a view of Greater Zion that many will never experience. You’ll gain a bird’s eye view over jutting mesas, green valleys, lava flows, rural towns and deep canyons. Or book a hot air balloon ride for a leisurely float across these scenic landscapes.

See the History

Create a tour of historic sites for yourself. Several ghost towns have provided backdrops to movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Stroll historic downtown St. George that is dotted with pioneer homes, including Brigham Young’s Winter Home, and much more Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints history. The St. George Temple’s Visitors Center offers further insights into the people that settled this area originally.

End the Day with a Song

Musical theater abounds and is the perfect cap on a day of exploring. Take in dinner at a nearby restaurant and then relax for a theatrical show that’s not to be missed. Tuacahn Amphitheatre brings Broadway to the desert and the St. George Musical Theatre and Kayenta Center for the Arts showcase a variety of musical, comedic and dramatic productions.

To learn more about activities and attractions across Greater Zion, see all our things to see and do. There’s plenty to fill a half day, full day or entire week.

Tuacahn Center For the Arts 01

Add These Short Excursions to your Itinerary

If you have a couple hours to spare between IRONMAN festivities and activities, try squeezing in one or more of these quick adventures. It’ll leave you wanting more, but you’ll get a taste of this Land of Exploration.

Hike the Red Reef Trail in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area

This out-and-back trail is rated “easy” with a round-trip length of about 2.2 miles. The trail takes hikers through a hidden canyon and dried river bed to a beautiful water oasis surrounded by high canyon walls.

Cruise the Veyo Loop for Views and Pie

Get a glimpse of the diverse landscapes of Greater Zion on this 47-mile route. In this one-hour drive, you’ll experience Joshua Trees, two State Parks, quaint rural towns, red-rock mountains, white-domed hill tops, dormant volcanos and the best darn pie shop Greater Zion has to offer, Veyo Pies.

Explore Pioneer Park and the Red Hills Desert Garden

Positioned directly above St. George, Pioneer Park offers dune-like rock formations, boulders to scramble and a slot canyon called the “St. George Narrows.” Wander to the east side of the park and you’ll find Red Hills Desert Garden. This beautiful garden, designed with paved pathways that showcase the local flora and fauna, is a delightful oasis amidst city lights and desert skies.

Red Hills Desert Garden

Tour the Historic Downtown St. George

Downtown St. George is clean and bright, full of art, restaurants, shops and history. The self-guided Historic Walking Tour is a favorite for those wanting a relaxing stroll around town while learning about the area’s rich heritage. Along the tour, you’ll encounter vintage shops, historic buildings, and art galleries.

Dive into a Reservoir

The deep blue waters of Greater Zion’s reservoirs – Gunlock, Quail Creek and Sand Hollow – offer adventurers and respite from the desert heat. Swim or relax in the red sand. Renting a paddleboard or kayak delivers a unique opportunity to explore cliff-jumping rocks and tree-covered hideaways. Outfitters at each water destination have equipment for rent. To help with your planning, check out this article on the 7 best water activities in Greater Zion.

Hike the Petrified Dunes Trail

Found right, smack-dab in the middle of Snow Canyon State Park, this trail takes hikers over rolling mounds of petrified sandstone hills with incredible views of the canyon. Climb high or find the perfect viewpoint and relax for as long as you have.

Mountain Bike the Paradise Rim

The name certainly fits considering the views and experience you’ll have here, it really is a paradise. This quick mountain biking trail, located close to downtown St. George, offers biking enthusiasts a chance to showcase technical skills on the famous red rock terrain that is Greater Zion. With steep jump-offs and amazing views of the Santa Clara and Snow Canyon areas, it’s a perfect taste of all the mountain biking opportunities in Greater Zion.

051 MountainBiking JoeNewman

Shop a range of options

The Shoppes at Zion provide famous name-brand selections while the Red Cliffs Mall offers a more traditional experience. Find unique, one-of-a-kind gifts at the Shops at Green Gate Village or at any of the local antique and curio shops in the downtown area. And don’t forget about all the art galleries.

Southwestern style paintings and pottery on display in art gallery.

Tee It Up

The Dixie Red Hills Golf Course is a nine-hole, par-34 layout that can be fit into any itinerary. This course was the area’s first and features red rocks, sandstone cliffs and sweeping green fairways, all nestled within the heart of St. George.

Written by Jennifer Broome

Avoiding the crowds in Zion National Park

A National Park road trip makes for a memorable summer vacation. But you need a timed-entry reservation to visit some of the most popular parks this summer. Travel journalist Jennifer Broome joins us from Greater Zion with five tips to visiting popular national parks and avoiding crowds.

While spending several days exploring Greater Zion, I wanted to share my 5 tips to visiting popular national parks and avoiding crowds. Zion Canyon is the most popular area in Zion National Park. The majority of visitors only go there. But there’s so much more to see and that’s the case with other popular national parks. Here’s what you need to know before you go if you’re planning a summer road trip to a popular national park.

Zion National Park

TIP 1: Plan Ahead, Reservations Required in Advance

Start planning your trip by visiting the website of the national park you’re going to. It’s your go-to spot for information including any alerts that are in effect such as trail closures. For popular parks like Zion, Rocky Mountain and Yosemite, reservations are required in advance. Each timed entry reservation is a little different. In Zion, you need a reservation for the shuttle in Zion Canyon. You don’t need one for the rest of the park. In Rocky Mountain National Park, there’s a two-entry reservation system. If you want to visit the Bear Lake Corridor including Moraine Park, you need a specific reservation for that area. For the rest of the park a timed entry reservation is required 9a-3p daily starting Memorial Weekend. In Yosemite, your timed entry reservation is good for three days. Two parks are using a vehicle registration reservation system this summer. In Glacier National Park you need a timed entry reservation for Going-to-the-Sun Road. Acadia National Park has a timed entry reservation system sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. Each park offers advanced tickets differently. For example, at Zion National Park, tickets are release twice a month at 9 a.m. and if there are any unreserved slots, last minute tickets are released at 5 p.m. the day before. You have to make reservation in advance on recreation.gov. This is also where you go for campsite reservations and any ranger-led activities such as walks, talks and educational programs that may require reservations. If you miss out on reservations, private shuttles and guided adventures are ways you can get into parks without making your own timed entry reservation.

TIP 2: Book Unique Stays and Excursions in Advance

If you snooze, you lose on accommodations from luxury resorts to glamping accommodations to even campsites. Book lodging, excursions and even dinners ahead of time. Glamping and RVing are super-hot again this summer. Sites like ReserveAmerica.com can help you get a campsite or even an RV rental. Double check cancellation policies just in case your plans change. For last minute accommodations, I use Booking.com, Airbnb, and Hotel Tonight apps. Campnab.com and YesYouCamp.com are great sites to snag a site at sold-out campgrounds. Adventure guide companies are booking a month or more in advance. I went on a sunset ATVing tour with Mad Moose Rentals at Sand Hollow Resort and loved every second of my guided adventure. Book early for unique adventure experiences. If you’re staying at a resort, take advantage of the activities they offer. At Red Mountain Resort, I spend some time wandering along hiking trails, walking the labyrinth and taking a wellness MELT class.

Under Canvas Zion
Under Canvas Zion

TIP 3: Trade Popular Park Places for Lesser-Known Gems

If you go where the crowds don’t go that means less waiting in line and more time enjoying nature. In Zion National Park, the Narrows and Angels Landing in Zion Canyon are extremely popular. Trade Zion Canyon for Kolob Canyons or Kolob Terrace. Both areas offer scenic drives and miles of trails with far less people on them than the trails in Zion Canyon. Do your research with a guidebook, on the national park’s website or even call or email the national park you’re going to and ask questions. When I go to a national park for the first time, I always ask rangers for their favorite hikes, scenic spots and lesser-known gems. While visiting Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in April, I used the new National Park Service app for the first time and loved it. I also used it in Bryce and Zion National Parks this month. You can save the guide for the national park you’re going to for offline use. It’s a wonderful tool filled with a wealth of information. It’s worth the download and saving parks for offline use before you enter a park.

Huge red rock arch with blue sky above

TIP 4: Timing is Everything

July and August are the busiest months for popular national parks. Summer and early fall weekends are busiest. If you can visit mid-week, you’ll have less crowds in summer as Tuesday through Thursday is less busy than Friday through Monday. I also suggest either getting up early or enjoying the park in late afternoon or early evening. The early bird gets the worm for parking spots, plus beat the heat and crowds. You can also be a sunset chaser as park crowds dwindle in the evenings. Dawn and dusk are magical times in national parks.

TIP 5: Take Your Turn in the Park Then Explore the Region

State parks, national forests and other federal lands are next to or near popular parks. These are often mountain biking meccas, off-roading havens and lesser hiked trails. Adrenaline junkies can do activities like rock climbing, canyoneering and ATVing. Soft adventure enthusiasts can enjoy activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, or hiking. While in Greater Zion, I went kayaking at Quail Creek State Park, enjoyed a walk along part of the 32 acres of beach at Sand Hollow State Park and got a great geology lesson at Snow Canyon State Park as I wandered across lava flow fields and petrified dunes. I also visited Grafton Ghost Town for a history lesson and did a late day hike in Water Canyon, a remote and lesser visited canyon in the region.

Red cliffs jutting up into a blue sky.

A Couple of Extras:

Don’t Overpack Your Itinerary: Leave some open space in your schedule to explore something you find out about during your trip. Ask locals for their favorites.

Three things I have in my car: Extra water and snacks, flip flops or sandals, and a towel or wipes.

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