Visit St. George UTAH: 4 State Parks and Hidden Gems

Things to do in St George Utah: Outdoor Activities & State Parks within 1 Hour Drive

If you’ve been following my journey, then you would know I go to the Southwest a lot and always pass through St. George, Utah, but 2018 was the first time I spent some time in the city and discovered so much more about the surrounding area has to offer besides Zion National Park! If you’re looking for a place to stay, I highly recommend Best Western Plus – super clean, spacious, and quiet!

What is there to do in St. George Utah?

Did you know there are four state parks in the area, in addition to Zion National Park… because I didn’t?! We all know Zion can get a bit crowded but with all these parks within an hour from St. George, this makes it the perfect city centered for your home base of adventures! Book your car rental now for your trip!

State Parks surrounding St George, UT:

GUNLOCK STATE PARK (15 miles northwest of St. George)

Unfortunately, the famous Gunlock Falls here has not flowed in a while but there’s a huge reservoir surrounded by rustic red rocks and extinct black lava cinder cones which made for a beautiful day trip to relax on the “beach”, swim and I even saw quite a few boaters and jet-skiers!

**UPDATE MAY 2019** Gunlock Falls was flowing strong right now! This Winter/Spring season brought a ton of rainfall so as I passed through on my way to Grand Staircase Escalante, I had to stop by to see it for myself. Keep scrolling for Gunlock State Park photos of my waterfall visit

There are two parking lots – the actual state park lot and the other is like a huge turnout just down the road of the main entrance on Gunlock Drive. This is where we parked and there is still an envelope collection fee so be a decent human being and don’t skip that. 

You’ll see the Gunlock waterfall from your car and have to hike down a steep but short dirt trail to get to the bottom of the falls, and then you can hike up to the top. It’s only 5-10 mins.

QUAIL CREEK STATE PARK (14 miles north of St. George)

I’ve spent the least amount of time here, but I remember the water glistening in a bright, deep blue color and the reservoir is actually sourced from the nearby Virgin River! Plus, it’s supposed to be an excellent spot for fishing!

quail creek state park in st. george utah

SAND HOLLOW STATE PARK (15 miles east of St. George) – this one is doubly special

This was the first time I ever did stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) in the desert and I had no idea the desert could have such vibrant turquoise water with beautiful sandstone backdrops! It was like an oasis in the middle of nowhere.

Then, there are sand dunes on the other side! You can rent ATVs and go for a ride, but we just hiked around and explored the dunes.

When is the best time to visit Sand Hollow State Park? Because there are water and land activities, you can visit all year round and always have something to do.

SNOW CANYON STATE PARK (9 miles from St. George)

I did my first outdoor rock climbing here but there are a lot of beautiful, short hikes as well! I was a newbie when it comes to climbing but Fall/ Winter is a great time for climbs as the desert gets too hot in the summer. This park is surrounded by colorful sandstone cliffs that make up a canyon with twisted layers of rocks and numerous hiking trails. There’s even a small slot canyon hike!

Hidden Pinyon Hike


& then… there’s the famous Zion National Park. St. George Utah to Zion National Park is about an hour away.

This is one of my favorite Utah national parks and my first couple of visits were in the Fall which was the perfect camping weather! The water at the Narrows hike (Virgin River Walk) can be a bit cold in the Fall-Spring (at least for me), but get some neoprene socks and water shoes and you’ll be good to go!

*Other cool hikes in St. George Utah that are not located in state parks*

fun things to do st george, yant flat candy cliffs

Yant Flat (Candy Cliffs)

Dixie National Forest: this is one of my favorite local hiking spots and I’ve heard people compare it to the coveted Wave in AZ. It has unique layers of swirls in the landscape and Is only about 1.5 miles one way. I was lucky to see it at sunset which added even more colors to the rocks!

fun things to do st george

Toquerville Falls

You can drive right up to the falls (with a 4wd) or I think there’s an option to hike in, but this stacked waterfall is a nice little gem to cool off and even cliff jump!

red cliffs recreation area, fun things to do st george

Red Cliffs Recreation Area

The Red Reef trail is currently flowing as of May 2019 – it was completely dry last summer. It’s a very short trail, only about 1 mile one way and there are foot holes in the wall and a rope near the end to help you climb over the top here. The trail doesn’t go much further in the canyon without getting fully wet, at least with current conditions.

Fall is one of the best times to visit the desert because the days have cooled down a lot, it’s still warm for daytime adventures outdoors, and although the nights get a lot cooler for camping, there are many affordable options to stay in St. George. Winter is also very nice to visit the desert but it does get a lot colder. I stayed at the Best Western Plus which was very spacious and clean. Campsites are available at all the parks above and given the opportunity, I’d love to explore more trails and campsites around Snow Canyon State Park! & if you time your visit right, you’ll even get to see some fall foliage! If you’re too late for that, the desert is breathtaking with some fresh snow atop the sandstone colors! Which park would you visit?

*This post is sponsored by Visit St. George, all opinions are my own.
(photos are from St. George Tourism,  Ben Horton of Access Collective, and my iPhone)

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4 thoughts on “Visit St. George UTAH: 4 State Parks and Hidden Gems”

  1. Love you blog posts, but I just have to say that the picture you posted of a Pika, it not a Pika. Its some kind of chipmunk or ground squirrel. Pikas are only found above 10,000 ft. I’m headed to the wave this winter and wanted to see some place I could visit along the way, thanks for the inspiration and little know places!

    1. Aah thanks for sharing,Taryn! Wasn’t quite sure TBH. Jealous you’re going to the wave, I’ve always wanted to visit in the winter! Have a blast and let me know if you have questions on anywhere around St George, I feel like I’ve gotten to know it pretty well after spending so much time there! I was actually just there a couple of days ago 😛

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