In Saint George, Utah, where three deserts converge, there is only a small window of time when the weather is good enough to enjoy the outdoors. Add to this the fact that this small city offers very few indoor activities to keep us busy in an air conditioned environment, and finding a way to beat the heat becomes necessary. Most of us who moved to Saint George from elsewhere did so because of the plethora of outdoor activities available within a short drive from town. These activities are not pleasant (or safe) in the middle of the day in the summer. Here are some tips from local guides that make this area fun and safe in the summer.
Our simplest solution is to get up before the sun heats up the beautiful surroundings. The early morning is the coolest part of the day, as the desert has been cooling off all night and has yet to be heated up from the rising sun. At Paragon Adventures, we often have guests arrive for our outings at 6am. This is a bit early for most people, but if we had our way, we would start at 5am. These early outings are tough to get out of bed for, but you can always take a nap in mid day, when it is too hot to leave the house anyway. If possible, you can always go out again in the evening when it starts to cool down.
If you start early enough, it will still be cool and even dark when you begin your walk, jog, hike, bike, climb, or whatever your outdoor hobby is. You may even need to bring a long sleeve or sweater to start. Don’t bring a flashlight, invest in a headlamp: a battery-powered light that straps around your head, leaving your hands free. These are not only convenient, but also safer because, if you trip or fall, your hands will be free to catch yourself and protect your face. We always make our guests put their water bottles back in their packs before continuing their hikes for exactly the same reason.
It helps a ton to have cold water. Thanks to technology, you can now buy drinking containers that can keep your ice water icy for hours, even in the Mojave Desert summer. Go to The Desert Rat (our local outdoor store) ( http://www.thedesertrat.net/ ) and ask about Hydroflasks. These are insulated steel bottles that, when filled with ice, can be continually refilled with warmer water from your backpack all day and usually still have small ice chunks left in them by night. Impressive and life-saving! If you feel like you are over-heating, get to shade and soak a piece of cloth in this ice water and hold it to the back of your neck until you feel able to move again, or until help arrives.
Get back to air conditioning by noon
Plan your outing so that you are back in your home, vehicle, or at least the shade before noon, or whatever time you determine has tolerable temperatures. (It can sometimes get up to 90° as early as 8am when in direct sunlight.) By noon, the only safe places to be outside are in the shade or in the water.
Plan your outing ahead of time and know where you are going. If you go off trail, or on trails you aren’t familiar with, you may not make it back to your vehicle or dwelling before it gets dangerously hot. You may even get lost. People have died this way. Take it seriously.
Water and Shade in Canyons
In a desert water can be scarce, but here we have many streams and a couple rivers running through the area, thanks to our nearby mountains. There are a few dams/reservoirs to play in, as well as some very nice spots along the rivers themselves that allow you to play in the waters, or at least enjoy the cooler air from the evaporating water near you. Below is a list of places near Saint George where you can visit and find haven in the water.
Veyo Pool & Crawdad Canyon Climbing Park
Veyo Pools is one of the best reliefs from the summer heat. Less than 20 miles from town(north on Bluff St./Highway 18), this section of the Santa Clara river runs through a canyon of basalt rock up to 100 feet deep. These canyon walls provide shade at times, plus the river itself feeds a healthy riparian habitat dense with trees that provide shade all day. The town of Veyo is also at a higher elevation than Saint George, making the temperatures even cooler. The river has non-native crawdads (crayfish) to catch and is usually low and calm enough to allow kids to play freely in it. If that’s not enough, add to this a spring-fed pool! A natural warm spring fills the pool here so easily that the owner drains and cleans the pool every evening and re-fills it every night, leaving fresh, clean water daily. The spring also constantly flows into the pool and the overflow drains into the river all day. As a result of this constant flow of clean water, Veyo pool is the, cleanest, purest pool in the county! There is also a snack shack that serves great burgers, fries, soft serve ice cream and much more. There are many picnic benches and camp sites here as well. If you are a rock climber, there are over 200 well-bolted sport routes here that range from 5.7-5.13a.
This is a privately-owned resort and fees are required for all activities here, but they are very affordable, so don’t let that deter you. Please click the link below for details on this amazing summer haven. Enjoy!
Kanarra Creek Slot Canyon
This is a gorgeous slot canyon that doesn’t require any technical skills, like rappelling, or permits. As long as you can walk through a shallow creek several times, you can enjoy this amazing 3.5 mile round trip hike. A slot canyon is a deep canyon that is deeper than it is wide. As a result, the canyon walls often offer shade from the sun, and therefore can be comfortably hiked in many hours of the day. This creek has cold water flowing year-around from the nearby mountains, making it a great hike in the summer heat. There is a parking lot that was built for this hike and there is a $10 parking fee to use it. To avoid this, you would have to park significantly far away and hike an extra mile through town to the parking lot. It’s worth the $10. From this parking lot, there is a clearly marked gate for hikers’ access. Walk through the gate and follow the dirt road past the water tank. After passing the water tank, the road heads downhill into the creek. This road turns into a hiking trail and crosses the creek several times, but generally follows the creek upstream. As long as you are following the creek you can’t go wrong. Please try to stay to the trail though (and do not litter), or this hike could eventually be limited to permit-holders or closed altogether. If you hike far enough, you will encounter two waterfalls. The first can be ascended fairly easily by climbing a log that has been placed there that is covered with boards for hand and foot holds. Floods could wash this log away at any time so don’t count on it being there. The second waterfall has had a rope you can climb at times, but this is not always there either. Regardless of ascending these waterfalls, the hike to the lower falls is an incredible hike in and of itself.
Kanarra Creek is about 45 minutes north of Saint George, along the I-15 freeway.
-Drive north along the I-15 freeway and exit right on Exit 42, New Harmony/Kanarraville,
-Turn right off of the off-ramp onto highway 144,
-Turn left onto the Old Highway 91,
-Continue on the highway for approximately 4.5 miles to 100 North St. in the town of Kanarraville,
-towards the end of this street, there is a clearly marked parking lot on your left. Park here.
Our local national park, Zion, features the world’s deepest slot canyon: The Narrows. Canyon walls over 2,000 feet high offer much shade and cool waters to hike and play in. Just one hour drive and a 20 minute shuttle ride away, this is one of the best day hikes in the summer.
Along the main Canyon Drive shuttle route in the park, exit the shuttle at the Temple of Sinawava. From here you can hike the one-mile paved trail to its end and hike the river from there, or look for the “River Access” sign leading you to your left to get in the cool water sooner.
Indoor swimming (click title to link to our swimming page)
Splash Pads (Click title to link to our Splash pads page)
Higher elevation equals cooler temperatures. It also means that trees grow there, providing more shade than Saint George’s desert environment.
45 Minutes north of Saint George is the small town of Pine Valley. There are few amenities here, but there is a nice reservoir that sits at just under 7,000 feet elevation. It is too small for boating, but is great for fishing. There are several campsites near the reservoir and a fairly new paved trail system that is perfect for families and easy enough to ride that you should bring bikes and scooters for kids.
Approximately one hour to the north is Cedar City. Just east of Cedar City is the Cedar Mountains that top out over 11,000 feet above sea level. There are many hiking trails, atv trails and small fishing spots up there, and even a national monument.
From Cedar City, go east on the highway 14. You will pass several hiking trails and campsites along the way. Turn left a=onto the highway 148 to enter Cedar Breaks National Monument.
*We are currently working on building our Cedar Mountain Activities page. Please be patient for more content on this topic.