St. George, Utah: More Than Just a Gateway to Zion

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I'll be honest with you: I only knew two things about St. George, Utah, prior to this year. For one, I knew it had a large Mormon population. And secondly, I associated it as one of the “gateways” to Zion National Park, since it's less than an hour away.

But that's about it.

So when St. George's tourism board invited me to visit, my interest was piqued. I've done enough traveling to know that every city, no matter its size, has something interesting to it. Not to mention that the American Southwest is my favorite part of the US.

Saying yes to that invite was a no-brainer.

St. George Narrows at Pioneer Park
The St. George Narrows at Pioneer Park
Whiterocks Amphitheater at Snow Canyon State Park

And what did I find in St. George? Well, as the title of this post should suggest, I found a city that's much more than just a place to stay before you visit Zion National Park.

See, Do & Eat in St. George, Utah

I had a great time in St. George. The city, sitting at the bottom of those iconic Southwestern red hills, is visually pleasing. The people were SO friendly. And even in mid-December the weather was sunny and mild.

I spent 4 days in and around St. George, which is plenty of time to get to cover all its highlights.

Here's what I think you should definitely do in St. George:

Things to SEE in St. George

1. Red Hills Desert Garden

Red Hills Desert Garden in St. George, Utah

Located at the entrance to Pioneer Park (which appears in the next section of this post), the Red Hills Desert Garden is a 5-acre garden filled with thousands of cool desert plants, most of which are labeled so you know what you're looking at.

Red Hills Desert Garden
Red Hills Desert Garden

It's a neat place to wander through for half an hour or so, and the best part is that it's free to visit!

2. Dinosaur tracks

Utah is one of those US states that's basically a paleontologist's dream; lots of dinosaur fossils have been found all across the state. And around St. George, you can see some great examples of preserved dinosaur footprints.

The bet place to start is the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm, where you can see tons of (real) fossilized dino footprints.

Dinosaur track in Utah
Dinosaur footprint fossil!!

The small museum sits on the site of a prehistoric lake, and the star is definitely a huge preserved dinosaur trackway and several large, detailed fossilized footprints. This site is easy to access and kid-friendly.

St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm
The largest in-tact dinosaur trackway ever collected.

OR, if you want to see some dinosaur tracks “in the wild,” there are two sites near St. George where you can hike to see fossilized dino tracks. One is the Dino Cliffs Trail in Washington, UT, and the other is the Warner Valley Dinosaur Tracks site near Hurricane, UT.

3. Brigham Young's winter home

Brigham Young Winter Home and Office in St. George, Utah

If you're interested in learning more about the Mormon church in Utah, consider a free tour of the Brigham Young Winter Home and Office in central St. George.

Young led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 30 years, and more or less brought the Mormons to Utah. He wintered in this house for the last few years of his life, and the museum-house is decorated as it would have been when Young lived there.

Things to DO in St. George

1. Visit Pioneer Park

Pioneer Park in St. George, Utah
Climbing rocks in Pioneer Park

Pioneer Park is a 52-acre free community park up in the red hills above St. George. The park is basically a giant playground – but we're not talking swing sets and slides here. The red rocks themselves are the playground, and you're encouraged to hike and climb in them.

Pioneer Park in St. George, Utah
I don't think I'll ever get tired of these red rocks!

I spent a fun morning here exploring little slot canyons and climbing up to a tiny arch overlooking the whole park.

Climb at your own risk, of course, but definitely make sure to add this spot to your to-do list.

2. Spend a day in Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon State Park
The road into Snow Canyon

Want even MORE impressive scenery? Then you need to spend at least a day in Snow Canyon State Park, located about a 20-minute drive from St. George.

Here you'll find scenery that wouldn't look out of place in Zion National Park: red cliffs, white mountains, and plenty of epic views.

Petrified Dunes at Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon views

I visited Snow Canyon on a weekday in mid-December, and hardly saw any other people on the hiking trails. I hit up short and easy trails to Jenny's Canyon and the Whiterocks Amphitheater, and climbed up on the petrified sand dunes for sunset.

Whiterocks Amphitheater at Snow Canyon State Park
Me all by myself at the Whiterocks Amphitheater
Petrified Dunes at Snow Canyon State Park
Petrified Dunes

This was one of my favorite days in St. George! And the best part? Entry only costs $6 per car.

RELATED: Visiting Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park in Winter

3. Go to the Tuacahn Saturday Market

Every Saturday, vendors set up outside The Tuacahn Center for the Arts, an amphitheater near Snow Canyon State park in Ivins, Utah. Vendors are mostly local artists and craftspeople, making this a great spot to pick up a unique souvenir or gift.

Tuacahn Saturday Market
Tuacahn Saturday Market

If you're looking for more art (or if you aren't in town on a Saturday), you can also check out the nearby Kayenta Art Village or Coyote Gulch Art Village.

4. Have an adventure in Sand Hollow State Park

I didn't make it out to this particular state park during my time in St. George, but it's another great option. It's filled with red sand dunes, and ATV tours are popular here.

Things to EAT in St. George

I'm definitely *not* a foodie – I don't travel with food in mind, and generally don't write food guides about the places I visit. But this wouldn't really be a “see, do & eat” guide if I didn't list some of my St. George favorites!

I definitely think you should check out:

Swig – This drive-through soda shop is known for its “dirty soda” (i.e. soda with shots of flavored syrup added to it) and giant pink-frosted sugar cookies. There's pretty much always a line at the drive-thru, and it was a fun local spot to try. (The “Endless Summer” is pretty good!)

Black Bear Diner – If you're looking for a cozy, rustic spot with super-nice staff, head to the Black Bear Diner. They serve up American comfort food, including all-day breakfast!

Riggatti's Pizza – Located on Main Street in St. George's cute downtown area, Riggatti's is an unpretentious spot serving up delicious wood-fired pizza. If you go for lunch, they have a special of a personal-sized pizza and drink.

Cliffside Restaurant – For a more upscale meal, you can't beat the Cliffside Restaurant, with its sweeping views out over St. George. The food is delicious, and the portion sizes actually are finish-able. You'll need reservations on weekends, or be willing to sit outside on the patio.

Cliffside Restaurant in St. George, Utah
Outdoor patio at the Cliffside Restaurant

Where to stay in St. George

I stayed at the Hyatt Place, a newer hotel near the Convention Center and just off I-15. I really liked this hotel. The rooms are huge and modern, the included breakfast every morning was good, and the staff is super friendly. Being close to the highway also made it easy to get around, and I never had to worry about finding parking.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here!

Hyatt Place in St. George, Utah
Hyatt Place in St. George, Utah

If you're looking for something closer to downtown, check out the Best Western Coral Hills or the Best Western Plus Abbey Inn.

Or, if you're looking for a luxurious getaway, check out the Inn at Entrada in St. George, or the Red Mountain Resort in nearby Ivins.

You can also find several vacation rentals in the St. George area, like this 2-bedroom home in Lava Falls at Entrada, or this incredible house on Red Hill that can sleep 24.

Even though a lot of people just pass through St. George on the way to Utah's national parks, hopefully this post has convinced you that St. George is more than just a gateway to Zion.

You can easily use St. George as your base for exploring nearby parks, yes, but I'd advise you to spend a couple days exploring St. George itself, too!

READ NEXT: 5 Things to Do in Zion National Park That Don't Involve Hiking

Have you ever been to St. George? If not, is it somewhere you'd like to visit now?

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*Note: I was a guest of during my time in the city. As always, though, all opinions and recommendations are 100% my own!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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33 Comments on “St. George, Utah: More Than Just a Gateway to Zion

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  1. Hi there

    I’m moving to St. George end of May. I look forward to new adventures.

    Thank you

    If I may, A few things I’d like to add about St. George! It is a Golfing Mecca! We have dozens of golf courses, of all difficulty levels and price ranges. I live in St. George and can’t imagine living anywhere else, I golf every week. Perfect weather, stunning scenery. An hour and a half from Vegas, and an hour and a half from beautiful snow covered mountains, for skiers and snowboarders. And an hour and a half from the beautiful lake Powell, with more shoreline than California and the Baja Peninsula. A week on a House Boat rental is definitely unforgettable, when in Lake Powell, I would definitely check out the largest floating restaurant in the US with an on site wakeboarding park. Lake Powell is like an endless playground for exploring. You can find your own cove with your own beach, but my favorite part about Lake Powell is how clearly you can see the stars and the Milky Way. Definitely one of the most beautiful places to enjoy meteor showers. As a resident, these are a few of my favorite things.

    I am looking for day hikes in the St. George, Utah area, any suggestions?

      There are several state parks near St. George that are really nice – my pick would be Snow Canyon, which has several nice hikes. You’re also not far from Zion National Park, either.

      There are dozens of trail heads. Also the city has an amazing walking and biking trail system. You can explore endless hidden gems! Washington county has done an incredible job making it possible to see the whole city, and connected cities and dozens of parks. There are free bikes and motorized scooters, scattered all across the county ???‍♀️! Enjoy

    I live in Saint George and a I promise you that is amazing. Most of the “touristy” things the locals do a lot. Some stuff that wasn’t marked here I suggest sand hollow state park, thunder junction, and the mayors loop.

    My wife and I have been coming here for 10 years and finally moving here after our house in Hawaii was taken by lava in Leilani Estates in May
    We LOVE this place, people are friendly, great places to eat, fantastic canyons to see, and gorgeous homes for sale here!!!

      So sorry to hear about your house in Hawaii, Dennis. But I’m glad to hear you’ve found a new spot to love in St. George!

    I can’t believe with all our trips in and across the USA, we’ve still not made it to Utah, which looks like a photography paradise. Will have to remedy that in the near future, and when we do, this post will come in very handy!

      I can’t believe that, either! It really is a dream for landscape photographers – there’s SO much good stuff to see!

    Perfect timing! We’ll be heading here in March and are super excited to explore.

      Awesome! Hopefully you’ve gotten a few good suggestions from this post!

    Hi Amanda, Haha, you started out knowing 2 more things that I did about St. George 😉 I have only driven through Utah but would love to have the time to explore it and visit some of its parks and towns. St. George sounds like a great place to stop for a day! There is also a really good dinosaur trackway in New Mexico as well 😉 Best, Jessica

      If I had to pick a favorite state in the US based on landscapes alone, it would definitely be Utah!

    I’m so glad you made it to Snow Canyon! That and Sand Hollow are my favorite locals’ spots out near St. George. I’m actually going back next month for my third year in a row—can’t get enough of Zion! Hope to finally hike the Narrows as it was canceled on my last two summer visits due to flooding.

      Snow Canyon was amazing! I love Zion and all, but even going in December the national park was pretty busy. Meanwhile Snow Canyon was basically empty!

    Those landscapes and pictures are beautiful!! I want to hike this place soon.

      It’s a nice little city – I would definitely stay there again if I’m spending some time in the Southwest!

    ‘Love the photographs Amanda!

    I’ve never heard of St. George, except in reference to St. George and the dragon, and of course, our (England) patron saint lol! However, I have been to Utah, and it’s quite beautiful.

    We went in January, and it was still glorious!

      I was surprised by how nice the weather was in December – but then I found out that St. George tends to have mild, sunny weather for most of the winter!

    I love to read your post and everything you wrote in your blog Amanda.Definitely Utah is amazing and to much to see.I am regionally from New Zealand and lived here for the last 32 years and I still haven’t been to many of the sides.Besides traveling to other countries such as Norway,Russia etc.There are heaps of major attractions and like wise the little but magnificent places here in the State of Utah.It’s all about money and time.Thank you for all the great writings and photos.Have a great new year and a prosperity life style in 2018.

    Gorgeous photos! Seeing the footprints of dinosaurs make me realise how I haven’t thought about the fact that these enormous animals have roamed the earth before us for a long time!

      Oh man I love dinosaurs! One of these years I’d love to go on a paleontological dig somewhere out west!

      Hi my name is coltin Clark I am in Colorado thinking about going to st George tomorrow I wanted to know if there is some camping spots that we can ride our dirt bike and maybe shoot some gun if we can

        That’s not info I can help you out with, I’m afraid. There are several campgrounds and RV parks in the St. George area, but I’m not sure about where you can ride dirt bikes or go shooting.

    Dude I’ve been to St. George so many times. I live in Las Vegas (although I’m living in Germany currently), and St. George has been kind of a base camp for checking out all those nearby places you mentioned. Zion, Bryce, etc. And I worked at the Grand Canyon North Rim for a summer too, and St. George was the closest major town we could go to to buy some stuff we needed. That being said however, despite the fact that I’ve probably spent several weeks of my life in that town, I know no more about it than those two facts you stated at the beginning XD What an oversight! I never even thought about visiting it as a destination in itself. Thank you for the recommendation!

      It’s not a big city by any means, but there’s certainly enough to do there to fill up a weekend!

      One of the locals favorite places didn’t make your list. Pine Valley is less than 40 minutes drive from St George. In the winter it provides snow play, in the other seasons it provides the beauty of ponderosa pines, roaming deer and wildlife, local beef growers graze their cows in the small town. It has a great steakhouse, Airbnb rentals, campsites in the park, and a beautiful reservoir for fishing. There is a wonderful walking trail that starts at the top of the campgrounds and follows along the reservoir to the end of the park. The town also has the oldest church building in continuous use by the LDS church. The history is amazing and the fact that the church was built by a ship maker leads to speculation that if it flooded it would flip upside down and float. I believe you need another invite to Washington County, Utah to experience more of our diverse landscape and flora and fauna!

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