Utah

11 Fun Family-Friendly Hikes Near St. George, Utah

by Ryan Slattery
Updated July 26, 2022

best hike st george utah
Yant Flats Trail. Photo: Shutterstock

Don’t sleep on St. George. In a state loaded with red rock canyons and stunning national parks, the Utah city, a short drive from Zion National Park, St. George has a quiet reputation all its own.

This under-the-radar town is close to several state parks and wilderness areas with interesting trails and scenery that remarkably rivals those of its more well-known counterparts.

So for those looking to escape the Zion crowds (or got turned away because you forgot to reserve entry), there is a nearby alternative to save your trip. It’s St. George, Utah. The weather is best in spring and fall when flowers are in bloom, waterfalls flow or the leaves are changing colors, but it can be visited year-round–although summers are hot.

The nearby state parks and recreational areas are flush in red Navajo sandstone and present some rather unique opportunities. Snow Canyon State Park, a local’s favorite, is an especially cool place that’s kid-friendly with flat trails and the chance to climb petrified dunes and enter lava tubes. Another, Red Cliffs Recreation Area, has hikes leading to petroglyph sites and dinosaur tracks.

Related Read: The 14 Best Hikes in Zion National Park, Utah

1. Petrified Dunes Trail

st george hikes - petrified dunes
Photo: Grace Wojciechowski

Why you should go: Easy, popular hike crosses an ancient sand dune.

  • Location: Snow Canyon State Park
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 216 feet

A short leg-stretcher in Snow Canyon, the Petrified Dunes Trail gives a good glimpse into the geology of the entire region.

These once massive sand dunes have hardened into wavelike red rock hills that can be explored and photographed contrasting against a cloudless, bright blue sky. The easy trail only gains slightly in elevation so it’s ideal for a family hike with kids.

2. Lava Flow

st george hikes - lave flow
Photo: RJ Cox

Why you should go: Explore lava tubes on this educational desert hike.

  • Location: Snow Canyon State Park
  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet

Hikers of all ages will surely enjoy the Lave Flow Trail, a relatively flat path across an old lava field. Aimed at the lava tubes, it winds through a scrub-grass field and has four educational signs explaining the geology of the area and the lava tube caves, which can be explored. If planning to enter the caves for a closer look, bring a flashlight or headlamp.

One of the great things about Sand Canyon is that many of the trails intersect allowing for additional exploring and longer hikes.

Related Read: 9 Great Hikes in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

3. Elephant Arch

st george hikes - elephant arch
Photo: Jeremy Christensen

Why you should go: Fun, family hike to a prominent pachyderm.

  • Location: Red Cliffs National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 3.8  miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 341 feet

Tucked away off a dirt road (high-clearance vehicle recommended) in Red Cliffs National Recreation Area, Elephant Arch isn’t easy to get to but it’s certainly worth the effort. So pack your patience, water and a hat because the trail has little to no shade. After navigating the rut-filled dirt road, you’ll find parking at the Mill Creek trailhead.

Follow this path for about a quarter mile then take the Bone Wash spur trail. Once in the wash it’s a slow slog through soft sand for about a half mile before a slight climb to the base of the arch, which resembles the trunk and eye of an elephant. Some slickrock scrambling is involved to get a closer look. After snapping a photo, return the same way.

4. Scout Cave

 

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Why you should go: Popular hike to an elevated, wind-carved cave.

  • Location: Snow Canyon State Park
  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 620 feet

The highlight of this hike may just be reaching the shade at Scout Cave. The sun-drenched trail is unforgiving in hot temperatures so it’s best to start early or visit in the spring or fall.

Hikers cross lava fields, navigate stream beds and hills that skirt the edge of housing development and finally climb up a short stretch of Navajo sandstone to reach the cave. Head inside for an epic photo and incredible view of the valley and you’ll understand how the place got its name.

Related Read: 15 Amazing Hikes Near Las Vegas, Nevada

5. Red Reef Trail

st george hikes - red reef
Photo: Philip Bouchard

Why you should go: Short, easy trail follows a small stream to a little waterfall.

  • Location: Red Cliffs National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet

This is the perfect place to escape for a couple hours. The trail leaves from the Red Cliff Campground and runs along a creek through a narrow canyon. There are plenty of spots to stop and if traveling with little ones, they’ll want to make them all to play and splash in the water.  You may find some folks cooling off in the pool below the small waterfall (especially in summer).

Carved footholds in the rock and a rope help you climb around the waterfall for those who want to stretch the hike for another couple miles. If nothing else, it makes for a great Instagram post.

6. Silver Reef Loop

st george hikes - dinosaur track
Photo: John Brandauer

Why you should go: Walk where dinosaurs once roamed.

  • Location: Red Cliffs National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet

This short path leads to the Red Cliffs Dinosaur Track Site where you’ll find clear fossilized footprints from the Jurassic Period.

Discovered in 1998, the 17 dinosaur tracks are easy to spot and believed to be those of Grallator, Kayentapus and Eubrontes dinosaurs–meat eaters who all walked upright.

Related Read: The 11 Best Things To Do in Kanab, Utah

7. Little Black Mountain Petroglyph Site

st george hikes - little black mtn petroglyphs
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: A short stroll to a fascinating petroglyph site.

  • Location: St. George, Utah
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 50 feet

Another casual walk with historic significance, the Little Black Mountain Petroglyph Site, sits just south of St. George. It’s a level half mile to these remarkable sandstone boulders.

The site has over 500 rock art depictions etched on the cliffs and boulders surrounding the mesa. Here, you can circle the art-filled boulders with engravings of bighorn sheep, lizards, goats along with dozens of other symbols.

8. White Dome Trail

st george hikes - dwarf bear poppy
Photo: Andrey Zharkikh

Why you should go: Set sights on a rare bear poppy only found here.

  • Location: White Domes Nature Preserve
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 165 feet

In essence, the 800-acre White Domes Nature Preserve was created to protect the rare dwarf bear poppy. Found only in Washington County, the endangered flower thrives in the gypsum-rich soil. It blooms in late April to mid May. Miss it and, honestly, there is little other reason to visit the preserve, which consists of five miles of trails looping through cactus and sagebrush. But if you’re in the neighborhood, check it out.

Related Read: 10 Best Airbnbs in St. George for Your Southern Utah Getaway

9. Historic Babylon & Little Purgatory Loop

 

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Why you should go: Petroglyphs and expansive views highlight this hike.

  • Location: Red Cliffs National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 5.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 980 feet

One of the longer hikes on this list connects two individual trails to make a scenic loop across a stunning landscape (Zion National Park is visible from here). A high-clearance or four wheel drive vehicle is recommended to reach the trail. Just steps away from the trailhead, hikers will find a panel of petroglyphs on a lone rock and dinosaur tracks hardened in the sandstone.

From there it’s a gradual 900 foot climb through desert grasslands and scrub brush to the top of the hill where vast views await. Here at the perch of Little Purgatory you can see Zion National Park, the Hurricane Cliffs, Sandstone Mountain, the Pine Valley Mountains and Cottonwood Canyon. The downward section of the loop is also an enjoyable walk.

10. Yant Flats Trail

st george hikes - yant flats
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: Red, white and orange sandstone swirls make for magical photos.

  • Location: Yankee Doodle Hollow Creek
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 337 feet

Nicknamed “Candy Cliffs” and known as Anna’s View Point Trail on sign posts, Yant Flats is exactly what comes to mind when someone mentions hiking in the slickrock canyons of southern Utah. Paydirt is the naked, wave-like rock with its swirling patterns of intersecting colors, much like mixed flavors of soft serve ice cream

A roughly 3.4 mile trail, it can be stretched longer for those who really want to explore the area. To reach the red and orange striped and rippled slickrock mounds, the trail starts on a sandy path through a forested section of junipers and pinyon pines and runs about a mile before climbing a scaly, gray rock hill resembling an alligator’s tail leading up to the colorful playground. Once surrounded by the majestic colorful slickrock you’re free to explore.

Related Read: 7 Best Scenic Drives In Utah

11. Owen’s Loop

 

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Why you should go: Urban trail on the fringe of the St. George is an easy escape from the city.

  • Location: St. George, Utah
  • Distance: 2.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 416 feet

This is a little known trail mostly enjoyed by locals and those directly living in its shadow. The Owen’s Loop sits on a red sandstone bluff above a neighborhood just northwest of downtown St. George.

Shaped like a wiggly sewing needle with the eye serving as the trail’s small loop, it’s a rather gentle climb (just over 400 feet) along a ridge to the top of the bluff. From here, gaze out over the city at the downtown area, a golf course and the gleaming white St. George Utah Temple.

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