7 Places to add to your Spring Break Bucket List in Southern Utah
Today, we have one of the coolest/talented/craziest guy I know.
Terral Fox is a super outdoor enthusiast/farmer/artist/dad/shoemaker. Having grown up in the red rocks of Cedar City, he knows all the cool places. I've watched his Instagram/Facebook account for years and he's been so many cool places!
He owns a minimalist sandal company called Unshoes.
He's taken his Unshoe Sandals (and kids) to the top of Angel's Landing (picture above) to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to Havasupai. Terral is also known to have Unicycled down Blowhard Trail in Cedar City (which is hard enough on a bike.) He's crazy cool.
He's going to be sharing 7 places in Southern Utah most of us have never heard of. Of course, he's done all of them in his Unshoes. So get out your bucket list and add these places!
River rafting is one of my favorite things in the world! Unfortunately, white water rafting isn’t the most kid friendly activity. Luckily the daily section of the Green River offers a nice leisurely, kid friendly float down the river with just enough rapids to keep the adventurers happy. Also, the largest rapids on the section have milder routes. If you want to hit the big rapids, you have to aim for them. Otherwise you just flow along the path of least resistance.
There is a primitive campground located on the river beach just a few miles out of town. There are usually river rafters camped there but there is plenty of room. Also, there are some sites that are a little way off the water in case you’re worried about wandering children.
The section of river is fairly short and on a good flow, can be run in 3 or 4 hours. I recommend setting up a base camp on the beach, drive to the end of the road (it is a sandy road) put in at the top, run the river back to camp, then drive back up in a different vehicle and pick up the car. Alternately, if you have someone with you (grandma!) that isn’t interested in running the river, they can drop everyone off at the top and drive back down to camp. If you have small children that you’re not sure about taking on the river, you can split up into two groups and take turns on the river.
We have found that a two or three day stay here is just right. You can run the river once a day and have plenty of time to hike, swim, visit town, or just hang out on the beach. Last time I was there we saw big horn sheep every time we drove up to the boat put in!
You can rent inflatable kayaks which are perfect for this trip. I have an inexpensive vinyl inflatable that I’ve taken down this section but it requires a patch kit just in case. You can probably get away with running this section in one of the sit-on-top kayaks that are so popular these days but I might not recommend small kids on those since they are not as stable. If you are more adventurous you can do a hard shell sit-in kayak or a stand up paddleboard.
2. Parowan Gap
There is a ridge that runs along the west side of I-15 from just north of Cedar City to Beaver. Near Parowan there is a place that looks like a giant has cut a V in the mountain. It is worth visiting the gap just to see the geology. However, there are some other interesting features that draw people to Parowan Gap. There are petroglyphs all over throughout the gap. In addition to that, the ancient Natives used this geological feature as a calendar system. They would track the shadows of the sun as it passed through the gap in the rocks and mark them on the rocks. This place is full of history, astronomy, geology, and mystery.
Every time I visit Parowan Gap I feel an incredible sense of reverence and awe! As an additional bonus, there are dinosaur tracks just down the road. There is a sign with information and a marked trail that takes you right to the tracks. If you are into rock climbing there are some good climbing areas in the canyon.
3. Long Valley
People come from all over to visit Zion National Park. If you have lived in Utah, I would be amazed if you haven’t visited the park. However, for some of us, the crowds and restrictions can get exhausting. Do you ever wish you could visit the park without all the hustle? Have you ever wondered what is on the other side of Zion from the main entrance? There is a valley that runs from Kanab, UT up to Todd’s Junction. I love driving to Kanab just to see all the beautiful sites along this road. There are scenic mountain ranches to desert red rocks as you get further south. You can stay at Mt. Carmel Junction near the east entrance to Zion and explore the outskirts of Zion from that side.
I recommend camping south of Mt. Carmel and exploring the canyons that wind their way into the park. Virgin River South fork is a great adventure with a little water and plenty of red rock canyon. It isn’t quite as narrow or deep as some of the other canyons in Utah but it is secluded and still amazing. There are also other small slot canyons and other hikes that are worth a stay. You can also drive into the east entrance of Zion and avoid some of the crowds by hiking there. You might also see some Big Horn Sheep in that area.
4. Kanab, UT
Kanab is at the Southern end of the valley and is worth a visiting. It is rumored that Montezuma’s gold is hidden somewhere near Kanab. Many people think it is buried in an underwater cave in a pond North of Kanab. It is on private property so you can’t go looking for it but the few divers that have gone in have reported being choked by ghosts who they could only assume were guarding the treasure. Kanab has also been called Little Hollywood since many old westerns and other movies were filmed there. There is a film history museum and visitors center that has plenty of information on the history of Kanab. You can also visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes while you are there or drive a little further to the east and see Lake Powell.
5. Silver Reef and Babylon (Photos from Red Cliffs.)
Heading south on I-15 toward St. George there is an exit to a small town call Leeds. If you take that exit and turn right, you end up in a tiny little place called Silver Reef. Silver Reef was settled as a silver mining town. It nearly turned into a ghost town like many small mining communities in Utah but because it is such a beautiful place near other towns, it survived. You can explore and looks for mining ruins, climb on the sandstone around the outskirts, play in the creek, and visit the cool little museum.
I highly recommend the museum for kids. There are plenty of interesting things to learn. You’ll find out more about the lesser known side of the settlement of Utah. It was not only Mormon Pioneers that came here, there were miners as well.
If you drive back toward the freeway exit, go under the freeway and take a small dirt road to the east it will take you through the desert down toward the Virgin River. You’ll need a sturdy vehicle with a bit of clearance. I’ve taken a sedan in there a few times so it’s possible but I don’t recommend it! There are trail heads all along the sandy road and when you get to the very bottom you can drive right up to some old mining ruins of a place called Babylon. When the miners set up to look for silver along the river, they decided that they wanted to be set apart from all the Mormon settlements around them. They decided that Babylon was a good name. You don’t hear much about Babylon, UT because it only lasted a very short time. The Virgin River is known for two things. It is muddy, and it floods quite often. As a large spring flood came down the river it destroyed the settlement and left only a few ruins that remain today. Besides the ruins, you can play in the sand, hike around, and play in the river.
You can also park at the Sand Cove campground and take a little trail down to the river. It winds through some spectacular red rock formations including a little arch that you walk right through. Even though this trail is only a few miles from the town of Leeds and on the other side of the gorge is the town of Hurricane this place is quite rugged and wild! You may see some interesting wildlife down in the gorge. Remember that Hurricane wasn’t named for its gentle breeze. Most of the times I’ve been in that canyon, the weather was mild but we were once caught in a wild wind storm that looked like something out of an epic movie!
(Please be very careful while exploring mines and ruins! They can be dangerous so it’s best to look at them from the outside. I don’t recommend going inside!)
6. Pioneer Park
If you don’t feel quite as adventurous and you want to stay close to town but still have some fun climbing on sandstone hills and learning a little bit of history, you can stay in St. George and visit Pioneer Park up on the hill on the North end of town. There is a little crevice (some might call it a mini slot canyon) that people call Fat Man’s Misery. However, I’ve heard of several narrow canyons with that name so I doubt the validity of the name. There seems to be an endless amount of sandstone that kids are naturally drawn to playing on. Keep an eye on them as there are some cliffs! There are several preserved pioneer shelters that have been built right into the crevices and caves of the sandstone. You can go in and get a feel for how they lived. I always seem to find a new thing of interest every time I go there. There are also a variety fun rock climbing routs all over the place.
Other posts about Pioneer Park.
7. Gunlock Reservoir
The town of Gunlock was named after William Hamblin who was nicknamed Gunlock by the Apostle George A. Smith. Hamblin drove Smith’s wagon across the planes and was given his nickname because he was a gunsmith and famed marksman. Hamblin was poisoned to death because of a dispute concerning a silver mine. Gunlock Reservoir is a state park located to the north west of St. George. My favorite part of the reservoir is actually the spillway. As you drive to the park from St. George, you catch glimpses of beautiful set of waterfalls on red rocks through the green trees that grow along the Santa Clara River. Late Spring/early Summer is a good time to go because the water levels are higher and the waterfalls look even more majestic! You can cross the lake at the dam during lower water and explore the sandy beach at the other side. You can also hike and climb around the waterfalls but please be careful. Sometimes the water is falling with a strong current and it can be dangerous. Also, there are times when a very slippery moss grows on the rocks and they are extremely slippery. I once had to take someone to the ER in St. George because she fell on the rocks and injured her knee.
Want to try Unshoes? Well they are having a Spring Break Sale! Check it out soon. Tell them The Salt Project sent you!